The History of China
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China has become one of the powerful economies in the world. Among other Asian countries, China has a rich and complex recorded history dating up to 1600BC. Chinese history can be described by the rise and collapse of the various dynasties, varying degree of openness to foreign cultural influences and the intermittent aggression from the northern aliens (Morton & Lewis, 2005). Ancient China was built along two main rivers: the Yellow River (also known as Huang He) in Northern China, and river Yangtze in Southern China. This paper will focus on the history of China and other Asian countries.
To begin with, about 5,000 years ago, primitive human beings had settled in the present day China. These men known as the “Peking men” lived in southwest of present day Beijing. This primitive being walked with the body erect, used fire and made humble tools. There is evidence of pottery making and stone work during this era. Later, about 3,000 years ago, people settled in the Yellow River valley and practiced livestock keeping and basic agriculture as their primary way of living (Morton & Lewis, 2005).
At around 5,000BC, in the general South East Asia, there were Neolithic village settlements, including several regions of the current China. These ancient people grew millet and paddy rice supplemented with fish and aquatic plants for food. Animals reared included cattle and sheep in the north and water buffaloes in the southern parts. As time passed there emerged many distinct regional Neolithic cultures. It is these cultures that civilization probably evolved from; as there were interactions (including conflicts) between different cultures as the people increased settlements.
China’s first dynasty was the Xia dynasty; archeological evidence shows it existed between 2205-1766 BC. Its activities were centered on the present day Shanxi, Henan and Shaanxi provinces (Michael, 2000). In this era, people used a primitive lunar calendar, used bronze to make weapons and vessels for performing rituals. They practiced agriculture and managed water as a society. It is believed that territorial boundaries of china started taking shape at this time. The Xia dynasty was followed by the Shang (also Yin) dynasty between the years of 1766-1122 BC. This dynasty had a written language as evident in the inscriptions made on the shoulder blades of oxen and turtle shells (Morton & Lewis, 2005). It was followed by the Zhou dynasty well-known for the development of iron tools, written laws and money. The Zhou and previous Shang dynasty can be noted as the bronzeage of China.
The first unified feudal empire in Chinese history had been founded by king Zheng of the Qin dynasty between 221 and 206 BC. He proclaimed himself as the first emperor, although the dynasty lasted 15 years. Many institutions of the later Chinese imperial governments took place during this period (Michael, 2003). Approximately 551-479 BC, there lived Master Kong Fuzi, known to the west as Confucius. He was an expert in genealogy, ceremony and ancient lore. His teachings were later incorporated to the governing creed of the Han dynasty, which have since then influenced the behavior and thoughts of the Chinese people, Japan, Korea and other areas of Asia. One of his teachings, is “do not impose on other people something you do not desire” The Han dynasty experienced philosophy, literature, music and statecraft. The Han dynasty existed between 206 BC and 220 AD. During this period important progress was happening in other parts of the world. These were the formation of the Roman Empire and the introduction of Buddhism to China from India (Ebrey, 1996).
For a period of approximately 370 years, between 220 and 589 AD, there was a period of disunity among the Chinese people. This resulted from the collapse of the Han dynasty. Many dynasties and kingdoms emerged and fought each other for domination. The kingdoms of Wu, Shu and Wei, the dynasties of Jin, southern and northern dynasties caused prolonged fighting and suffering among the people during this period. Taoism and Buddhism’s popularity also grew substantially during this era. From 581 to 618 AD, there was the Sui dynasty that re-unified the Chinese people, carried out considerable civic reforms. It also succeeded in taming the Turks of central Asia, rebuilt the city of Luoyang, and fortified the great wall (Ebrey, 1996). The Grand Canal, which is the lengthiest man made waterway in the globe, was created during this period.
The Tang dynasty was in place from 618 to 907 AD. The second emperor named Li Shimin was the ruler at this time. Shimin was an exceptional talented military strategist and statesman. This is the most glorious dynasty in China’s history. He vastly expanded the Chinese empire. His period experienced excellence in music and dance, poetry, painting and sculpture (Latourette, 1964). The oldest extant printed book in China was printed in 868 AD. The Tang Dynasty influences most of the central and eastern Asia parts, with Japan copying many aspects of the Tang institutions and culture. During this era, the capital city of Chang’an became a cosmopolitan city of splendor and wealth iin the world. The Tang dynasty was followed by about fifty four years of chaos, in the period referred to as the age of five dynasties and ten kingdoms (fifteen regimes which emerged in quick succession). The use of paper money started during this time (Ebrey, 1996).
Between 960 and 1279 AD, China enjoyed a period growth and calm, giving rise to a new class of wealthy common people. During this period, Zhu Xi blended Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism into a new ideology. Gunpowder, printing technology, compass, porcelain and pottery among other discoveries occurred during this period. Between 1271 and 1368 AD, a Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan united the Mongol tribes, annexed northern China, Eastern Europe, central Asia and Iran to form the biggest empire in history of mankind. In 1279, a grandson of Genghis Khan, named Kublai Khan, became the first alien regime to rule China (Morton & Lewis, 2005). He established the Yuan dynasty with its capital in Beijing. He maintained all the government institutions, restored civil service examination and continued the Confucian ideology. He facilitated China’s cultural exchanges with the rest of the world (Latourette, 1964).
The last dynasty was the Qing dynasty (from 1644 to 1911). Mongols were driven out by the third emperor of Ming named Zhu Di, who explored the world in seven voyages between 1405 and 1433. China was at its political peak of the 17th century, and its cultural life was in an ebullient condition better than any other country (Michael, 2003). Ming got conquered by nomads from Manchuria, to put China under an alien rule for the second time. Japan and Russia defeated China and imposed requests for trade of other advantages. Sun Yatsen led nationalistic revolutionaries to overthrow Qin in 1911to end the last dynasty of China.
From 1911, China experienced intense struggles by diverse elite groups seeking to change China to a modern state. Bitter strife was between nationalists commanded by Chiang Kai Shek and communists led by Mao Zedong. Full scale war against Japanese invasion took place between 1937 and 1945, by 1937; Japanese had invaded deep into China and caused massive destructions using nuclear bombs. In 1945, Japan was defeated by the US and surrendered (Latourette, 1964). The war between communist and nationalists restarted after Japan conceded defeat and ended in 1949, where the communists won and founded the people’s republic of China in 1949. Since then, China has achieved exceptional industrial and economic growth to develop into one of the most powerful nations in the world (Ebrey, 1996).