History of China


History of China is a long and complex history includes all dynasties with their own memorable cultures. China is an important country because it has 1.4 billion people and it is one of the world’s oldest and most influential civilizations. There are four inventions commonly referred to as “the Four Great Inventions” in China including paper, gunpowder, compass and printing that have had a huge impact on the entire world.

Chinese civilization has been the most technological, economically and culturally advanced throughout much of recorded history. The word - China in Chinese language means “Middle Kingdom”, not only because it was geographically in the middle of the Middle East and South Asia with which they traded, but also because they were culturally universalistic. It produced many highly valued products that were exported to the West, first through the Silk Route and later across the oceans. More books were printed throughout history of China than the rest of the world combined.

Number of Dynasties and Emperors in China

There were 83 dynasties and 559 emperors in ancient history of China. The Zhou Dynasty was the longest ruling Chinese dynasty. It lasted from 1122-255 BC. The Qin Dynasty was the shortest ruling Chinese dynasty. It lasted only 15 years. Emperor Kangxi, the second emperor of Qing Dynasty, was the longest-reigning emperor in the history of China. He ruled China for 61 years during the years from 1661 to 1722. Emperor Modi of Jin (1234), the last emperor of Jin Dynasty, was the shortest-reigning emperor in the history of China. He ruled China for less than one day. (Picture of Emperor Kangxi)

Yuan Dynasty had the largest territory in history of China. It covered a total area of over 12 million square kilometers at its peak. Many believe that Southern Song Dynasty had smallest territory in history of China. Wu Zetian was the first and only female emperor in Chinese history. During her rule in Tang Dynasty, the practice of Chinese Buddhism is known to have reached its height and influence. Puyi was the last emperor in Chinese history. He ruled as the last emperor of Qing Dynasty from 1908 to 1912.

Both Han and Tang Dynasty are considered as the most powerful dynasty in Chinese history. Tang Dynasty’s culture, politics and economy had great influence on the neighbor countries. In many countries, the numerous Chinese communities, or "China Town" are known as "Tang People Street," meaning the neighborhood, or street, inhabited by the Chinese (Tang) people. Han Dynasty left a lasting influence on China, founding many of the basic elements still used in Chinese society today: the largest ethnic group in China is named “Han”, the Chinese language is “Hanyu” and the Chinese character is “Hanzi”.

History of Shang Dynasty
China has a recorded history of over four thousand years, beginning with or before the Shang Dynasty. Shang Dynasty is the first historic Chinese dynasty and ruled in the northeastern region of China. The Shang Dynasty civilization was based on agriculture, augmented by hunting and animal husbandry.
History of Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, and the use of iron was introduced to ancient China. In western histories, the Zhou period is often described as feudalism because the Zhou’s early decentralized rule invites comparison with medieval rule in Europe.
History of Qin Dynasty
The Qin Emperor, Ying Zheng, named himself Shi Huangdi (First Emperor), a formulation of titles previously reserved for deities and the mythological sage-emperors. He is known by historians as Qin Shi Huang. Although the Qin Dynasty was short-lived, its legalist rule had a deep impact on later dynasties in China.
History of Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty is considered as one of the greatest periods in the entire history of China. During the Han Dynasty, China was officially declared as a Confucian state. Han Dynasty encouraged the development of agriculture, the economy developed quickly and the population reached 50 million.
History of Three Kingdoms Period to Sui Dynasty
At the end of Han Dynasty, it was divided into three kingdoms headed by leaders Cao Cao who controlled the north of the Yangtze River known as Cao Wei; Liu Bei who controlled southwestern region known as Shu Han and Sun Quan who controlled the southeastern region known as Dong Wu.
History of Tang Dynasty
The glorious Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Changan, the most populous city in the world at the time, was known for many great achievements. Li Yuan founded the Tang Dynasty but only ruled for a few years before being deposed by his son, Li Shimin, later known as Tang Taizong. He is considered as one of the greatest rulers in Chinese history.
History of Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty is often known as the Chinese Renaissance, because of its similarities to the European renaissance for making progress in technology and inventions, the upcoming of new philosophical interpretations of the old texts meant a renewal of the old and the creation of new streaming.
History of Yuan Dynasty
Since the Han Dynasty, Mongolian from the north had tried to invade China repeatedly. They finally succeeded and established the Yuan Dynasty in 1279. Yuan was very strong militarily. Genghis Khan built a Mongolian empire, which extended all the way to Europe.
History of Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty had made great achievements in overseas expeditions during the period 1405-1433 led by Zheng He. He sailed the largest fleet the world had ever seen from China. The fleet reached American Continent 70 years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan.
History of Qing Dynasty; The Republic of China
The Qing emperors in early period were very capable and intelligent. Emperor Kangxi, the second emperor of Qing Dynasty, was a capable leader and administrator. Using Han people to serve in his government, he established a strong government and expanded China’s spheres of influence to neighboring countries.
History of the People's Republic of China
On October 1, 1949, a grand ceremony inaugurating the People’s Republic of China was held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, witnessed by 300,000 people. On that day, Chairman Mao Zedong solemnly proclaimed the formal establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

Learn more about Chinese history, people and languages, please visit Why Study Abroad in China

Central Academy of Fine Arts
Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University