Ancient Times of
China (ANTIQUITY - A.D.
China, one of the world's most
ancient civilizations, has a recorded history of
nearly 4,000 years.
Anthropologists working in Yuanmou,
in Yunnan Province, have uncovered the remains of
China's earliest discovered hominid, "Yuanmou
Man," who lived in this area approximately
1.7 million years ago. "Peking
Main," who lived in Zhoukoudian, to the
southwest of modern Beijing 400,000 - 500,000
years ago, had the basic characteristic of Homo
Sapiens. Peking Man walked upright, made and
used simple tools, and knew how to make fire.
Man in China passed from
primitive society to slave society in the 21st
century B.C., with the the founding of China's
first dynasty, that of the Xia. The
subsequent dynasties, the Shang, and the Western
Zhou saw further development of slave
society. This era was followed by the Spring
and Autumn and Warring States periods, marking the
transition from slave society to feudal society.
China was one of the countries
where economic activity first developed. As
early as 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, people in the
Yellow River valley had already started farming
and raising livestock. During the Shang
Dynasty (more than 3,000 years ago), people
learned how to smelt bronze and use iron
tools. White pottery and glazed pottery were
produced. Silk production was well
developed, and the world's first figured inlaid
silk weaving technique was being used.
During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476
B.C.), steel production technologies appeared.
During the Warring States Period
(475-221 B.C.), Li Bing and his son directed the
construction of the Dujiang Dam near present-day
Chengdu in Sichuan Province. This brilliant
achievement in water conservancy made possible
rationalized irrigation supply, flood diversion
and sand discharge, and is still playing
tremendous role in this regard even today.
During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States
Periods, philosophy and other branches of
scholarship were unprecendentedly thriving, with
the representatives of various schools vying with
each other in writing books to discuss politics
and analyze society. Hence the appearance of
a situation in which "a hundred schools of
thought contended." Famous philophers
in this period include Lao Zi, COnfucious, Mo Zi
and Sun Zi.
In 221 B.C., Ying Zheng, a man of
great talent and bold vision, ended the rivalry
among the independent principalities in the
Warring States Period and established the first
centralized, unified, multi-ethnic state in
Chinese history under the Qin Dynasty, and called
himself Shi Huang Di (First Emperor), historically
know as Qin Shi Huang, or First Emperor of the Qin
During his reign, Qin Shi
Huang standardized the script, currencies, and
weight and measures, established the system of
prefectures and counties, and constructed the
world-renowned Great Wall as well as a large
palace, mausoleum and temporary regal lodges
respectively in Xianyang, Lishan and other
places. The structures of these places above
the ground have long been destroyed, but the
objects underground are still there.
The life size terracotta horses
and armored warriors excavated from sites near the
mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang are known as the eight
wonder of the world, attracting swarms of Chinese
and foreign visitors every day. At the end
of the Qin Dynasty, Liu Bang, a peasant leader,
overthrew the Qin regime in cooperation with Xiang
Yu, an aristocratic general. A few years
later, Liu Bang defeated Xiang Yu and established
the strong Han Dynasty in 206 B.C.
In the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. -
A.D. 220), agriculture, handicrafts and commerce
were well developed. During the reign of
Emperor Wudi (Liu Che), the Han regime reached the
period of its greatest prosperity: The emperor
conquered the Ziongnu nomads and sent Zhang Qian
as envoy to the Western Regions (Central Asia),
and in the process pioneered the route known as
the "Silk Road" from the Han capital
Chang'an (today's Xi'an, Shaanzi Province),
through Xinjiang and onward, finally reaching the
east coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Along the Silk Road, beautiful silk products made in China
were transported to he West in a steady stream. In 33 B.C., Wang Zhaojun,
a palace maiden, was married to Huhanzie, chieftan of the Xiongnu, leaving a
moving story about marriage ties between the Han and the Xiongnu. The
multi-ethnic country became more consolidated. The Han regime existed
for a total of 426 years. It was followed by the Three Kingdoms Period
(220-265) of Wei, Shu and Wu.
The most famous statesmen during the Three Kingdoms Period were Cao Cao
(155-220). Zhuge Liang (181-234) and Sun Quan (182-252). Cao Cao was the
founder of the State of Wei. He collected people of talent from all over
the country, stationed troops in border areas to open up wasteland, established
military farms, and finally gained control over the Yellow River valley.
Zhuge Liang was the prime minister
of the State of Shu, and a symbol of wisdom in
ancient China. For many centuries, his lofty
spirit of "bending himself to the task and
exerting himself to the utmost till his dying
days" has encouraged the Chinese
Sun Quan was the founder of the State of Wu. He once
allied with Liu Bei (161-223) to defeat Cao Cao at the Red Cliff, and later
inflicted a crushing defeat on Liu Bei at Yiling. In addition, Sun Quan
appointed officials in charge of agriculture, and had garrison troops or
peasants open up wasteland and grow grain, thus promoting land reclamation to
the south of the Yangtze River. Stories about them can be found in a
novel called Three Kingdoms.
The Three Kingdoms Period was followed by the Jin (265-420), the Southern and
Northern Dynasties (420-589), and the Sui Dynasty (581-618). In 618, Li
Yuan founded the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
later Li Shimin, son of Li Yuan,
ascended the throne as Emperor Taizong, who was one of the greatest emperors in
Chinese history. Emperor Taizong adopted a series of policies known as the
Zhenguan reign period reforms, which pushed the feudal society to the height of
Agriculture, handicrafts and commerce flourished;
technologies for textile manufacture and dyeing, porcelain production,
smelting, metal casting and shipbuilding made great progress. During
this time, land and water transportation was also fairly well developed and
economic and cultural relations with Japan, Korea, India, Persia, Arabia and
other countries were extensive. After the Tang Dynasty, there came the
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960).
In 960, Genreal Zhao Kuangyin of the Late Zhou Dynasty rose
in mutiny, and founded the Song Dynasty (960-1279). In 1206, Genghis
Khan unified all the tribes in Mongolia and founded the Mongol Khanate.
In 1271, his grandson Kublai Khan, conquered the Central Plain, founded the
Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and made Dadu (today's Beijing) the capital.
During the Song and Yuan Dynasties, handicraft industry and domestic and
foreign trade boomed.
Many merchants and travelers came from abroad. Marco
Polo came from Venice and traveled extensively in China, later describing the
country's prosperity in his Travels. The "four great
inventions" of the Chinese people in ancient times - paper making,
printing, the compass and gunpowder - were further developed in the Song and
Yuan dynasties, and introduced to foreign countries during this time, making
great contributions to world civilization.
In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang founded the Ming Dynasty
(1368-1644) in Nanjing, and
reigned as Emperor Taizu. When his son, and successor, Zhu Di, ascended
the throne, he started to build the palace, temples, city walls and moat in
Beijing. In 1421, he officially made Beijing his capital. In the
Ming Dynasty, remarkable progress was made in agricultural production and
handicrafts, and toward the end of the dynasty, the rudiments of capitalism
appeared. In addition, there were friendly contacts between China and
other countries in Asia and Africa.
In the late Ming Dynasty, the Manchus in northeast China
grew in strength. Under the leadership of Nurhachi, the Manchus invaded
the Central Plain for three generations in succession, and finally founded the
Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The two most famous emperors of the Qing
Dynasty were Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong. The Kangxi and
Qianlong reign periods were known as the "times of
prosperity." During Qing rule, some novels of high artist value
were created, of which Zau Queqin's Dream of Red
Mansions is the best known. It describes the decline of a prosperous
feudal aristocratic family.
Information provided by
the Chinese Embassy