Ancient China
Ancient China: Section 1
Contrasting Climate and Landforms
Southern China- warm and wet as a
result of the Monsoons from the South
China Sea
Northern- cool and dry, dependent on
rivers as a source of water
“The Middle Kingdom”
• Geographic features such
as mountains , deserts and
seas blocked off China from the rest
of the Ancient world.
• They only knew of the nomadic people to the North
and West of them
• China had no knowledge of Egypt, India, Greece, Rome,
• They were sure they lived in the center of the earth
that they called themselves the “Middle Kingdom”
Rivers, the Birthplace of Civilization
 The Huang He river and the Yangtze River would overflow.
 This would provided rich, fertile soil ideal for farming near
the rivers. Both deposit yellow silt
 Chang Jiang/Yangtze located in central China
 Huang He/Yellow River is located to the north
 Farming done between the two rivers—area called
North China Plain
China’s Sorrow
• The Huang He river was also called “China’s
Sorrow” because it was very unpredictable
• Destructive floods would come without warning
• At times the floods would cut new paths for the
The Bonds of
Traditional Families- A household in ancient
China might contain as many as 5 generations
living together.
Most privileges in a family would belong to the
elders (they would make household decisions)
Women were typically governed by men (their
fathers, husbands or sons)
A Varied Climate
 Western China: dry
like Western United
 Northern China: like
New England (Maine,
New Hampshire,
Connecticut, etc.)
• Wheat and millet
grown in the drier
northern lands
 Southeast China: like
southern United States
• Rice grown in the
moist climate
Shang Dynasty
 Around 2000 B.C.
settlements along
the Huang He
grew into cities.
 The beginning of
Chinese culture
 China is the
oldest, longest
lasting civilization
in the world!
Shang Kings
 Dynasty: line of rulers from
the same family
 1766 B.C. Shang family
started to rule some cities.
 Kings were responsible for
religious activities.
 Claimed to rule with gods’
 Controlled central portion of
North China Plain
 Relatives ruled distant areas
 Protected themselves from
nomads, the Zhou, to the
North and west with
Shang Families
 Respect for family
and ancestors very
 Family was closely tied
to religion
 Believes spirits of
ancestors could bring
good fortune to family
 Family paid respect to
father’s ancestors
by making animal
 Men were in charge of
the family
Family Names
The Chinese were the first people to
have 2 names.
One name was for the family, one was
for the individual.
In Chinese society the family name
comes first.
Developing Language
 Oracle bones—
animal bones or
turtle shells on
which Shang royal
priests used to
messages from the
 Priests would
make scratch
marks on bones
and shells—early
form of writing
Developing Language Continued…
 Pictograph
system of writing
 Used simple
for words or ideas
 To barely be able
to read and write
must know at least
1,500 Characters
in the Chinese
 Scribe needed to
know 10,000
Ancient China Section 2:
The Life of Confucius
 Confucius was the most famous and important
Chinese thinkers.
 Born 551 B.C.
Noble but poor family
Loved learning and self-taught himself
Thought to be China’s first professional
Education was very expensive—Confucius
charged a small fee but would also take
in students who were poor if they truly
wanted to learn.
The Life of Confucius (cont.)
Confucius wandered North China
looking for rulers to follow his
Was unsuccessful finding a ruler
Died 479 B.C.—72 years old
Felt his life was a failure.
Teachings of Confucius
 Confucius never wrote down his teachings.
 Students gathered his sayings and made
up a philosophy, after his death.
 A philosophy is a system of beliefs or
 This philosophy became known as
Confucianism, one of several important
philosophies of ancient China.
Teachings of Confucius (cont.)
Confucius’s goal—order in society.
If people would behave properly to
one another, order and peace would
People should know their place in
family and in society.
You should respect people above
and below you.
Five Relationships
Confucius created
code of proper
conduct for people.
Each relationship has
its own duties and
own code of conduct.
Relationships fall
under two categories:
•Proper conduct in
the family
•Proper conduct in
Father and Child
Elder Brother and
Junior Brother
Husband and Wife
Friend and Friend
Ruler and Subject
Proper Conduct
 Authority should be
 Ruler should lead in a
right, moral way and
subjects will obey.
 Ruler should treat
subjects with respect.
 Confucius believed
respect and good
behavior started at
 Filial Piety—respect for
one’s parents and
Impact of Confucius
 Confucius teachings
became basic training
for members of civil
service groups.
 Civil service group of
people who work for the
 Before Confucius ideas,
government posts given
to sons of important
people. Afterward jobs
given on merit.
 Candidates had to pass
official exams.
(Exams were based on
Confucius teachings.)
Ancient China Section 3:
Chinese Dynasties
What’s a dynasty?
A sequence of powerful leaders within the
same family
Chinese history is measured and described
through the various dynasties.
Chinese Dynasties
Xia Dynasty About 1994 BCE - 1766 BCE
Shang Dynasty 1766 BCE - 1027 BCE
Zhou Dynasty 1122 BCE -256 BCE
Qin Dynasty 221 BCE - 206 BCE
Early Han Dynasty 206 BCE - 9 AD
Xin Dynasty 9 AD - 24 AD
Later Han Dynasty 25 AD - 220 AD
Three Kingdoms - Period of Disunion 220
AD - 280 AD
Sui Dynasty 589 AD - 618 AD
Tang Dynasty 618 AD - 907 AD
Song Dynasty 969 AD - 1279 AD
Yuan Dyansty 1279 AD - 1368 AD
Ming Dynasty 1368 AD - 1644 AD
Manchu or Qing Dynasty 1644 AD - 1912
The First Dynasty?
Xia or Shang?
 According to legend, the Xia Dynasty is
the first Chinese dynasty that existed
from 1994 BCE - 1766 BCE.
 However, there is no archeological
evidence to prove the existence of the Xia
 Therefore, the Shang Dynasty is the first
known dynasty with historical evidence
Cycle of Chinese Dynasties (dynastic cycle)
1. A new dynasty rises.
-A strong local ruler defeats the
-He often adds land to China
-Believed to have mandate (or
from the heavens
2. The new dynasty rules
5. A period of local violence follows
-New dynasties fight for power
and restore peace and order
-Restores peace
-Chooses local officials
-Makes reforms
4. The dynasty falls
-Dynasty is believed to no longer have
mandate from the heavens
-Rebellions put an end to the weakened
3. The dynasty grows weak
-Rules don’t do the hard work of running
the empire
-Tax the people too much
-Can’t deal with disasters such as
famine, earthquakes, invasions
The Shang Dynasty
Arose sometime after 1700BC
Some of the finest bronze work
of Ancient China
First to introduce a Chinese
writing language
Who was Shi Huangdi?
• Ruler of the Qin Dynasty
• Originally, his name was Zheng
• “cracking his long whip, he drove the universe
before him… His might shook the four seas.”
• By 221 Zheng extended his rule to cover most of
modern day China
• Renamed himself Shi Huangdi or “first emperor”
The Qin Unified China
Shi Huangdi
stopped battles
within warring
states. Co
Conquered rival
Drove out
China grew the
largest it had
ever been!
The Qin Unified China Cont.
• Huangdi killed or put into prison anyone
who opposed him
 Wanted total control of China:
• Took land away from defeated
noble families
• Forced nobles to live at the capital
so he could watch them
• This weakened noble families’
 He divided China into districts, and each
district was run by the emperor’s most
trusted officials
Organizing the Government
Shi Huangdi build highways and
irrigation projects.
• Forced peasants to work on projects such
as building roads
• These roads helped his army to rush to the
scene if a rebellion occurred.
• Set high taxes for peasants to pay
Unifying the Culture
• Shi Huangdi ordered one type of
currency (money) to be used throughout
China. This united China.
• Ordered a common system of weights
and measures
• He tried to control the thoughts of
people by outlawing the ideas of
Confucius and other thinkers.
• Killed 460 government critics and
• Ordered the burning of books unless
they were about medicine, technology,
or farming
Great Wall of China
 Throughout China’s history, people were constantly worried
about attacks from the north. Different towns built walls
to help protect their borders.
 Shi Huangdi set out to connect those walls by building the
Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China Cont’d
 Shi Huangdi ordered farmers,
merchants (peasants), and
criminals to form an army of
about 300,000 workers
 Many died and the people
resented the emperor.
 Great Wall linked many small
walls that were built during the
time of the Warring States.
 Earliest walls built of earth,
later stone and brick were
 When finished the wall
stretched for 1,400 miles. (The
distance from Washington DC
to Denver, Colorado)
Terra-cotta Army
In 1974, 8,000 life-size statues were discovered
in Northern China.
For over 2000 years these soldiers protected
the tomb of Shi Huangdi
No 2 statues are identical
With his underground army Shi Huangdi
planned on ruling a second empire in the
End of the Qin Dynasty
Shi Huandi died in 210 BC
This started four years of chaos and civil war
Marked the end of the Qin dynasty
The Han Dynasty
One of the rebels that
helped overthrow the Qin
dynasty was Liu Bang
Liu Bang became the 1st
emperor of the Han
dynasty by 202B.C.
The stable government of
the Han dynasty lasted
about 400 years
Han Government
 Liu Bang kept Qin policies
of central government, but
lowered taxes.
 Made punishments less
 Peasant men owed the
government a month of
labor/work a year on
government projects.
 Peasants built roads,
canals, and irrigation
Han Government Cont…
 Bureaucracy: network of
appointed officials that assist
in government
 Officials helped Liu Bang
enforce rules.
 Bureaucrats put family
members and trusted people
in local government
 Set up a system of tests to
find the most educated and
ethical people for the
imperial bureaucratic state.
Tested people on their
knowledge of Confucianism.
Empress Rules
 Liu Bang died 195 B.C.
 Widow, Empress Lu took
the thrown for their young
 Outlived son and continued
to put babies on the
throne so she could rule for
 When she died in 180 B.C.
all her family members
were killed.
Wudi- The Warrior Emperor
 The Han Dynasty reached its peak under the
rule of Liu Bang’s great grandson Wudi
 Wudi (descendent of Liu Bang) ruled the Han
empire from 141-87 B.C.E.
 Made improvements to the Great Wall
 Extended Chinese territory
 Made many military conquests including
southern Chinese provinces, northern
Vietnam, and northern Korea.
 Chased nomadic invaders out of northern
 China was almost as large as modern day
Collapse of Han Dynasty
 The Han empire faced rebellions, peasant
revolts, floods, famine, and economic disasters,
but stayed in power until 220 C.E./A.D.
 After Wudi’s death the Han dynasty slowly began to
fall apart
 Warlords (leaders of armed local bands) took
 Only Chinese knew how to make silk during the Han
 Silk is a luxury fabric around the world.
Achievements of Ancient China
Section 4: The Silk Road
 A trade route that went from China to the
Mediterranean Sea
 It was a series of routes that covered more than
4,000 miles
The Silk Road Cont’d
 Crossing the Silk Road was dangerous, travelers were easily
killed by desert sandstorms
 Few travelers made the entire journey, generally goods were
passed trader to trader
 Once they reached the Mediterranean goods such as silk
were shipped to Ancient Greece, Rome, India, and Egypt.
Silk Road Cont’d
 Silk Road received its name from silk,
made only in China
 Trade of Ideas- The silk road was also a
way of spreading ideas.
 Buddhism spread from India into China
via the silk road

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