Chinese Empires      
Alphabetic List
Empires Index
Historical Names
Countries Home Page
LDS Temples
USA State List
Book of Mormon Map
Duane's Art
Duane's Gardens
English Lessons
Food Recipes
G.I. Joe Room
HTML Guide
Idiom/Slang Dictionary
Language Identification
LDS Material
Nero Wolfe Mysteries
Site Map
Web Page Tips
Writings and Games

Back to Previous Page
(Text by Duane R. Hurst © 2013)

Click on a link to view its information and pictures.
Significant Event:
    Forbidden City in Beijing
    Great Wall of China
    History of North Thailand

Main Cities: Beijing; Chengdu, Xi'an
Time: 3000 BC - 1644 AD
Language: Chinese; Mongolian; Tibetan
Personage: Confucius; Qin Shi Huang; Yu the Great
Religion: Buddhism; Taoism
Related Country: China; Mongolia

Brief History:
      I have included only a few items concerning the history of this empire. A good source for more details can be found on Wikipedia or in history books.

Map of Chinese Empires
Click Map to Enlarge
      Multiple dynasties and empires developed during the long history of China. Likewise, the concept of an emperor suited ruling elite and bureaucrats as a method to keep the masses under control.

XIA DYNASTY (2070-1600 BC): (Xia Dynasty Map)
     The first dynasty mentioned in ancient Chinese histories, such as the "Bamboo Annals," was centered at Yangcheng. Tradition credited the first emperor as Yu the Great, who received the Mandate of Heaven. He directed efforts to control flood waters of the Huang He (Yellow River) and other rivers in his realm. The Shang Dynasty overthrew Xia. Chinese archaeologists currently credit Erlitou Culture as the original Chinese and Xia homeland. They reportedly constructed the world's largest pyramid about 40 miles southwest of Xi'an (known as the White Pyramid). A large, stone-walled city at Shimao was built during the Longshan period in Shaanxi province.

SHANG DYNASTY (1600-1046 BC): (Shang Dynasty Map)
     King Tang conquered Xia in 1600 BC and founded his capital at Yin (modern Anyang). People offered human sacrifices and used oracle bones, much like the Xia Dynasty. People were noted for excellent ceramic artifacts, bronzeware and jade. The king routinely kept 1,000 soldiers (equipped with bronze weapons) at the capital and conscripted others to wage war.

ZHOU DYNASTY (1046-256 BC): (Zhou Dynasty Map)
     Although this dynasty was the longest in Chinese history, the Ji clan actually maintained control until 771 BC, during the period called Western Zhou. The capital was located at Haojing and Luoyi (modern Luoyang). It also was noted for starting China's "Iron Age." The military expanded subject territory until the "six armies" of Western Zhou were destroyed in the Han River campaign during the reign of King Zhao.

SPRING & AUTUMN PERIOD (771-476 BC): (Spring & Autumn Period Map)
     Some scholars claim this period lasted until 403 BC. The name originated from the "Spring and Autumn Annals," a chronicle attributed to Confucius. It contained a history about the State of Lu (capital at Qufu) between 722 and 479 BC. Although the Zhou Dynasty maintained nominal control over China, the period actually reflected a checkerboard of smaller quasi-independent states ruled by feudal princes. Warfare was common and resulted in several large states conquering a multitude of smaller ones.

WARRING STATES PERIOD (476-221 BC): (Warring States Period Map)
     This was a continuation of warfare from the Spring and Autumn Period. The name derived from the "Record of the Warring States" that was compiled during the Han Dynasty. The Zhou Dynasty ruler continued to be merely a figurehead. The period of instability ended when the Qin consolidated power over China. Military forces adopted the use of iron weapons and cavalry. Governments also expanded irrigation and water control projects, such as at Dujiangyan.

QIN DYNASTY (221-206 BC): (Qin Dynasty Map)
     Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of the Qin Empire. During his 12-year reign, his forces conquered much of the Han Chinese homeland and ruled from Xianyang (modern Xi'an). A legalist system emphasized absolute rule of the emperor and strict obedience to laws. The empire began construction of the Great Wall of China, which the Ming Dynasty expanded. It was designed to prohibit barbarian incursions. The emperor was buried at an underground tomb that included 7,500 terra-cotta warriors. A farmer in modern China, Yang Quangyi, discovered it while working in his field.

HAN DYNASTY (202 BC - 220 AD): (Han Dynasty Map)
     A rebel leader named Liu Bang founded the Han Dynasty and was posthumously known as Emperor Gaozu of Han. His capital was located at Chang'an. The period also was known as Western Han (206 BC - 9 AD) and Eastern Han (25-220 AD) due to the Xin Dynasty (9-23 AD) under former regent, Wang Mang. In 200 BC Xiongnu forces under Modu Chanyu defeated the Han, and continued to raid until armies of Emperor Wu compelled the Xiongnu into vassal status. His forces likewise conquered the Dian kingdom in modern Yunnan, Korea, and the Nanyue kingdom. Wu was buried near Xi'an in the Maoling Pyramid.

     The Han expanded operations along the Silk Road, making travel safer for merchants. The Han Dynasty was known as an era of economic prosperity and expanded the growth of money. Its coinage remained a standard until the Tang Dynasty. The Han also became known for the rise of eunuchs in state affairs. It also boasted of highly skilled scholars and inventors such as Zhang Heng. Collapse of imperial authority precipitated an end to the dynasty.

THREE KINGDOMS (220-265 AD): (Three Kingdoms Map)
     The three kingdoms of this extremely turbulent period were 1) Shu Han 2) Cao Wei ; 3) Eastern Wu. It also produced highly intelligent men such as Ma Jun, who invented the South Pointing Chariot. Author Luo Guanzhong wrote "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," a famous historical novel about the period. One episode depicted factual Three Brothers of the Yellow Turban Movement, a Taoist rebellion led by Zhang Jiao. A significant event was the Battle of Red Cliffs (view of actual site) by Warlord Cao Cao.

     Warlord Liu Bei founded the kingdom of Shu Han in 221 AD. Its capital was at Chengdu in modern Sichuan province. Shu rulers often attempted unsuccessfully to conquer the kingdom of Cao Wei. Conversely, generals Deng Ai and Zhong Hui from Wei defeated Shu Han and captured Chengdu in 263 AD.

     In 220 AD Cao Pi, the son of Warlord Cao Cao, founded the kingdom of Cao Wei, with a capital at Luoyang. In 249 AD the Sima family took power after the death of Emperor Cao Rui. The Goguryeo kingdom in Korea seized land in the Korean peninsula from Cao Wei. Sima Yan of Cao Wei eventually seized control and established the Jin Dynasty.

     Sun Quan declared independence from Cao Wei after the Battle of Red Cliffs and founded Eastern Wu (aka Sun Wu). A bloody period for control of the kingdom ensued upon the death of Sun Quan. Sima Yan conquered Eastern Wu during his establishment of the Jin Dynasty. A major accomplishment of the Wu period was development of the previously barbaric Yangtze River Delta.

JIN DYNASTY (265-420 AD): (Jin Dynasty Map)
     This was divided into the Western Jin started by Sima Yan in 265 AD (capital at Luoyang) and the Eastern Jin started by Sima Rui in 217 AD (capital at Jiankang). The Jin unified and freed China from the chaotic Three Kingdoms era. However, barbarian incursions posed major problems, which eventually resulted in the loss of territory in north China during the Wu Hu uprising (304-316 AD). The most skilled general was Liu Yu, who usurped the throne in 420 AD. Jin Dynasty was famous for the quality of its celadon porcelain.

WU HU PERIOD (304-439 AD): (376 AD Map)
     This unstable period featured 16 kingdoms, most of which were part of the Wu Hu northern nomadic tribes. The term reflected non-Chinese speakers, especially the Xiongnu from modern Mongolia. They served as mercenaries to the Jin dynasty rulers but staged a rebellion against the corrupt emperor Hui in 290 AD. Qi Qnnian, a Di chieftain in modern Sichuan province, led the first revolt.

     Another period of civil war and destruction, this era also reflected advances in art, culture and technology. Buddhism and Taoism expanded throughout China. General Liu Yu founded the Northern Dynasty in 420 AD. The Southern Dynasties (Qi and subsequent Liang) vied with the Northern Dynasty.

SUI DYNASTY (589-618 AD): (Sui Dynasty Map)
     China again reunited under Emperor Wen of Sui, with its capital at Chang'an. A major construction project was the Grand Canal that connected Beijing with Hangzhou. The short-lived dynasty collapsed due to widespread opposition to its tyrannical rule and a costly war against the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo.

TANG DYNASTY (618-907 AD): (Tang Dynasty Map)
     The Li family seized imperial control from the Sui in 618 AD, with its capital also at Chang'an (modern Xi'an). Between 690 and 705 AD Empress Wu Zetian briefly ruled as the only Chinese female sovereign in her self-proclaimed Zhou Dynasty. The Tang period represented a golden age of Chinese culture and Chang'an was the world's most populous city. Famous poets were Li Bai and Du Fu. Imperial examinations for placement in government favored the aristocracy. The dynasty could field 500,000 soldiers due to a population of 50 to 80 million. Foreign trade and maritime imports also flourished. A major religious monument was the Buddha statue at Leshan. The dynasty suffered natural calamities and the Huang Chao rebellion (874-884 AD), which sacked Chang'an and Luoyang.

FIVE DYNASTIES & TEN KINGDOMS (907-960 AD): (Five Dynasties Map)
     During this period of upheaval after the Tang dynasty, China fragmented into five "Later" dynasties in the north (Han 947-979 AD; Jin 936-947 AD; Liang 907-923 AD; Tang 923-936 AD; Zhou 951-960 AD). Ten kingdoms were in the south (Chu 907-951 AD; Former Shu 907-925 AD; Jingnan 924-963 AD; Later Shu 934-965 AD; Min 909-945 AD; Northern Han 951-979 AD; Southern Han 917-971; Southern Tang 937-975; Wu 907-937 AD; Wuyue 907-978 AD). Li Cheng was a famous artist from Qingzhou of the Liang Dynasty.

SONG DYNASTY (960-1279 AD): (Northern Song Map; Southern Song Map)
     The Song stabilized China and was the first world government to issue paper money and use gunpowder. Northern Song capital was at Bianjing (modern Kaifeng); Southern Song capital was at Lin'an (modern Hangzhou). Expanded rice cultivation and reduced government interference in economic activities spurred a doubling of China's population. Mongol hordes eventually conquered China and replaced the Song.

YUAN DYNASTY (1271-1368 AD): (Yuan Dynasty Map)
     Khublai Khan of the Mongol Empire invaded China and replaced the Song Dynasty in 1271 AD. His capital was located at Xanadu and later moved to Dadu (modern Beijing). One famous visitor who met Khublai Khan was Marco Polo from Venice. Among the Khan's successful campaigns was the conquest of Nan Chao in 1253 AD. However, his forces twice failed to invade Japan and the Dai Viet in Vietnam. An estimated 25 million people (30%) died from Bubonic Plague, which contributed to the end of Yuan rule.

MING DYNASTY (1368-1644 AD): (Ming Dynasty Map)
     The Ming was considered a great era of orderly government and social stability. Court and wealthy women wore elaborate dresses. The empire had over one million troops and the world's largest naval dockyards. Admiral Zheng He commanded fleets of huge ships on seven voyages that circumnavigated the earth and visited every continent, including Australia and Antarctica. His Nanjing-built treasure ships included ones that were 460 feet (140 meters) long. Such expeditions ended with the advent of a new emperor, whose advisors disdained further expenditures on the fleets. They preferred to build the Forbidden City (1406-1420 AD) and expand the Great Wall.

     Ships from European powers gained a foothold in China, such as Portugal at Macau. The Ming eventually collapsed due to rebellion, natural disasters and an economic breakdown, particularly from a scarcity of silver. In 1644 AD Beijing and the Ming Dynasty fell to rebel forces under Li Zicheng.

QING DYNASTY (1644-1912 AD): (Qing Dynasty Map)
     The Jurchen Aisin Gioro clan from northeast China founded this final imperial Manchu dynasty. Subsequent rulers ceded Hong Kong and five ports to Great Britain after the First Opium War in 1842 AD. The imperial court crushed a serious Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864 AD), led by Hong Xiuquan, a failed scholar who falsely claimed to be a younger brother of Jesus Christ. The government lost a Second Opium War (1856-1858 AD), a Sino-French War in 1884 AD, and the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895 AD).

     Empress Dowager Cixi, a concubine of Emperor Xianfeng, took power in the name of her infant son. She supported the Boxer Rebellion against Chinese Christians and foreign powers in 1900 AD. The Boxers objected to forced importation of opium, particularly by the British, and the influence of Christian missionaries in China. Troops from eight nations withstood a 55-day siege of the Peking Legation.

     Empress Dowager Longyu abdicated during the Wuchang Uprising in 1911 AD. Puyi was the final Chinese emperor (1908-1912 AD). Following expulsion of forces from the Japanese empire in World War II, Mao Zedong rose to power in the new China.

© Page Publisher: Duane R. Hurst