Chinese Dinasties Essay Research Paper Chinese Dynasties1

Chinese Dinasties Essay, Research Paper

Chinese Dynasties:

1. Shang: Also called Yin, dynasty that was China’s earliest historically verifiable state 1766 B.C. to 1122 B.C.

A. Reason’s for Rise: Unlike the early accounts of history by the Chinese, there is archaeological evidence of the Shang, who built their cities in northern China around the eastern parts of the Yellow River. For this reason they are called the Yellow River civilization. They were a bronze age people; bronze-working seems to have entered China around 2000 BC (about one thousand years after its invention in Mesopotamia).

B. Territorial Location & size at height of power (map): The Shang ruled the area from the North China Plain northward into present-day Shantung Province and westward to the tip of Honan Province.

C. System of government & rule & names of noted rulers and their accomplishments: A city-state confederation with a three-fold structure of king, officials, commoners.

D. Major Religious beliefs & practices: The Shang worshiped the earth and other nature deities to whom they offered human sacrifices. They communicated with the supernatural by writing messages on oracle bones.

E. *Major Accomplishments, Achievements, and contributions: The Shang society was many agricultural. They had a large army. Bronze casting was highly developed and a writing system had evolved. There commerce was highly developed and they used cowrie shells was used as currency. Shang art consisted of Bronze, pottery, and jade ornaments.


The singular aspect of Shang civilization is their invention of writing. Almost all the written records of the Shang have

disappeared, for the court records were kept on strips of bamboo. However, inscriptions on bronze and on the oracle bones still survive so we have specimens of the very first Chinese writings. The writing system was originally

pictographic, that is, words were represented by pictures that fairly closely resembled the meaning of the word. The

picture for “sun,” for instance, looked much like the sun. This pictographic writing eventually developed into the more

complex ideographic writing that we are more familiar with. Chinese writing is one of the only contemporary writing

systems that still prominently bears traces of its pictographic origins.


The Shang worshipped a figure they called “Shang Ti,” or “Lord on High.” This supreme god ruled over lesser gods of the sun, the moon, the wind, the rain, and other natural forces and places. Shang-Ti also regulated human affairs as well as ruling over the material universe. This dual function would, in the Chou dynasty, be attributed to a more abstract figure, “t’ien,” or “Heaven.” The Shang also believed that their ancestors dwelled in heaven after their death and continued to show an interest in their familiy and descendants. The obligations within the family included, therefore, the ancestors. Failing in one’s duties to the ancestors could bring all sorts of disaster on a

family. All of these divine and semi-divine figures, from Shang-Ti to a family’s ancestors, were sacrificed to. However, we know little of the nature or the frequency of these sacrifices. We do know, however, that in the Chou dynasty only the king could sacrifice to Shang-Ti; it is highly likely that Shang-Ti was the “local god” of the Shang kings who was subsequently elevated in order to elevate the Shang themselves. The one disturbing fact of Shang sacrifice is that it certainly involved humans; slaves and prisoners of war were often sacrificed by the hundreds when a king died. Lesser numbers were sacrificed at the founding of a palace or temple.

F. Major reasons for decline and fall:

2. Chou: dynasty (1122-221 B.C.) that ruled ancient china from almost a thousand years establishing a distinctive political and cultural characteristics which would be identified with China for the next 2,000 years.

A. Reason’s for Rise:

B. Territorial Location & size at height of power (map): The Chou people seemed to have been a group of semi-nomadic barbarians living on the western fringe of the north China plain.

C. System of government & rule & names of noted rulers and their accomplishments: A series of feudal states: Primitive communications made it impossible to institute central rule over the territory. They partitioned it off among the members of the ruling family and the loyal generals. The Chou kings never exercised any real military or political power over the entire country.

D. Major Religious beliefs & practices:

E. *Major Accomplishments, Achievements, and contributions: China changed from one of the most backward parts of the world to one of the most advanced. Iron, Ox-drawn plow, crossbow, and horses were all introduced. Large scale irrigation and water control projects increased crop yield greatly. Communication system was improved due to the increase of new roads. Coinage was developed and chopsticks came into use. Chinese writing system was developed.

The great schools of Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism developed in this period.

F. Major reasons for decline and fall:

3. Chin: dynasty, (221-206 B.C.) That established the first great Chinese Empire. The Ch’in, is the origin of the word china, established the approximate boundaries and basic administrative system that all Chinese dynasties were to follow.

A. Reason’s for Rise:

B. Territorial Location & size at height of power (map): Was originated by the state of chin one of the many small feudal states into which china had been divided. It occupied the Wei river valley in the extreme north west of the country.

C. System of government & rule & names of noted rulers and their accomplishments: It was the most martial states. The rulers of Chin began to centralize state power creating a rigid system of law that were applicable through out the country. The state was divided into a series of provinces ruled by officials appointed by the central government.

D. Major Religious beliefs & practices:

E. *Major Accomplishments, Achievements, and contributions: To rule his vast territory Shih Huang Ti, instituted a ridgid government and standardized the writing system. They built the Great Wall of china

F. Major reasons for decline and fall: The harsh methods of ruling combined with large taxes caused a rebellion after Shih Huang Ti death in 210 B.C. The dynasty was replaced by the Han dynasty.

4. Han: dynasty, (206 B.C. -228 A.D.), the second great Chinese imperial dynasty

A. Reason’s for Rise: The dynasty was founded by Liu Pang a man of humble birth that lead the revolt against the repressive policies of the Chin dynasty.

B. Territorial Location & size at height of power (map): Fought against the Huns in the north and advanced into western Turkestan where they opened up communication to the subcontinent of India. They conquered western Korea and took over trade with Japan. They conquered northern Vietnam.

C. System of government & rule & names of noted rulers and their accomplishments: The Han copied the highly centralized structure of the chin dynasty. The county was divided into a series of areas appointed by the central government. They adopted a Confucian ideology that emphasized moderation and virtue. This was so successful that the Han dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty.

D. Major Religious beliefs & practices: Confucianism, the emperor was the intermediary between his subjects and heaven. Confucian historians saw history not as progressive but as cyclical.

E. *Major Accomplishments, Achievements, and contributions: Dramatic increase of trade with the outside world. This was a major time of peace and prosperity. They achieved breakthroughs in medicine and astronomy. Zhang Heng developed a instrument to measure earth quakes.

Greatly improved farming methods that lead to better crops. Improved the plow, and methods of grinding grain. Irrigation was improved. Clothes where elaborate, and the people eat well. Entertainment was common.

They invented paper which was cheaper than previous writing materials. They improved iron working, which lead to better weapons and tools.

F. Major reasons for decline and fall: Eventually war on the frontier and the Emperors building projects put a large stain on society. The peasants were drafted into the army and agricultural production fell. Many farms were lost to rich people and the peasants wound up being hired workers or even bandits.

The peasants revolted and the Generals used this opportunity to establish land for them self and the empire collapsed in confusion.

China was broken up into 3 kingdoms, the kingdom of Wei in the north, Shu in the upper Yangtze river, and the Wu kingdom in the lower Yangtze river.

5. Sui: ( A.D. 581-618), dynasty that reunified China after the long-standing divisions of the Six Dynasties period (A.D. 220-589).

A. Reason’s for Rise: Began on a Grand Canal, a system of waterways designed to unite North and South China both economically and politically.

B. Territorial Location & size at height of power (map):

C. System of government & rule & names of noted rulers and their accomplishments:

D. Major Religious beliefs & practices:

E. *Major Accomplishments, Achievements, and contributions: They undertook massive construction projects at their two capitals, Lo-yang and Ch’ang-an, and they reasserted Chinese sovereignty over Central Asia.

F. Major reasons for decline and fall: These efforts put some much strain on the populace that it finally led to the overthrow of this dynasty.

6. Tiang: (618 A.D. – 907 B.C.) founded by a former high official of the Sui Dynasty

A. Reason’s for Rise:

B. Territorial Location & size at height of power (map): Re-extended Chinese control over much of central Asia and Korea.

C. System of government & rule & names of noted rulers and their accomplishments: The civil service system grew into a mature form and most government officials had to take exams in order to get into the civil service. This lead to a decline in power of the landed aristocracy.

D. Major Religious beliefs & practices: Confucianism was revived and became the official state religion. Buddhism continued to flourish.

E. *Major Accomplishments, Achievements, and contributions: Long period of peace and growth and one of the most cosmopolitan periods.

F. Major reasons for decline and fall: A revolt in 755 almost overthrew the dynasty but was suppressed. However the government never recovered and the generals took over.

7. Sung: Marked one of China’s most brilliant ages. (960 A.D. – 1279 A.D.) Due to their weakness, the Sung made an alliance with a Chin dynasty(1122-1234) of northern Manchuria. After all their mutual enemies were

defeated, the Chin turned on the Sung. This forced them to retreat and form a new capital in the South in 1135. This new Sung dynasty far surpassed that of the old one. The economic and intellectual achievements increased while the former Sung dynasty to the north slowly decayed. The dynasty showed no internal sign of collapse, but its downfall was many years of bitter fighting against a superior force.

A. Reason’s for Rise:

B. Territorial Location & size at height of power (map): The Sung capital was relocated to Lin An in southern China. After the original capital was lost to nomadic tribes. The Sung agreed to the permanent loss of the territory between china and the great wall.

C. System of government & rule & names of noted rulers and their accomplishments: They developed a welfare system which made this a very humane period in Chinese history.

To avoid the problems the Tang government faced, the Northern Sung made the

military subordinate to the civil government. Every aspect of government and

society was dominated by the civil government. The civil service test was

expanded so that the government would have a constant flow of young talent. The

Sung re-organized the imperial government, centralizing the control of the dynasty

at the capital. The local government was left pretty much the same. Education

flourished and the economy also continued to expand. The literature that was

being created in the late Tang dynasty continued to flourish as well. However,

even with such improvements, there was one major flaw, a weak military.

The Sung’s military was not very powerful, and they frequently signed treaties to

end fighting. Usually included in the treaties were stipulations requiring the Sung to

pay tributes to the enemies they were fighting. With the population growth came

greater economic growth. The military was a large portion of the annual income

due to border defenses. The Northern Sung fell apart due to differences in

opinions by the civil bureaucrats.

In 1069, a young Sung emperor appointed Wang An-shih as his chief counselor.

Wang brought about great change in the government. He proposed plans to

increase government income, decrease spending, and strengthen military forces.

Wang An-Shih realized that the government’s wealth came from the peasants, and

that the wealthier the peasants were, the wealthier the government would be. So,

Wang implemented land reforms to give equal allotments of land to farmers, loans

to cultivators to assist planting and harvesting, and a graduated tax on wealth.

Parts of Wang’s plan were adopted, but some were not used due to bureaucratic


D. Major Religious beliefs & practices: They merged the Buddhist and Taoist religions together and also increased the influence of Confucius.

E. *Major Accomplishments, Achievements, and contributions: Commerce developed to an unprecedented extent. Paper currency came into use and several large cities with a population of more than existed along the southern coast. They developed the printing press. Sculpture and landscape painting flourished. Confucian philosophy was systematized into a doctrine.

The Sung dynasty was a age of major accomplishments. Sculpture in lacquer and wood were very artistic.

F. Major reasons for decline and fall: The dynasty fell to the Mongol army of Kublai Khan.

8. Mongols: A brave warrior named Temujin became leader of a federation of Mongol tribes in 1206. The tribes renamed him “greatest of all rulers,” or Genghis Khan. For the next 21 years Genghis Khan undertook military campaigns that extended Mongol rule well into Russia and into the Middle East. His warriors also took over northern China, capturing the city of Peking (modern-day Beijing) in 1215 and eventually establishing a Mongol dynasty.

Upon Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, four of his sons inherited his armies and lands. One of his grandsons, Batu Khan, extended Mongol control of Russia under his Golden Horde, creating a base for raids on Eastern Europe.

Mongol expansion into Russia was aided by Alexander Nevski, a Russian prince who collaborated with the Mongols.

The empire was at its height under Kublai Khan, who brought all of China under Mongol control. In 1279 Kublai Khan announced the “beginning,” or Yuan, of a new era, which gave its name to the Mongol Dynasty that would last until 1368. As with all such extended empires, decline set in. The Khans allowed administration to fall into the hands of local bureaucrats, who soon developed their own power bases. In addition, feuding broke out between the various subdivisions of the empire. China was lost to the Ming dynasty in 1368. The khans of Persia were overthrown, and the Russians defeated the Golden Horde in 1480.

In 1206 Temujin was elected head of a federation of Mongol tribes. His title within the All the Mongols league was Genghis Khan. Between 1206 and 1227, when Genghis Khan died, the Mongols conquered a dominion that stretched from the China Sea to the Caspian. On the north it bordered the forest belt of Siberia, and on the south it touched the Pamir range, Tibet, and the central plains of China.

The first attack was launched against the Hsi-Hsia, who occupied a border state in northwestern China. By 1215 all of northern China, including the capital at Ta-tu (now called Beijing), had been taken. In 1218 the Mongols moved into eastern Turkestan. Between 1219 and 1225 they added western Turkestan. Advance troops penetrated into southern Russia and raided cities in the Crimea.

A. Reason’s for Rise: n 1206, after 20 years of internal war, Genghis Khan united the roaming Mongol tribes into a new national entity, the Blue Mongols.

In 1211, he focused on China, breaking through the Great Wall two years later and conquering Beijing in 1215. Resistance from Chinese rulers, conflict within the Mongolian camp and forays into Russia delayed the conquest of the Song Dynasty for many years.

Not until 1279 did his grandson, Kublai Khan, gain control of southern China and establish the Yuan Dynasty. The China ruled by Kublai Khan was the vastest country the world has ever seen.

The Mongols established two capitals: a summer capital of Shangdu in Inner Mongolia and a winter capital of Dadu, now known as Beijing.

The Yuan grip remained strong until the end, despite internal problems and widespread Chinese disaffection with their Mongol rulers. By the middle of the 14th century, though, the country had become convulsed by rebellion. By 1367, Zhu Yuanzhang, an orphan who became a Buddhist novice, had climbed to the top of the rebel leadership. In 1368, he established the Ming Dynasty and restored Chinese rule.

B. Territorial Location & size at height of power (map): From Russia down to southern China

C. System of government & rule & names of noted rulers and their accomplishments: The Mongol Empire created by Genghis Khan was not a unified state but a vast collection of territories held together by military force. Because it was controlled by so many military leaders, all theoretically responsible to the great khan, the empire carried within it the seeds of its own breakdown.

Central power rested with the khan and his councillors. Although they were well organized militarily, the Mongols had no developed concept for ruling settled populations. The various territories were under the authority of military commanders. New conquests were not administered just economically exploited. In areas that were under subjugation longer, there was some growth of administration. Local bureaucracies, though dominated by Mongols, usually followed administrative patterns that had been locally developed. This was especially true in China, with its

ancient and vast bureaucracy.

While Genghis Khan was still living, he divided the empire between his four favorite sons. Tului, the youngest, received the original Mongol homelands and parts of northern China. Ogadai received western Mongolia and part of northwestern China. Chagatai was given most of Turkestan in Central Asia. The oldest son, Juchi, received southwestern Siberia, western Turkestan, and Russian lands stretching north of the Black Sea. A fifth section of the empire was later added when Hulagu, a son of Tului, conquered Iran, Iraq, and Syria in the 1250s.

D. Major Religious beliefs & practices:

E. *Major Accomplishments, Achievements, and contributions: The largest empire ever seen

F. Major reasons for decline and fall: Genghis Khan and his eldest son, Juchi, both died in 1227. At a convocation of Mongol leaders, Ogadai was appointed supreme khan. Juchi’s lands in the west were inherited by his son Batu. Ogadai made his capital at Karakorum in central Mongolia. He immediately set out to add more of China to the Mongol conquests. By 1234 all but the southernmost region of China had been incorporated.


Encyclopedia Britanica

Ancient Civilizations Text Book Honors

Class Handbook


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