Chinese Dynasties

Chinese Dynasties

DynastyCharacteristics and History
Hsia c.1994–c.1523 B.C.Semilegendary Emperor Yu built irrigation channels, reclaimed land. Bronze weapons, chariots, domestic animals used. Wheat, millet cultivated. First use of written symbols.
Shang or Yin c.1523–c.1027 B.C.First historic dynasty. Complex agricultural society with a bureaucracy and defined social classes. Well-developed writing, first Chinese calendar. Great age of bronze casting.
Chou c.1027–256 B.C. Classical age ( ConfuciusConfuciu , Lao TzuLaoTzu , MenciusMencius ) despite political disorder. Written laws, money economy. Iron implements and ox-drawn plow in use. Followed by Warring States period, 403–221 B.C.
Ch'in 221–206 B.C. Unification of China under harsh rule of Shih Huang-ti. Feudalismfeudalis replaced by pyramidal bureaucratic government. Written language standardized. Roads, canals, much of the Great WallGreatWal built.
Han 202 B.C.–A.D. 220 Unification furthered, but harshness lessened and ConfucianismConfucia made basis for bureaucratic state. BuddhismBuddhism introduced. Encyclopedic history, dictionary compiled; porcelain produced.
Three Kingdoms A.D. 220–265 Division into three states: Wei, Shu, Wu. Wei gradually dominant. Confucianism eclipsed; increased importance of TaoismTaoism and Buddhism. Many scientific advances adopted from India.
Tsin or Chin 265–420Founded by a Wei general; gradual expansion to the southeast. Series of barbarian dynasties ruled N China. Continued growth of Buddhism.
Sui 581–618Reunification; centralized government reestablished. Buddhism, Taoism favored. Great Wall refortified; canal system established.
T'ang 618–907 Territorial expansion. Buddhism temporarily suppressed. Civil servicecivilser examinations based on Confucianism. Age of great achievements in poetry ( Li PoLiPo , Po Chü-iPoChui , Tu FuTuFu ), sculpture, painting.
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms 907–960 Period of warfare, official corruption, general hardship. Widespread development of printing (see typetype ); paper money first printed.
Sung 960–1279Period of great social and intellectual change. Neo-Confucianism attains supremacy over Taoism and Buddhism; central bureaucracy reestablished. Widespread cultivation of tea and cotton; gunpowder first used militarily.
Yüan 1271–1368 MongolMongols dynasty founded by Kublai KhanKublaiKh . Growing contact with West. Confucian ideals discouraged. Great age of Chinese playwriting. Revolts in Mongolia and S China end dynasty.
Ming 1368–1644 Mongols expelled. Confucianism, civil service examinations, reinstated. Contact with European traders, missionaries. Porcelain, architecture (see Chinese architectureChines-arc ), the novel and drama flourish.
Ch'ing or Manchu 1644–1912 Established by the ManchusManchu . Territorial expansion but gradual weakening of Chinese power; decline of central authority. Increasing European trade; foreign powers divide China into spheres of influence. Opium WarOpiumWar ; Hong KongHongKong ceded; Boxer UprisingBoxerUpr . Last Chinese monarchy.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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