Chinese civilizationsChinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both theYellow River and the YangtzeRiver valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the worlds oldest civilizations. The written history of China can be found as early as the Shang Dynasty (c. 1700–1046 BC), althoughancient historical texts such as the Records of the Grand Historian (ca. 100 BC) andBamboo Annals assert the existence of a Xia Dynasty before the Shang. Much ofChinese culture, literature and philosophy further developed during the Zhou Dynasty (1045–256 BC).The Zhou Dynasty began to bow to external and internal pressures in the 8th century BC, and thekingdom eventually broke apart into smaller states, beginning in the Spring and Autumn Period andreaching full expression in the Warring States period. This is one of multiple periods offailed statehood inChinese history (the most recent of which was theChinese Civil War).In between eras of multiple kingdoms and warlordism, Chinese dynasties have ruled all of China(minus Xinjiang and Tibet) (and, in some eras, including the present, they have controlled Xinjiang and/orTibet as well). This practice began with the Qin Dynasty: in 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang united the variouswarring kingdoms and created the first Chinese empire. Successive dynasties in Chinesehistory developed bureaucratic systems that enabled the Emperor of Chinato directly control vastterritories.The conventional view of Chinese history is that of alternating periods of political unity and disunity, withChina occasionally being dominated by stepp peoples, most of whom were in turn assimilated intothe Han Chinese population. Cultural and political influences from many parts of Asia, carried bysuccessive waves of immigration, expansion, and cultural assimilation, are part of the modern culture ofChina. Contents [hide]1 Prehistory o 1.1 Paleolithic o 1.2 Neolithic2 Ancient era o 2.1 Xia Dynasty (c. 2100 – c. 1600 BC) o 2.2 Shang Dynasty (c. 1700–1046 BC) o 2.3 Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BC) o 2.4 Spring and Autumn Period (722–476 BC) o 2.5 Warring States Period (476–221 BC)3 Imperial era o 3.1 Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) o 3.2 Han Dynasty (202 BC–AD 220) 3.2.1 Western Han
3.2.2 Xin Dynasty 3.2.3 Eastern Han o 3.3 Wei and Jin Period (AD 265–420) o 3.4 Wu Hu Period (AD 304–439) o 3.5 Southern and Northern Dynasties (AD 420–589) o 3.6 Sui Dynasty (AD 589–618) o 3.7 Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) o 3.8 Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (AD 907–960) o 3.9 Song, Liao, Jin, and Western Xia Dynasties (AD 960–1234) o 3.10 Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271–1368) o 3.11 Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644) o 3.12 Qing Dynasty (AD 1644–1911)4 Modern era o 4.1 Republic of China o 4.2 1949 to present5 See also6 Notes7 Bibliography o 7.1 Surveys o 7.2 Prehistory o 7.3 Shang Dynasty o 7.4 Han Dynasty o 7.5 Jin, the Sixteen Kingdoms, and the Northern and Southern Dynasties o 7.6 Sui Dynasty o 7.7 Tang Dynasty o 7.8 Song Dynasty o 7.9 Ming Dynasty o 7.10 Qing Dynasty o 7.11 Republican era o 7.12 Communist era, 1949- present 7.12.1 Cultural Revolution, 1966-76 o 7.13 Economy and environment o 7.14 Women and gender8 Further reading
9 External linksPrehistoryPaleolithicSee also: List of Paleolithic sites in China What is now China was inhabited by Homo erectus more than a million years ago. Recent study showsthat the stone tools found at Xiaochangliang site are magnetostratigraphically dated to 1.36 million years ago. The archaeological site of Xihoudu inShanxi Province is the earliest recorded use of fire by Homo erectus, which is dated 1.27 million years ago. The excavations atYuanmou and later Lantian showearly habitation. Perhaps the most famous specimen of Homo erectus found in China is the so-called Peking Man discovered in 1923-27.NeolithicSee also: List of Neolithic cultures of China The Neolithic age in China can be traced back to between 12,000 and 10,000 BC. Early evidence for proto-Chinese milletagriculture is radiocarbon-dated to about 7000 BC. The Peiligang culture of Xinzheng county, Henan was excavated in 1977. With agriculture came increased population,the ability to store and redistribute crops, and the potential to support specialist craftsmen and administrators. In late Neolithic times, the Yellow River valley began to establish itself as a culturalcenter, where the first villages were founded; the most archaeologically significant of those was found at Banpo, Xian. The Yellow River was so named because of loess forming its banks gave a yellowish tint to the water.The early history of China is made obscure by the lack of written documents from this period, coupledwith the existence of accounts written during later time periods that attempted to describe events that hadoccurred several centuries previously. In a sense, the problem stems from centuries of introspection onthe part of the Chinese people, which has blurred the distinction between fact and fiction in regards to thisearly history.By 7000 BC, the Chinese were farming millet, giving rise to the Jiahu culture. At Damaidi in Ningxia,3,172 cliff carvings dating to 6000-5000 BC have been discovered "featuring 8,453 individual characterssuch as the sun, moon, stars, gods and scenes of hunting or grazing." These pictographs are reputed to be similar to the earliest characters confirmed to be written Chinese. Later Yangshao culture wassuperseded by the Longshan culture around 2500 BC.Ancient eraXia Dynasty (c. 2100 – c. 1600 BC)Main article: Xia DynastyMajor site(s): possibly ErlitouThe Xia Dynasty of China (from c. 2100 to c. 1600 BC) is the first dynasty to be described in ancient historical records such asSima Qians Records of the Grand Historian and Bamboo Annals.Although there is disagreement as to whether the dynasty actually existed, there is some archaeologicalevidence pointing to its possible existence. Sima Qian, writing in the late 2nd century BC, dated thefounding of the Xia Dynasty to around 2200 BC, but this date has not been corroborated. Most archaeologists now connect the Xia to excavations at Erlitou in central Henanprovince, where a bronze
smelter from around 2000 BC was unearthed. Early markings from this period found on pottery and shells are thought to be ancestral to modern Chinese characters. With few clear records matching theShang oracle bones or the Zhou bronze vessel writings, the Xia era remains poorly understood.According to mythology, the dynasty ended around 1600 BC as a consequence of the Battle of Mingtiao.Shang Dynasty (c. 1700–1046 BC)Remnants of advanced, stratifiedsocieties dating back to the Shang found primarily in the Yellow River ValleyMain article: Shang DynastyCapital: Yinxu, near Anyang (Yin Dynasty period)Archaeological findings providing evidence for the existence of the Shang Dynasty, c. 1600–1046 BC, aredivided into two sets. The first set, from the earlier Shang period comes from sourcesat Erligang, Zhengzhou and Shangcheng. The second set, from the later Shang or Yin (殷) periodat Anyang, in modern-day Henan, which has been confirmed as the last of the Shangs nine capitals (c. 1300–1046 BC). The findings at Anyang include the earliest written record of Chinese past sofar discovered, inscriptions of divination records in ancient Chinese writing on the bones or shells of animals – the so-called "oracle bones", dating from around 1200 BC.The Shang Dynasty featured 31 kings, from Tang of Shang to King Zhou of Shang. In this period, theChinese worshipped many different gods—weather gods and sky gods—and also a supreme god,named Shangdi, who ruled over the other gods. Those who lived during the Shang Dynasty also believedthat their ancestors—their parents and grandparents—became like gods when they died, and that theirancestors wanted to be worshipped too, like gods. Each family worshipped its own ancestors.The Records of the Grand Historian states that the Shang Dynasty moved its capital six times. The final(and most important) move to Yin in 1350 BC led to the dynastys golden age. The term Yin Dynasty hasbeen synonymous with the Shang dynasty in history, although it has lately been used to specifically referto the latter half of the Shang Dynasty.Chinese historians living in later periods were accustomed to the notion of one dynasty succeedinganother, but the actual political situation in early China is known to have been much more complicated.
Hence, as some scholars of China suggest, the Xia and the Shang can possibly refer to political entitiesthat existed concurrently, just as the early Zhou is known to have existed at the same time as the Shang.Although written records found at Anyang confirm the existence of the Shang dynasty, Western scholarsare often hesitant to associate settlements that are contemporaneous with the Anyang settlement with theShang dynasty. For example, archaeological findings at Sanxingdui suggest a technologically advancedcivilization culturally unlike Anyang. The evidence is inconclusive in proving how far the Shang realmextended from Anyang. The leading hypothesis is that Anyang, ruled by the same Shang in the officialhistory, coexisted and traded with numerous other culturally diverse settlements in the area that is nowreferred to as China proper.Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BC)Bronze ritual vessel (You), Western Zhou DynastyMain articles: Zhou Dynasty and Iron Age ChinaCapitals: Xian and LuoyangThe Zhou Dynasty was the longest-lasting dynasty in Chinese history, from 1066 BC to approximately256 BC. By the end of the 2nd millennium BC, the Zhou Dynasty began to emerge in the YellowRiver valley, overrunning the territory of the Shang. The Zhou appeared to have begun their rule undera semi-feudal system. The Zhou lived west of the Shang, and the Zhou leader had been appointed"Western Protector" by the Shang. The ruler of the Zhou, King Wu, with the assistance of his brother,the Duke of Zhou, as regent, managed to defeat the Shang at the Battle of Muye.The king of Zhou at this time invoked the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to legitimize his rule, aconcept that would be influential for almost every succeeding dynasty. Like Shangdi, Heaven (tian) ruledover all the other gods, and it decided who would rule China. It was believed that a ruler had lost theMandate of Heaven when natural disasters occurred in great number, and when, more realistically, thesovereign had apparently lost his concern for the people. In response, the royal house would beoverthrown, and a new house would rule, having been granted the Mandate of Heaven.The Zhou initially moved their capital west to an area near modern Xian, on the Wei River, a tributary ofthe Yellow River, but they would preside over a series of expansions into the Yangtze River valley. Thiswould be the first of many population migrations from north to south in Chinese history.
Spring and Autumn Period (722–476 BC)Chinese pu vessel with interlaced dragondesign, Spring and Autumn PeriodMain article: Spring and Autumn PeriodCapitals: of the State of Yan, Beijing; of the State of Qin, XianIn the 8th century BC, power became decentralized during the Spring and Autumn Period, named afterthe influential Spring and Autumn Annals. In this period, local military leaders used by the Zhou began toassert their power and vie for hegemony. The situation was aggravated by the invasion of other peoplesfrom the northwest, such as the Qin, forcing the Zhou to move their capital east to Luoyang. This marksthe second major phase of the Zhou dynasty: the Eastern Zhou. In each of the hundreds of states thateventually arose, local strongmen held most of the political power and continued their subservience to theZhou kings in name only. For instance, local leaders started using royal titles for themselves.The Hundred Schools of Thought of Chinese philosophy blossomed during this period, and suchinfluential intellectual movements asConfucianism, Taoism, Legalism and Mohism were founded, partly inresponse to the changing political world. The Spring and Autumn Period is marked by a falling apart ofthe central Zhou power. China now consists of hundreds of states, some of them only as large as avillage with a fort.Warring States Period (476–221 BC)Main article: Warring States PeriodSeveral capitals, due to there being multiple statesAfter further political consolidation, seven prominent states remained by the end of 5th century BC, andthe years in which these few states battled each other are known as the Warring States Period. Thoughthere remained a nominal Zhou king until 256 BC, he was largely a figurehead and held little real power.As neighboring territories of these warring states, including areas of modernSichuan and Liaoning, wereannexed, they were governed under the new local administrative systemof commandery and prefecture(郡縣/郡县). This system had been in use since the Spring and AutumnPeriod, and parts can still be seen in the modern system ofSheng & Xian (province and county,省縣/省县). The final expansion in this period began during the reign of Ying Zheng, the king of Qin. His
unification of the other six powers, and further annexations in the modern regionsof Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong andGuangxi in 214 BC, enabled him to proclaim himself the FirstEmperor (Qin Shi Huang).Imperial eraQin Dynasty (221–206 BC)Qin Shi HuangMain article: Qin DynastyCapital: XianyangHistorians often refer to the period from Qin Dynasty to the end of Qing Dynasty as Imperial China.Though the unified reign of the First Qin Emperor lasted only 12 years, he managed to subdue great partsof what constitutes the core of the Han Chinesehomeland and to unite them under a tightlycentralized Legalist government seated atXianyang (close to modern Xian). The doctrine of Legalism thatguided the Qin emphasized strict adherence to a legal code and the absolute power of the emperor. Thisphilosophy, while effective for expanding the empire in a military fashion, proved unworkable for [when defined as?]governing it in peacetime. The Qin Emperor presided over the brutal silencing of politicalopposition, including the event known as the burning of books and burying of scholars. This would be theimpetus behind the later Han synthesis incorporating the more moderate schools of political governance.
The Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang.The Qin Dynasty is well known for beginning the Great Wall of China, which was later augmented andenhanced during the Ming Dynasty. The other major contributions of the Qin include the concept of acentralized government, the unification of the legal code, development of the written language,measurement, and currency of China after the tribulations of the Spring and Autumn and Warring StatesPeriods. Even something as basic as the length of axles for carts had to be made uniform to ensure a viable trading system throughout the empire.Han Dynasty (202 BC–AD 220)Main article: Han DynastyFurther information: History of the Han DynastyCapitals: Changan, Luoyang, Liyang, XuchangWestern HanA Han Dynasty oil lamp with a sliding shutter, in the shape of a kneeling female servant, 2nd century BCThe Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) emerged in 206 BC, with its founder Liu Bangproclaimed emperorin 202 BC. It was the first dynasty to embrace the philosophy ofConfucianism, which became theideological underpinning of all regimes until the end of imperial China. Under the Han Dynasty, Chinamade great advances in many areas of the arts and sciences. Emperor Wu consolidated and extendedthe Chinese empire bypushing back the Xiongnu into the steppes of modern Inner Mongolia, wrestingfrom them the modern areas of Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai. This enabled the first opening of tradingconnections between China and the West, along the Silk Road. Han Dynasty general Ban Chao expanded his conquests across the Pamirs to the shores of theCaspian Sea. The first ofseveral Roman embassies to China is recorded in Chinese sources, coming from the sea route in AD166, and a second one in AD 284.Xin DynastyNevertheless, land acquisitions by elite families gradually drained the tax base. In AD 9, theusurper Wang Mang claimed that the Mandate of Heaven called for the end of the Han dynasty and the
rise of his own, and founded the short-lived Xin ("New") Dynasty. Wang Mang started an extensiveprogram of land and other economic reforms, including the outlawing of slavery and land nationalizationand redistribution. These programs, however, were never supported by the landholding families, becausethey favored the peasants. The instability brought about chaos and uprisings and loss of territories. Thiswas compounded by mass flooding resulting from silt buildup in the Yellow River which caused it to splitinto two channels and displace large numbers of farmers. Wang Mang was eventually killed in WeiyangPalace by an enraged peasant mob in AD 23.Eastern HanEmperor Guangwu reinstated the Han Dynasty with the support of landholding and merchant familiesat Luoyang, east of Xian. This new era would be termed the Eastern Han Dynasty. Han power declinedagain amidst land acquisitions, invasions, and feuding between consort clans and eunuchs. The YellowTurban Rebellion broke out in AD 184, ushering in an era of warlords. In the ensuing turmoil, three statestried to gain predominance in the period of the Three Kingdoms. This time period has been greatlyromanticized in works such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms.Wei and Jin Period (AD 265–420)Main articles: Cao Wei and Jin Dynasty (265-420)Capitals: of Cao Wei and Western Jin, Luoyang; of Shu Han, Chengdu; of Eastern Wu and EasternJin, Jiankang; of Western Jin,ChanganAfter Cao Cao reunified the north in 208, his son proclaimed the Wei dynasty in 220. Soon, Weisrivals Shu and Wu proclaimed their independence, leading China into the Three Kingdoms Period. Thisperiod was characterized by a gradual decentralization of the state that had existed during the Qin andHan dynasties, and an increase in the power of great families. Although the Three Kingdoms werereunified by the Jin Dynasty in 280, this structure was essentially the same until the Wu Hu uprising.Wu Hu Period (AD 304–439)Main articles: Sixteen Kingdoms and Wu Hu uprisingSeveral capitals, due to there being several states and warringTaking advantage of civil war in the Jin Dynasty, the contemporary non-Han Chinese (Wu Hu) ethnicgroups controlled much of the country in the early 4th century and provoked large-scale Han Chinesemigrations to south of the Yangtze River. In 303 the Dipeople rebelled and later captured Chengdu,establishing the state of Cheng Han. Under Liu Yuan, the Xiongnu rebelled near todays LinfenCounty and established the state of Han Zhao. Liu Yuans successor Liu Cong captured and executed thelast two Western Jin emperors. Sixteen kingdoms were a plethora of short-lived non-Chinese dynastiesthat came to rule the whole or parts of northern China in the 4th and 5th centuries. Many ethnic groupswere involved, including ancestors of the Turks, Mongols, andTibetans. Most of these nomadic peopleshad, to some extent, been "sinicized" long before their ascent to power. In fact, some of them, notablythe Qiang and the Xiongnu, had already been allowed to live in the frontier regions within the Great Wallsince late Han times.
A limestone statue of theBodhisattva, from the Northern Qi Dynasty, AD 570, made in what is now modern Henan province.Southern and Northern Dynasties (AD 420–589)Main article: Southern and Northern DynastiesCapitals: of the Northern Dynasties: Ye, Changan, of the Southern Dynasties: JiankangSignaled by the collapse of East Jin Dynasty in 420, China entered the era of the Southern and NorthernDynasties. The Han people managed to survive the military attacks from the nomadic tribes of the north,such as the Xianbei, and their civilization continued to thrive.In southern China, fierce debates about whether Buddhism should be allowed to exist were heldfrequently by the royal court and nobles. Finally, near the end of the Southern and Northern Dynastiesera, both Buddhist and Taoist followers compromised and became more tolerant of each other.In 589, Sui annexed the last Southern Dynasty, Chen, through military force, and put an end to the era ofSouthern and Northern Dynasties.Sui Dynasty (AD 589–618)Main article: Sui DynastyOfficial capital: Daxing; secondary capital: DongduThe Sui Dynasty, which managed to reunite the country in 589 after nearly four centuries of politicalfragmentation, played a role more important than its length of existence would suggest. The Sui brought
China together again and set up many institutions that were to be adopted by their successors, the Tang.Like the Qin, however, the Sui overused their resources and collapsed. Also similar to the Qin, traditionalhistory has judged the Sui somewhat unfairly, as it has stressed the harshness of the Sui regime and thearrogance of its second emperor, giving little credit for the Dynastys many positive achievements.Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907)A Chinese Tang Dynasty tricolored glazeporcelain horse (ca. AD 700)Main article: Tang DynastyCapitals: Changan and LuoyangTang Dynasty was founded by Emperor Gaozu on June 18, 618. It was a golden age of Chinesecivilization with significant developments in art, literature, particularly poetry, andtechnology. Buddhism became the predominant religion for common people.Changan (modern Xian), thenational capital, was the largest city in the world of its time.Since the second emperor Taizong, military campaigns were launched to dissolve threats from nomadictribes, extend the border, and submit neighboring states intotributary system. Military victories inthe Tarim Basin kept the Silk Road open, connecting Changan to Central Asia and areas far to the west.In the south, lucrative maritime trade routes began from port cities like Guangzhou. There was extensivetrade with distant foreign countries, and many foreign merchants settled in China, boosting a vibrantcosmopolitan culture. The Tang culture and social systems were admired and adapted by neighboringcountries like Japan. Internally, the Grand Canal linked the political heartland in Changan to theeconomic and agricultural centers in the eastern and southern parts of the empire.Underlying the prosperity of the early Tang Dynasty was a strong centralized government with efficientpolicies. The government was organized as "Three Departments and Six Ministries" to separately draft,review and implement policies. These departments were run by royal family members as well as scholarofficials who were selected from imperial examinations. These practices, which matured in the TangDynasty, were to be inherited by the later dynasties with some modifications.The land policy, the "Equal-field system" claimed all lands as imperially owned, and were granted evenlyto people according to the size of the households. The associated military policy, the "Fubing System",conscripted all men in the nation for a fixed period of duties each year in exchange for their land rights.These policies stimulated rapid growth of productivity, while boosting the army without much burden onthe state treasury. However, lands gradually fell into the hands of private land owners and standingarmieswere to replace conscription towards the middle period of the dynasty.
The dynasty continued to flourish under Empress Wu Zetian, the only empress regnant in Chinesehistory, and reached the zenith during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, who oversaw an empire thatstretched from the Pacific to the Aral Sea with at least 50 million people.At the zenith of prosperity of the empire, the An Lushan Rebellion was a watershed event thatcaused massive loss of lives and drastic weakening of the central imperial government. Regional militarygovernors, known as Jiedushi, would gain increasingly autonomous status, which eventually led to an eraof division in the 10th century, while formerly submissive states would raid the empire. Nevertheless, afterthe rebellion, the Tang civil society would recover and thrive amidst a weakened imperial authority.From about 860, the Tang Dynasty began to decline due to a series of rebellions within China itself and inthe former subjectKingdom of Nanzhao to the south. One warlord, Huang Chao, captured Guangzhou in879, killing most of the 200,000 inhabitants, including most of the large colony of foreign merchant families there. In late 880, Luoyang surrendered to him, and on 5 January 881 he conquered Changan.The emperor Xizong fled to Chengdu, and Huang established a new temporary regime which waseventually destroyed by Tang forces. Another time of political chaos followed.Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (AD 907–960)Main article: Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms PeriodSeveral capitalsThe period of political disunity between the Tang and the Song, known as the Five Dynasties and TenKingdoms Period, lasted little more than half a century, from 907 to 960. During this brief era, when Chinawas in all respects a multi-state system, five regimes succeeded one another rapidly in control of the oldImperial heartland in northern China. During this same time, 10 more stable regimes occupied sections ofsouthern and western China, so the period is also referred to as that of the Ten Kingdoms.Song, Liao, Jin, and Western Xia Dynasties (AD 960–1234)Homeward Oxherds in Wind and Rain, by Li Di, 12th centuryMain articles: Song Dynasty, Liao Dynasty, Western Xia, and Jin Dynasty, 1115-1234Further information: History of the Song DynastyCapitals: of the Song Dynasty, Kaifeng and Linan; of the Liao Dynasty, Shangjing,Nanjing, and Tokmok;of the Jin Dynasty, Shangjing, Zhongdu, and Kaifeng; of the Western Xia Dynasty, Yinchuan
In 960, the Song Dynasty gained power over most of China and established its capital inKaifeng (laterknown as Bianjing), starting a period of economic prosperity, while theKhitan Liao Dynasty ruledover Manchuria, present-day Mongolia, and parts of Northern China. In 1115, the Jurchen JinDynasty emerged to prominence, annihilating the Liao Dynasty in 10 years. Meanwhile, in what are nowthe northwestern Chinese provinces ofGansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia, there emerged a Western XiaDynasty from 1032 to 1227, established by Tangut tribes.The Jin Dynasty took power over northern China and Kaifeng from the Song Dynasty, which moved itscapital to Hangzhou (杭州). The Southern Song Dynasty also suffered the humiliation of having toacknowledge the Jin Dynasty as formal overlords. In the ensuing years, China was divided between theSong Dynasty, the Jin Dynasty and the Tangut Western Xia. Southern Song experienced a period ofgreat technological development which can be explained in part by the military pressure that it felt fromthe north. This included the use of gunpowder weapons, which played a large role in the Song Dynastynaval victories against the Jin in the Battle of Tangdao and Battle of Caishi on the Yangtze River in 1161.Furthermore, Chinas first permanent standing navy was assembled and provided an admirals officeat Dinghai in 1132, under the reign of Emperor Renzong of Song.The Song Dynasty is considered by many to be classical Chinas high point in science and technology,with innovative scholar-officials such as Su Song (1020–1101) and Shen Kuo (1031–1095). There wascourt intrigue between the political rivals of the Reformers and Conservatives, led by thechancellors Wang Anshi and Sima Guang, respectively. By the mid-to-late 13th century the Chinese hadadopted the dogma of Neo-Confucian philosophy formulated by Zhu Xi. There were enormous literaryworks compiled during the Song Dynasty, such as the historical work of the Zizhi Tongjian. Culture andthe arts flourished, with grandiose artworks such as Along the River During the QingmingFestival and Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute, while there were great Buddhist painters such as LinTinggui.Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271–1368)Main article: Yuan DynastyYang Guifei Mounting a Horse, by Qian Xuan (1235-1305 AD).Capitals: Xanadu and DaduThe Jurchen-founded Jin Dynasty was defeated by the Mongols, who then proceeded to defeat theSouthern Song in a long and bloody war, the first war in which firearms played an important role. Duringthe era after the war, later called the Pax Mongolica, adventurous Westerners such as MarcoPolo travelled all the way to China and brought the first reports of its wonders to Europe. In the YuanDynasty, the Mongols were divided between those who wanted to remain based in the steppes and thosewho wished to adopt the customs of the Chinese.Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, wanting to adopt the customs of China, established the YuanDynasty. This was the first dynasty to rule the whole of China fromBeijing as the capital. Beijing had been
ceded to Liao in AD 938 with the Sixteen Prefectures of Yan Yun. Before that, it had been the capital ofthe Jin, who did not rule all of China.Before the Mongol invasion, Chinese dynasties reportedly had approximately 120 million inhabitants; after the conquest was completed in 1279, the 1300 census reported roughly 60 million people. While it istempting to attribute this major decline solely to Mongol ferocity, scholars today have mixed sentimentsregarding this subject. Scholars such as Frederick W. Mote argue that the wide drop in numbers reflectsan administrative failure to record rather than a de facto decrease whilst others such as Timothy Brookargue that the Mongols created a system of enserfment among a huge portion of the Chinese populacecausing many to disappear from the census altogether. Other historians like William McNeill and DavidMorgan argue that the Bubonic Plague was the main factor behind the demographic decline during thisperiod. The 14th century epidemics of plague (Black Death) is estimated to have killed 30% of the population of China.Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644)Main article: Ming DynastyFurther information: History of the Ming DynastyCapitals: Nanjing, Beijing, Fuzhou, and ZhaoqingCourt Ladies of the Former Shu, by Ming painter Tang Yin(1470-1523).
Hongwu Emperor, founder of the Ming DynastyThroughout the Yuan Dynasty, which lasted less than a century, there was relatively strong sentimentamong the populace against the Mongol rule. The frequent natural disasters since the 1340s finally led topeasant revolts. The Yuan Dynasty was eventually overthrown by the Ming Dynastyin 1368.Urbanization increased as the population grew and as the division of labor grew more complex. Largeurban centers, such as Nanjing and Beijing, also contributed to the growth of private industry. Inparticular, small-scale industries grew up, often specializing in paper, silk, cotton, and porcelain goods.For the most part, however, relatively small urban centers with markets proliferated around the country.Town markets mainly traded food, with some necessary manufactures such as pins or oil.Despite the xenophobia and intellectual introspection characteristic of the increasingly popular newschool of neo-Confucianism, China under the early Ming Dynasty was not isolated. Foreign trade andother contacts with the outside world, particularly Japan, increased considerably. Chinese merchantsexplored all of the Indian Ocean, reaching East Africa with the voyages of Zheng He.Zhu Yuanzhang or Hong-wu, the founder of the dynasty, laid the foundations for a state interested less incommerce and more in extracting revenues from the agricultural sector. Perhaps because of theEmperors background as a peasant, the Ming economic system emphasized agriculture, unlike that ofthe Song and the Mongolian Dynasties, which relied on traders and merchants for revenue. Neo-feudallandholdings of the Song and Mongol periods were expropriated by the Ming rulers. Land estates wereconfiscated by the government, fragmented, and rented out. Private slavery was forbidden.Consequently, after the death ofEmperor Yong-le, independent peasant landholders predominated inChinese agriculture. These laws might have paved the way to removing the worst of the poverty duringthe previous regimes.
Ming China under the reign of the Yongle EmperorThe dynasty had a strong and complex central government that unified and controlled the empire. Theemperors role became more autocratic, although Zhu Yuanzhang necessarily continued to use what hecalled the "Grand Secretaries" (内阁) to assist with the immense paperwork of the bureaucracy, includingmemorials (petitions and recommendations to the throne), imperial edicts in reply, reports of variouskinds, and tax records. It was this same bureaucracy that later prevented the Ming government frombeing able to adapt to changes in society, and eventually led to its decline.Emperor Yong-le strenuously tried to extend Chinas influence beyond its borders by demanding otherrulers send ambassadors to China to present tribute. A large navy was built, including four-masted ships [who?]displacing 1,500 tons. A standing army of 1 million troops (some estimate as many as 1.9 million )was created. The Chinese armiesconquered Vietnam for around 20 years, while the Chinese fleet sailedthe China seas and the Indian Ocean, cruising as far as the east coast of Africa. The Chinese gainedinfluence in eastern Moghulistan. Several maritime Asian nations sent envoys with tribute for the Chineseemperor. Domestically, the Grand Canal was expanded and proved to be a stimulus to domestic trade.Over 100,000 tons of iron per year were produced. Many books were printed using movable type. Theimperial palace in BeijingsForbidden City reached its current splendor. It was also during these centuriesthat the potential of south China came to be fully exploited. New crops were widely cultivated andindustries such as those producing porcelain and textiles flourished.In 1449 Esen Tayisi led an Oirat Mongol invasion of northern China which culminated in the capture ofthe Zhengtong Emperor atTumu. In 1542 the Mongol leader Altan Khan began to harass China along thenorthern border. In 1550 he even reached the suburbs of Beijing. The empire also had to deal with Japanese pirates attacking the southeastern coastline; General Qi Jiguangwas instrumental indefeating these pirates. The deadliest earthquake of all times, the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556 that killedapproximately 830,000 people, occurred during the Jiajing Emperors reign.During the Ming dynasty the last construction on the Great Wall was undertaken to protect China fromforeign invasions. While the Great Wall had been built in earlier times, most of what is seen today waseither built or repaired by the Ming. The brick and granite work was enlarged, the watch towers wereredesigned, and cannons were placed along its length.
Qing Dynasty (AD 1644–1911)"The reception of the Diplomatique (Macartney) and his suite, at the Court of Pekin". Drawn and engraved by James Gillray,published in September 1792.Territory of Qing China in 1765Main article: Qing DynastyCapitals: Shenyang and BeijingThe Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) was the last imperial dynasty in China. Founded by theManchus, it wasthe second non-Han Chinese dynasty. The Manchus were formerly known as Jurchen residing in thenortheastern part of the Ming territory outside the Great Wall. They emerged as the major threat to thelate Ming Dynasty after Nurhaci united all Jurchen tribes and established an independent state. However,the Ming Dynastywould be overthrown by Li Zichengs peasants rebel, with Beijing captured in 1644 andthe last Ming Emperor Chongzhen committed suicide. The Manchu then allied with the Ming Dynastygeneral Wu Sangui and seizedBeijing, which was made the capital of the Qing dynasty, and proceeded tosubdue the remaining Mings resistance in the south. The decades of Manchu conquestcaused enormous loss of lives and the economic scale of China shrank drastically. Nevertheless, theManchus adopted the Confucian norms of traditional Chinese government in their rule and wasconsidered a Chinese dynasty.
The Manchus enforced a queue order forcing the Han Chinese to adopt the Manchu queue hairstyle andManchu-style clothing. The traditional Han clothing, or Hanfu, was also replaced by Manchu-styleclothing Qipao (bannermen dress and Tangzhuang).Emperor Kangxi ordered the creation of the mostcomplete dictionary of Chinese characters ever put together at the time. The Qing dynasty set up the"Eight Banners" system that provided the basic framework for the Qing military organization. Thebannermen were prohibited from participating in trade and manual labour unless they petitioned to beremoved from banner status. They were considered a form of nobility and were given preferentialtreatment in terms of annual pensions, land and allotments of cloth.French political cartoon from the late 1890s. A king cake representing China is being divided between UK, Germany,Russia, France and Japan.Over the next half-century, the entire areas originally under the Ming Dynasty, includingYunnan wereconsolidated. Also Xinjiang, Tibet and Mongolia were formally incorporated into Chinese territory.Between 1673 and 1681, the Emperor Kangxi suppressed an uprising of three generals in SouthernChina who had been denied hereditary rule to large fiefdoms granted by the previous emperor and a Mingrestorationist invasion from Taiwan, called the Revolt of the Three Feudatories. In 1683, the Qing stagedan amphibious assault on southern Taiwan, bringing down the rebel Grand Duchy of Tungning, whichwas founded by the Ming loyalist Koxinga in 1662 after the fall of the Southern Ming, and had served as abase for continued Ming resistance in Southern China. By the end of Qianlong Emperors long reign, theQing Empire was at its zenith, ruled more than one-third of the worlds population, and was the largesteconomy in the world. By area of extent, it was one of the largest empires ever existed in history.In the 19th century, the empire was internally stagnated and externally threatened byimperialism. Thedefeat in the First Opium War (1840) by the British Empire led to theTreaty of Nanjing (1842), underwhich Hong Kong was ceded and opium import was legitimized. Subsequent military defeats and unequaltreaties with other imperial powers would continue even after the fall of the Qing Dynasty.Internally, the Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864), a quasi-Christian religious movement led by the "HeavenlyKing" Hong Xiuquan, would raid roughly a third of Chinese territory for over a decade until they werefinally crushed in the Third Battle of Nanking in 1864. Arguably one of the largest warfares in the 19thcentury in terms of troops involvement, there were massive lost of lives, with a death toll of about 20
millions. A string of rebellions would follow, which included Punti-Hakka Clan Wars, Nien Rebellion, Muslim Rebellion, Panthay Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion. All rebellions were eventuallyput down at enormous cost and casualties, the weakened central imperial authority would gradually giverise to regional warlordism. Eventually, China would descend into civil war immediately after the 1911revolution that overthrew the Qings imperial rule.The Empress Dowager CixiIn response to the calamities within the empire and threats from imperialism, the Self-StrengtheningMovement was an institutional reform to modernize the empire with prime emphasis to strengthen themilitary. However, the reform was undermined by the corruption of officials, cynicism, and quarrels of theimperial family. As a result, the "Beiyang Navy" were soundly defeated in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Guangxu Emperor and the reformists then launched a more comprehensive reform effort,the Hundred Days Reform (1898), but it was shortly overturned by the conservatives under EmpressDowager Cixi in a military coup.At the turn of the 20th century, a conservative anti-imperialist movement, the Boxer Rebellionviolentlyrevolted against foreign suppression over vast areas in Northern China. The Empress Dowager, probablyseeking to ensure her continual grip on power, sided with the Boxers as they advanced on Beijing. Inresponse, a relief expedition of the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded China to rescue the besieged foreignmissions. Consisting of British, Japanese, Russian, Italian, German, French, US and Austrian troops, thealliance defeated the Boxers and demanded further concessions from the Qing government.Modern eraMain article: History of the Peoples Republic of ChinaRepublic of ChinaMain articles: History of the Republic of China and Republic of China (1912–1949)Capitals: Nanjing, Beijing, Chongqing, and several short-lived wartime capitals; Taipei after 1949Frustrated by the Qing courts resistance to reform and by Chinas weakness, young officials, militaryofficers, and students began to advocate the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the creation of arepublic. They were inspired by the revolutionary ideas of Sun Yat-sen. When Sun Yat-sen was asked byone of the leading revolutionary generals to what he ascribed the success, he said, "To Christianity morethan to any other single cause. Along with its ideals of religious freedom, and along with these it
inculcates everywhere a doctrine of universal love and peace. These ideals appeal to the Chinese; theylargely caused the Revolution, and they largely determined its peaceful character."Sun Yat-sen, founder and first president of the Republic of China. Slavery in China was abolished in 1910.A revolutionary military uprising, the Wuchang Uprising, began on October 10, 1911 in Wuhan.The provisional government of the Republic of China was formed in Nanjing on March 12, 1912 with SunYat-sen as President, but Sun was forced to turn power over to Yuan Shikai, who commanded the NewArmy and was Prime Minister under the Qing government, as part of the agreement to let the last Qingmonarch abdicate (a decision Sun would later regret). Over the next few years, Yuan proceeded toabolish the national and provincial assemblies, and declared himself emperor in late 1915. Yuansimperial ambitions were fiercely opposed by his subordinates; faced with the prospect of rebellion, heabdicated in March 1916, and died in June of that year. His death left a power vacuum in China; therepublican government was all but shattered. This ushered in the warlord era, during which much of thecountry was ruled by shifting coalitions of competing provincial military leaders.In 1919, the May Fourth Movement began as a response to the terms imposed on China by theTreaty ofVersailles ending World War I, but quickly became a protest movement about the domestic situation inChina. The discrediting of liberal Western philosophy amongst Chinese intellectuals was followed by theadoption of more radical lines of thought. This in turn planted the seeds for the irreconcilable conflictbetween the left and right in China that would dominate Chinese history for the rest of the century.In the 1920s, Sun Yat-Sen established a revolutionary base in south China, and set out to unite thefragmented nation. With Soviet assistance, he entered into an alliance with the fledgling Communist Partyof China. After Suns death from cancer in 1925, one of his protégés, Chiang Kai-shek, seized control ofthe Kuomintang (Nationalist Party or KMT) and succeeded in bringing most of south and central Chinaunder its rule in a military campaign known as the Northern Expedition. Having defeated the warlords insouth and central China by military force, Chiang was able to secure the nominal allegiance of thewarlords in the North. In 1927, Chiang turned on the CPC and relentlessly chased the CPC armies and itsleaders from their bases in southern and eastern China. In 1934, driven from their mountain bases suchas the Chinese Soviet Republic, the CPC forces embarked on the Long Marchacross Chinas mostdesolate terrain to the northwest, where they established a guerrilla base at Yanan in Shaanxi Province.During the Long March, the communists reorganized under a new leader, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung).The bitter struggle between the KMT and the CPC continued, openly or clandestinely, through the 14-
year long Japanese occupation (1931–1945) of various parts of the country. The two Chinese partiesnominally formed a united front to oppose the Japanese in 1937, during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), which became a part of World War II. Following the defeat of Japan in 1945, the war between theKMT and the CPC resumed, after failed attempts at reconciliation and a negotiated settlement. By 1949,the CPC had established control over most of the country. (see Chinese Civil War)At the end of WWII in 1945 as part of the overall Japanese surrender, Japanese troops in Taiwan surrendered to Republic of China troops giving Chiang Kai-shek effective control of Taiwan. WhenChiang was defeated by CPC forces in mainland China in 1949, he retreated to Taiwan with hisgovernment and his most disciplined troops, along with most of the KMT leadership and a large numberof their supporters.1949 to presentSee also: History of the Peoples Republic of China, History of the Republic of China, Legal status ofTaiwan, and Political status of TaiwanMajor combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with Koumintang (KMT) pulling out of the mainland,with the government relocating to Taipei and maintaining control only over a few island. The CommunistParty of China was left in control of mainland China. On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the Peoples Republic of China. "Communist China" and "Red China" were two common names for the PRC.Chairman Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the Peoples Republic in 1949.The economic and social plan known as the Great Leap Forward resulted in an estimated 45 million deaths. In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, which would last until Maosdeath a decade later. The Cultural Revolution, motivated by power struggles within the Party and a fear ofthe Soviet Union, led to a major upheaval in Chinese society. In 1972, at the peak of the Sino-Soviet split,Mao and Zhou Enlai met Richard Nixon in Beijing to establish relations with the United States. In thesame year, the PRC was admitted to the United Nations in place of the Republic of China for Chinasmembership of the United Nations, and permanent membership of the Security Council.After Maos death in 1976 and the arrest of the Gang of Four, blamed for the excesses of the CulturalRevolution, Deng Xiaoping quickly wrested power from Maos anointed successor chairman HuaGuofeng. Although he never became the head of the party or state himself, Deng was in factthe Paramount Leader of China at that time, his influence within the Party led the country to significanteconomic reforms. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizenspersonal lives and the communes were disbanded with many peasants receiving multiple land leases,which greatly increased incentives and agricultural production. This turn of events marked Chinastransition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment, a
system termed by some "market socialism", and officially by the Communist Party of China "Socialismwith Chinese characteristics". The PRC adopted its current constitutionon 4 December 1982.In 1989, the death of former general secretary Hu Yaobang helped to spark the Tiananmen Squareprotests of 1989, during which students and others campaigned for several months, speaking out againstcorruption and in favour of greater political reform, including democratic rights and freedom of speech.However, they were eventually put down on 4 June when PLA troops and vehicles entered and forciblycleared the square, resulting in numerous casualties. This event was widely reported and brought worldwide condemnation and sanctions against the government. The "Tank Man" incident inparticular became famous.CPC General Secretary, President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, both former mayors ofShanghai, led post-Tiananmen PRC in the 1990s. Under Jiang and Zhus ten years of administration, thePRCs economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of 11.2%. The country formally joined the WorldTrade Organization in 2001.Although the PRC needs economic growth to spur its development, the government has begun to worrythat rapid economic growth has negatively impacted the countrys resources and environment. Anotherconcern is that certain sectors of society are not sufficiently benefiting from the PRCs economicdevelopment; one example of this is the wide gap between urban and rural areas. As a result, undercurrent CPC General Secretary, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the PRC has initiatedpolicies to address these issues of equitable distribution of resources, but the outcome remains to be  seen. More than 40 million farmers have been displaced from their land, usually for economic development, contributing to the 87,000 demonstrations and riots across China in 2005. For much ofthe PRCs population, living standards have seen extremely large improvements, and freedom continues to expand, but political controls remain tight and rural areas poor.HISTORY OF CHINAThe long perspective Chinas unbroken story The Shang dynasty Sacrifice, silk and bronze The roots of Chinese cultureZhou and QinHanIntermediate timesTangSongYüanMingQingTo be completedHISTORY OF CHINA TimelineMore Sharing ServicesShare|Share on facebookShare on emailShare on favoritesShare on print World Cities
Discover in a free daily email todays famous history and birthdays Enjoy the Famous DailyChinas unbroken story: from 500,000 years agoNorthern China, in the plains around the Huang Ho (or YellowRiver), bears evidence of more continuous human developmentthan any other region on earth.500,000 years ago Peking man lives in the caves atZhoukoudian, about 30 miles (48km) southwest of the moderncity of Beijing. This is the farthest north that Homoerectus has been found, and hearths in the caves areprobably the earliest evidence of the human use of fire. Thesame caves are occupied 20,000 years ago by modernman,Homo sapiens sapiens, during the Stone Age. And 3500years ago a nearby river valley becomes the site of one of thefirst great civilizations.The Shang dynasty: 1600 - 1100 BCThe city of An-yang, rediscovered in the 20th century, is animportant centre of the first Chinese civilization - that of theShang dynasty, which lasts from about 1600 to 1100 BC.Known to its occupants as the Great City Shang, its buildingsare on both banks of the Huan river, to the north of the YellowRiver.An-yang is at the heart of a society in which human sacrificeplays a significant role. Archaeology reveals this, as does anextraordinary archive of written records - stored on what thepeasants of this area, in modern times, have believed to bedragon bones.The dragon bones are the records, kept by the priests, of thequestions asked of the oracle by the Shang rulers. The answeris found by the method of divination known as scapulimancy.The priest takes a polished strip of bone, usually from theshoulder blade of an ox, and cuts in it a groove to which heapplies a heated bronze point. The answer to the question (inmost cases just yes or no) is revealed by the pattern of thecracks which appear in the bone. With the bureaucraticthoroughness of civil servants, the priests then write on thebone the question that was asked, and sometimes the answerthat was given, before filing the bone away in an archive
(see Questions and answers on oracle bones).Sacrifice, silk and bronze: 1600 - 1100 BCSeveral of the inscriptions on the oracle bones mentionsacrifices, sometimes of prisoners of war, which are to bemade to a silkworm goddess. There is even a Shang courtofficial called Nu Cang, meaning Mistress of the Silkworms.Silk, Chinas first great contribution to civilization, has been animportant product of the region for at least 1000 years beforethe Shang dynasty and the beginning of recorded history. Theearliest silk fragments unearthed by archaeologists date fromaround 2850 BC.The writing on the Shang oracle bones is in pictorialcharacters which evolve, often with only minor modifications,into the characters used in written Chinese today - 3500 yearslater. There can be no better example of the continuityunderpinning Chinese civilization.The excavations at An-yang demonstrate that Shang craftsmenhave reached an astonishing level of skill in the castingof bronze. And they reveal a reckless attitude to human life. Abuilding cannot be consecrated at An-yang, or a ruler buried,without extensive human sacrifice (see theSacrificialguardians of An-yang).The roots of Chinese culture: 1600 - 1100 BCThe area controlled by the Shang rulers is relatively small, butShang cultural influence spreads through a large part of centralChina. In addition to their writing of Chinese characters, theShang introduce many elements which have remainedcharacteristic of this most ancient surviving culture. Bronzechopsticks, for example, have been found in a Shang tomb.The Shang use a supremely confident name for their own smallterritory; it too has stood the test of time. They call An-yangand the surrounding region Chung-kuo, meaning the CentralCountry. It is still the Chinese name for China. And the Shangpractise another lasting Chinese tradition - the worship ofancestors. Most of the elaborate bronze vessels made inShang times are for use in temples or shrines to ancestors.The richly decorated urns are for cooking the meat of thesacrificed animals. The most characteristic design is the li, withits curved base extended into three hollow protuberances -enabling maximum heat to reach the sacrificial stew.The bronze jugs, often fantastically shaped into weird animalsand birds, are for pouring a liquid offering to the ancestor -usually a hot alcoholic concoction brewed from millet.In Shang society ancestor worship is limited to the king anda few noble families. The good will of the kings ancestors iscrucial to the whole of society, because they are the
communitys link with the gods. Over the centuries the kingbecomes known as the Son of Heaven. The shrine to hisancestors - the Temple of Heaven in Beijing - is the focalpoint of the national religion.In subsequent dynasties, and particularly after the timeofConfucius, ancestor worship spreads downwards throughthe Chinese community. It becomes a crucial part of theculture of the Confucian civil servants, the mandarins.The Zhou dynasty: c.1100 - 256 BCIn about 1050 BC (the date is disputed among scholars byseveral decades in either direction), a new power is establishedin China. This is the Zhou dynasty, deriving from a frontierkingdom between civilization and marauding tribes, westwardof An-yang, up towards the mountains. After forming aconfederation of other neighbouring states, the Zhouoverwhelm the Shang rulers. The new capital is at Chang-an(now known as Xian), close to the Wei river.From here the Zhou control the entire area of central China,from the Huang Ho to the Yangtze. They do so through anetwork of numerous subordinate kingdoms, in a system akinto feudalism.In 771 BC the Zhou are driven east from Xian, by acombination of barbarian tribes and some of their owndependent kingdoms. They re-establish themselves at Loyang,where they remain the nominal rulers of China (known as theEastern Zhou) until 256 BC. During this long period their statusis largely ceremonial and religious. Their main role is tocontinue the sacrifices to their royal ancestors - from whom therulers of most of the other rival kingdoms also claim descent.In the 8th century there are hundreds of small kingdoms incentral China. By the end of the 5th there are only seven.Tension and constant warfare give the period its character.Confucius and Confucianism: from the 6th century BCA lasting result of these troubled centuries is the adoption ofthe ideas of Kung Fu Tzu, known to the west as Confucius.Like other spiritual leaders of this same period(Zoroaster,Mahavira, Gautama Buddha), Confucius isessentially a teacher. As with them, his ideas are spread by hisdisciples. But Confucius teaches more worldly principles thanhis great contemporaries.The unrest of his times prompts him to define a pattern ofcorrect behaviour. The purpose is to achieve a just andpeaceful society, but the necessary first step is within eachindividual. Confucius lays constant emphasis on two forms ofharmony. Music is good because it suggests a harmoniousstate of mind. Ritual is good because it defines a harmonioussociety.The Confucian ideals are deeply conservative, based on anunchanging pattern of respect upwards, to those higher in rank(older members of a family, senior members of a community),which brings with it a corresponding obligation downwards. The
pattern is extended outside this immediate world, with thehighest respect accorded to the dead - in the form of ancestorworship.This concept of mutual obligation shares something withfeudalism, but it gives less honour to military prowess. It ismore like a utopian bureaucracy, with responsible Confucianson hand at every level to oil the machinery of state.Confucius runs a school in his later years, proclaiming it opento talent regardless of wealth. His young graduates, moreintellectually agile than their contemporaries, are much indemand as advisers in the competing kingdoms of China. Sothe masters ideas are spread at a practical level, and hisdisciples begin as they will continue - as civil servants. Knownin China as scholar officials, they acquire the name mandarinin western languages from a Portuguese corruption of aSanskrit word.The idea of a career open to talent becomes a basiccharacteristic of Chinese society. By the 2nd century BCChinas famous examination system has been adopted,launching the worlds first meritocracy (see Chineseexaminations).Daoism: from the 4th century BCConfucianism is so practical a creed that it can scarcely becalled a religion. It is ill-equipped to satisfy the human need forsomething more mysterious. China provides this in the form ofDaoism.Laozi, the supposed founder of Daoism, is traditionally believedto have been an older contemporary of Confucius. It is morelikely that he is an entirely mythical figure. The small bookwhich he is supposed to have written dates from no earlierthan the 4th century BC. It is an anthology of short passages,collected under the title Daodejing. Immensely influential overthe centuries, it is the basis for Chinas alternative religion.Daodejing means The Way and its Power. The way is the wayof nature, and the power is that of the man who gives upambition and surrenders his whole being to nature. How this isachieved is a subtle mystery. But the Daodejingsuggests thatthe Way of water (the humblest and most irresistible ofsubstances) is something which a wise man should imitate.In the late 20th century, an era of ecology and New Agephilosophies, the alternative quality of Daoism has given itconsiderable appeal in the west. In Chinese history it is indeedalternative, but in a different sense. In the lives of educatedChinese, Daoism has literally alternated with Confucianism. Confucianism and Daoism are like two sides ofthe same Chinese coin. They are opposite and complementary.They represent town and country, the practical and thespiritual, the rational and the romantic. A Chinese official is aConfucian while he goes about the business of government; ifhe loses his job, he will retire to the country as a Daoist; but a
new offer of employment may rapidly restore hisConfucianism.The same natural cycle of opposites is reflected in the Chinesetheory of Yin and yang, which also becomes formulatedduring the long Zhou dynasty.Legalism: from the 4th century BCAlthough the Zhou dynasty is the cradle of the two most lastingschools of Chinese thought, Confucianism and Daoism, it isbrought to an end by a more brutal philosophy usuallydescribed as Legalism. Expressed in a work of the 4th centuryBC, the Book of Lord Shang, it responds to the lawlessness ofthe age by demanding more teeth for the law. A strict systemof rewards and punishments is to be imposed upon society. Butthe ratio is to be one reward to every nine punishments.Punishment produces force, force produces strength, strengthproduces awe, awe produces virtue. Virtue has its origin inpunishments, proclaims the Book of Lord Shang.It is read withattention by the ruler of the Qin.The Qin dynasty: 221 - 206 BCBy the 4th century BC the numerous Zhou kingdoms havebeen reduced, by warfare and conquest, to just seven. Themost vigorous of these is the Qin kingdom, occupying the Weivalley. This region, as when the Zhou were here centuriesearlier, is a buffer state between the civlized China of theplains and the barbaric tribal regions in the mountains.The Qin have learnt from their tribal neighbours how to fightfrom the saddle, instead of in the cumbersome war chariotsused by the Zhou kingdoms. And Legalism gives them ahealthy disregard for the Confucian pretensions of the moresophisticated kingdoms. In particular they are unimpressed bythe claims to preeminence of the feeble state of Zhou.In 256 the Qin overrun Zhou, bringing to an abrupt end adynasty which has lasted on paper more than 800 years. In thefollowing decades they conquer and annexe each of the otherfive kingdoms. The last is subdued in 221 BC.The whole of central China is now for the first time under asingle unified control, in effect creating a Chinese empire. TheQin ruler who has achieved it gives himself an appropriate newtitle, Shi Huangdi, the first sovereign emperor. His Qinkingdom (pronounced chin) provides the name which most ofthe world has used ever since for this whole region of the earth- China.Shi Huangdi rapidly sets in place a dictatorship of uniformity,based on terror. Much use is made of a scale of five standardpunishments - branding on the forehead, cutting off the nose,cutting off the feet, castration and death.The only approved commodities in this empire are items ofpractical use. These do not include books or Confucians. In213 BC it is ordered that all books (except those on medicine,agriculture and divination) are to be burnt (seeBamboobooks). A year later it is reported that 460 Confucian scholarshave been executed.
The collapse of the first empire: 210-206 BCLike other megalomaniacs, Shi Huangdi predicts that hisempire will last almost to eternity. 11,000 generations is hisclaim. In the event it lasts less than one generation - from 221to 206 BC.When the emperor dies, in 210, the arrangement of his tombreflects both his paranoia and his power. In his determinationthat no thief shall discover and desecrate his resting place, theworkmen who construct it are buried with him - or so Chinesetradition has always maintained, adding that the tomb hascrossbows permanently cocked to impale any intruder. Whenthe tomb is eventually discovered, in 1975, it reveals an evenmore amazing secret - the famousTerracotta army of Xian.Turmoil follows the death of the Qin emperor. During it hischief minister, Li Ssu, receives his own dose of Legalistmedicine.His downfall is engineered by a palace eunuch, who arrangesfor him to suffer each of the first four punishments in turn andthen, without nose, feet or genitals, to be flogged and cut intwo at the waist.A series of peasant rebellions, resulting from the brutality ofthe regime, accompanies the rapid collapse of the Qin dynasty.From the chaos there emerges the first undeniably greatChinese dynasty, the Han.But the centralizing effort of the Qin ruler does bequeath somelasting benefits to China. The Chinese will never again forget apolitical ideal deriving from this time - that the naturalcondition of their great and isolated land mass is to be a singleentity. A practical token of this ideal is left by the Qin emperorin the form of the Great Wall of China - a boundary whichsecurely defines the nation on the only side where nature doesnot already do so by mountain, jungle or sea.The Han dynasty: 206 BC - AD 220The Han is the first of the five great Chinese dynasties, each ofthem controlling the entire area of China for a span of severalcenturies. The others are the Tang (7th-10th centuries), Song(10th-13th), Ming (14th-17th) and Qing (17th-20th).The Han is a great deal earlier than any of these, and it lasts -with one minor interruption - longer than any other. At its peakthe imperial power stretches from the Pamir Mountains in thewest to Korea in the east and to Vietnam in the south. Withjustification the Han dynasty comes to seem a golden age, andthe Chinese have often described themselves as the sons ofHan.The Han kingdom was one of the five states engulfed between230 and 221 BC by the Qin emperor. During the rebellionswhich follow his death, the Han throne is seized in 206 by aman of peasant origin. After four years of warfare he is strongenough to claim the Qin empire. As founder of a greatdynasty he is later given the title Kaozi - exalted ancestor.
As befits his origins, Kaozi is a rough character, with littlerespect for the Chinese official classes. The first great Chinesehistorian, Sima Qian, writing a century later, gives a vivid butimprobable glimpse of the man. Whenever a visitor wearing aConfucian hat comes to see the emperor, he immediatelysnatches the hat from the visitors head and pisses in it.Confronted by the practical problems of running the empire,Kaozi overcomes his aversion to the Confucians. He evencommissions a Confucian work on the principles of goodgovernment. And his successors make the Confucians thescholar-officials of the state.Under the most powerful of the Han emperors, Wudi (themartial emperor), scholars of other disciplines are bannedfrom court. The Confucian examination system is made acornerstone of the administrative system (see Chineseexaminations). And an imperial academy is set up to studythe supposed works of the master (most of them, in reality,written or compiled by his disciples).The Chinese architectural tradition: from the 1st c. BCNo architecture survives in China from the early dynasties(with the spectacular exception of the Great Wall) becausethe Chinese have always built in wood, which decays. On theother hand, wood is easily repaired.When timbers of a wooden structure are replaced andrepainted, the building is as good as new - or as good as old.The conservative tendency in Chinese culture means thatstyles, even in entirely new buildings, seem to have changedlittle in the 2000 years since the Han dynasty.Documents of the time suggest that Han imperial architectureis already of a kind familiar today in Beijings Forbidden City,the vast palace built in the 15th century for the Mingemperors. Carved and painted wooden columns and beamssupport roofs with elaborate ornamented eaves.The painting of buildings provides ample opportunity for theChinese love of rank and hierarchy. The Li Chi, a Confucianbook of ritual complied in the Han dynasty, declares that thepillars of the emperors buildings are red, those of princes areblack, those of high officials blue-green, and those of othermembers of the gentry yellow. Minor improvements are introduced with theadvance of technology. The colourful ceramic roof tiles ofChinese pavilions are an innovation in the Song dynasty in the11th century. But in broad terms the civic buildings of Chinaretain their appearance through the ages.A good example is the magnificent Temple of Heaven inBeijing. Its colours, frequently restored, are so fresh that thebuilding looks new. But the structure dates from the early 15thcentury, in the Ming dynasty, and its appearance on its marbleplatform is almost identical to Marco Polos description of itspredecessor in the 13th century.
The reign of the emperor Wudi: 142 - 87 BCAt the peak of the Han dynasty, under the emperor Wudi, theChinese empire stretches to its greatest expanse and seems toneed for nothing. Even the valuable commodities whichpreviously have been acquired from beyond the empiresnorthern boundary - horses and jade - are now regarded ashome produce. They come from the steppes to the north of theHimalayas, where the nomadic Xiongnu are now increasinglybrought under Chinese control.Sima Qian, writing during Wudis reign, depicts the empireas Proudly self-sufficient, in his list of what is available andin which regions.Wudi employs military force more effectively than hispredecessors against the Xiongnu, who are constantlypressing from the north. Searching for allies against theseferocious neighbours, he is intrigued by reports that there areother nomadic tribes, the Yueqi, enemies of the Xiongnu,living to the west of them.In 138 Wudi sends an envoy on a dangerous mission to makecontact with these potential allies. The 13-year adventure ofthe envoy, Zhang Qian, is one of the great early travel stories(see the Journey of Zhang Qian). It is also the first fullydocumented contact between China and the west, and asignificant step towards the opening of theSilk Road.The contribution of the HanSeveral important technical advances are made in China duringthe Han dynasty. In warfare, the Chinese skill in workingbronze is applied to the invention of the crossbow.In the story of communication there are two major turningpoints. Paper is invented, with a traditional date of AD 105.And although true printing must wait a few more centuries, aninitiative of AD 175 proves an important stepping stonetowards the first printed texts in Chinese.Engraved texts: 2nd - 8th century ADThe emperor of China commands, in AD 175, that the six mainclassics of Confucianism be carved in stone. His purpose is topreserve them for posterity in what is held to be authenticversion of the text. But his enterprise has an unexpectedresult.Confucian scholars are eager to own these important texts.Now, instead of having them expensively written out, they canmake their own copies. Simply by laying sheets of paper on theengraved slabs and rubbing all over with charcoal or graphite,they can take away a text in white letters on a black ground -a technique more familiar in recent centuries in the form ofbrass-rubbing.Subsequent emperors engrave other texts, until quite anextensive white-on-black library can be acquired. It is a naturalnext step to carve the letters in a raised form (and in mirrorwriting) and then to apply ink to the surface of the letters.When this ink is transferred to paper, the letters appear inblack (or in a colour) against the white of the paper - muchmore pleasant to the eye than white on black.
This process is printing. But it is the Buddhists, rather thanthe Confucians, who make the breakthrough.Western and Eastern Han: 206 BC - AD 221For the first 200 years of the dynasty, the Han capital is in theWei valley - at Xian (the same site as Chang-An, the firstcapital of the Zhou dynasty). During a brief interlude thethrone is seized by a usurper, who forms the Hsin or newdynasty (AD 8-23). The imperial family then recovers thethrone and moves the capital further east into the plains. Theemperors re-establish themselves at Loyang - again the veryplace to which the Zhou dynasty moved from Xian, nearlyeight centuries earlier.At Loyang the Han survive for another 200 years, untileventually toppled in 221 after several decades of peasantuprisings - a pattern of events which has been common at theend of Chinese dynasties.Period of Disunion: 3rd - 6th century ADThe centuries after the collapse of the Han dynastyare a time of chaos. The Chinese StandardHistories identify no fewer than ten dynasties andnineteen separate kingdoms during this period. It isoften known now as the Six Dynasties (from six insuccession which had their capital at Nanjing), ormore accurately as the Period of Disunion. As inmany chaotic times, much is achieved. One suchachievement is the flourishing ofChinese Buddhism.The first Buddhists have reached China, alongthe Silk Road, in the 1st century AD. They flourishpartly because they are warmly welcomed by a well-established indigenous religion, Daoism.The Daoists see the Buddhists as kindred souls, andwith good reason. Both religions have priests,monasteries and some form of religious hierarchy.Both believe in a withdrawal from the everydaybusiness of life. Both differ profoundly from theChinese alternative to Daoism - the practical,commonsense, worldly philosophy of Confucianism.Soon the two religions become so closely linked thata new Daoist theory evolves. The Buddha isactually Lao-Tzu, who was given this other namewhen he made a secret journey to bring the truth toIndia.Centuries later, when Buddhism is favoured aboveDaoism by Chinese rulers and when the great wealthof Buddhist monasteries provokes jealousy, theDaoist legend becomes neatly reversed. If theBuddhists are Daoists under another name, whyshould they enjoy any special treatment and suchspectacular success? Such arguments underlie theeventual persecution of Buddhists, in the 9thcentury.Meanwhile their success is indeed astonishing.
Buddhist carving in China stands as visible proof oftheir wealth and energy.In sheer quantity, if in nothing else, Buddhist carvingin China would be a phemonenon in the history ofsculpture. One site near the ancient capital ofLoyang, at the eastern end of the Silk Road, makesthe point very effectively. Any visitor to Long-menwill be struck by the profusion of Buddhas andBodhisattvas and Arhats and their guardians. Butexactly how many statues are there?In 1916 a local magistrate attempts to count them.He arrives at a total of 97,306 separate figures. Amore recent study suggests that 142,289 may benearer the mark.The Sui dynasty: AD 589-618 The man who reunites China in 589,forming the Sui dynasty, is an enthusiastic patron ofBuddhism. He takes as his title Wen Ti, meaning theCultured Emperor, and devotes much effort tobuilding Buddhist stupas throughout the land. Thelocal version of a stupa develops into a specificallyChinese form, that of thepagoda.His son, Yang Ti (the Emblazoned Emperor),undertakes an even more ambitious project,requiring so much forced labour that it contributes tothe rapid end of this brief dynasty. But it haseconomic value and is a stupendous achievement.Yang Ti constructs the Grand Canal, linking theYangtze to the Yellow River and thus to the twincapitals of Loyang and Xian.The Tang dynasty: AD 618-907Rebellion breaks out against the second Sui emperor in 613, partly provoked by the burden ofconstructing his Grand Canal. In 616, fleeing from his capital at Xian, he and his court are towed downthe canal to temporary safety in his specially designed barges. Two years later he is assassinated by hisown troops.Meanwhile one of the emperors high officials has seized power in Xian. By 618 he is in a position todeclare himself the founder of a new dynasty, the Tang. China enters its most dynamic era, a periodrivalled only by the first two centuries of the Han dynasty.
Chinese culture under the Tang reaches new heights inceramics andliterature. The Chinese style influencesKorea and Japan, and the two younger civilizations also give an increasingly warm welcome toChineseBuddhism. Imperial control now extends once again from desert oases along the Silk Road in thenorthwest to parts of Manchuria in the northeast and to Vietnam in the south.Beyond Chinas borders to the west, the might of the emperor reaches further than at any previoustime. Princes as far away as Bukhara and Samarkand recognize his sovereignty.Imperial science and a great map of China: AD 721-801The extent of the imperial Chinese bureaucracy under the Tang dynasty makes possible an unusuallythorough scientific project (echoing, for a different purpose, the brave amateur experimentofEratosthenes1000 years earlier). In 721 the emperor sets up nine research stations, across a span ofmore than 2000 miles, from Hue in the south to the Great Wall in the north.For four years each station measures the suns shadow at noon on the summer and winter solstice. It isan elegant experiment in that no difficult synchronization is required. The shortest and longest shadowsat each place are the correct answers, providing invaluable information for cartographers.A famous map of 801 - a landmark in cartography - no doubt makes use of the nine points of latitudescientifically established in the experiment of 721-5. It is a map of the Chinese world, produced for theTang emperor by Chia Tan.Chia Tans map is on an ambitious scale, measuring about 10 by 11 yards. It charts the entire Tang
empire and extends its range into the barbarian world beyond Chinas borders, showing the seven maintrade routes with other parts of Asia.Tang pottery: 7th - 9th century AD Tang is the first dynasty from which sufficient pottery survives for a Chinese style tobecome widely known in modern times. The surviving pieces are almost exclusively ceramic figuresfound in tombs. They represent the animals (particularly horses, but also camels) and the servants andattendants needed by the dead man in the next life.The eclectic nature of Chinese religion is well suggested in the range of attendants considered helpful. Ageneral by the name of Liu Tingxun, buried at Loyang in 728, is accompanied by two Confucian officials,two Buddhist guardians and two ferocious-looking earth spirits of a more Daoist disposition. Vigorously realistic in style, with bright and often dappled glazes, Tang horses andtomb figures are among the most delightful and recognizable of styles of pottery.But the Tang potters make another contribution of much greater significance in ceramic history. Theydiscover the technique of the thin white translucent ware known as porcelain. There is much argumentabout the date of the first porcelain, for there is no precise agreement on how to define it (it is mostcommonly described as white china so thin that it is translucent and makes a ringing sound when
struck). Other definitions involve the relative proportions of ingredients such as kaolin and porcelainstone.Wares produced in north China during the Tang dynasty, from as early as the 7th century, have thecharacteristics of porcelain. From the start they are widely appreciated. In a summer palace of the 9thcentury, far away on the Tigris at Samarra, broken fragments of Tang porcelain have been found. Theearliest known example of a foreigner marvelling at this delicate Chinese ware derives from the samecentury and region.In 851 a merchant by the name of Suleiman is recorded in Basra, at the mouth of the Tigris, as sayingthat the Chinese have pottery of excellent quality, of which bowls are made as fine as glass drinkingcups; the sparkle of water can be seen through it, although it is pottery.Tang poetry: 7th - 9th century ADChinese poetry achieves its golden age during the Tang dynasty. The ability to turn an elegant verse isso much part of civilized life that almost 50,000 poems (by some 2300 poets) survive from the period.Poetry is a social activity. Friends write stanzas for each other to commemorate an occasion, andcompetitive improvization is a favourite game at a party or on a picnic. Early in the dynasty news of achild prodigy, a girl of seven, reaches the court. She is brought before the empress and is asked toimprovize on the theme of bidding farewell to her brothers. TheResulting poem, delivered in this alarmingcontext, is brilliant - though no doubt polished in the telling.
Chinese scholar officials, pleasantly torn betweenConfucianismand Daoism, write poetry when they are intheir Daoist vein. Verses are composed when the official is on a journey with friends, or on holiday, or intemporary retirement in a thatched cottage in some delighful landscape.Most of the leading poets, though their inspiration lies among friends in the countryside, are also on thefringes of imperial court life. In this balance they echo to some extent the experience ofHorace in imperialRome. Like his short odes, the favourite Tang form known aslü-shih(regulated verse) is distinguished byits finely honed elegance.Wang Wei, Li Po and Tu Fu: 8th century ADThe three greatest Tang poets are exact contemporaries in the early 8th century. One of them, WangWei, begins his career with a brilliant success in the official examinations but he rarely holds the highpositions which this would normally imply (ssee Chinese examinations). More important to him is his villa inthe mountains south of the capital city, at Wang-chuan.The beauty of the landscape inspires Wang Wei both as painter and poet. None of his paintings survive,but later Chinese landscapes reveal the closely related influence of the countryside in both art forms. Apoet of the next dynasty writes of Wang Wei that there are pictures in his poems and poems in hispictures.The other two leading Tang poets, Li Po and Tu Fu, are unsuccessful in the examinations (see Chineseexaminations). Instead they regularly present poems to the imperial court in the hope of findingpreferment. Occasionally they are successful. But both men, for much of their lives, lead a nomadicexistence - supporting themselves on small farms, or lodging in Daoist monasteries.Nevertheless they are able to acquire great fame in their lifetime as poets, thanks to the extensive
network of educated Chinese officialdom. In 744 (when Li is 43 and Tu 32) their paths cross for the firsttime, and the two poets become firm friends. Friendship and Chinese poetry are closely linked.The first printed book: AD 868The earliest known printed book is Chinese, from the end of the Tang dynasty. Discovered in acave atDunhuang in 1899, it is a precisely dated document which brings the circumstances of its creation vividlyto life.It is a scroll, 16 feet long and a foot high, formed of sheets of paper glued together at their edges. Thetext is that of the Diamond Sutra, and the first sheet in the scroll has an added distinction. It is theworlds first printed illustration, depicting an enthroned Buddha surrounded by holy attendants. In atradition later familiar in religious art of the west, a small figure kneels and prays in the foreground. Heis presumably the donor who has paid for this holy book.The name of the donor, Wang Chieh, is revealed in another device which later becomes traditional inearly printed books in the west. The details of publication are given in a colophon (Greek for finishingstroke) at the end of the text. This reveals that the scroll is a work of Buddhist piety, combined with thefilial obligations of good Confucian ideals: Printed on 11 May 868 by Wang Chieh, for free generaldistribution, in order in deep reverence to perpetuate the memory of his parents.The printing of Wang Chiehs scroll is of a high standard, so it must have had many predecessors. But thelucky accident of thecave at Dunhuang has given his parents a memorial more lasting than he could haveimagined possible.
The Tang in decline: AD 751-906With the exception of printing, the great Tang achievements take place in the first half of the dynasty.This is a repetitive pattern of Chinese history, for the vigour of the founding emperor of a dynasty - aself-made man - can rarely be matched by descendants who grow up in a palace environment,pampered by eunuchs and shielded from practical experience.The Tang are also unfortunate in their neighbours. For the first time since communication with the westis established, during the Han dynasty, there is an expansionist new power beyond the Himalayas. TheArabs, with their Muslim faith, have the vitality traditionally considered in China to be characteristic of anew dynasty.The Arabs and the Chinese: AD 751-758By the mid-8th century, with the Arabs firmly in control of central Asia and the Chinese pressing furtherwest than ever before, a clash is sooner or later inevitable. It comes, in 751, at the Talas river. The resultis a shattering defeat for the Chinese. For the Arabs an interesting fringe benefit of victory is thevaluable secret of how to make paper.Seven years later the Arabs again demonstrate their strength with an impertinent gesture at theopposite extreme of the Chinese empire. Arriving in 758 along the trade route of the south China coast,they loot and burn Canton.The rebellion of An Lu-shan: AD 755Between the two Arab incursions, the Tang administration is gravely weakened by the rebellion of an
army commander serving on the northwest frontier. In 755 An Lu-shan marches east and captures boththe western and eastern capitals, at Xian and Loyang. The emperor flees ignominiously.Two years later An Lu-shan is murdered by his own son. But the weakened condition of the empire issoon demonstrated again. In 763 the emperor is unable to prevent an invading Tibetan force frombriefly capturing Xian.Eunuchs and warlords, Daoists and BuddhistsThe Tang dynasty never again recovers its former strength. The next century and a half is characterizedby violent struggles between powerful groups. One such clash is between the eunuchs who run theimperial palace, and who are now increasingly given command over the palace armies, and the regionalgovernors controlling troops in the provinces.Another clash is between Daoists and Buddhists. In recent centuries the Buddhists have been the morefavoured of the Daoists, an older indigenous sect by now jealous of the foreign upstarts, seek toinfluence the emperors against their rivals.In 845 the Daoist campaign is finally and decisively successful. The emperor initiates a purge in which4000 Buddhist monasteries are destroyed, together with many more shrines and temples. A quarter of amillion monks and nuns are forced back into secular life.Soon lawless provincial armies and popular unrest combine to make the country ungovernable.Rebellious peasants occupy Xian in 881. In 903 a surviving leader of that peasant uprising captures theemperor and kills him with all his eunuchs. Three years later he sets up a dynasty of his own with hiscapital at Kaifeng. A succession of similar warlords follow his example in a chaotic 50-year span knownas the Five Dynasties.
The Song empire: AD 960-1279The rapid succession of the Five Dynasties is brought to an endby a warlord who wins power in AD 960. He establishes thesixth in the sequence on a more firm footing, as the Songdynasty. He does so by reducing the power of regionalcommanders (keeping the best regiments under his owncommand at the centre) and by giving greater authority to thecivilian administration.As a result this is the heyday of the Confucians. Ever sincethe Han dynasty, scholar officials have supposedly beenselected by merit in the civil-service exams (see Chineseexaminations). But heredity and corruption have oftenfrustrated this intention, reserving the jade insignia of office forthe families of the powerful rather than the talented.Now, under the Song emperors, the search for talent becomesrigorous. As an early Song ruler puts it, bosoms clothed incoarse fabrics may carry qualities of jade, and he isdetermined that such bosoms shall not remain unknown.The result is a China weaker in military terms than itspredecessors but of greater sophistication. The territorycontrolled by the Song emperors is gradually reduced underpressure from less civilized intruders, particularly from thenorth. But enough remains to be the basis of a strong economyand a rich urban culture.Northern Song: AD 960-1127For the first half of the dynasty, known as Northern Song, thecapital is at Kaifeng - an important centre where the GrandCanal joins the Yellow River. The city includes 16 square mileswithin its walls and has an estimated population of more than amillion people. It is not the only one of its kind. By the end ofthe dynasty Soozhou, Hangzhou and Canton (already the portfor foreign merchants) are all of this size.In these great cities the Chinese enjoy the fruits of trade (nowcarried in exceptionally large merchant ships, and oftennegotiated in paper money), the benefits of technology (suchas printing) and the aesthetic delights ofpottery, paintingand poetry.These pleasures are interrupted from time to time by thedemands of the Khitan, a tribe from eastern Mongolia whohave settled in north China and have established their ownversion of a Chinese dynasty (the Liao, 907-1125). The Khitanare the first to make a capital city in what is now Beijing. Theyare such troublesome neighbours that the Song regularly makelarge payments to them (of silk, grain, copper and silver) inreturn for peace.A more drastic interruption occurs when another aggressivegroup from the northern steppes, the Jurchen, overwhelm theLiao dynasty in 1125. Two years later they capture the Songcapital, Kaifeng, and carry off the Song emperor and 3000 ofhis court. But even this disaster proves only a dislocation.
Southern Song: 1127-1279A prince of the imperial family, avoiding capture at Kaifeng,establishes a new administration at the other end of the GrandCanal, at Hangzhou. Here the Southern Song continue foranother 150 years, in territory reduced to a mere fraction ofthe China of the Tang empire.But civilized Chinese life thrives in the exceptionally beautifulcity of Hangzhou, at the heart of Chinas richest agriculturalregion - the rice fields of the south. It will continue to thriveuntil the arrival of another intruder, of a different calibre fromall previous northern barbarians. Though not Chinese, hebecomes emperor of China. He is perhaps the only emperor inChinese history whose name is widely known -Kublai Khan.Paper money in China: 10th - 15th century ADPaper money is first experimented with in China in about AD910, during the Five Dynasties period. It is a familiar currencyby the end of the century under the Song dynasty. Anotherthree centuries later it is one of the things about China whichmost astonishes Marco Polo (see Bank notes in China).He describes in great detail how the notes are authenticated,and then unwittingly touches on the danger lurking within thedelightful freedom to print money. He says that the emperor ofChina makes so many notes each year that he could buy thewhole treasure of the world, though it costs him nothing. Bythe early 15th century inflation has become such a problemthat paper currency is abolished in the Ming empire.Chinese publishing: 10th - 11th centuryPrinting from wood blocks, as in the Diamond Sutra, is alaborious process. Yet the Chinese printers work wonders. Inthe 10th and 11th centuries all the Confucian classics arepublished for the use of scholar officials, together with hugenumbers of Buddhist and Daoist works (amounting to around5000 scrolls of each) and the complete StandardHistories since the time of Sima Qian.The carving of so many characters in reverse on wood blocks isan enormous investment of labour, but the task is unavoidableuntil the introduction of movable type. This innovation, onceagain, seems to have been pioneered in China but achieved inKorea.Chinese arts: in the Song dynastyIn the heyday of classical Chinese culture, a civilizedgentleman - meaning a Confucian official - should be adept inthree different artistic fields. When he settles down before afresh sheet of paper and dips his brush in the ink (ground froma block of pigment by a servant), no one can be certainwhether he is about to pen an impromptu poem, paint a quickimpression of a romantic landscape or fashion some traditionalphrase in exquisite Chinese characters.The three skills, all expressed in the beauty of brush strokes,are closely linked. A soundless poem is a conventionalChinese term for a picture. And a typical poem by the Songmaster Ou-yang Hsiu Sounds like a painting.