A Walk Through Chinese Dynasties


History 105


Research Paper


Over the years China has grown to have an exquisite culture, and to be a leader in the industrial empire. China has made some of the largest discoveries and has built some of the worlds greatest structures. Much of this happened in ancient times under the rule of Chinese emperors. The rule of the different empires spaned over many decades. Each new emperor trying to do something which they would be remembered for. The result is an impressive culture with language and structures that could be envied.


The first dynasty was the Shang or Yin Dynasty. The rule of the Shang dynasty lasted from 1765 B.C. to 1122 B.C. The Shang people were mainly based upon agriculture.1 The Shang belonged to the bronze age. They created great bronze pieces of art, armour, and weapons. The one thing that they did not use bronze to make was tools. "Their great bronze vessels covered with elaborate interlaced patterns of fragmented animals are the most formidable testimony to the nature of their culture."2 The singular aspect of Shang civilization is their invention of the writing system. The writing system is the basis for the one that is used in present day China.3


Next we run into the Chou dynasty which went from 1122 B.C. to 221 B.C. The Chou dynasty was the third longest in Chinese history. In the thousand years that the Chou were in control they developed distinctive political and cultural tendencies that would define China in decades to come. During the Chou dynasty we see the rise and fall of the feudal age. There was how ever a major difference between the feudal age in China and that in Europe. In China they lacked the all mighty church that had been influenced much of Europe.4 Many revolutionary changes started during the Chou reign. It is during this time that China gets the use of iron, new animals like the horse, and new weapons. However the greatest improvement in this time was the construction of new irrigation works. This would lead to increased crop yield with less man power. 5 A trade off that would supply the extra man power that they would need for wars.


It was during this time that we get the great schools of Confucius, Lao‑tse, and Mo Tzu. These great philosophers would all try to influence the government of China. They all had there ideas of how China would be run and all wanted China run in there own image. Confucius was the first one to arrive on the scene. Confucius was a man of the past. He placed great importance upon ceremony and ritual. He thought if you could govern yourself, then family and land would follow. Lao‑tse was the founder of the Taoist philosophy. He placed nature above everything, including trade and law. The last of the great philosophers Mo Tzu founded the Moist philosophy. He thought people would live best if all they had were the absolute basics. He thought man should not live in the past, but forge his own destiny.6


Next we run in to the Han dynasty which goes from 206 B.C. to 222 A.D. It has been said that the Han dynasty was one of the greatest, if not the greatest of the Chinese dynasties. One of the unique things about the Han dynasty was that it was founded be a commoner, Liu Pang. After Lie Pang took over he divided the country into a series of areas appointed by the central government.7


Another thing that Liu Pang did was adopt the ideas of Confucianism. Confucianism would become the official belief of the Chinese people. In order to advance through the rankings you had to believe and study the confessionist ideas. The rulers would start to rule through a system known as the "Mandate of Heaven." They thought they ruled through heaven and would be replaced if it was thought they lost this mandate.8


The most impressive thing that the Han dynasty was remembered for was its dramatic increase of trade with the outside world. It should be noted that the great Roman empire was at its strength during the time of the Han dynasty. It was here that Liu Peng first turned for trade.