Early Imperial China

Beginning in the 700’s BCE, the Zhou [joe] family lost control of much of their land.  For the next 500 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/Qinshihuang.jpgyears many small warlords who controlled small kingdoms fought each other.  In 221 BCE the Qin Dynasty gained control http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/Qin_empire_210_BCE.png/250px-Qin_empire_210_BCE.pngcivilized China.  The Qin didn’t last very long, but made an important impact on China’s future.  The Qin expanded their territory and created China’s first empire.  Qin Shi Huang united 7 warring families and declared himself the first emperor of China.  This dynasty designed standard currency, standard wheel axle size (for road size), and standard laws that applied to the entire empire. The Qin also created a system of writing called small seal script that much of China still uses today.  

Qin Shi Huang started a new way of life (philosophy) called Legalism that encouraged people to follow laws and take instructions from the government.  However, many followers of Confucianism were more loyal to their family and did not like the idea of Legalism.  To silence their criticism, the emperor banished or put to death many Confucian teachers and and burned their books.  At one point Qin Shi Huang killed 460 Confucian teachers by burying them alive!  

http://en.hebeitour.com.cn/heritage/images/chengde.jpgTo fend off Mongolian invasions, the dirt walls built in the past were connected tohttp://china-attractions.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/s_Terracotta_Army_Mausoleum_of_the_First_Qin_Emperor.jpg make a larger wall; this is usually recognized as the beginning of the Great Wall of China.  A number of public projects, including canals and bridges, were also built to help strengthen trade and transportation. A massive tomb for the emperor was built complete with a realistic army of clay soldiersThis burial ground is much larger than any in Ancient Egypt.  Although the Qin Dynasty was short-lived, its standardization of Chinese life left a deep impact on later dynasties in China. It is from this dynasty that we get the name “China”.

The HanDynasty began in 206 BCE and lasted 400 years and is considered within China to be one of the greatest periods in their entire history.  The empire grew greatly during this time, and extended its influence over Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Central Asia.  The empire had grown so much the emperor needed a larger government to rule it.  He started a system of examinations (tests) to find qualified people to do civil (government) jobs such as tax collecting.  This system called Imperial Examinations.  In fact, most nations use a similar system to find qualified people in a fair way.

Many things were invented during this time including paper, steel, the compass, and porcelain.  Porcelain is a very hard type of ceramic (clay pottery) used to make crafts that were highly valued by people around the world.  Porcelain is made from special clay that is heated until it melts and basically turns to glass.  The iron plow was an important new farming technology.  The heavy iron plow was durable and dug deep into the soil. This allowed more land to be plowed with less work. 

Qin and Han Dynasty Presentation


The Han Dynasty was also known for its military power. The empire expanded westward as far as the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, which allowed safe trade (Silk Road) across Central Asia. The paths of caravan traffic are often called the "Silk Road" because the route was used to export Chinese silk. The Han dynasty also extended and fortified the Great Wall to protect the Silk Road.  An important effect of the Silk Road was the spread of Buddhism into East Asia. Later it would become very popular in China.  

Qin and Han Dynasties

The Han Dynasty was conquered in 220 CE and the next 400 years were unstable and ruled by many different families.  In 618 CE, the Tang Dynasty conquered China.  The Tang capital was in present-day Xi'an, the most populous city in the world at the time.  Buddhism became very popular during this time period.  The Tang introduced a new system into the Chinese government, called the "Equal Field System" this system gave families land based on how much land they could farm, not how wealthy the family was.  This greatly increased food production. 

The Tang period was the golden age of Chinese literature and art.  The invention of Block printing made the written word available to a larger number of people—which increased the literacy rate enormously.  Women's social rights and social status during the Tang era were also incredibly equal to men for this time period.  During the Tang Dynasty, tea became a very popular drink and medicine.  The Silk Road, the most important pre-modern trade route, reached its golden age during the Tang Dynasty. Under the Tang, China became the most advanced civilization in the world.

Rebellions and natural disasters ended the Tang Dynasty, the Song Dynasty took over China in 960 CE. During the Song period, the population of China doubled in size due to improved rice farming.  This period of time saw major changes in sailing technology. This allowed regular trade and travel with Korea and Japan, but also west toward India and possibly as far as Africa.  This would have been 500 years before Europe was able to sail across the Atlantic. 

The Song was the first government in world history to issue paper moneyThe Chinese developed new military technology invented gunpowder (including the evolution of the early flamethrower, explosive grenade, firearm, and cannon).  Other inventions were the magnetic compass, odometer to measure distance, and advancements of movable-type printing enhanced the already widespread use of woodblock printing.  

Mongolians invaded the Song Dynasty and took control of China.  Kublai Khan (Genghis’s grandson) defeated the Song Dynasty and established the Yuan Dynasty over China and Korea.  Before the Mongol invasion, the Song Dynasty claimed to have about 120 million people; after the Mongol takeover was finished in 1279, the population reports only showed 60 million people.  The Mongolians then continued their destruction west all the way to Europe.  Another reason for drop in population was the Black Plague.  "Black Death" is estimated to have killed 30% of the population of China by the 14th Century (1300's)

Tang and Song Dynasty Presentation

Qin221 BCE to 206 BCE

Han206 BCE to 220 CE

Tang618 CE to 907 CE

Song960 CE to 1279 CE