Chinese Dynasty Overview

Classical Civilization 1: China
Shang - Han Dynasties
AP World History
Chinese Dynasty Song
Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han
Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han
shang, joe, chin, hahn
Sui, Tang, Song
Sui, Tang, Song
sway, tang, soong
Yuan, Ming, Qing, Republic
Yuan, Ming, Qing, Republic
yooan, ming, ching, Republic
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
mou dzu dong
Ancient Chinese Civilization
• Chinese civilization along the Huanghe
(Yellow River) developed in relative
isolation, save for some overland
trading with India and the Middle East.
• By around 1500 B.C.E. a line of kings
called the Shang began the dynastic
cycle that would endure until the 20th
Dynastic Cycle
• Dynastic cycle lasted from 1700 BCE
until the early part of the 20th century.
• Dynasty=family of kings.
• 3 Dynasties of classical China: Zhou,
Qin, and Han.
Shang (1700 - 1027 BCE)
First recorded Dynasty
Ruled by a belligerent aristocracy
First Chinese cities, center of court life
Villages organized by clans, not nuclear
Cast bronze, created silk
Developed writing. Ideas through
pictographs. Thousands of characters.
Honored ancestors, used oracle bones
Shang tyrant emperor overthrown by
Zhou, who ushered in the 2nd dynasty.
Shang Bronzes
• Early Chinese philosophy stressed the basic
harmony of nature: every feature is balanced
by an opposite (yin and yang). For hot there
is cold, for male, female.
• Forms basis for Daoism, a philosophy by
which a individual seeks a way, called Dao, to
relate to this harmony, avoiding excess and
appreciating balance of opposites.
Zhou (Chou) (1027 - 250 BCE)
• Longest lasting Chinese Dynasty.
• First classical era dynasty.
• First period of territorial expansion (complicated
problems of central rule).
• Featured decentralized politics but important cultural
innovations incl. Confucianism, Mandate of Heaven,
and Chinese language.
• Est system of currency
• China’s feudal period (rulers gave land to their
supporters in exchange for defense).
Zhou Coins - bronze
Zhou (Chou) (1027 - 250 BCE)
• Zhou rulers claimed direct links to the Shang rulers.
• Also asserted that heaven had transferred its
mandate to rule China to the Zhou emperorsMandate of Heaven.
• Mandate of Heaven remained a key justification for
Chinese imperial rule in all subsequent dynasties
(think Divine Right).
• Promoted linguistic unity via a standard spoken
language (Mandarin Chinese). Largest single group
of people speaking the same language in the world at
this time.
• As a wondering scholar-philosopher in Zhou China,
Kung Fuzi (Confucius) undertook a quest to become
chief advisor to a ruler who possessed the wisdom to
restore centralized control, peace, and order in his
realm (like Aristotle philosopher-king).
• Though he never fulfilled this goal in his lifetime, his
students preserved, spread, and debated his
teachings after his death in the early 5th c B.C.E., and
compiled his teachings in the Analects. (Consider
Greek philos, the Buddha, and Jesus’ disciples).
• His social and political teachings formed the basis for
one of humanity’s greatest and most enduring civs.
551 – 479 B.C.E.
Born in the feudal
state of Liu.
Became a teacher
and editor of books.
Confucianism 101
• Idealized strong rulers and consolidation of polit
• Advocated rule by highly educated, exclusively male
elite (think Aristotle).
• Began as an ethical rather than religious system.
• Est norms for all aspects of Chinese life, from familial
relationships, filial piety, ancestor veneration, and
male authority.
• Est norms for etiquette of rulers and scholar
• Influenced art, music, calligraphyI
• Formed basis of Chinese philosophical and religious
beliefs for more than 2000 years.
• Confucianism waxed and waned during
subsequent dynasties, but continues to
influence Chinese culture today.
• Also exerted influence on other Asian
societies incl Japan and Korea.
Zhou (Chou) (1027 - 250 BCE)
• The breakdown of the Zhou dynasty’s
ability to control its vassals in the 8th c
B.C.E. led to a long period of political
conflict (i.e. land-owning aristocrats
solidified their own power base and
disregarded the central govt.)
• Internal conflicts left China vulnerable to
outside invaders btwn 8th-3rd c B.C.E.
Qin (221 - 207 BCE)
• By 221 BCE, warrior Shi Huangdi
brought an end to the years of civil strife
and disunity, ushering in the Qin
• Shi Huangdi vanquished all his rivals
and founded a new imperial court.
• But Shi Huangdi proved to be a tyrant,
so the Qin Dynasty ended shortly after
his death in 210 BCE.
Qin (221 - 207 BCE)
• Self appointed title Qin Shi
Huangdi , meaning First
• The name Qin conferred on
the whole country its name
of China.
• Brutal yet effective.
Organized China into large
provinces ruled by
• Shi Huangdi appointed
officials from nonaristocratic
groups, so that they would
not dare to develop their own
independent bases of power.
Qin (221 - 207 BCE)
• For defense, built first Great Wall (Ming
built other part later), extending 3000+
miles. Largest construction project in
human hist.
• Adopted Legalism: only way to achieve
order was to pass strict laws and
impose harsh punishments. (Hanfeizi)
• Ordered natl census, standardized
currency, weights measurements,
laws, and unified written script
throughout the realm.
• Banned Confucianism, burned books.
Attacks on intellectuals and high taxes
made him fiercely unpopular.
Han (202 BCE - 221 CE)
• After Shi Huangdi’s death, massive peasant revolts
broke out. Two peasants led a revolt against Qin
oppression, toppling the dynasty, giving rise to the
Han dynasty.
• Lasted for 400+ years. Most effective, & most
enduring bureaucracy in the preindustrial world.
• Legalism replaced by Confucianism
• Introduced civil service examination (process of
selecting govt officials based on merit rather than
noble birth). Ltd. power of emperor (checks &
• Expanded Chinese territory into Korea, Indochina,
and central Asia. Silk Roads developed, opens trade
Han (202 BCE - 221 CE)
• Peace brought great prosperity.
• Wu Ti erected shrines to Confucius, and he was
established as a god. Official state philosophy.
• Buddhism introduced, paper invented
• Great increase in population
• Govt sponsored public works projects incl complex
irrigation & canal systems (compare to Rome)
• Not highly militaristic.
• Nomadic raiders
• Corruption, weak leaders
221 - 581 (CE)
• Han dynasty overturned by a nomadic tribe,
the Huns
• Warlords control china - no centralized gov’t
• Non-Chinese nomads control much of China
• Buddhism becomes popular - Confucianism
• (Invaders like Huns might topple a dynasty,
but they couldn’t devise a better system to
run the country, so the system & its
bureaucratic administrators normally
Confucianists & Daoists tolerated each
other. You could be politically a
Confucianist & spiritually a Daoist.
Economy & Society
• Trade became important during Zhou &
Han. Focused on luxury items: silk,
• Confucian emphasis on learning and
political service led to scorn of lives
devoted to moneymaking. Therefore,
wealthy merchants had low prestige in
social hierarchy.
Economy & Society
• Chinese civ evolved with very little outside contact. Most saw
China as an island of civilization in a sea of barbarians with
nothing to offer except threat of invasion. They saw no need to
learn from other societies.
• Spread of Buddhism is exception to this rule, b/c it came from
India during & after the Han decline.
• Chinese pioneered technologies that were later disseminated
over much of Eurasia & northern Africa: paper & compasses.
• Asian nomads disseminated these inventions over much of the
globe, contributing to tech transformations in Japan, Rome, Mid
East, & Eng.
• China’s silk became valued in Mide East & Roman Empire.
Trade of silk and other luxury products generated a network of
roads thru ctrl Asia known as the Silk Road. Han actively
encouraged Silk Road trade.

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