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Ancient China. Chapter 6 Pages 156-195. Video Clips. Section 1: Geography and Early China. The Big Idea Chinese civilization began with the Shang dynasty along the Huang He. Main Ideas China’s physical geography made farming possible but travel and communication difficult.

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ancient china

Ancient China

Chapter 6

Pages 156-195

section 1 geography and early china
Section 1: Geography and Early China
  • The Big Idea
  • Chinese civilization began with the Shang dynasty along the Huang He.
  • Main Ideas
  • 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.
section 1 key terms and people
Section 1: Key Terms and People
  • Jade – a hard gemstone
  • Oracle – a prediction
  • Northeast is cold and dry
  • Eastern plains has heavy rains, monsoons
geographical features
Geographical Features
  • Qinling Mountains run from the east to the west
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 Qinling Shandi Mountains. 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.
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
  • Chang Jiang
  • The longest river in Asia; also called the Yangzi River
  • Flows across central China from Tibet to the Pacific Ocean
civilization begins
Civilization Begins


  • Frequent flooding made the land fertile around the Chang Jiang and Huang He rivers.
  • Along with farming, the Chinese people hunted, fished, and domesticated animals.

Early Settlements

  • Some small villages along the rivers grew into larger cities.
  • Separate cultures developed in the north and the south. Over time people learned to dig wells and use potter’s wheels.
  • Findings at burial sites suggest that the ancient Chinese believed in an afterlife and had a complex social order.
xia dynasty
Xia dynasty
  • The Xia dynasty might have been founded around 2200 BC, by Yu the Great.
  • Tales say that Yu dug channels to drain floodwaters and created the major waterways of North China.
  • Archaeologists have no firm evidence that tales about the Xia dynasty are true.
shang dynasty
Shang dynasty
  • Established by 1500 BC, the Shang was the first dynasty that there is clear evidence to support.
  • The Shang reorganized the social order in China: the top ranking was the royals, then nobles, warriors, artisans, farmers, and slaves.
  • Most citizens lived within the city walls.
  • Many cultural advances were made, including China’s first writing system, complex tools, metal pots, and ornaments.
shang social order
Shang Social Order
  • Nobles
  • Artisans or craftsmen
  • Farmers
  • Slaves
  • Travel and communication was limited due to the Gobi Desert to the north, Pacific Ocean to the east, and the Himalaya Mountains to the southwest
  • The river valleys were ideal for farming because the floods of the Huang He River (Yellow) and Chang Jiang River (Yangzi) left silt to fertilize the soil
  • Harsh Takimakan and Gobi Deserts to the northwest
  • Low lying North China Plains to the east
  • Plateau of Tibet to the southwest with peaks that reach 26,000 feet
  • The Qinling Shandi Mountain Range that separates northern and southern China
civilization begins1
Civilization Begins
  • Chinese Civilization began as early as 7000 BC along the Huang He River also known as the Yellow River which is 3000 miles long, it is also called China’s Sorrow because of frequent floods killing people and destroying lands
  • Early Chinese farmed, fished hunted with bows and arrows, domesticated sheep and pigs
  • Features of early China settlements are homes in villages buried partly underground, straw covered roofs, animal pens, storages pits, cemeteries, walls to protect settlements from flooding and hostile neighbors, water wells
  • After 3000 BC people used potter’s wheels , and dug wells
xia dynasty1
Xia Dynasty
  • 2200 BC
  • According to ancient stories Yu the Great was the founder of the Xia Dynasty
  • Ancient stories about Xia were important because they explained geography that influenced lives and told of kings who helped people solve problems by working together
shang dynasty1
Shang Dynasty
  • 1500 BC
  • First dynasty to have been proven by evidence
  • Strongest dynasty in the Huang He valley
  • Shang rulers moved their capital many times, probably due to flooding and attacks
  • The King was the center of Shang political and religious life, priest used oracle bones to make predictions
  • Society: royal family, nobles at highest level, artisans at middle level, farmers and slaves at lower level
  • Achievements: writing system, use of bronze, calendar, war chariots, and bows
section 2 the zhou dynasty and new ideas
Section 2: The Zhou Dynasty and New Ideas
  • The Big Idea
  • Confucius and other philosophers taught ways to deal with social and political problems in ancient China.
  • Main Ideas
  • The Zhou dynasty expanded China but then declined.
  • Confucius offered ideas to bring order to Chinese society.
  • Daoism and Legalism also gained followers.
section key 2 terms and people
Section Key 2: Terms and People

Lords – people of high rank

Peasants – farmers, people at the bottom of the social order

Confucius – influential teacher, philosopher, who believed people were basically good and with practice could become perfect

section key 2 terms and people1
Section Key 2: Terms and People

Ethics – moral values

Confucianism – the ideas of Confucius

Daoism – stressed living in harmony with the Dao, the guiding force of all reality

section key 2 terms and people2
Section Key 2: Terms and People

Laozi – was the most famous of Daoist teachers. He taught that people should not try to gain wealth, nor should they seek power.

Legalism – the belief that people were bad by nature and needed to be controlled

the zhou political system
The Zhou Political System
  • The Zhou people worked with other tribes to overthrow the Shang dynasty in the 1100s BC.
  • Zhou leaders (Kings) 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.
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.

Disgusted with the rude and insensitive nature of the people around him, Confucius pushed for a return to ethics, or moral values.

Moral Values

This code of ethics was passed down and written in a book called Analects. These stories focused on morality, family, society, and government.

The Analects

One of the major ideas Confucius put forth for the success of both family and government was leading by example. Confucius believed that when people behaved well and acted morally, they were carrying out what heaven expected of them.

Leading by Example

main ideas of confucianism
Main Ideas of Confucianism
  • People should be respectful and loyal to their family members
  • Leaders should be kind and lead by example
  • Learning is a process that never ends
  • Heaven expects people to behave well and act morally
two schools of thought
Two Schools of Thought
  • Daoism
  • Daoism comes from Dao, meaning “the way.”
  • Daoists believed that people should avoid interfering with nature or each other.
  • Laozi wrote The Way and Its Power, a book teaching that power and wealth are unnecessary.
  • Legalism
  • Legalism is the political philosophy that people need to be controlled.
  • It is unconcerned with religion or individual thought, and prepared always for war.
  • Legalists put their ideas into practice throughout China.
  • 1100 BC The Zhou Dynasty began and lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history
  • Zhou kings claimed to receive their authority to rule form the Mandate from Heaven which stated heaven gave the power to the kings or leader and no one ruled without heavens permission. If the king was bad heaven would support another leader.
  • Zhou came from an area to the west of the Shang Kingdom.
  • Zhou new political order granted land to others in return for loyalty, military support and other services.
  • Lords paid taxes and provided soldiers to the king
  • Peasants, or farmers were at the bottom of the social order
  • Book of Songs – each peasant family received a small plot of land and had to farm additional land for the noble
  • Around 481 BC China’s lords began to fight each other, this was called the Warring States Period
  • When the Zhou dynasty crumbled, political and social chaos erupted and the new teachings of Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism emerged
  • Chinese family structure: large families of several generations formed powerful groups. When families broke apart they lost their power. Close relatives became rivals.
  • Confucius felt that China should needed to return to ethics or moral values
  • Confucianism focuses on morality, family, society, and government
religion and philosophy
Religion and Philosophy
  • Main Ideas of Confucianism: Page 170
  • People should be respectful and loyal to their families
  • Leaders should be kind and lead by example
  • Learning is a process that never ends
  • Heaven expects people to behave well and act morally
religion and philosophy1
Religion and Philosophy
  • Daoism - stressed living in harmony with the Dao, the guiding force of all reality
  • Dao gave birth to the universe and all things in it
  • Government should stay out of people’s lives
  • The universe is a balance of opposites
religion and philosophy2
Religion and Philosophy
  • Laozi was most famous Daoist teacher, wrote The Way and its Power
  • Legalism – the belief that people were bad by nature and needed to be controlled
  • Han Fei Zi felt that society needed strict laws to keep people in line and punishments should fit the crimes
  • Unity and efficiency were also important to Legalism
  • Legalist were the first to put their ideas into practice throughout China
section 3 the qin dynasty
Section 3 The Qin Dynasty
  • The Big Idea
  • The Qin dynasty unified China with a strong government and a system of standardization.
  • Main Ideas
  • The first Qin emperor created a strong but strict government.
  • A unified China was created through Qin policies and achievements.
section 3 key terms and people
Section 3: Key Terms and People
  • Shi Huangdi – 221 BC, the Qin king Ying Zheng succeeded in unifying China; Shi Huangdi or first emperor, followed Legalist political beliefs
  • Great Wall – a barrier that linked earlier walls across China’s northern frontier
shi huangdi
Shi Huangdi
  • The Legalist Qin king Yin Zheng took the throne in 221 BC and gave himself the title Shi Huangdi, which means “first emperor.”
  • He burned all books and writings that dealt with any practice other than Legalism.
  • He created a strict government with harsh punishments.
  • He used his armies to expand the empire and ensured that there would be no more revolts in the new territory.
  • He claimed all power and took land away from the lords. Commoners were forced to work on government building projects.
  • China was divided into districts with their own governors.
unified china
Unified China
  • Politics
  • Shi Huangdi took complete control of the land and the people.
  • There was a strict chain of command.
  • Taxes and building projects were introduced.
  • Culture
  • Shi Huangdi set up a uniform system of law.
  • Rules and punishment, writing styles, and money were consistent across China.
  • Finance
  • Gold and copper coins were standardized.
  • Uniform weights and measures help standardize trade and other legal issues.
unified china s policies a uniform system of law a citizen had to
Unified China’s Policies: A Uniform System of LawA citizen had to :
  • Standardized gold and copper coins became the currency
  • Weights and measures were also standardized
  • Make the axle of width of carts the same length
qin achievements
Qin Achievements

Building Projects

  • Massive government building projects gave jobs to many poor workers.
  • New roads were built and maintained to provide easy access to and from these buildings.

Water Systems

  • Canals were built to connect rivers and keep trade fast and efficient.
  • Irrigation systems that are still in use today watered the fields and made more land good for farming.
the great wall of china
The Great Wall Of China
  • The Great Wall was built to protect the country from invasion
  • The Great Wall linked previously built walls across China’s northern frontier.
  • The building of the wall required years of labor from hundreds of thousands of laborers.
the fall of the qin the oppressed rise up
The Fall of the Qin: The Oppressed Rise Up
  • Many scholars, peasants, and nobles grew resentful of Shi Huangdi’s harsh policies and complete control.
  • Upon the death of Shi Huangdi, the country began to unravel.
  • Rebel groups fought among themselves, and eventually the Qin capital was burned to the ground.
  • With no authority present, the country fell into civil war.
achievement or policy
Achievement or Policy
  • Standardized the written language
  • Set up uniform system of law
  • Set up a new money system
  • Set up weights and measure system
  • Set up a network of roads
  • Improved China’s water and irrigation system
  • Built the Great Wall of China
  • People everywhere were required to write using the same symbols and people in different regions could communicate
  • All citizens had the same punishments
  • People could sell goods easier
  • People could use the same measuring system
  • Improved transportation
  • Expanded farmland
  • Protected the people from invasions
section 4 the han dynasty
Section 4: The Han Dynasty
  • The Big Idea
  • The Han dynasty created a new form of government that valued family, art, and learning.
  • Main Ideas
  • Han dynasty government was based on the ideas of Confucius.
  • Family life was supported and strengthened in Han China.
  • The Han made many achievements in art, literature, and learning.
section 4 key terms and people
Section 4: Key Terms and People
  • Sundial – uses positions of the shadows cast by the sun to tell the time of day
  • Seismograph – a device that measures the strength of an earthquake
  • Acupuncture – the practice of inserting fine needles through the skin at specific points to cure disease or relieve pain
the rise of a new dynasty
The Rise of a New Dynasty
  • Liu Bang, a peasant fighting in a rebel army, became emperor due to the Chinese belief in the mandate of heaven.
  • He was the first emperor of the Han dynasty.
  • Well liked by both warriors and peasants, Liu Bang released the country from strict Legalistic practices and focused on people’s immediate needs.
  • Liu Bang lowered taxes, gave large plots of land to supporters, and set up a government that expanded on the ideas of the Qin.
wudi s new government
Wudi’s New Government
  • In 140 BC, Emperor Wudi took the throne and shifted the country’s focus back to a strong central government.
  • Confucianism became the official government philosophy.
  • Wudi built a university that taught Confucian ideals, and awarded his officials with higher rank if they were familiar with Confucian principles.
wudi s new government1
Wudi’s New Government
  • Wudi wanted a strong central government with a policy of Confucianism where people got jobs based on ability.
wudi s new government2
Wudi’s New Government
  • To create a strong central government, Wudi took lands from the lords and raised taxes. The lords were likely angry, because their land was taken away.
four social classes under the confucian system
Four Social Classes under the Confucian System
  • Upper Class: The Emperor, his court, and his scholars
  • Second Class: The peasants, who made life work on a daily basis
  • Third Class: The artisans, who produced items for daily life and some luxury goods
  • Fourth Class: The merchants, who bought and sold what others made
family life
Family Life
  • Social Classes and Wealth
  • Social rank did not reflect prosperity.
  • Hard work and heavy labor did not reflect prosperity.
  • A strong family was stressed so that people would obey the emperor.
  • Men
  • Men were the head of the household.
  • Rulers had to obey their elders too; it was a crime to disobey.
  • Some men gained jobs based on the respect they showed to elders.
  • Women
  • Women were taught to obey their husbands.
  • Girls were not valued as highly as boys.
  • Women could influence their sons’ families.
han achievements
Han Achievements

The Han created realistic scenes from everyday life, advanced figure painting, and depictions of religious figures and Confucian scholars.


Fu style: combination of prose and poetry

Shi style: short lines of verse that could be sung


The Han Chinese made paper by grinding plant fibers into a paste and then setting the paste out to dry in sheets. Later they rolled the dried pulp into scrolls.

Invention of Paper

han achievements1
Han Achievements

A device for telling time, the sundial uses the position of the shadows cast by the sun to tell the time of day.


This device measures the strength of an earthquake. Chinese scientists believed that the movement of the earth was a sign of evil times.


Acupuncture is the practice of inserting needles into the skin to cure disease or relieve pain. This practice is still widely used today.


  • In 207 BC, the Qin dynasty collapsed and Liu Bang, a peasant, became the first emperor of the Han dynasty
  • The Han Dynasty lasted for 400 years
  • The Han Dynasty was based on ideas of Confucius
  • Liu Bang freed people from harsh government policies, lowered taxes, make punishments less severe, gave blocks of land to his supporters, and used educated officials to help him rule
  • In 140 BC, emperor Wudi took the thrown. He took lands from lords, raised taxes, placed supply of grain under government control. Made people take exams and get recommendations for government service
family life1
Family Life
  • Social classes were based on the Confucian system where people were divided into four classes (Wealth and Power):
  • Upper Class – Emperor, his court, scholars who held government positions
  • Second Class – peasants
  • Third Class – artisans who produced items for daily life
  • Lower Class – merchants who bought and sold goods
  • The military was not a class but considered part of the government
family life2
Family Life
  • 90% of the people were peasants who lived in the countryside
  • Children were taught from birth to respect their elders
  • Disobeying parents was a crime
  • The father was the head of the family and had absolute power
  • Wives and children had to obey their fathers and husbands
  • Sons were thought highly of because they carried on the family line and took care of parents as they got older
  • Daughters went to live with their husbands’ families
  • Art
  • Figure painting – style of painting that includes portraits of people
  • Realistic Scenes
  • Bronze statues
  • Poetry
  • Fu style – combined poetry and prose
  • Shi style – featured short lines of verse and song
  • Sima Qian wrote a complete history of all the dynasties
inventions innovations advances
  • Sundial – uses the position of shadows cast by the sun to tell the time of day
  • Seismograph – a device that measures the strength of an earth quake
  • Paper – made from mulberry bark and hemp
  • Acupuncture – the practice of inserting fine needles through the skin at specific points to cure disease or relieve pain
section 5 han contacts with other cultures
Section 5: Han Contacts with Other Cultures
  • The Big Idea
  • Trade routes led to the exchange of new products and ideas among China, Rome, and other peoples.
  • Main Ideas
  • Farming and manufacturing grew during the Han dynasty.
  • Trade routes linked China with the Middle East and Rome.
  • Buddhism came to China from India and gained many followers.
section 5 key terms and people
Section 5: Key Terms and People
  • Silk – a soft light highly valued fabric
  • Diffusion – the spread of ideas from one culture to another (cultural diffusion)
section 5 key terms and people1
Section 5: Key Terms and People
  • Silk Road – a 4,000 mile long network of routes stretched westward from China across Asia’s deserts and mountain ranges, through the Middle East, until it reached the Mediterranean Sea.
technological advances during the han dynasty
Technological Advances during the Han Dynasty
  • Farming
  • Iron plow could till more land and raise more food
  • Wheelbarrow able to haul more products
  • Manufacturing
  • Iron swords
  • Iron armor
  • Silk: a soft, light, highly valued fabric
trade routes
Trade Routes
  • Chinese goods became highly valued in other lands, so trade routes began opening up.
  • Trading Chinese silk for strong Central Asian horses became a primary goal under the rule of Emperor Wudi.
  • Central Asians could then take the silk and trade it for products in other lands.
the silk road
The Silk Road

The Silk Road was a network of routes stretching more than 4,000 miles beginning in China acrossing 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.

Travelers banded together for protection along the many miles of difficult terrain.

China grew rich from trading silk with other lands.

buddhism comes to china
Buddhism Comes to China

Contact with New Cultures

  • When the Han dynasty began to fail, people looked to old religions to find answers, but were disappointed.
  • After coming into contact with Indian Buddhists on trade routes, many Chinese brought the teachings home to China.

Impacts on China

  • In hopes of relieving the suffering of human life, both rich and poor people began to embrace the teachings of the Buddha.
  • The popularity of Buddhism in China is an example of diffusion: the spread of ideas from one culture to another.
  • Siddhartha Gautama was about 35 years old when he found enlightenment under a tree. Buddha means Enlightened One.