River Dynasties in China

Dynasties Ruled China until 1911. Chinese dynasties were just like in other nations elsewhere, a series of rulers who passed their kingship to their heirs or someone else usually by force took over the empire, removing the king from its power. Chinese historians kept record of the kings and dynasties helped by administrators for the ruling family. This historians looked dynasties as a series of repetitions, first a lot of virtue and wealth continued by a fall and other predicted situations. Since the 11th century B.C. Chou dynasty the idea of a "mandate of heaven" made dynastic military conquest to take to an end the corrupt government and replace it with a better one. The most relevant Chinese dynasties were The Xiu, Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, T'ang, Song(Sung) Dynasties.

The Xia Dynasty

The xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the great. They ruled from 2205 BC to 1766 Bc ruling over more than 450 years. According to ancient chinese texts they had frequent battles with their surrounding tribes. Emperor Gun is said to be the father of Yu the great and Gun was the first member of the Xia clan. The Xia dynasty was one of the first dynasties in the history of China.
Since the dynasty ruled a kingdom near a river they often battled with flooding which caused serious problem for them. Yu's efforts to stop the flooding were succesful and achieved it by constructing a big dam over the river. The Xia dynasty established along the Zhuang ze river. Although the dynasty is sometimes discussed to have existed many evidence such as artifacts have beeen found on recent times.

The Shang Dynasty

The Shang dynasty is believed to have run from the 1600-1100 B.C. The founder of the Shang Dynasty is called Tang the Great, but he didn’t rule forever. The Shang dynasty ruled parts of northern and central China. This dynasty was based on agriculture. Its primary crops were: millet, wheat, and barley. They also raised pigs, dogs, oxen and other animals, such as silkworms. The Shang dynasty was also advanced in metallurgy or the uses of metal, such as: bronze ships, weapons, and tools. After Tang the Great’s death, King Zhou was its final ruler, who rules like a tyrant.


Zhou Dynasty

The predecessor to the Shang Dynasty was The Zhou Dynasty created by the Ji family which was divided into two dynasties:

The Western Zhou Dynasty and the Eastern Zhou Dynasty.
The Western Zhou Dynasty went from 1046 B.C – 771 B.C which is a period of 275 years.
The Eastern Zhou Dynasty went from 770 B.C – 256 B.C, 722 B.C – 476 B.C and 475 B.C – 221 B.C. Which equal a period of over 1000 years.

The Zhou dynasty introduced the multiple uses of iron, zenith and bronze to China and had a population of 38,000 people and was led by a form of government now known as monarchy – Type of government in which Kings and Queens rule. – the first ruler was King Wu of Zhou and Their last ruler or King was King Hui of Eastern Zhou.
The Zhou Dynasty also was part in wars such as the battle of Muye in which they developed the use of chariots as form of transportation imported from Central Asia.
One of the most widely known innovations from the Zhou Dynasty was their art and artifacts.


The Qin Dynasty

The Qin Dynasty was the second time when the whole of China was ruled by foreigners, the Manchu. The first time was during the Yuan Dynasty when China was controlled by the Mongols. The Qin Dynasty lasted from 1644-1911 A.D. The reigns of the first three emperors of this dynasty were a time of peace and prosperity for China. These three rulers provided strong leadership for 133 years; they were the Kangxi Emperor who reigned from 1662-1722 A.D., the Yongzheng Emperor who reigned from 1722-1736 A.D. and the Qianglong Emperor who reigned from 1736-1796 A.D. In terms of government, the Qin Dynasty adopted the form of government used by the Ming, with only minor adjustments. The form of military organization that the Qing used was one of the best in the world. They organized their troops under banners, each of which was a separate unit. The number of banners grew from 8 in the beginning to 24. These fighting men were personally attached to the emperor, in fact he owned them, and they were incredibly loyal to the emperor.

The period of peace that followed the ascension of the Qin Dynasty allowed for growth in all areas. Public works were repaired and maintained. Taxes were very light as compared to previous dynasties, and in famine struck areas, taxes were reduced even further. Commerce and international trade grew. This peace allowed for a revival of arts and learning. The areas of the novel, short story, poetry and drama contain the most famous literary works.

During the reign of Qianglong, the borders of China were expanded to their greatest extent ever. His reign was the time of the greatest prosperity during the Qing Dynasty. However, there are also signs of internal problems, such as several uprisings or revolts. This was also the time when the Opium Wars occured, which was a war between China and Great Britain because of the trade with the addictive substance opium. In 1842 A.D. China lost the war and was forced to give control of Hong Kong to Britain.

Internal rebellions further weakened China. The T'ai P'ing rebellion is one of the most famous rebellions that occurred, in which its leader also instituted religious changes among his followers. While these struggles were occurring, the emperors became younger and younger, so that they had no control and power was in the hands of empresses and other advisors. The empress who held the most power was Tzu Hsi. She was uneducated and opposed to any type of reform or modernization that might have helped China economically and politically. Before her death she placed a two year old on the throne. This further weakened the government and strengthened the revolutionaries. His reign lasted from 1909-1911 A.D., at which point the revolutionaries won and the Republic of China arose. (Quote: http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/china/later_imperial_china/qing.html )

The Han Dynasty

The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, before the Qin Dynasty. It was founded by the peasant rebel leader Liu Bang, also known as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang. This caused the Han to separate into 2 periods: The Western Han and Eastern Han. The period of the Han Dynasty is considered a golden age in Chinese history. Until today, most Chinese call themselves as Han people. Commanderies are central government of different area in which the Han Empire was divided. By time, these kingdoms lost all chances of their independence.

The Sui Dynasty
The Sui dynasty ruled from
581 to 618 A.D. It came after the Southern and Northern Dynasties, and was succeeded by the Tang dynasty. The Sui dynasty was founded by Emperor Wen. China went through various changes during Emperor Wen’s ruling: the Equal-field system was aimed to reduce the rich-poor social gap, resulted in improved agricultural productivity, defence was improved, and The Great Wall was expanded. The fall of the Sui dynasty started with increased resentment for the emperor due to the amount of wars, extra taxes enforced, and forced labour. This coupled with revolts, betrayal, and assassinations, led to the collapse of the Sui Dynasty.

The Song(Sung) Dynasty

After the fall of the T’ang dynasty China experienced a time of separation from 907-960 AD. At the end of this period a new dynasty called the Song dynasty reunited china. Its capital was Kaifeng on the Yellow River. The Song dynasty was the first government to issue paper money in the world. The economy of the Song was one of the most advanced and wealthy economies of the medieval times. Foreign economies were strongly influenced by the Song’s economic power. The Shang dynasty is divided in two periods: the Northern Song and the Southern Song. During the North Song period the dynasty ruled mostly inner China. Emperor Tsaizu of Song established a strong central government in Kaifeng. This period lasted from 960–1127. The Southern Song is the period after the song lost control of northern china to the Jin Dynasty. The majority of the most agricultural land and 60% of China’s population were contained by the Song Dynasty. After 20 years of continuous wars the Song Dynasty was conquered by the Kublai Khan's armies in 1279.


Tang Dynasty


At the end of Sui Dynasty (581 - 618), the whole country fell into chaos due to the tyranny of Emperor Yang; rebellions roused by peasants were everywhere. Resenting Emperor Yang's ruling, the chief officer of Taiyuan - Li Yuan, who was also known as Tangguo Gong (a vassal in Sui Court) raised an army in Taiyuan from May 617. In November of the same year, Li Yuan's army captured the capital city Chang'an (currently Xian) and put a new monarch, Yang You, on the throne as Emperor Gong. Meanwhile, Li Yuan proclaimed himself Da Chengxiang (prime minister) and Tang Wang (King of Tang). In 618 after Emperor Yang was killed by his chancellor, Yuwen Huaji, Li Yuan seized the chance to proclaim himself emperor and changed the state title into Tang, still with Chang'an as the capital city.

Glorious Period

The first glorious period was from 627 to 649 when the Tang Dynasty was just set up and its national strength was recovering from the previous weak condition. Under Emperor Taizong Li Shimin's wise governing, the national strength and social development of the Tang Dynasty reached an unparalleled prosperity - economy and commerce flourished, the social order was stable, corruption never existed in the court and the national boundaries were even open to foreign countries.

After Li Shimin died, the throne passed to his ninth son Li Zhi who was later crowned as Emperor Gaozong and married Li Shimin's imperial concubine Wu Meiniang. Wu Meiniang was officially named Wu Zetian and afterwards became the empress. Actually it was Wu Zetian who had the real power during Emperor Gaozong's reign since the emperor suffered from bad health. After Li Zhi died, Wu successively enthroned and dethroned her two sons - Li Xian and Li Dan. In 690, disregarding the objections and criticisms of all chancellors, Wu Zetian proclaimed herself Emperor Shengshen and established a new dynasty - Zhou, which lasted for 15 years. During her reign, the state economy continued to develop rapidly.

In 705, a coup broke out which brought one of the former emperors, Li Xian, to the throne as Emperor Zhongzong. However, Emperor Zhongzong's ruling was manipulated by his wife, Empress Wei. In 710, plotting to be the second woman emperor, Empress Wei along with Princess Anle poisoned Zhongzong. At that time, Li Longji (son of Li Dan) launched a coup with the assistance of his parental aunt Princess Taiping, killing Empress Wei and Princess Anle. After that, Li Dan was crowned as Emperor Ruizong.

The second glorious period was during Emperor Xuanzong's reign. In 712, Emperor Ruizong abdicated and Li Longji was enthroned as Emperor Xuanzong. Under his ruling, the national economy, politics and culture all developed rapidly and the social development entered a new heyday. In that period, Chang'an City was the largest and the most prosperous metropolis in the world. Since the title of Xuanzong's reign was Kaiyuan, that period was called the Heyday of Kaiyuan, in which the Tang Dynasty reached its summit of prosperity.

Decline and Ruin

In his old age, Emperor Xuanzong was complacent and indifferent to state affairs. Hopelessly, he indulged himself in the beauty of his concubine Yang Yuhuan. Besides, he also appointed some wicked chancellors who corrupted the political order. Meanwhile, troops on the frontiers gradually gathered together and formed a powerful military force. In 755, An Lushan aligned with Shi Siming and launched a rebellion, called the An Shi Rebellion which lasted for eight years and heavily knocked the Tang regime. From then on, the national strength was weakened daily by separatist forces in local areas. Because of the incompetence of the emperors the dominance of the eunuchs and power struggles between chancellors became increasingly intense. Hence the Tang Dynasty declined from generation to generation. In 859, a large-scale peasant uprising launched by Huang Chao again severely attacked the Tang regime. In 907, the last Tang emperor, Emperor Ai was forced to abdicate by Chancellor Zhu Quanzhong, who afterwards changed the state title into Liang, finally putting the ever powerful and mighty Tang Dynasty to an end. ''Travel Guide''

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