A Brief Timeline of The Dynasties of China

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Generally, when people talk about the history of China what comes to mind are the numerous dynasties (a family ruled empire) that have ruled over China.

China has a rich and diverse history dating back 5,000 years with its first dynasty, the Xia dynasty, being established in 2070 BC. The written history of China dates back to 1700-1046 BC. One can say that the Chinese civilization began with numerous power centers around the Yellow and the Yangtze River valleys.

As most empires of the past, Chinese dynasties consisted of one ruler who was succeeded usually by his sons. This went on until another group took over power thus changing the ruling elite.

There were times in Chinese history where multiple dynasties co-existed; stable periods where one dynasty ruled for long periods and unstable periods of continuous turmoil where power changed hands very quickly (7 leaders in 140 years only).

All about Chinese Dynasties: A list and details of all the dynasties of China by Travel China Guide.

Chinese history: A detailed article about Chinese history including events, lists of rulers and political systems.
China History Forum: An online forum to discuss Chinese History.
Following is a list of dynasties that ruled over China that includes certain important moments and changes in their history.

Xia Dynasty:        2070â€"1600 BC

Not a lot is known about the first Chinese dynasty, the Xia dynasty. Till recently archeologists had termed it as a myth. However, it is not a myth and they were descendants from a culture known as the Longshan.

Chinese History: A Wikipedia article on Chinese history.

Shang Dynasty:   1600â€"1029 BC

There are four major highlights of the Shang Dynasty:

This civilization was the most advanced in bronze-working

The Shang dynasty had a complete writing system that provided a comprehensive record of Chinese writing

They were a blood-thirsty civilization who liked human sacrifice

The Shang system of succession passed kingship from elder to younger brother. If the king had no brother then the oldest maternal nephew would be next in line.

A Brief History of China: A concise article about the history of China and its dynasties.

The Shang Dynasty: An article on the Shang dynasty, China’s oldest recorded history.

Zhou Dynasty     

Western Zhou: 1029â€"771 BC

Eastern Zhou:

Eastern Zhou Spring and Autumn Period: 770 - 476 BC

Eastern Zhou Warring States Period: 475 - 221 BC

The people of Shang were captured by the Zhou from outside similar to how the Xia dynasty was taken over by the Shang.

During the Zhou period, all of China was not under their rule. There were instead quite a few independent principalities with the Zhou being the most powerful.

Chinese Dynasties: An article by about.com on Chinese history and its dynasties.

Qin Dynasty:        221â€"206 BC

The Qin Dynasty can be termed as China’s first unified, multi-national state where power over all of China was centralized.

A History of China: A list of all the ruling dynasties of China with complete information about them.

Han Dynasty

Western Han:   206 or 202 BCâ€"9 AD, 23-25 AD

Xin Dynasty:    9â€"23 AD

Eastern Han:    25 - 220 AD

The Western Han dynasty was a unique dynasty as it was formed on the basis of a civil war which began with peasant uprisings which eventually deposed the Qin Dynasty.  

The Xin era existed for a very short period and had only one emperor, Wang Mang. Wang was an incompetent leader and was overthrown by peasants eventually restoring the Han dynasty.

Dynasties and China: A comprehensive article on the dynasties of China.

Three Kingdoms

Kingdom of Wei: 220 - 265 AD

Kingdom of Shu: 221 - 263 AD

Kingdom of Wu: 222 - 280 AD

The Three Kingdoms Period began when the Kingdom of Wei took over from the Eastern Han Dynasty. This period is known for power struggles, warfare and complex military techniques.

Chinese History at a Glance: A chronology of the dynasties that existed in China.

Jin Dynasty

Western Jin:     265â€"317

Eastern Jin:      317â€"420

China remained split during the period of The Three Kingdoms but immediately afterwards the Jin dynasty managed to unify the whole nation again.

Journey Through Chinese history: a detailed article on the history of China.

Southern and Northern Dynasties

Southern Dynasties: 420 - 589 AD [Song, Qi, Liang, Chen]

Northern Dynasties: 386 - 581 AD [Northern Wei, Eastern Wei, Western Wei, Northern Qi]

Following the Jin dynasty, China was split again and this time into even more dynasties. This period of distribution of power is called the period of Southern and Northern dynasties.

Historical China: An article on the amazing history of China

Sui Dynasty:         581 - 618 AD

Although it lasted only 38 years, the Sui Dynasty, just like the Jin Dynasty, managed to reunify China into one power center.

China’s 5000 Year Past: an article by the University of Maryland on the history of China.

Tang Dynasty:     618 â€" 907 AD

It was during the Tang period that China became one of the most prosperous, powerful and developed nations of the world. They achieved unparalleled military, political, economic and cultural supremacy.

Innovations and Inventions from Chinese history: A list of contributions that China and its dynasties have made to world history.

Five Dynasties & Ten States

Later Liang:      907 - 923 AD

Later Tang:      923 - 936 AD

Later Jin:          936 - 946 AD

Later Han:        947 - 950 AD

Later Zhou:      951 - 960 AD

Ten States:      902 - 979 AD

This was a period of major turmoil in China. After the fading away of the Tang dynasty there were five dynasties back to back in quick succession in the north and more than 12 states in the south. As only 10 states are generally mentioned, this period is called the period of five dynasties and 10 states.

Battles for China: A Wikipedia article listing the battles that took place for control over China.

Song Dynasty

Northern Song: 960 - 1127 AD

Southern Song: 1127 - 1279 AD

The Song period is considered to be another very prosperous period in Chinese history following in the footsteps of the Tang Dynasty.

Chinese History in Brief:  A concise history of China from the ancient times till the present times.

Liao Dynasty:       907 or 916â€"1125

An atypical dynasty in Chinese history, Liao was formed by people of an ethnic minority called the Khitan who originated from the northeast of China.        

Exploring Chinese history: An article on Chinese history including details on Chinese culture and politics.

Western Xia Dynasty: 1038 - 1227 AD

Also known as the Tangut Empire, the Western Xia dynasty made noteworthy accomplishments in literature, music, architecture and art.

Chinese Historical Society of America: The official site of the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA)

Jin Dynasty:          1115 - 1234 AD

This is the second of the two Jin dynasties in Chinese history. However, they have nothing in common other than both were in China. Similar to the Liao dynasty this Jin Dynasty was established by another ethnic minority known as the Nuzhen. These people came from around the Heilongjiang and Songhua River regions and the Changpai Mountain area.

China and its history: A brief article on Chinese history by China Travel.

Yuan Dynasty:     1271 - 1368 AD

The Yuan dynasty was formed by the Mongols, another ethnic group, which originated from the northern areas of China.

This initiation of the Yuan dynasty was accomplished by Tiemuzhen, the leader who unified the Mongol tribes and established the empire. Because of his achievements he was given the title of Genghis Khan, which means ruler of the world. It was however the grandson of Genghis, Kublai Khan, who formally established the Yuan Dynasty when he changed the state title to Yuan.

Kublai Khan eventually unified the whole of China. The Yuan dynasty at one point under Kublai Khan stretched from Mongolia and Siberia in the north to the South Sea, from the Yunnan Province and Tibet in the southwest to the eastern part of Xinjiang Province in the northwest and the Stanovoi Range in the northeast. The Yuan dynasty at this point covered over 4.6 million square miles.        

Chinese history for beginners: An article discussing Chinese dynasties in a simple and easy manner.

Ming Dynasty:     1368 - 1644 or 1662 AD

During the decline of the Yuan dynasty a peasant uprising began which eventually led to Zhu Yuanzhang, a young peasant coming to power and proclaiming himself emperor and establishing the Ming Dynasty.

Imperial Palaces of China: An article by UNESCO about the Imperial Palaces from the Ming and Qing Dynasties of China.

Qing Dynasty:      1636 or 1644 - 1911 AD

The Man ethnic minority, decedents of the Nuzhen from northeast China, established a regime called Latter Jin during the Ming Dynasty.

In 1636, Huang Taiji, son of Nurhachu, the founder of Latter Jin, changed the regime title into 'Qing' and thus founding the Qing Dynasty.

The pattern of rule in China was simple. A strong leader takes over power from a weak ruler and establishes his own dynasty. This dynasty flourishes over many generations and then starts to degrade to a point where it is taken over by another leader.

Imperial tombs: An article on the Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

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