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Chinese History

How Many Chinese Dynasties are there in Total?

China, with over five-thousand-year history,  is one of the world’s four ancient civilizations. It can be divided into three phases including the ancient China era (from c. 1600–221 BC), the imperial era (221 BC – 1912 AD), the republic of China era (1912 – 1949) and the modern China (from 1949).

In this article, we will talk about Chinese history timeline, and emperors in Chinese history.

Phase 1. the Ancient China Era (2070 BC — 221 BC)

The Ancient China era starts from the Xia dynasty and mainly consists of three dynasties like Xia dynasty, Shang dynasty and Zhou dynasty.

1). The Xia Dynasty (2070 BC—1600 BC)

The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty of China, which starts the hereditary system. It is said that it consists of seventeen emperors in the Xia dynasty.

2). The Shang Dynasty (1600 BC —1046 BC)

The Shang Dynasty is the second dynasty in Chinese history as well as the first dynasty with historical inscriptions records remaining. It lasts about 554 years and was replaced by the Zhou Dynasty. There are thirty one emperors during this dynasty.

3). The Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC —221 BC)

The Zhou Dynasty is the last dynasty that uses the hereditary system. It can be divided into the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046BC – 771BC) and the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770BC – 221BC). The Western Zhou Dynasty is founded by the emperor of Zhou Wu, Jifa, with capital in Xi An of Shanxi province. In 770BC, the emperor Zhou Ping changed the capital to Luo Yang of Henan province, from which the dynasty begins to be named the Eastern Dynasty, also named the Spring and Autumn warring state period.

Phase 2. the Imperial China Era (221 BC — 1912 AD)

During this era, there are many dynasties and emperors recorded, such as the most famous Sui dynasty, Tang dynasty, Qing dynasty, etc. China gets a great developmen during this period in culture, economy, technology, agriculture and industy.

1). The Qin Dynasty (221 – 207BC)

The Qin dynasty is the first unified dynasty in the history of China. It lasts only about fifteen years and consists of three emperors. Its prosperity happened during the period when Qin Shi Emperor governs the country. When he was dead, the regime was seized by the eunuch and the dark age began, which in hense resulted in people’s uprising. The most famous teams are one led by Liu Bang and the other by Xiang Yu. In 207BC, the last Qin emperor surrendered to Liu Bang, which means the end of Qin dynasty.

2). The Han Dynasty (202BC – 220AD)

After the Qin emperor surrendered, Liu Bang and Xiang Yu fight against severely for about five years. And Liu Bang achieved the last victory and founded the The Western Han Dynasty. Just like the Zhou dynasty, the Han dynasty, as the longest Chinese dynasty, can be divided into the Western Han dynasty (202BC – 8AD) and the Eastern Han dynasty (25AD – 220AD) as well. During the reign of Emperor Wudi (r.140-87 BC), the Han regime had its greatest prosperity. Agriculture, handicrafts, and commerce developed greatly.

3). Three Kingdoms Period (220 – 581)

Three Kingdoms Period is also known as Wei, Jin and the Southern and Northern Dynasties. During this period, wars happened ceaselessly, which caused a sharp decline in population and economy. Meanwhile, Buddhism was brought into China, Taoism developed well and Persian culture got into China. In a word, Three Kingdoms Period is a complicated era.

4). The Sui Dynasty (581 – 618)

As the reign time of the Sui Dynasty, there are three different sayings: 581-618AD, 581-619AD, and 581-630AD). The most popular and convincing is 581-618AD. At the begining of the Sui Dynasty, the emperors issued positive policies such as reducing the government expenditure, abolishing miscellaneous taxes, and developing culture, etc. But when the emperor of Sui Yang came into power, especially at the later stage, he launched several wars which aroused the people’s anger, which planted hidden trouble and danger for his dominion.

5). The Tang Dynasty (618 – 907)

The Tang Dynasty lasts for two hundred and eighty-nine years and is recognized as one of the most powerful dynasty in the history of China. It established in Luoyang, Henan. During this dynasty era, the science and technology, culture, economy and art developed pluralisticly. Many famous poets and painters emerged such as Libai, Dufu, Bi juyi, etc. Manys countries around the Tang were affected.

5). The Song Dynasty (960 – 1279)

During the Song Dynasty, handicraft industry and trade boomed. The “four great inventions” of the Chinese people in ancient times (paper, printing, the compass and gunpowder) were further developed in the Song Dynasty.

6). The Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368)

In 1206AD, Genghis Khan unified all tribes in Mongolia and founded the Mongol Khanate. In 1279AD, under the rule of Kublai Khan, Mongol Khanate defeated the Song Dynasty and finally established the Yuan Dynasty. Afterwards, it continued to launch wars and extent the teeeitory, which brought a heavy burden for its economy.

7). The Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644)

In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang replaced the Mongol empire and set up the Ming Dynasty. It is the last dynasty that was built by the Han nationality. It has sixteen emperors and lasts for 276 years. When  his son and successor, Zhu Di, ascended the throne, he started to build the Forbidden City in Beijing. In 1421, he officially made Beijing his capital. In this era, various aspects flourished. But due to the natural disasters and greedy leadership, it began falling down in the later phase.

8). The Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912)

The Qing Dynasty is the last unified Chinese dynasty. The two most famous emperors during this era are Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong. This time span as called “a golden age of prosperity”. However, at the late era, the Opium War broke and China was carved up by other eight countries, from which China was reduced to being a semi-colonial semi-imperial county.

Phase 3. The Republic of China Era (1912 – 1949)

The Republican Revolution of 1911, led by Sun Yat-sen, ended the rule of the Qing Dynasty. During this time, Japan launched a war for eight years to seize China. Besides, wars between the Kuomintang and The Communist Party sustained as well untill the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Phase 4. Modern China (1949 – Now)

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has finally achieved the stability. And with the Reform and Opening Up policy issued in 1978 enables China’s phonomenal economic growth.

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