List of Chinese Dynasties

Related article: China China,
Mandarin Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo [central glorious people's united country; i.e., people's republic], officially People's Republic of China, country (2010 pop. 1,339,724,852), 3,691,502 sq mi (9,561,000 sq km), E Asia.
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Chinese Dynasties
Dynasty Characteristics 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 (ConfuciusConfucius
, Chinese K'ung Ch'iu or K'ung Fu-tzu, Pinyin Kong Fuzi, c.551–479? B.C., Chinese sage. Positive evidence concerning the life of Confucius is scanty; modern scholars base their accounts largely on the Analects,
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, Lao TzuLao Tzu
, fl. 6th cent. B.C., Chinese philosopher, reputedly the founder of Taoism. It is uncertain that Lao Tzu [Ch.,=old person or old philosopher] is historical. His biography in Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Records of the Historian (1st cent. B.C.
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, MenciusMencius
, Mandarin Meng-tzu, 371?–288? B.C., Chinese Confucian philosopher. The principal source for Mencius' life is his own writings. He was born in the ancient state of Ch'ao, in modern Shandong prov.
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) 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. Feudalismfeudalism
, form of political and social organization typical of Western Europe from the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire to the rise of the absolute monarchies. The term feudalism is derived from the Latin feodum,
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 replaced by pyramidal bureaucratic government. Written language standardized. Roads, canals, much of the Great WallGreat Wall of China,
series of fortifications, c.3,890 mi (6,260 km) long (not including trenches and natural defensive barriers), winding across N China from Gansu prov. to Liaoning prov.
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Han  202 B.C.–A.D. 220 Unification furthered, but harshness lessened and ConfucianismConfucianism
, moral and religious system of China. Its origins go back to the Analects (see Chinese literature), the sayings attributed to Confucius, and to ancient commentaries, including that of Mencius.
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 made basis for bureaucratic state. BuddhismBuddhism
, religion and philosophy founded in India c.525 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. There are over 300 million Buddhists worldwide. One of the great world religions, it is divided into two main schools: the Theravada or Hinayana in Sri Lanka and SE Asia, and
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 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
, refers both to a Chinese system of thought and to one of the four major religions of China (with Confucianism, Buddhism, and Chinese popular religion). Philosophical Taoism

The philosophical system stems largely from the Tao-te-ching,
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 and Buddhism. Many scientific advances adopted from India.
Tsin or Chin  265–420 Founded by a Wei general; gradual expansion to the southeast. Series of barbarian dynasties ruled N China. Continued growth of Buddhism.
Sui  581–618 Reunification; centralized government reestablished. Buddhism, Taoism favored. Great Wall refortified; canal system established.
T'ang  618–907 Territorial expansion. Buddhism temporarily suppressed. Civil servicecivil service,
entire body of those employed in the civil administration as distinct from the military and excluding elected officials. The term was used in designating the British administration of India, and its first application elsewhere was in 1854 in England.
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 examinations based on Confucianism. Age of great achievements in poetry (Li PoLi Po
, Li Pai
, or Li T'ai-po
, c.700–762, Chinese poet of the T'ang dynasty. He was born in what is now Sichuan prov. Most authorities believe that he was a Taoist; Li Po's unconcern for worldly preferment and his love for retirement was expressive of
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, Po Chü-iPo Chü-i
, 772–846, Chinese poet. He occupied several important government posts, rising to the presidency of the imperial board of war in 841. He wrote over 3,000 poems, brief, topical verses expressed in very simple, clear language.
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, Tu FuTu Fu
, 712–70, Chinese poet. In Pinyin, his name is romanized as Du Fu. Tu Fu is often considered the greatest of Chinese poets. He did not pass the imperial civil service examinations and, although he held a few official positions for brief periods, he spent many
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), sculpture, painting.
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms  907–960 Period of warfare, official corruption, general hardship. Widespread development of printing (see typetype,
for printing, was invented in China (c.1040), using woodblocks. Related devices, such as seals and stamps for making impressions in clay, had been used in ancient times in Babylon and elsewhere.
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); paper money first printed.
Sung  960–1279 Period 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
, Asian people, numbering about 6 million and distributed mainly in the Republic of Mongolia, the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China, and Kalmykia and the Buryat Republic of Russia.
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 dynasty founded by Kublai KhanKublai Khan
, 1215–94, Mongol emperor, founder of the Yüan dynasty of China. From 1251 to 1259 he led military campaigns in S China. He succeeded (1260) his brother Mongke (Mangu) as khan of the empire that their grandfather Jenghiz Khan had founded.
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. 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 architectureChinese architecture,
the buildings and other structures created in China from prehistoric times to the present day. Early Architecture

As a result of wars and invasions, there are few existing buildings in China predating the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).
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), the novel and drama flourish.
Ch'ing or Manchu  1644–1912 Established by the ManchusManchu
, people who lived in Manchuria for many centuries and who ruled China from 1644 until 1912. These people, related to the Tungus, were descended from the Jurchen, a tribe known in Asia since the 7th cent. They were first called Manchu in the early 17th cent.
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. Territorial expansion but gradual weakening of Chinese power; decline of central authority. Increasing European trade; foreign powers divide China into spheres of influence. Opium WarOpium Wars,
1839–42 and 1856–60, two wars between China and Western countries. The first was between Great Britain and China. Early in the 19th cent., British merchants began smuggling opium into China in order to balance their purchases of tea for export to Britain.
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; Hong KongHong Kong
, Mandarin Xianggang, special administrative region of China, formerly a British crown colony (2005 est. pop. 6,899,000), land area 422 sq mi (1,092 sq km), adjacent to Shenzhen, Guangdong prov.
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 ceded; Boxer UprisingBoxer Uprising,
1898–1900, antiforeign movement in China, culminating in a desperate uprising against Westerners and Western influence.

By the end of the 19th cent. the Western powers and Japan had established wide interests in China.
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. Last Chinese monarchy.
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