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China Overview: A Brief History of Chinese Dynasties. Mr. Lubinski. Four Thousand Years of Civilization.

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China overview a brief history of chinese dynasties

China Overview:A Brief History of Chinese Dynasties

Mr. Lubinski

Four thousand years of civilization
Four Thousand Years of Civilization

  • Chinese civilization extends backwards in history in an unbroken chain for nearly four thousand years. Throughout this time, the Chinese people have been instrumental in developing new technologies and advancing human knowledge.

Geography of china
Geography of China

  • Larger than the United States

  • Climate varies

    • North

      • Temperate and cold

    • South

      • Subtropical

      • Erosion

      • Floods and droughts

  • Important rivers

    • Hwang ho (Yellow River) – north

    • Yangtze River – central China

  • Enclosed by high mountains, hot deserts, wide oceans

Physical geography
Physical Geography

  • Varied Landscape

  • China covers an area of almost 4 million square miles.

  • The Gobi desert lies in the north.

  • Low-lying plains in the east make up one of the world’s largest farming areas.

  • Mountain ranges lie in the west, including the Plateau of Tibet and the QinlingShandi. There was limited contact between people in the east and west.

  • The weather and temperature vary from cold and dry to wet and humid, and monsoons can bring up to 250 inches of rain each year.

Geography of china1
Geography of China

  • China’s physical geography made farming possible but travel and communication difficult.

  • Civilization began in China along the Huang He and Chang Jiang rivers.

  • China’s first dynasties helped Chinese society develop and made many other achievements.

Two rivers of china
Two Rivers of China

  • Huang He

  • Also called the Yellow River

  • Nearly 3,000 miles long across northern China

  • Often floods, and has been referred to as “China’s sorrow” because of the destruction

Two rivers of china1
Two Rivers of China

  • Chang Jiang

  • The longest river in Asia; also called the Yangzi River

  • Flows across central China from Tibet to the Pacific Ocean

Ancient history
Ancient History

  • By 4000 BCE

    • Village settlements along Hwang ho River

    • Farming, stone tools, weapons (bow and arrow), animal domestication, pottery

  • Circa 1500 BCE

    • Picture writing (oldest writing in existence)

    • Now circa 40,000 characters

What are dynasties
What are dynasties?

  • A dynasty is a series of rulers from the same family.

  • Historically, royal rule was descended from father to son.


  • Emperor comes to power and gains the Mandate of Heaven.

  • Upward rise (wealth and population increase) to peak.

  • Downward spiral (natural disasters, corruption, etc.).

  • Emperor loses the Mandate of Heaven.

  • Civil war until a new emperor, with the Mandate of Heaven, comes to power.

    MANDATE OF HEAVEN – Described by philosopher Mencius

  • Belief that the emperor was chosen by heaven to rule.

Xia a k a hsia dynasty ca 2070 ca 1600 bce
XIA (a.k.a. HSIA) DYNASTY(ca. 2070-ca. 1600 BCE)

  • China’s first dynasty

  • Founded by Yu

  • Built roads and irrigation projects dug channels to drain floodwaters and created the major waterways of North China.

Shang dynasty ca 1600 1046 bce
Shang Dynasty(ca. 1600-1046 BCE)

  • The Shang reorganized the social order in China: the top ranking were the royals, then nobles, warriors, artisans, farmers, and then slaves.

  • Many cultural advances were made, including China’s first writing system, complex tools, metal pots, ornaments, glazed pottery, and silk industries

Zhou a k a chou dynasty 1045 256 bce
Zhou (a.k.a. Chou) Dynasty(1045-256 BCE)

  • The Zhou people worked with other tribes to overthrow the Shang dynasty in the 1100s BC.

  • Zhou leaders believed that their rulers were mandated by heaven, and that heaven would find another leader when necessary.

  • A new political order was established: the king granted plots of land to lords, who in turn provided soldiers and paid taxes to the king. Poor farmers were granted land as well, and remained under the rule of the lords.

  • The lords helped Zhou rulers keep control of the dynasty.

Zhou expansion
Zhou Expansion

  • The Zhou set up a new economy, rearranging the affairs of the kingdom. As they did so, the borders of their kingdom swelled, and they were able to maintain control over the people they conquered effectively.

  • Zhou kings assigned nobleman, who were usually members of the royal family, to serve as regional rulers. These nobleman owned the land, and were given absolute authority over it. The peasants could not own land, but instead worked the land for the noblemen.

Decline of the zhou dynasty
Decline of the Zhou Dynasty

  • As the lords’ power grew, they became uninterested in serving Zhou rulers. Many refused to fight against Zhou enemies.

  • In 771 BC, the Zhou suffered a loss to invaders. The dynasty survived, but morale weakened, and the Zhou began to fight among themselves.

  • The Warring States Period marked power struggles between the ruling-class families.

  • Problems within the government paralleled problems within large family systems, which were breaking down. Bonds of loyalty weakened within even small families, and disorder fell upon China.

Qin a k a chin dynasty 221 206 bce
Qin (a.k.a. Chin) Dynasty(221-206 BCE)

  • By 221 B.C.E. a man by the name of Qin had overthrown all remaining members of the Zhou Dynasty, and all other opposition, allowing him to place himself as the ruler of China.

  • The Qin Dynasty would only last about 11 years. Yet during these short years, this dynasty would make changes that would effect the history of China for thousands of years. So influential was Qin, that the name of the nation, China, is a derivative of his name.


  • Qin again reorganized the affairs of China. Instead of a system of nobleman, Qin wanted everything to be under his direct authority and control.

  • He established a strict set of written laws that were recognized throughout China, and setup military control in each region of China so that local nobleman could not rebel against the emperor.

The great wall of china
The Great Wall of China

  • To make China the most glorious nation on Earth, Qin needed labor. He used the peasants, forcing them to work under slave conditions, so that he could build roads, bridges, canals, buildings, and his most famous building project of all, the Great Wall of China.

  • Early emperors had built walls in the northern territories to protect their nation against attack from outside forces. These walls were spread across the landscape, and not connected. Qin ordered his people to connect the existing walls together, and to expand them, eventually covering a distance of over 4000 miles.

Han dynasty 206 bce 220 ce
Han Dynasty(206 BCE -220 CE)

  • In the year 207 B.C. a new dynasty began to rule China. This dynasty was led by a peasant whose name was Liu Bang. Liu Bang had grown tired of the brutal leadership of the Qin Dynasty. Many other people also were tired of the Qin

  • Liu Bang proclaimed that the Qin had lost the mandate of heaven, or the right to rule the nation. He was able to overthrow them, and establish himself as the new emperor of China, and the first emperor of the Han Dynasty.

Han dynasty
Han Dynasty

  • The Han Dynasty would rule China for the next 400 years. During this time period they would be one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations on Earth. Their achievements would only be surpassed by the Roman Empire.

The silk road
The Silk Road

  • The Silk Road was a network of routes stretching more than 4,000 miles across Asia’s deserts and mountain ranges, through the Middle East and stopping at the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Chinese traders only used the road until they reached Central Asia, and then gave their goods to local traders.

  • China grew rich from trading silk with other lands.

Confucius 551 479 bce
Confucius(551-479 BCE)

  • Considered China’s greatest philosopher

  • Ethics – correct way to live

  • Human nature – good

  • Men should be kind, tolerant, and love their elders and ancestors (filial piety)

  • Golden rule: “Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you.”

  • Analects

  • Confucianism – code of behavior and religion

    • Education, good manners, right morals, respect for others, love of tradition, obedience to one’s parents


  • Literature, poetry, history, philosophy

  • Tang dynasty – poet Li Po

    • Printing invented – books produced cheaply in great numbers

    • Paper – 1st century BCE

  • “China” or “Chinaware”

    • Known for glazed pottery and porcelain

  • Music

  • Paintings


  • 1000-1500 CE – civilization superior to that of medieval Europe

  • Paper and ink

    • “India” ink really Chinese ink

  • Movable type

    • Movable blocks with cut-out raised characters

  • Compass

  • Gunpowder

    • Originally for firecrackers

  • Silk manufacturing

  • Irrigation and farming techniques