Thursday, November 30, 2017

Liu Che - Emperor Wu of Western Han

Emperor Wu, or Liu Che, (156 BC-87 BC), was one of the greatest emperors of the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD). As the tenth son of Emperor Jing, he was chosen as prince at the age of seven and was enthroned when he was sixteen years old. At the age of 70, he died on the throne, ending his 54-year rule.

He was an extraordinary emperor with great talent and bold vision. Specifically, he was a super master of military strategy which made him a combative monarch. This accounts for his title Wu which means 'Martial' - military force. Under his reign, the Han Dynasty became the most powerful regime in the world.

The times of Emperor Wu were among the most prosperous periods in Chinese history. At the beginning of his accession to the throne, a stable political situation and favorable national economy paved the way for splendid achievements in politics, economy, foreign affairs and culture.

As an innovative monarch, he took some effective measures in politics. He set up a special system for selecting, appointing, and assessing governmental officials. During that period, talented figures emerged in all occupations. Li Guang, as well as Wei Qing and Huo Qubing were all generals in that period, famous throughout the history of China. In addition, certain measures were carried out to strengthen the centralization of authority to weaken the power of small kingdoms.

He adopted many economic reform policies. First, the currency system was changed, establishing the wuzhu coin as the national legal currency. Second, industries such as manufacturing and the selling of salt and iron were monopolized by the national government. All these measures strengthened the financial power of central government and restrained the power of businessmen. In addition, he paid close attention to building water conservancy projects and treating the Yellow River.

As for foreign affairs, a prolonged battle was launched by Emperor Wu to drive out the Huns, an ancient tribe who trespassed on Han territory. With a powerful economy and strong military force, he defeated the Huns and safeguarded northern territory including the Hosi Corridor. At that time, China's territory was vaster than that of any previous dynasties. Meanwhile, Emperor Wu sent the envoy Zhang Qian to the western regions. As a result, an ancient Silk Road was opened up and the economic and cultural exchanges between the central plains and western regions were greatly enhanced.

Confucianism became the mainstream Western Han ideology under Emperor Wu's reign. Emperor Wu required that all chancellors in the court learn the Confucian classics before they got a promotion. He also set up an educational system of Confucian classics. With 'unification' as its core, Confucianism helped form an important cultural spirit which joined Chinese people's hearts.

In that period, China's first historical record - The Records of the Grand Historian -- was written by Sima Qian (a famous historian in Western Han).

Although Emperor Wu was a warlike emperor, great achievements were accomplished in almost all aspects of society during his reign.

Liu Bang - Emperor Gaozu of Western Han

Liu Bang (256 - 195 BC), Emperor Gaozu of the Western Han Dynasty, is the first emperor of the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD). As an outstanding politician, strategist and director, he made great contributions to the development of Han people and its culture. In 206 BC, he rebelled against the despotic rule of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC) and together with Xiang Yu, led the uprising army against the Qin. In October of 206 BC, he and his army attacked Xianyang, the capital city of the Qin and overthrew the Qin Dynasty.

In his youth, he was considered as a futile boy because he usually played truant and seemed to have no ambition. Later Liu was very lucky to be a low-ranked official in Sishui and, to some degree, was well-known among the neighborhoods. One day, as he saw Emperor Qin Shi Huang sitting in a delicate and gorgeous carriage he admired so much, thought that it should be a real man to be bestowed such luxuriant treatment. Since then, Liu started to show his distinct personal strength. 

Chu-Han War and Hongmen Banquet

In 209 BC, Liu Bang held high the banner of the rebellion against the tyranny of the Qin Dynasty. After about two-year warfare, the Qin Dynasty was overthrown. At that time, Xiang Yu, the director of another rebellion group, was very angry to hear that Liu had captured Xianyang ahead of him. For the next four years, Xiang and Liu waged a war to vie for the throne, namely Chu-Han War. The war ended with the victory of Liu Bang.

During the Chu-Han War, at a time when the military force of Xiang Yu had the advantage over that of Liu Bang, the Hongmen Banquet was a pivotal event. One day, Xiang Yu invited Liu Bang to a banquet with the purpose of killing Liu. However, during the meal, Xiang became pretty arrogant at Liu’s modest and flattering words. This caused him to hesitate in carrying out his plan to kill Liu. Liu with the assistance and protection of Zhang Liang, Xiang Bo and Fan Kuai, took this opportunity to escape from the military base of Xiang Yu.

Credited with his ability to both adopt his subordinate’s good advice as well as the political acumen to unite other anti-Xiang Yu forces, he eventually won the war. Xiang Yu, well-known as the King of Western Chu, committed suicide by cutting his throat with a sword beside Wujiang River.

Establishment of the Han Dynasty

In 202 BC, Liu Bang established the Han Dynasty with the capital of Chang’an (Xian). In the history books, this period was called the Western Han Dynasty. Now that he sat on the throne, over the next several years in order to better consolidate his power, Liu disposed of Han Xin, Xiao He, Ji Bu and Ding Gong, the meritorious ministers in the warring period.

After he ascended the throne, his first step was to abolish the harsh law of the Qin Dynasty and establish a new one that was supported by the people. Liu also took a series of measures that were good for his people. He ordered the reduction of field taxes levied on the peasants and let the armies go back to farming. Because of his strong leadership and effective measures, the economy recovered quickly and stability returned to the society. In the annuals of Chinese history, Liu Bang was regarded as an emperor who contributed a tremendous amount to the prosperity of the Han Dynasty. 

Changling Tomb - The Mausoleum of Liu Bang

Changling Tomb, located in the northwards of Xian and eastwards of Xianyang, is the highest spot of Xianyang and the site of Xianyang Palace of the Qin Dynasty. Standing here, the whole environs of Xian can be seen. It is in the south of Changling Tomb that Liu Bang and his empress, Lv Zhi, were buried, about 250 meters (around 820 ft) apart. Besides, six large-scale sites of the original imperial palace can be found in the northwest, southwest and southeast of Changling Tomb.

Eastern Han Dynasty

Regarded as a continuation of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD), the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD - 220 AD) was established by Liu Xiu, who became the Emperor Guangwu. With Luoyang in Henan Province as its capital city, the dynasty was reined over by 12 emperors in a span of 195 years.

Political History

In the year of 25, Liu Xiu, a descendant of Western Han royalty defeated Wang Mang, who had usurped the throne of the Western Han, thus establishing the Eastern Han. In his second year on the throne, he revised all the policies that Wang Mang had set.

The most prosperous period of Eastern Han was the middle period of the first century. After the reigns of Emperors Guangwu, Ming and Zhang, the Han Dynasty regained its prosperity. Overall, its economical, scientific and cultural development surpassed that of the Western Han.
After the middle period of the Eastern Han, most of the emperors were juveniles and the real royal power was held by both distant relatives and eunuchs. This caused darkness and corruption in the later period when farmers all over the country launched rebellions against their rulers. In 184, the Yellow Turbans Uprising, launched by a Hebei farmer Zhang Jiao, hit the regime hard. In the late period, royal power totally fell into the hands of eunuchs which put the court into chaos. During the reign of the last emperor of Eastern Han, Emperor Xian, royalty was dominated by the treacherous court official Dong Zhuo. Finally, Cao Cao, a minor warlord, seized power and Emperor Xian was forced by Cao Pi (the second son of Cao Cao) to abdicate. Thus, the Eastern Han Dynasty came to an end.


In the early period, the central government focused much attention on irrigation works. In the reign of Emperor Ming, many fields that had been flooded by the Yellow River were changed into fertile lands.
At the same time, the productivity of industry was greatly improved. A special tool called 'Shui Pai' was invented by a local viceroy in Nanyang. This device permitted the power of water to be applied to the air-blasting in the process of iron smelting which promoted productivity in the metallurgical industry.

In the time of Emperor He, the extraction of copper, bronze-ware manufacturing and silk-making industry were developed. Commerce also prospered and the capital city Luoyang became the national business center.
Science and Culture
ome crucial changes in science and culture also took place in this dynasty. In 105, a court official named Cai Lun improved the previous method of making paper, which ended the use of inscribed bamboo strips.

Meanwhile, great progress was made in astronomy. The famous astronomer, Zhang Heng, created special equipment, which was considered as the earliest seismograph in the world, with superb techniques for testing earthquakes.

In addition, fruitful achievements in medicine were made by the well-known surgeon of ancient China, Hua Tuo, who originated the use of anesthetic techniques in operations.

In Eastern Han, the arts began to gain status. Calligraphy and painting were no longer purely used as letter symbols. Instead, their charm as arts started to emerge. What's more, with the development of ceramics, pottery came into wide-spread use among common people.

Western Han Dynasty

The Western Han Dynasty (206BC - 24AD) was regarded as the first unified and powerful empire in Chinese history. Lasting from 206 BC to 24 AD, it was established by Liu Bang, who became Emperor Gaozu following four years of civil war started by peasant uprisings against the despotic Qin Dynasty (221 - 207BC). Liu Bang recruited people based on their ability not birth or wealth, and his government included many former serfs and commoners. The capital city was named Chang'an (present day Xian). The dynasty based on a series of political and economic reforms, was ruled by 12 emperors in succession enjoying peace and prosperity.

The first emperor, Liu Bang, Emperor Gaozu initiated many effective measures by recruiting people for his government based on their ability, not birth or wealth, and drawing lessons from the collapse of the Qin and former dynasties. The economy recovered very quickly with able people in the government and with policies based on Lui Bang's reforms. The arts were encouraged by Gaozu and flourished. After Gaozu's death, his son Liu Ying succeeded to the throne although power was held by his mother Queen Lv Zhi. After 16 years of reign by Lv Zhi, Liu Heng (Emperor Wen) and Liu Qi (Emperor Jing) became the emperors in succession. They both reduced the people's tax burdens as Emperor Gaozu had done and encouraged the people to farm and be thrifty in life. Due to their effective measures, the people lived in stability and the nation's wealth and power were enhanced greatly.

During the reign of Emperor Wu, Liu Che who ruled from 141 - 87 BC, the Han Dynasty achieved its most powerful and prosperous period. He dispatched two generals Wei Qing and Huo Qubing to fight against the invasion of the Hun (an ancient tribe that lived in the north part of China) and greatly enlarged the territory of the Western Han. Emperor Wu's  wars assured safe trade routes and the establishment of the great Silk Road. Emperor Wu also sent emissaries and trade missions to many countries and established foreign trade. In his later years, through encouraging the development of agriculture, the economy developed quickly. Emperor Wu also changed the official state religion from Taoism to Confucianism. The eventual decline of the dynasty also began with Emperor Wu's policy of selling land to private landholders that would result in great inequality, raising taxes on the poor working people causing many people to be displaced and become serfs.

The dynasty passed its zenith under Emperor Zhao and Emperor Xuan who followed and Emperor Yuan (73 BC - 33 BC) began to lose the power to deal with the state affaires; going against the principle of promoting people based on ability, he had chosen prominent Confucians who relied on astronomy and fortune telling to fill government positions and as advisors.

The Western Han ended with Liu Ying and the country in revolution. Wang Mang seized the imperial throne (9 - 23) and changed the name of dynasty to Xin. However, after a series of protests the social rebellion became so serious that the rule of Wang Mang was overthrown by an uprising of peasants. This uprising was suppressed by Liu Xiu, (a royal of the Han) who was trusted by the people. In 25, Liu Xiu reestablished the Han Dynasty (now called Eastern Han) and made Luo Yang the capital city.

In agriculture, handicrafts, industry, and commerce there were great achievements.

In agriculture, water conservation and irrigation projects were built and greatly expanded production. Cattle, and iron farm tools were used at large to plough the land, and planting skills were also improved greatly so that one hectare of field could be seeded in a day.


In industry, productivity was improved greatly in both metallurgy and the textile industry. Looms were used taking the place of manual labor in weaving. Iron-smelting was carried on a large scale and steel was made using coal as fuel. Hydraulics were developed using water power to drive a celestial sphere.


The stability of the country and rapid development of the arts with the invention of paper and porcelain and industry provided commerce a favorable environment to develop. Many commercial cities developed around the center of Chang'an. Not only domestic trade flourished but foreign trade prospered due to the opening up of the Silk Road. Diplomatic missions and trade were established with ancient Rome, India and many other countries.

Culture and Arts

Literature flourished with the invention of paper, as art flourished with the invention of the loom, and the invention of porcelain. The achievements of the Western Han had a profound influence on North Vietnam, and North Korea through the expansion of the empire, and on Japan through close trade ties.

From the reign of Emperor Wu, Confucianism became the main stream of thought in government. The phenomenon of letting a hundred schools of thought strive which was formed in the Spring and Autumn Period had disappeared. Henceforth, Confucianism became the philosophy for emperors in many dynasties to manage their state affairs.

In literature, the great historian Sima Qian contributed to the Chinese historiography by writing the Book of History. It is the first chronicle of Chinese history (from Huangdi to Emperor Wu) and occupies an important status in the history and literature of China.

In art, the techniques developed in making porcelain were so superb that the level is comparable with that produced today. From excavated sites cultural relics continue to be unearthed that reveal the superb crafts of this period.

The earliest mathematical works were also created in the Western Han; and, astronomy was recorded in great detail including the mankind's first record of the solar system.

For more than 200 years, the Western Han was one of the most powerful countries in the world and its culture reached an unparalleled level.

Han Dynasty

In 207 BC, the army led by Liu Bang conquered the troops of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207BC) at Julu (currently Hebei Province) and in 206 BC he seized Xianyang (the capital city of the Qin Dynasty), thus ending the rule of Qin. In the same year, he defeated his rival, Xiang Yu, and established the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD). Chang'an (the present Xian) was made its capital city in 202BC.

In Chinese history, Han consisted of two dynasties: the Western Han (206 BC - 24 AD) and the Eastern Han (25 - 220). During the period there were 24 emperors on the throne. Many were excellent contributing to the prosperity of the country with Emperors Gaozu, Wen, Jing and Wu among them.
As many wise emperors took effective measures during their reign, the Han Dynasty was a period of peace and prosperity. It was a World power at that time with interests in literature, arts, culture and technology with this dynasty achieving numerous unparalleled and praiseworthy successes. Some of the achievements at that time still influence the lives of the Chinese people today.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Qin Dynasty

Qin Dynasty was the first unified, multi-national and power-centralized state in the Chinese history. It lasted from 221 BC to 207 BC. Although surviving only 15 years, the dynasty held an important role in Chinese history and it exerted great influence on the following dynasties. Only two emperors, Yingzheng - Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor in the Chinese history, and his son Hu Hai ever ruled the state, which was finally overthrown by the people's uprising.

Political History

During the late Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC), the state of Qin was in its full development. When Yingzheng was in his reign, he defeated the other six states (Han, Zhao, Wei, Yan, Chu and Qi), from 230 BC to 221 BC. So ending the chaos caused by wars among vassals that had lasted over 500 years. He established a unified and centralized country and declared Xianyang, in Shaanxi Province, the capital city of the Qin.

A series of effective measures has been taken during the reign of Yingzheng. He contributed much to the development of his country. However, during the late period of his reign, he was cruel and oppressive to his people, and caused dissatisfaction. After he died, Hu Hai succeeded him. However, he was so fatuous that caused the uprising led by peasants, Chen Sheng and Wu Guang. Later the insurgency was led by Xiang Yu and Liu Bang. In 207 BC, Xiang Yu's army defeated the Army of Qin and Liu Bang swept into the capital which finally ended the Qin Dynasty.

At the end of the Qin Dynasty in 207 BC, war broke out between Liu bang and Xiang Yu. It was known as the Chu-Han war, and it lasted for four years, ending with the victory of Liu Bang, who later established the Western Han Dynasty.

Measures Taken by Emperor Qin

To strengthen the unity of the nation to perpetuate the Qin Dynasty, Emperor Qin

carried out many reforms in politics, economy, military affairs, and culture.

In politics, he declared himself the Emperor of the state. All major powers including politics, economy, military affairs were in his hand. Executive organizations both in the central and local places were systematically reorganized and local counties were restructured.

In his economy, he standardized weights and measures and he stipulated that the round coin with square hole (Ban Liang Coin) should be the coin used in the country.

In Addition, he standardized the written character, making the Qinzhuan the standard font. He also placed great importance on infrastructure: irrigation works and road building projects. The miracle of the world, the Great Wall of China, was built under his order. All that he achieved had promoted the development of Qin's economy.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang was a tyrant despite his contributions to the country. To prevent his people to think freely, he burnt many books which he feared would affect people's thinking. Worse, in his second year, after he learnt some scholars' discussions about his arrogance, he buried 460 of them alive. In history, these two events are called 'To Burn the Books and Bury the Scholars Alive'. And yet, at the same time, he ordered to build luxurious palaces, the Great Wall, the famous Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses, together with his own mausoleum, by imposing on the masses, through hard labor, heavy taxes, and rigorous law and military service, giving the community a difficult and arduous existence.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Qu Yuan - A Patriotic Poet of Warring States Period

Living in the latter part of the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC), Qu Yuan was the earliest great patriotic poet as well as a great statesman, ideologist, diplomat and reformer in ancient China. He has the reputation of being one of the world four great cultural celebrities. The traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate him. His patriotic influence has left its mark on many subsequent generations in China and beyond.

Political Career

The Warring States Period covers a period during which the seven individual kingdoms, Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin - contended with each other for hegemony. Qu Yuan, who lived in the Chu State, was trusted by King Huai and did much to assist the King in governing the state. Following reformation in the Qin state, the Qin gained in strength and invaded the other six states. he suggested an alliance with Qi in order to resist Qin. However, this was rejected by some of the ministers as they could see that they would lose some of their power and privileges. They made false accusations against him that were believed by King Huai. The misguided monarch became alienated from his valued advisor and sent him into exile as a consequence.

In the years that followed, Huai, lacking the wise counsel of Qu Yuan, was deceived by the Qin into thinking that they could live together in peace. However, King Huai was subsequently detained by the Qin State for years until his eventual death. King Huai was succeeded to the throne by his son who was even more fatuous than his father. He disregarded Qu Yuan's advice not to surrender to the Qin. Qu Yuan was exiled to an even further away than before.

In 278 BC, upon learning that the Chu State had been defeated by the Qin, Qu Yuan, in great despair and distress, ended his life by drowning in the Miluo River in the northeastern part of Hunan Province.

As a Poet

Not only was he a true patriot, he is famed for leaving many immortal poems for us. During the days of his exile, Qu Yuan wrote many famous poems. In them, his love for his country and its people are revealed naturally. Among his greatest works are Li Sao (The Lament), Tian Wen (Asking Questions of Heaven), Jiu Ge (Nine Songs), and Huai Sha(Embracing the Sand).

Of these, Li Sao was the representative work of Qu Yuan and the longest lyric of romanticism concerning politics in the history of ancient Chinese literature. Tian Wen is characterized by 172 questions put to heaven. The questions concern aspects of astronomy, geography, literature, philosophy and other fields.


Qu Yuan was respected not only by the people during his own time but also after, and not only by people in China but also in the wider world. On March, 5th, 1953, great commemorative activities were held in China in honor of him. In September, the World Peace Council held a meeting to remember him and urged people around the world learn from him. He was also listed as one of the world's four literary celebrities for that year.

Nowadays, on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated annually by eating Zongziand holding dragon boat races to commemorate Qu Yuan. And other countries like Korea, Japan, Burma, Vietnam, and Malaysia etc. now celebrate this festival. His masterpiece Li Sao has been translated into many languages and his portrait displayed in libraries in many countries.


Living in the State of Lu (Qufu City in Shandong Province) during the Spring and Warring Period (770 BC - 476 BC), Confucius was a great educationalist, ideologist and the founder of Confucianism and private schools in China. He was born on September, 8th, 551 BC. Through his righteousness, optimism and enterprising spirit he has influenced greatly the character of the Chinese people from generation to generation.

Political Career

During his life Confucius decided to dedicate himself to serve his motherland. However, he only served the government for four years. Although he contributed greatly to the development of the country and was promoted, due to disagreements with the ruler his political career was ended. During the following fourteen years, he left his country and traveled around other countries to present his ideas to different rulers. Finally, because his ideas were not adopted, he returned home, still not recognized by the king.

 Educational Career
Despite his not being successful in politics, his educational career was fruitful. He used most of his life to teach and help students solve problems. During his life about 3,000 students studied under his guidance. He not only created some effective teaching methods, but also proper studying techniques. For the rest of his life, he put in order some ancient literature and edited The Spring and Autumn Annals (the first Chinese historical record).
Confucius taught his disciples by personal example as well as verbal instructions. He himself studied hard and pursued truth, dreams and a perfect personality. He had integrity and was kind, humble, polite and faithful to his country and people. He loved education and students, and was tireless in teaching. He always treated his disciples equally.
Due to his great reputation, many students from other countries like Qi, Chu, Wei and Jin came a long way to have him as their teacher. His students reached great achievements. In virtues, Yan Yuan and Zhong Gong, were the prominent ones; in language study, Zai Wo and Zi Gong were outstanding and in politics, Ran You and Zi Lu showed great talent. During the period of traveling in other countries, he brought his disciples. During this time, not only the knowledge of the disciples was increased but also their wills were disciplined. All his disciples respected him as their father and compiled his famous sayings in the book The Analects of Confucius.

He was a great teacher of noble morals and the first professional teacher in the Chinese history.

His ideas

His main idea is to administer the country with morals. Regarding personal relationships he once said that 'Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you'. He advocated the syncretism of nature and human beings and suggested that people live harmoniously with nature.

In addition, he thought that a country should develop culture and economy at the same time. People should not only be benevolent to others but also cherish every object. In short, he aimed to establish a world of great harmony. For over two thousand years, Confucianism has guided numerous people's behavior and has been the mainstream of Chinese culture. In recent years, his great ideas have been accepted by many people all over the world.

Eastern Zhou Dynasty

In 771 BC, with the death of King You, the last king of the Western Zhou Dynasty, the Eastern Zhou Dynasty began. Xuan Jiu, the son of King You, established the dynasty in 770 BC, and moved the capital to Luoyi (present-day Luoyang, Henan Province). Over 25 emperors have reigned over the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, lasting 515 years in all. The Eastern Zhou Dynasty was a time full of change, marked by the scrabble for hegemony by many nations. At the same time, the dynasty features supreme prosperity in economyscience and culture.

The Eastern Zhou Dynasty is divided into two periods: the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC) and the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC).

Political History

Spring and Autumn Period 

(770 BC - 476 BC)
The Spring and Autumn period began when the capital was moved to Luoyi in 770 BC and named after the Spring and Autumn Annals written by Confucius. The period was one of turbulence and great changes took place in the economy, politics, military affairs and culture.
During the Spring and Autumn Period, there were over 140 states, and royal authority gradually lost its ruling position. Some powerful states developed quickly and began to annex weaker ones. Once the powerful ones won, they would force the defeated to acknowledge their rule. Five overlords declared their hegemony in succession in this period: they were Huangong of the Qi State, Xianggong of the Song State, Wengong of Jin, Mugong of the Qin and Zhuangwang of Chu. In Chinese history they are known as 'the Five Overlords in the Spring and Autumn Period'.
In the latter part of the Spring and Autumn period, two states, Wu and Yue became even more powerful and contended for overall hegemony. Finally Yue was defeated, and submitted to Wu. However, Gou Jian, the king of Yue, continuously galled by his defeat decided to seek revenge. Simultaneously, he trained his army, and developed agriculture. Eventually, Yue State became strong enough and defeated Wu.
According to recorded history, during the Spring and Autumn Period, there were over 480 wars, 52 vassal states were vanquished, and 36 kings were killed.
Warring States Period 
(476 BC - 221 BC)
Compared with the Spring and Autumn Period, the Warring States Period was an even more turbulent age. Old traditions and systems were cast off, and new ones established.

After numerous wars, the more powerful states annexed the smaller ones. At last, seven powerful states coexisted with each other. They were Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin. In Chinese history, they are known as 'the Seven Overlords in the Warring States Period'.
The Period can be divided into two. The first period was from 475 BC to 338 BC. The period featured many political reforms and a stable society. To be prosperous, every state chose to carry out reforms. The most famous ones were Shang Yang's reform in Qin, Wu Qi's reform in Chu and Li Kui's in Wei. The economies developed quickly through this series of reforms.
The second period was from 338 BC to 288 BC. Strife was much fiercer as Qin claimed the hegemony in the west, and Qi in the east. In 221 BC, Qin annexed the other six states thus unifying China and ending the disorderly Warring States Period.


As the society was going through great changes during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, there were many conflicts. Many people had their own attitudes and opinions about the changes in society. They developed their own doctrines and had many followers. Different doctrines affected and competed with each other. The main schools of thought were Confucianism set by Confucius, Taoism by Lao Zi, Mohism set by Mo Zi, and Legalism set by Han Feizi. All these schools of thought have influenced the Chinese people from generation to generation.
In agriculture, iron tools were adopted. Some tools like iron hoes and axes were widely used in farming. The use of ironware brought about marked improvement in social productivity. Agriculture was further developed due to the use of cattle in plowing. With the advancement of agriculture, handicrafts and commerce developed at the same time.
Architectural skill was superlative as well. Lu Ban, one of the founding fathers of architecture, lived in the Spring and Autumn period. The palaces that were built were grand and spectacular. Tiles and bronze decoration were used in palace building.
In communication, in order to meet the need of politics, military affairs and economy, many vassal states spared no effort in extending routes to remote areas. The Silk Road at that time traversed Eurasia. Thus, traffic developed enormously. Carriages were commonly used at this time.
Splendid accomplishments also can be seen from works in jade and lacquer. How prosperous was the Eastern Zhou!

Western Zhou Dynasty

Lasting from the 11th century BC to 771 BC, the Western Zhou Dynasty was established by King Wu. The capital city was set in Haojing (now in the southern part of Xian, Shaanxi Province). This dynasty included the reigns of 13 emperors and played a very important role in Chinese history. Because of its great developments, the Western Zhou is renowned as the period which saw the height of splendor of Prehistoric Times.
Political History
Originally a dependency of the Shang, the Zhou developed quickly under the reign of Wenwang and Wuwang (King Wen and King Wu). In 1046 BC, Wuwang defeated the Shang and established the Zhou. This signaled what is called the Western Zhou in Chinese history.

Wenwang distributed lands both to his relatives, and meritorious ministers and each founded a small state. All the states fell under the rule of King Wen. After the king died, his son Kin Cheng succeeded. With the help of his uncle, he made the country became prosperous and stable. The country was further developed under the reigns of King Kang, Zhao, Mu and others. Until the tyrant, King Li came to the throne, the state was in chaos. His rule was overthrown by the people and he was exiled.
Later, in the year 841 BC, Gong Hebo was elected by other vassals to deal with state affairs. From that time on, China began to have a definite way of counting the years. The country fell into a decline when the fatuous King You was on the throne. At that time, once the signal fire was ignited, it showed that other tribes attacked the city, and all the vassals around would come to help. However the king ignited the fire to send the wrong message in order to make his concubine happy. She smiled when she saw the vassals were tricked. The king's behavior enraged the queen's father, Shen Hou, because King You decided to depose the queen and kill the prince. Shen Hou assaulted the king and the Western Dynasty perished with the failure of King You.


The agriculture in the Western Zhou developed into a higher level than that in the Shang Dynasty. Not only were tools now made of bronze, the ways of furrowing were advanced. Fields were usually divided into three parts with one of these left unplanted each year to allow it to regenerate. The primary products were of diverse kinds including millet, wheat, rice and some fruits.

Because of the existence of slaves, the handicraft industry developed quickly. The production of bronze wares was done on a large scale. In textiles and architecture, there were also great progresses. During the late period of the Western Zhou, people began to grasp the skill of metallurgy.

Culture and Arts

The Zhou emperors paid much attention to etiquette. In sacrificial ceremonies, funerals, wedding ceremonies and other important events, there were strict regulations for the people to abide by. In order to change the extravagant customs which prevailed in the late period of the Shang, no one was allowed to be drunk. So that is why some drinking goblets commonly seen during the Shang Dynasty disappeared in the Western Zhou.

The prediction method used during the Shang Dynasty was still popular in the Western Zhou Dynasty. As for the characters, they were widely used and were carved not only on animal bones but also on bronze ware.

In astronomy, specialists appeared to observe celestial phenomena and make records. All of these developments showed that there were great advancements in science.

Zhou Dynasty

The Zhou Dynasty originated from the Zhou clan whose existence stretches back into history. By the 11th Century BC, this clan had become increasingly powerful and had extended throughout the present Shaanxi and Gansu Provinces. The Clan's mightiness increasingly menaced the Shang Dynasty and the conflict between the two groups intensified.
At that time, the Shang was under the rule of King Zhou. He was atrocious to his people and doted on his imperial concubine, Daji. All he did caused great rage amongst his people. The chief of the Zhou Tribe,Wenwang thought it was the right time to attack the Shang and entrusted his son Ji Fa to fulfill his last wish. After Wenwang died, his son Ji Fa ( Wuwang) succeeded him. He made full preparations for the war and killed King Zhou. Thus the Shang Dynasty ended in 1046 BC.
Later, Wuwang established the Zhou Dynasty and made Haojing (the present Chang'an County, Shaanxi Province) its capital. This dynasty was the longest in Chinese history. It lasted for over 800 years and included the reigns of 37 emperors.
The Zhou Dynasty is divided into two periods: the Western Zhou (11th century BC to 771 BC) and the Eastern Zhou (770 BC - 221 BC). It is so divided because the capital cities in the Western Zhou of Fengyi (presently in the southwest of Chang'an County, Shaanxi Province) and Haojing lie to the west of the Eastern Zhou's capital of Luoyi (present Luoyang, Henan Province). As to the Eastern Dynasty, it is divided into the Spring and Autumn Periods (770 BC-476 BC), and the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC). Each of the periods featured turbulent wars.
The achievements during the Zhou Dynasty in economy, politics, science and culture, were much more illustrious than any which occurred during the Shang Dynasty.
In the year 221 BC, Qin defeated the other six states which existed during the Warring States Period and unified China. Thus, history moved forward to a new age called the Qin Dynasty.

Shang Dynasty

Originally a tribe living in the lower regions of the Yellow River during the Xia Dynasty (21st - 17th century BC), Shang Dynasty was established by King Tang in 1675 BC after overthrowing the tyrannical rule of Jie, (Xia's last emperor). This dynasty lasted over 600 years and was led by 30 different emperors. As the capital of the Shang was always based in Yin (the now Xiaotun Village, in Anyang City of Henan Province), it is also known as 'Yin Shang'.

Political History

Drawing from the 'lessons' of Jie, Tang implemented a series of innovative measures with the help of his two ministers. He is best known for abolishing the persecution and oppression of the people carried out by Jie, and for governing his people with benevolence and compassion. During his reign, conflicts eased, people lived happy lives, and the country prospered. In all areas, from economy to culture, there were great achievements.

The dynasty flourished through the reign of the ninth emperor. During the rule of the tenth emperor however, conditions began to deteriorate and there were multiple attempts by the emperor's own family to overthrow him and take command of the kingdom. Social problems began to emerge and the emperor's power gradually declined.

During the final period, the country was in turmoil and vassals from other countries began to rebel. Despite the turmoil and the impending uprising, Emperor Zhou (Shang's last emperor) led a luxurious life and tortured both his ministers and his people. This intensified conflicts across the kingdom and the empire was finally overthrown by Wu (chief of Zhou tribe), ending the long reign of the Shang Dynasty in Chinese history.


Shang rulers attached great importance to agriculture. Fishing began to grow as an 
industry as the people fished in the fresh waters.
In the handicraft industry, the work was subtly allotted to many different workers and crafts were made in large quantities and varieties, showcasing the different techniques used during this time. The bronze wares in particular reached a high level of artistry that signified the Shang's advanced civilizationnasty. The most famous bronze work from this time is the Simuwu Quadripod, weighing 832.84 kg (about 1836 pounds) it is the largest and heaviest Chinese bronze vessel. Porcelain wares were also invented during this time, the jade carving techniques were of the highest quality and the woven silk fabrics displayed the great skill and capabilities of the artisans.
With the grown of the agriculture and handicraft industries, the commodity exchange was promoted and the role of the commodity exchange dealer began to appear in the late Shang.

Culture and Arts

In the field of music, there was also great progress. The improvements in the bronze casting techniques allowed for delicate musical instruments to be made. In Yin Xu (Yin Yuins) in Xiao Tun Village of Anyang City, archeologists discovered musical instruments of the Shang Dynasty including: Xun (Ocarina made of baked clay), drums, and copper cymbals.

Great advancements can also be seen in the written characters of Shang Dynasty which are considered the oldest Chinese written form for communication. The characters were usually carved on tortoise shells, animal bones, bronze wares or some other utensils. Many Oracle Script pieces that have been found in the Yin Ruins offer us many important events happened during that period.

The sculpture produced during this time was also superb. Various kinds of patterns were carved on bronze, jade, and pottery wares. On other goods, like stones, animal bones, and horns, fine pictures can also be seen.

In terms of beliefs, Shang people believed that God dominates the world. They also worshipped their ancestors, the sun, the moon, the river, and the earth and sacrifice ceremonies were typically grand events. In addition, the art of fortune telling was popular during this time.
The Oracle Scripts contain records about solar and lunar eclipses, stars and other celestial happenings. The records clearly demonstrate great advancements in astronomy. During this time, the calendar system continued to advance and in the area of math, people performed elementary accounting distinctions between odd and even numbers appeared.

Xia Dynasty - the first Dynasty

The establishment of the Xia Dynasty (21st - 17th century BC) is an important milestone in the history of Chinese civilization and marks the end of the Primitive Society and the beginning of the Class Society. It is the first dynasty in Chinese history and lasted nearly 500 years including the reigns of 17 emperors.
It is thought that most of the Xia people probably inhabited the western area of Henan Province and southern Shanxi Province.

Political History

It is Yu the Great who first set up the dynasty under the Abdication System (choosing the leader according to their ability). After he died, his son Qi broke up this system and made himself the Xia emperor. From that time onwards, the Abdication System gave way to the Hereditary System.

Following the system of hereditary, 15 offspring of Qi succeeded him after his death. Among them, emperors like Shaokang, and Huai made great contributions to the development of Chinese society. However, there were also many tyrannical emperors during this period such as Taikang, Kongjia, and Jie.

Economy and Crafts

During this dynasty, many achievements were made. People lived mainly through agriculture using tools made of stone or bone. The Jade ware at that time was quite delicate and bronze vessels were well smelted. Craftwork made of bronze embedded with jade also appeared. Commodity exchanges developed. A calendar system was devised which used both lunar and solar movements.


Xia ended under the reign of Jie, a very notorious tyrannical emperor in Chinese history. After he succeeded to the throne, he lived an extravagant life day and night without any thought for his country or its people. In addition, he killed the patriotic ministers who presented him with good advice. All of his actions enraged the people so much that at last, they rose up under the leadership of Tang (the chief of the Shang tribe and later set up Shang Dynasty (17th - 11th century BC) and overthrew Xia.