History of China
Experience the History of China with WisdomMaps: The Future of the Past!
Our digital history of China is that of one of the world’s oldest civilizations and one of its cradles of civilization. Neolithic civilizations arose at various centers along both the Yellow River and Yangtze River as early as 8,000 years ago. Written records such as the Book of Documents mention and describe a Xia dynasty (2070–1600 BCE) that ruled in the Yellow River valley, the cradle of Chinese civilization. These Neolithic civilizations arose millennia before the Shang, China’s first historical dynasty.
The Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) succeeded the Shang, and used the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to support their rule. But the Zhou government weakened from internal pressures and barbarian predations in the 8th century BC, and the country eventually disintegrated into smaller states during the Spring and Autumn period. As a result, these states fought with one another throughout the following Warring States period, and much of traditional Chinese culture first developed during those troubled times.
In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang conquered the various warring states and established himself as Huangdi or “emperor” of the Qin. From this came the beginnings of China’s empire. However, his oppressive rule was replaced by the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). The Han and the dynasties that followed governed in ways that enabled the emperor to rule China’s enormous territories directly. In consequence, for the more than 2,000 years leading up to the advent of the Chinese republic in 1912, government was handled by a special elite of scholar-officials, well-versed in calligraphy, history, literature, and philosophy. They were carefully selected through rigorous examinations that were available to all to take.
Between periods of political unity and peace, there were times of war and failed statehood. As one example among many, the Chinese Civil War the 20th century raged for more than 20 years before China regained its footing in 1949. This was complicated by the threat from the “barbarians from beyond the Wall”, though these steppe peoples were assimilated into the mainstream Chinese culture and population. Between eras of fractured kingdoms and warlords, Chinese dynasties absorbed and ruled parts or all of China as far away as Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Traditional culture, in part influenced by such cultural assimilation and foreign contact, underpins the modern culture of China.
China’s last dynasty, the Qing (1644–1912), was replaced by the Republic of China (ROC) in 1912, and then by the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) under Mao Zedong in 1949. With this, the government of the Republic of China fled to Taiwan in 1949, and since then, both the PRC and the ROC claim to be the sole legitimate government of China. This has resulted in an ongoing dispute even after the United Nations recognized the PRC as China’s sole government in 1971. Hong Kong and Macau became sovereign Chinese territories in 1997 and 1999, respectively.
That said, here’s our assortment… please enjoy! When you’re done perusing a map, click the ⇠ back arrow link in the upper left of your screen (not the < link), and you’ll be back here. Any problems, please get in touch at [email protected]
China Index | Ancient China: Society • Origins • Environment • Religion | Xia Dynasty: Society • Origins • Founding Myths | Shang Dynasty: Society • Culture • Magic • Science and Technology • Religion • Power | Zhou Dynasty: Society • Culture • Philosophy • Yang Zhu • Confucius: Background • Concerns • Politics • Confucianism: Confucian Classics • Morality • The Way of the Higher Man • Legacy • Legalism • Daoism • Mencius: Background • Beliefs • Politics • Mo-Tzu • Xunzi • Zhuangzi | Power • Rise • Feudal States • Warring States Era • Decline • Economy | Qin Dynasty • Power • Lord Shang • King Zheng • Qin Shi Huangdi Decline | Han Dynasty: Society • Culture • Philosophy • Scholarship • Science and Technology • Buddhism • Power • Former Han Dynasty • Gaozu • Han Wudi • Wang Mang • Later Han Dynasty • Decline | Economy | Jin and Northern Wei Dynasties | Sui Dynasty | T’ang Dynasty: Society • Culture • Literature • Scholarship • Sculpture • Science and Technology | Buddhism • Power • Xuanzong • Decline • Economy | Song Dynasty: Society • Culture • Science and Technology • Power • Economy • Trade | Mongol Empire: Society • Power • Governance • Genghis Khan • Kublai Khan • Fragmentation of the Empire • Turkic Empire • Economy | Yuan Dynasty: Society • Culture • Power • Economy | Ming Dynasty: Society • Culture • Art • Literature • Scholarship • Religion • Power • Hongwu • Yongle • Expansion • Naval Expeditions • Decline • Economy | Qing Dynasty: Society • Culture • Power • Manchus • Qianlong • Kangxi • Decline • The West • Opium Wars • Revolt • Cixi • Loss of Territory • Sino-Japanese War • Economy: Trade | Modern China: Society • Culture • Power • Revolution of 1911 • Cultural Movements • Political Movements • May Fourth Movement • Republic of China: Governance • Civil War • Japan • Manchukuo • War with Japan • Defeat of Japan • Chinese Communist Party: Consolidation • Rise • Industrialization • Mao Zedong • Great Leap Forward • Cultural Revolution • Zhou Enlai • Deng Xiaoping • Economy • Hong Kong • Taiwan