Along with Egypt, Babylon and India, China is one of the oldest nations in the world. 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. The ancient Huang river valley is the cradle of great Chinese civilization. China’s culture is one of the oldest of the word. Legend has it that the three nobles and five emperors (三皇五帝) were the first rulers of China. They’re also considered as the ancestors of the Chinese people. Of these legendary figures, some taught the Chinese to build houses, others how to grow grain. All of them were idealized figures during a time when mankind was first learning how to survive in the world. The most famous two of these eight semi-deities were the emperors Yan and Huang. Today the Chinese often refer to themselves as Yan Huang Zisun (炎黄子孙)-descendants of the Yan and Huang emperors.
China history can be divided into 4 phases:
The Origins of Chinese Civilization: c. 2200 - 221 BC
Xia: c. 2200 - c. 1750 BC
Shang: c. 1750 - c. 1040 BC
Western Zhou: c. 1100 - 771 BC
Eastern Zhou, the spring & Autumn Period, and the Warring States: 771 - 221 BC
The first phase is the childhood of the nation. Her own unified language, unique philosophy, tradition and political system were formed during this phase. The whole country was also unified the first time.
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. 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 a tremendous role in this regard even today. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, philosophy and other branches of scholarship were unprecedentedly 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 philosophers in this period included Lao Zi, Confucius, Mo Zi and Sun Zi.
The Early Empire: 221 BC - AD 589
Qin: 221 - 206 BC
Earlier Han, the Wang Man Interregnum, and the Later Han
The Three Kingdoms and the Dynasties of the North and South
The second phase is from 221BC to the end of 6th century. During this phase, China was a powerful empire, expanding forward in each direction, annexing many countries and races. It’s a phase of growth and homogenization.
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 (221-207 B.C.), and called himself Shi Huang Di (First Emperor), historically known as Qin Shi Huang, or First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. During his reign, Qin Shi Huang standardized the script, currencies, and weights 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 eighth 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.
Third phase is from the end of 6th century to 1840. China again reached her peak. The national characteristic is more prominent then before.
The greatest glories of Chinese history are found in the Sui (589-618 CE), Tang (618-907 CE) and Song dynasties (960-1279 CE). During these centuries, China boasted perhaps the most advanced economy in the world, with vast programs of canal building and cities bigger than to be found anywhere in Europe, as recorded for example by Marco Polo. China's navies, with their huge junks that were like floating cities
in their own right, ruled the waters and undertook great voyages of exploration. This period, coinciding with the Dark Ages in the west, saw China mostly united (apart from the Five Dynasties period of 907-960 CE and the division between the Northern and Southern Song dynasties) and mainly at war with the Turkish, Uighur and Tibetan horse-people beyond the borders. When these horse-people united under a great leader, Chinggiz Khan of the Mongols, no one could stand before them and all of China, together with most of the known world, was conquered. The Mongols instituted their own dynasty, the Yuan (1279-1368), during which time the rulers progressively adopted various aspects of Chinese culture. Yet they were still foreign rulers and ruled the country in that way. Hence, the rise of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE) was celebrated as a victory of the Chinese people.
The Birth of Modern China: 1644 - present
Qing (Manchu): 1644 - 1911
Republican China: 1911 - 1949
The People's Republic of China: 1949 - present
The fourth phase is from 1644 until now, in which Chinese ancient civilization conflicted with other civilization, especially the western civilization. Then China is re-estimating her own traditional culture and joining the international community in a completely new way.
In 1644, the Manchus took over China and founded the Qing dynasty. To live during the Qing Dynasty was to live in interesting times. Most importantly, the Western world attempted to make contact on a government-to-government basis, and, at least initially, failed. The Chinese (more specifically, the ultra-conservative Manchus) had no
room in their world-view for the idea of independent, equal nations (this viewpoint, to a certain degree, still persists today). There was the rest of the world, and then there was China. It wasn't that they rejected the idea of a community of nations; it's that they couldn't conceive of it. This viewpoint was so pervasive that Chinese reformers who advocated more flexibility in China's dealings with the West were often accused of being Westerners with Chinese faces. The Opium War of 1840 marked a turning point in Chinese history
In 1911, the Qing dynasty collapsed and China plunged headlong into chaos. The Revolution of 1911 is of great significance in modern Chinese history.
New Democratic Revolution Period (1919-1949)
Under the influence of the October Revolution in Russia, China’s May 4th Movement arose. During this great anti-imperialist, anti-feudal revolutionary movement led by patriotic students, the Chinese proletariat for the first time mounted the political stage. Through the tough struggle with Japanese Invasion and Kuomingdang regime, the CPC won a great victory in the new democratic revolution in 1949.
Contemporary Period (1949- )
On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic of China on the forum of Tian'anmen Square. A new China stepped into the world stage and began to play a more and more important role in the world affairs.