Published on November 26, 2008
China's Governmental Past China has a very rich past full of many political and cultural advancements. Their government was made up of dynasties which ruled for many years at a time. The head ruler in the dynasty was called the emperor. Most of the dynasties ran smoothly and efficiently for the duration of their rule. Over time, many different technological advancements came along with each dynasty. Some of these fantastic achievements were the colossal Great Wall of China, the printing press, and the Forbidden City palace. The Chinese were also very advanced in agriculture and trade.
The Xia and Shang Dynasties The Xia Dynasty ruled from 2,000-1,700B.C. It was the first completely established dynasty in China's history. Not very much is known about China's first dynasty being that it was so long ago. However, we do know that they had advanced much more from the Neolithic era of China. The Xia Dynasty is most well-known for it's bronze and pottery work. The Shang Dynasty ruled from 1,700-1,100B.C. Some believe that the Shang emperor had rebelliously overthrown the Xia emperor to usurp his power, but we cannot be sure. Agriculture and hunting made up much of the society's being. However, the two most important events of the Shang Dynasty were their writing system and “oracle bones”. During excavations, we have found tortoise shells and cattle bones with inscriptions carved into them. We have also found many ceremonial vessels with dates carved into them that match to the Shang Dynasty's time. Here is a picture of one of the many Shang Dynasty rulers, Shang Tang.
The Eastern and Western Zhou Dynasties The Western Zhou Dynasty ruled from 1,100-771B.C., before the Eastern dynasty came into existence. This dynasty lay near the Wei River. It is clearly seen that they could not work bronze as well as the Shang Dynasty. However, they were still very successful as far as agriculture and following a patrimonial succession system. After some centuries time, they were finally able to work bronze. Apparently, they were craft enough to be able to rebel against the Shang Dynasty's government system and overthrow to take over. The Eastern Zhou Dynasty ruled from 771-221B.C. They covered more land than the Western Zhou. After barbarians pillaged the Western Zhou capital, they decided to try to expand and/or rebuild further East. This made them separate into two parts: the East and West. Two very important philosophies were created during this dynasty's time period. Confucianism and Daoism. This dynasty has been proven to be an era of new ideas and beliefs for China.
The Qin and Han Dynasties The Qin Dynasty ruled from 221-207B.C. The Qin Dynasty was very smart as far as warfare. They were able to defeat all of the warring states surrounding them. This was actually really the first dynasty to call their head ruler an emperor. Before the Qin Dynasty,they referred to themselves as kings. Therefore, the “First Emperor of China” was Qin Shi Huang Di. Under his rule, efficient iron weapons were created. He was very strict and many times harsh. He would execute men if they were late to a meeting or anything of that nature. Qin died in the year 210B.C. Here is a picture of him. The Han Dynasty ruled from 207B.C.-220A.D. This dynasty is probably the most important of them all. This is mainly because they created a new style of ruling which every dynasty to follow would copy. They created the development of a bureaucracy. This means that there were new networks and sections for different things to do in everyday life. There would be a system for government, a system for labor, a system for education, so on and so forth. A man named Han Wudi was the main ruling emperor in which the dynasty was named after.
The Three Kingdoms Dynasty, the Sui Dynasty, and the Tang Dynasty The Three Kingdoms Dynasty ruled from 220-588A.D. A quick summary of this dynasty would be: it consisted mostly of warring states. They tried to reinforce the idea of having one emperor rule over all of China instead of having separate kingdoms [which in the end ended happening]. Buddhism was also starting to spread around during this time period. The Sui Dynasty ruled from 588-618A.D. The Sui Dynasty is most well-known for their supposed “ruthlessness” as far as expeditions to other Asian countries and their architecture accomplishments. They traveled to almost every single neighboring country and did trade with them. The Tang Dynasty ruled from 618-907A.D. It was one of the largest dynasties, extending towards Siberia in the North, to Vietnam more South, and to Korea in the East. They also took part in the advancement of the Silk Road. This dynasty also made history with the first female emperor, and empress, Wu. The An Lushan rebellion occurred during this time period because one of the emperors, Xuanzong, fell in love with a concubine named Yang Guifei. She started to abuse her power and waste time with her friends. Soon after, she cheated on the emperor with a man named An Lushan, hence the name of the rebellion. For 8 years, this “civil war” went on until finally, Xuanzong was forced to flee the capital. As this happened, one of his men had strangled the woman, and after that, for the next 150 years, the Tang Dynasty slowly disintegrated when they had to use noblemen off and on as the leader. Eventually, the dynasty completely fell when they couldn't find a good new emperor. Here is a picture of this dynasty's well-recognized, Tang Horse.
The Song and Yuan Dynasties The Song Dynasty ruled from 960-1279A.D. This dynasty advanced to an imperial army and they elevated on an agricultural and trade level. One of their biggest advancements with food trade was with Vietnam, where each would import and export different types of rice. The printing press, movable type, and compass were also created during tis period. Their farming techniques were so great that some people in modern China today still use them. To the left is a picture of and emperor, Huizong. The Yuan Dynasty ruled from 1279-1368A.D. The Mongolians were the head of this dynasty. Mongolian officials were appointed instead of Chinese, and the Mongol language was spoken. Even Arabs and Italians were part of the Mongols's government. Here is a picture of Emperor Kublai Khan.
The Ming and Qing Dynasties The Ming Dynasty ruled from 1368-1644A.D. This dynasty was founded by Zhu Yuan Zhang. Two major architectural accomplishments of this dynasty were the Forbidden City palace and the Great Wall of China. The wall was to be used to set fire signals for when an intruding army would be approaching. A sailor form the time of this dynasty named Zheng He had traveled far West to places called Mogadishu and Jiddah. It is also possible that he went as far as Madagascar, but it is unknown. He predated Christopher Columbus's idea of traveling around Asia. Here is a picture of the Forbidden City- the largest palace in the world. The Qing Dynasty ruled from 1644-1911A.D. It was the last Chinese dynasty before “Modern China” when they became Communist. It's leader, Pu Yi, is known as “The Last Emperor”. He was known as the “Son of Heaven”. He gained his power at a very young age, only 2 years and 10 months old. He was a very sad and lonely boy living as emperor until he was fully grown. He could not have any friends, nobody could touch him, and he was never allowed to leave the walls of the palace. He ruled as best he could while the whole time that he was reigning, the Japanese were watching him and the rest of China very closely. In the end, small Japan remarkably took over all of China and Pu Yi's reign was over. Left: The Qing Dyansty flag. Right: The Last Emperor, Pu Yi.
CHINESE ECONOMY The Chinese first used Cowrie shells as money around 1800B.C. After many years, as the Chinese's works with metal advanced, people started to make metal look-alikes of the shells. These metal, [bronze] coins with writing on them started to develop around 400B.C. years. Then, by around 1100A.D., the Chinese started to use paper money. COIN MONEY ANCIENT PAPER MONEY COWRIE SHELLS
The Chinese also had developed several belief systems over time. The main three were Confucianism, Daosim, and Buddhism. All of these so-called religions were really philosophies . They all followed the same general idea of creating peace, order, and harmony among all living things to lead a happy and successful life. All of these philosophies generally have rules for a way of life. They don't specifically give explanations for the beginning of man [life]. China's Belief Systems
CONFUCIANISM Confucianism is a very ancient philosophy created by who else, but Confucius. Confucius was born in 551B.C. Some of the basic beliefs of Confucianism are loyalty, love, and cooperation towards the family, following good moral principles, and being loyal to the government and law. Confucius's ideas are mostly about learning, having wisdom, and being loyal. His system constantly reiterates acts like: children being respectful to their parents, people helping one another and working as a group, not being selfish and leaving anyone behind, helping those in need, and following good moral ethics in general. Like the other Chinese philosophies, Confucius gives guidelines to a way of life.
BUDDHISM Chinese Buddhism was in it's peak during the Tang Dynasty because these emperors finally were Buddhists. The Buddha's teachings were said to be the guidance needed to reach essential truth and enlightenment. Buddhism is really a product of cultural diffusion. People from India that came up to China sparked these ideas with their form of Buddhism. The Chinese changed it slightly to make it their own. Similar to Confucianism and Daoism, Buddhism encourages respect and loyalty to all others. It also Many scholars across China from East to West spread the word of Buddhism, especially after the death of the Buddha. Although his death occurred when Confucianism and Daoism were at their peaks, Buddhism gained enough followers to stay alive and ended up becoming up a mass philosophy.
DAOISM Daoism, even more widely recognized as Taoism, was probably the least strict and strategic philosophy of them all. The main idea of Daoism is that life is a natural process and that it should flow with nature. The Daoist symbol, Yin and Yang, depicts equality and harmony among all things. The symbol is a clear showing of how the opposites are completely symmetrical and are in perfect harmony. Daoism could be considered the most peaceful of the Chinese philosophies because of it's encouragement of connection with the Earth. The Daoist mindset is basically that whatever happens, happens for a reason, and if you have good moral values, you can be successful and live well.
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