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Ancient Chinese History

Ancient Chinese History

China is one of the oldest countries in the world. Its civilization can be traced back over 4,000 years and has been one of the most influential societies in the ever.

It has been at the forefront of advances in technology, science, literature, and arts.

In fact, some of the things that we still use to this day were first introduced in ancient China.

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Dynasties

Throughout China’s history, it was mostly ruled by large, powerful families called dynasties.

There were a total of 13 dynasties in all, with the first being the Shang Dynasty and the last the Qing Dynasty.

Each of these ruling factions came to power by overthrowing the one that came before them. Some of these dynasties ruled only large parts of China, while others had control over the entire country.

There was no set length to any of the dynasties, as their length in power was largely dependent on the job they were doing in control of the country.

The stronger dynasties lasted a long time, with the longest staying in power for over 800 years. Weaker dynasties with cruel rulers didn’t make it very long, with the shorter one only lasting about 15 years.

Empire

Though the country of China has been in existence for over 4,000 years, the empire of China is a bit shorter than that.

It began in the year 221 BC when the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty united all of China under one rule.

qing-dynasty-map

This began the longest lasting empire on the face of the Earth, as China as an empire has existed for over 2000 years.

It was still under control of a Dynastic Ruler until 1944, when the power of control over the country was handed over to the Communist Party.

Government

In the earliest years of the Empire, China was ruled by a feudal system. In this system, a series of noblemen owned the land and had peasant farmers to raise crops on it.

This was before any of the Dynasties came into power.

After the establishment of China under one rule, the system of government started to shift towards a more modern take on running a country.

Rather than having lords run the show, the Empire was run by civil service officials.

These officials ran the cities, collected taxes, and passed and enforced laws.

In order to become a member of this service, men were expected to pass a series of extremely difficult exams.

Women were not allowed to be a part of the government.

song-dynasty-government

Art

Traditional Chinese Art has been evolving for thousands of years. It has been affected by the changing of dynasties, religions, and cultural influences.

In the beginning, the arts could be broken down into what the ancient Chinese called The Three Perfections.

The Three Perfections were calligraphy, or the art of writing, poetry, and painting.

By combining these three disciplines, artists in ancient China created beautiful works of art on walls, paper, and pottery.

These artistic skills were also used to make statues, armor, weaponry, and even kites and fireworks. Traditional Chinese arts are still highly sought after today.

Architecture

Buildings in ancient China all followed a similar system of design and construction, no matter who they were being built for.

The walls of any structure were always made so that they were independently supported from one another, which made their structures extremely strong and durable.

This is why so many old Chinese buildings are still standing to this day.

All homes and temples all had a central courtyard that was used for growing crops, gardens, or for a shrine to worship and pray to ancestors.

chinese-buildings-survived

Of course, though all of the buildings were built similarly, they were not exactly the same. For instance, many poorer Chinese people had to have a shared courtyard rather than one of their own.

Wealthy families, on the other hand, were able to afford larger houses that could then have a private courtyard.

The Imperial Family had its own city, which is named The Forbidden City since only members of the ruling class could enter into it.

Literature

Ancient China is also famous for its great works of literature.

This isn’t surprising since they were among the first peoples in the world to have a written language and make paper.

When it was first conceived, the Chinese alphabet had over 80,000 different characters.

This has been slowly remade so that the current alphabet is only about 40,000 characters long.

One of the most important forms of literature in ancient China was poetry.

Even if you were not a poet by trade, you were expected to write poetry if you were an affluent member of society.

Aside from this, there have been many different famous philosophical works introduced by Chinese authors, such as Sun Tzu, Lao Tzu, and Confucius.

chinese-poetry

Even though these works are hundreds of years old, they are still referenced in modern society today.

Religion

In the earliest stages of the Chinese Empire, there was an idea of many different gods that controlled the world. Above all of these lesser gods was Shang Ti, who ruled all of the world.

As the country grew, so did its religious ideas, though some of the earliest notions of religion, such as respecting and honoring past ancestors, still remained a part of the religious experience in China.

Later on, three different religions came into being in China and are still practiced today. These include Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

Taoism was first introduced and states that everything that a person gains in life should be done in a peaceful manner. Confucianism expanded upon this idea.

Buddhism teaches that individuals should try to rise above the daily challenges of their lives so that they can truly achieve inner peace.

inner-peace-buddhism

Technology

Ancient China is by far one of the most important and influential societies in the history of the world. This is largely due to the numerous inventions and advancements in technology that its people came up with.

For instance, the idea of a written alphabet and the paper on which to write it comes from China. Of course, this is not all of the different inventions that the ancient Chinese came up with.

The ancient Chinese also invented gunpowder, which they kept as a secret for many hundreds of years.

They were also the first to invent the compass, which was originally used to help builders make sure that the structures they were building faced the right direction.

China was also the first people to figure out the secret to making silk.

With this knowledge, they made their country rich through trade, since no one else knew how to make silk.

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4,000 Years of Chinese Society 

China is one of the oldest continuous societies in the known world. They have lasted as a country for over 4,000 years.

During this time, they have made many startling advancements that have ended up changing the world for the better.

China has been a large influence in the realm of literature, art, religion, technology, and government.

It is also one of the best windows into the ancient world.

Even though China is very much a modern society, they still have a great grasp and respect for the past.

More on Ancient China.