What is now China was inhabited by Homo erectus more than a million years ago. Stone tools found in Xiaochangliang have been dated to 1.36 million years ago. The archaeological site of Xihoudu in Shanxi Province is the earliest recorded use of fire by Homo erectus, which dates to 1.27 million years ago. The excavations at Yuanmou and Lantian also show early habitation. Perhaps the most famous specimen of Homo erectus found in China is the so-called Peking Man discovered in 1923-27. Three pottery pieces were unearthed at Liyuzui Cave in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province; they date back to 16,500 and 19,000 BC.
The Neolithic, or New Stone, age in China can be traced back to between 12,000 and 10,000 BC. Early evidence for Chinese millet agriculture is radiocarbon-dated to about 7000 BC (for example, the Peiligang culture of Xinzheng county, Henan, which was revealed by excavation in 1977). With agriculture came increased population, the ability to store and redistribute crops, and the potential to support specialist craftsmen and administrators. In late Neolithic times, the Yellow River valley began to establish itself as a cultural center, where the first villages were founded; the most archaeologically significant of those was found at Banpo, Xi'an. The Yellow River was so named because of loess forming its banks gave a yellowish tint to the water; this is a fertile soil that farmers find very useful.
By 7000 BC, the Chinese were farming millet, giving rise to the Jiahu culture. At Damaidi in Ningxia, 3,172 cliff carvings dating to 6000-5000 BC have been discovered "featuring 8,453 individual characters such as the sun, moon, stars, gods and scenes of hunting or grazing." These pictographs are reputed to be similar to the earliest characters confirmed to be written Chinese. Later Yangshao culture was superseded by the Longshan culture around 2500 BC.
Like other civilizations of great antiquity, the early history of China is made obscure by the lack of written documents from its dawn period, coupled with the existence of accounts written during later time periods that attempted to describe events that had occurred several centuries previously. In a sense, the problem stems from centuries of introspection on the part of the Chinese people, which has blurred the distinction between fact and fiction in regards to this early history. Then again, this history dates back thousands of years, so of course it fades into legend and myth. <ref>Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Ancient Times
 Xia Dynasty (夏朝) – [2100 BC – 1600 BC]
The legendary Xia Dynasty, at the dawn of Chinese history, is the first dynasty to be described in ancient historical records such as Records of the Grand Historian and Bamboo Annals.
Although people disagree as to whether the dynasty actually existed, there is some archaeological evidence pointing to its possible existence. The historian Sima Qian (145-90 BC), who wrote the Shiji or Records of the Grand Historian, and the Bamboo Annals date the founding of the Xia Dynasty to 4,200 years ago, but this date has not been corroborated. Most archaeologists now connect the Xia to excavations at Erlitou in central Henan province, where a bronze smelter from around 2000 BC was unearthed. Chinese writing, as we know it, was apparently in its infancy: early markings from this period found on pottery and shells are thought to be ancestral to modern Chinese characters. With few clear records matching the Shang oracle bones or the Zhou bronze vessel writings, the Xia era remains poorly understood.
According to legend and myth, the dynasty ended around 1600 BC as a consequence of the Battle of Mingtiao. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Shang Dynasty (商朝) – [1600 BC – 1066 BC, or 1600 BC - 1046 BC]
The earliest unquestionable Chinese written records so far discovered, associated with a "dynasty" or civilization, dates from the Shang Dynasty in perhaps the 13th century BC, and it takes the form of inscriptions of divination records on the bones or shells of animals—the oracle bones. Archaeological findings providing evidence for the existence of the Shang Dynasty, c. 1600-1046 BC, are divided into two sets. The first set, from the earlier Shang period comes from sources at Erligang, Zhengzhou and Shangcheng. The second set, from the later Shang or Yin (殷) period, consists of a large body of oracle bone writings. The ancient Chinese used the bones to predict the future.
This was a polytheistic or henotheistic culture. Many different gods were worshipped - weather gods and sky gods - and there was also a supreme god, named Shangdi, who ruled over the other gods. Those who lived during the Shang Dynasty also believed that their ancestors - their parents and grandparents - became like gods when they died, and that their ancestors wanted to be worshipped too, like gods. Each family worshipped its own ancestors. This would be a long-running characteristic of Chinese religion.
The Shang Dynasty featured 31 kings, beginning with King Tang and ending with King Zhou. The Records of the Grand Historian states that the Shang Dynasty moved its capital six times. The final (and most important) move to Yin in 1350 BC led to the dynasty's golden age. The term Yin Dynasty has been synonymous with the Shang dynasty in history, although it has lately been used to specifically refer to the latter half of the Shang Dynasty.
It was later suggested that the kings of the Shang civilization had nine capitals, rather than six or seven, the last one being at Anyang, in modern-day Henan (c. 1300-1046 BC). Written records found at Anyang confirm the existence of the Shang dynasty. However, Western scholars are often hesitant to associate settlements that are contemporaneous with the Anyang settlement with the Shang dynasty. For example, archaeological findings at Sanxingdui suggest a technologically advanced civilization culturally unlike Anyang. The evidence is inconclusive in proving how far the Shang realm extended from Anyang. The leading hypothesis is that Anyang, ruled by the same Shang in the official history, coexisted and traded with numerous other culturally diverse settlements in the area that is now referred to as China proper. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Zhou Dynasty (周朝), Spring and Autumn Period (春秋時代), and Warring States Period (戰國時代) – [1066 BC – 256 BC or 221 BC]
The Zhou Dynasty was the longest-lasting dynasty in Chinese history, from 1066 BC to approximately 256 BC. By the end of the 2nd millennium BC, the Zhou Dynasty began to emerge in the Yellow River valley, overrunning the territory of the Shang. The Zhou appeared to have begun their rule under a semi-feudal system. The Zhou were a people who lived west of the Shang, and the Zhou leader had been appointed "Western Protector" by the Shang. The ruler of the Zhou, King Wu, with the assistance of his brother, the Duke of Zhou, as regent, managed to defeat the Shang at the Battle of Muye. The king of Zhou at this time invoked the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to legitimize his rule, a concept that would be influential for almost every succeeding dynasty. The Zhou initially moved their capital west to an area near modern Xi'an, on the Wei River, a tributary of the Yellow River, but they would preside over a series of expansions into the Yangtze River valley. This would be the first of many population migrations from north to south in Chinese history.
By the time of the Zhou Dynasty (about 1100 BC), the henotheistic Chinese worshipped a natural force called Tian, which is usually translated as Heaven. Like Shangdi, Heaven ruled over all the other gods, and it decided who would rule China, under the Mandate of Heaven. The ruler could rule as long as he or she had the Mandate of Heaven. It was believed that the emperor or empress had lost the Mandate of Heaven when natural disasters occurred in great number, and when, more realistically, the sovereign had apparently lost his concern for the people. In response, the royal house would be overthrown, and a new house would rule, having been granted the Mandate of Heaven.
Chinese historians living in later periods were accustomed to the notion of one dynasty succeeding another, but the actual political situation in early China is known to have been much more complicated. Hence, as some scholars of China suggest, the Xia and the Shang can possibly refer to political entities that existed concurrently, just as the early Zhou is known to have existed at the same time as the Shang.
- Western Zhou (西周) – [1066 BC – 771 BC]
- Eastern Zhou (东周) – [770 BC – 256 BC]
- Period of Spring and Autumn (春秋时代) – [722 BC – 481 BC]
In the 8th century BC, power became decentralized during the Spring and Autumn Period, named after the influential Spring and Autumn Annals. In this period, local military leaders used by the Zhou began to assert their power and vie for hegemony. The situation was aggravated by the invasion of other peoples from the northwest, such as the Qin, forcing the Zhou to move their capital east to Luoyang. This marks the second major phase of the Zhou dynasty: the Eastern Zhou. In each of the hundreds of states that eventually arose, local strongmen held most of the political power and continued their subservience to the Zhou kings in name only. For instance, local leaders started using royal titles for themselves. Philosophy blossomed in this period, leading to the Hundred Schools of Thought, and such influential intellectual movements as Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism and Mohism were founded, partly in response to the changing political world. The Spring and Autumn Period is marked by a falling apart of the central Zhou power. China now consisted of hundreds of states, some of them only as large as a village with a fort. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
- Warring States Period (战国时代) – [403 BC – 221 BC]
After some political consolidation, seven prominent states, Qin (秦), Wei (魏), Han (韩), Zhao (赵), Chu (楚), Yan (燕), and Qi (齐), remained by the end of the 5th century BC, and the years in which these few states quarreled and fought with each other are known as the Warring States Period. Though there remained a nominal Zhou king until 256 BC, he was largely a figurehead and held little real power. As neighboring territories of these warring states, including areas of modern Sichuan and Liaoning, were annexed, they were governed under the new bureaucracy, a geographic system of command-region and prefecture (郡縣/郡县). This system had been in use since the Spring and Autumn Period, and parts can still be seen in the modern system of Sheng & Xian (province and county, 省縣/省县). The final expansion in this period began during the reign of Ying Zheng, the king of Qin. His unification of the other six powers, and further annexations in the modern regions of Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong and Guangxi in 214 BC, enabled him to proclaim himself the First Emperor (Qin Shi Huang). <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Imperial Period
 Qin Dynasty (秦朝) – [221 BC – 206 BC]
Though the unified reign of the Qin Emperor lasted only 12 years, he managed to subdue great parts of China and to unite them under a tightly centralized Legalist government seated at Xianyang (close to modern Xi'an). The ideology of Legalism that guided the Qin emphasized strict adherence to a legal code and the absolute power of the emperor. This philosophy, while effective for expanding the empire in a military fashion, proved unworkable for governing it in peacetime. The Qin Emperor presided over the silencing of his foes, including the event known as the burning of books and burying of scholars, which unfortunately denied later ages access to some schools of thought. This would be the impetus behind the later Han synthesis incorporating the more moderate schools of political governance.
The Qin Dynasty had several accomplishments. It is well known for beginning the Great Wall of China, which was later augmented and enhanced during the Ming Dynasty. The Qin also gave China a concept of a centralized government and unified the legal code. It cobbled together a universal Chinese written language, measurement, and currency after the tribulations of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods. Even something as basic as the length of axles for carts had to be made uniform to ensure a viable trading system throughout the empire. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Han Dynasty (汉朝) - [206 BC – 220 AD]
The Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) emerged in 206 BC, with its founder Liu Bang proclaimed emperor in 202 BC, making it a contemporary of ancient Rome. The Han was the first dynasty to embrace the philosophy of Confucianism, which became the ideological underpinning of all regimes until the end of imperial China. Han China made great advances in many areas of the arts and sciences. Emperor Wu consolidated and extended the Chinese empire by pushing back the Xiongnu (identified with the Huns) into the steppes of modern Inner Mongolia, wresting from them the modern areas of Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai. This enabled the first opening of trading connections between China and the West, along the Silk Road. Han Dynasty general Ban Chao expanded his conquests across the Pamirs to the faraway shores of the Caspian Sea. China and Rome knew about each other: the first of several Roman embassies to China is recorded in Chinese sources, coming from the sea route in AD 166, and a second one in AD 284.
Economic inequality grew, causing financial problems for the government. Land acquisitions by elite families gradually drained the tax base. In AD 9, one rebellious usurper, Wang Mang, founded the short-lived Xin ("New") Dynasty and started an extensive program of land and other economic reforms. These programs, however, were never supported by the landholding families, because they favored the peasants. The instability brought about chaos and uprisings.
The wealthy struck back. Emperor Guangwu reinstated the Han Dynasty with the support of landholding and merchant families at Luoyang, east of Xi'an. This new era would be termed the Eastern Han Dynasty. Han power declined again amidst land acquisitions, invasions, and feuding between consort clans and eunuchs. The Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out in AD 184, ushering in an era of warlords. In the ensuing turmoil, three states tried to gain predominance in the period of the Three Kingdoms. This time period has been greatly romanticized in works such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
- Western Han (西汉) - [206 BC – 23 AD]
- Eastern Han (东汉) – [25 AD – 220 AD]
 3 Kingdoms Period (三国时代) - [220 AD – 265 AD]
After Cao Cao reunified the north in 208, his son proclaimed the Wei dynasty in 220. Soon, Wei's rivals Shu and Wu proclaimed their independence, leading China into the Three Kingdoms Period. This period was characterized by a gradual decentralization of the state that had existed during the Qin and Han dynasties, and an increase in the power of great families. Although the Three Kingdoms were reunified by the Jin Dynasty in 280, this structure was essentially the same until the Wu Hu uprising. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
- Wei (魏) - [220 AD – 265 AD]
- Shu (蜀) – [221 AD – 263 AD]
- Wu (吴) – [222 AD – 280 AD]
 Western Jin Dynasty (西晋) - [265 AD – 316 AD]
The Western Jìn Dynasty (ch: 西晉, 265–316) was founded by Emperor Wu, better known as Sima Yan. Although it provided a brief period of unity after conquering Eastern Wu in 280, the Jìn suffered a devastating civil war, War of the Eight Princes, after which they could not contain the revolt of nomadic tribes known as the Wu Hu. The capital, Luoyang was captured in 311, and Emperor Huai was captured. His successor, Emperor Min was also captured in Chang'an in 316.
The remnants of the Jìn court fled to the east and reestablished the government at Jiankang, near modern-day Nanjing, under a member of the royal family named the Prince of Langye. The prince was proclaimed Emperor Yuan of the Eastern Jìn Dynasty (ch: 東晉 317–420) when news of the fall of Chang'an reached the south. (The rival Wu Hu states in the north, which did not recognize the legitimacy of Jin, would sometimes refer to it as "Langye.")
 Eastern Jin Dynasty and 16 Kingdoms (东晋十六国) - [317 AD – 439 AD]
- Eastern Jin (东晋)– [317 AD – 420 AD]
Military crises, such as the rebellions of generals Wang Dun and Su Jun, plagued the Eastern Jìn throughout its 104 years of existence. Another general, Huan Wen died in 373 before he could attempt to usurp the throne. However, the Battle of Fei River turned out to be a major Jìn victory, due to the short-lived cooperation of Huan Chong, brother of Huan Wen, and Prime Minister Xie An. Later, Huan Xuan, son of Huan Wen, usurped the throne and changed the dynasty's name to Chu. He, in turn, was toppled by Liu Yu, who after reinstating Emperor An, ordered him strangled and installed his brother, Emperor Gong, in 419.
Emperor Gong abdicated in 420 in favor of Liu Yu, ushered in the Liu Song Dynasty the first of the Southern Dynasties. The Jin Dynasty thus came to an end. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jin_Dynasty_%28265-420%29</ref>
- 16 Kingdoms or Wu Hu period (十六国) – [304 AD – 439 AD]
- During this period, except for eastern Jin, there existed a few feudal states. These feudal states include: Han (汉) or Early Zhao (前赵), Cheng (成) or Cheng Han(成汉), Early Liang (前凉), Late Zhao (后赵) or Wei (魏), Early Yan (前燕), Early Qin 前秦), Late Yan (后燕), Late Qin (后秦), Western Qin (西秦), Late Liang (后凉), Southern Liang (南凉), Northern Liang (北凉), Southern Yan (南燕), Western Liang (西凉), Northern Yan (北燕), Xia (夏). Historically, they were known as the “16 Kingdoms”.
There was civil war in the Jin Dynasty, and the nomadic "barbarians" "crashed the gates", like they did with Ancient Rome around this time period. The contemporary Wu Hu, or non-Han, ethnic groups overtook much of the country in the early 4th century, causing large-scale Han Chinese migrations to areas south of the Yangtze River. In 303 the Di people rebelled and later captured Chengdu, establishing the state of Cheng Han. Under Liu Yuan, the Xiongnu rebelled near today's Linfen County and established the state of Han Zhao. Liu Yuan's successor Liu Cong captured and executed the last two Western Jin emperors.
The feudal Sixteen Kingdoms that resulted from this upheaval were a plethora of short-lived dynasties that came to rule the whole or parts of northern China in the 4th and 5th centuries. Many ethnic groups were involved in the creation and running of those states, including ancestors of the Turks, Mongols, and Tibetans. Most of these nomadic peoples had, to some extent, been "sinicized" long before their ascent to power. In fact, some of them, notably the Qiang and the Xiongnu, had been allowed to live in the frontier regions within the Great Wall since late Han times. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Northern and Southern Dynasties (南北朝) – [420 AD – 581 AD]
When the East Jin Dynasty fell in 420, China entered the era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Unlike the Western Roman Empire, the Han people managed to survive the military attacks from the nomadic tribes of the north, such as the Xianbei, and their civilization continued to thrive.
In southern China, fierce debates about whether Buddhism should be allowed to exist were held frequently by the royal court and nobles. (Buddhism, at this point, had been practiced in China for a couple of centuries after the monk Lokaksema had come over the mountains from Pakistan or northern India and translated Buddhist sutras into Chinese.) Finally, near the end of the Southern and Northern Dynasties era, both Buddhist and Taoist followers compromised and became more tolerant of each other.
In 589, Sui annexed the last Southern Dynasty, Chen, through military force, and put an end to the era of Southern and Northern Dynasties.<ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref> <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lokaksema</ref>
- Southern Dynasty (南朝)
- Song (宋) – [420 AD – 479 AD]
- Qi (齐) – [479 AD – 502 AD]
- Liang (梁)– [502 AD – 557 AD]
- Chen (陈)– [557 AD – 589 AD]
- Northern Dynasty (北朝)
- Northern Wei (北魏)– [386 AD – 534 AD]
- Eastern Wei (东魏) – [534 AD – 550 AD]
- Northern Qi (北齐) – [550 AD – 577 AD]
- Western Wei (西魏) – [535 AD – 557 AD]
- Northern Zhou (北周) – [557 AD – 581 AD]
 Sui Dynasty (隋朝) – [581 AD - 618 AD]
The Sui Dynasty, which managed to reunite the country in 589 after nearly four centuries of political fragmentation, played a role more important than its length of existence would suggest. The Sui brought China together again and set up many institutions that were to be adopted by their successors, the Tang. Like the Qin, however, the Sui overused their resources and collapsed. Also, similar to the Qin, traditional history has arguably judged the Sui somewhat unfairly, as it has stressed the harshness of the Sui regime and the arrogance of its second emperor, giving little credit for the Dynasty's many positive achievements. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Tang Dynasty (唐朝) – [618 AD – 907 AD]
On June 18, 618, Gaozu took the throne, and the Tang Dynasty was established, opening a new age of prosperity and innovations in arts and technology. Buddhism, which had gradually been established in China from the 1st century AD, became the predominant religion and was adopted by the imperial family and many of the common people.
Chang'an (modern Xi'an), which was then the national capital, is thought to have been the world's largest city at the time. The Tang and the Han dynasties are often referred to as the most prosperous periods of Chinese history, although the present day might also be a contender for the title.
The Tang, like the Han, kept the trade routes open to the west and south. There was extensive trade with distant foreign countries, and many foreign merchants settled in China.
The Tang introduced a new system into the Chinese government, called the "equal-field system". This system gave families land grants from the emperor based on their needs, not their wealth.
From about 860, the Tang Dynasty began to decline due to a series of rebellions within China, as well as in the previously subject Kingdom of Nanzhao to the south. One of the warlords, Huang Chao, sacked Guangzhou in 879, killing most of the 200,000 inhabitants, including most of the large colony of foreign merchant families there. In late 880, Luoyang surrendered to him, and on 5 January 881 he conquered Chang'an. The emperor Xizong fled to Chengdu, and Huang established a new temporary regime, which was eventually destroyed by Tang forces, but another period of political chaos followed. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 5 Dynasties and 10 Kingdoms (五代十国) – [907 AD – 979 AD]
The period of political disunity and feudalism between the Tang and the Song, known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, lasted little more than half a century, from 907 to 960. During this brief era, when China was in all respects a multi-state system, five regimes succeeded one another rapidly in control of the old Imperial heartland in northern China. During this same time, 10 more stable regimes occupied sections of southern and western China, so the period is also referred to as that of the Ten Kingdoms. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
- Late Liang (后梁) – [907 AD – 923 AD]
- Late Tang (后唐) – [923 AD – 936 AD]
- Late Jin (后晋) – [936 AD – 946 AD]
- Late Han (后汉) – [947 AD – 950 AD]
- Late Zhou (后周) – [951 AD – 960 AD]
- 10 Kingdoms (十国) – [902 AD – 979 AD]
- During this period, except for Late Liang, Late Tang, Late Jin, Late Han and Late Zhou dynasties, there existed other feudal states. These feudal states include: Wu (吴), Early Shu (前蜀), Wu Yue (吴越), Chu (楚), Min (闽), Southern Han (南汉), Jing Nan (荆南) or Nan Ping (南平), Late Shu (后蜀), Southern Tang (南唐), Northern Han (北汉).
 Song Dynasty (宋朝) – [960 AD – 1279 AD], as well as Liao (辽朝) - [907 AD – 1125 AD], Jin (金朝) – [1115 AD – 1234 AD], and Western Xia (西夏) Dynasties - [1038 AD – 1227 AD]
In 960, the Song Dynasty gained power over most of China and established its capital in Kaifeng (later known as Bianjing), starting a period of economic prosperity, while the Khitan Liao Dynasty ruled over Manchuria, present-day Mongolia, and parts of Northern China. In 1115, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty emerged to prominence, annihilating the Liao Dynasty in 10 years. Meanwhile, in what are now the northwestern Chinese provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia, there emerged a Western Xia Dynasty from 1032 to 1227, established by Tangut tribes.
The Jin Dynasty took power over northern China and Kaifeng from the Song Dynasty, which moved its capital to Hangzhou (杭州). The Southern Song Dynasty also suffered the humiliation of having to acknowledge the Jin Dynasty as formal overlords. In the ensuing years, China was divided between the Song Dynasty, the Jin Dynasty and the Tangut Western Xia. Southern Song experienced a period of great technological development which can be explained in part by the military pressure that it felt from the north, which included the use of gunpowder weapons. Chinese warfare, normally being primarily concerned with land, began to focus on the sea and on waterways as well. Gunpowder weapons played a large role in the Song Dynasty naval victories against the Jin in the Battle of Tangdao and Battle of Caishi on the Yangtze River in 1161. Furthermore, China's first permanent standing navy was assembled and provided an admiral's office at Dinghai in 1132, under the reign of the Song Emperor Renzong.
The Song Dynasty is considered by many to be classical China's high point in science and technology, with innovative scholar-officials such as Su Song (1020–1101) and Shen Kuo (1031–1095). There was court intrigue between the political rivals of the Reformers and Conservatives, led by the chancellors Wang Anshi and Sima Guang, respectively. By the mid-to-late 13th century the Chinese had adopted the dogma of Neo-Confucian philosophy formulated by Zhu Xi. There were enormous literary works compiled during the Song Dynasty, such as the historical work of the Zizhi Tongjian. Culture and the arts flourished, with grandiose artworks such as Along the River During the Qingming Festival and Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute, while there were great Buddhist painters such as Lin Tinggui. <ref> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
- Northern Song (北宋) – [960 AD – 1127 AD]
- Southern Song (南宋) – [1127 AD – 1279 AD]
 Yuan Dynasty (元朝) – [1206 AD – 1368 AD]
The Jurchen-founded Jin Dynasty was defeated by the Mongols, who then proceeded to defeat the Southern Song in a long and bloody war, the first war in which firearms played an important role. The realm of the great Khan extended from the Pacific Ocean to eastern Europe, making it possible to peacefully travel the Silk Road across the Asian continent. During the era after the war, later called the Pax Mongolica, adventurous Westerners such as Marco Polo traveled all the way to China and brought the first new reports, perhaps since the age of the Romans and the Han, of its wonders to Europe. In the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongols were divided between those who wanted to remain based in the steppes and those who wished to adopt the customs of the Chinese.
Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, wanting to adopt the customs of China, established the Yuan Dynasty. This was the first dynasty to rule the whole of China from Beijing as the capital. Beijing had been ceded to Liao in AD 938 with the Sixteen Prefectures of Yan Yun. Before that, it had been the capital of the Jin, who did not rule all of China.
The Mongol conquest was not without its disadvantages. Before the Mongol invasion, Chinese dynasties reportedly had approximately 120 million inhabitants; after the conquest was completed in 1279, the 1300 census reported roughly 60 million people. People have suggested causes for this decline ranging from genocide to poor census-taking to economic issues to the Black Death. While it is tempting to attribute this major decline solely to Mongol ferocity, scholars today have mixed sentiments regarding this subject. Scholars such as Frederick W. Mote argue that the wide drop in numbers reflects an administrative failure to record rather than a de facto decrease whilst others such as Timothy Brook argue that the Mongols created a system of slavery among a huge portion of the Chinese populace, causing many to disappear from the census altogether. Other historians like William McNeill and David Morgan argue that the Bubonic Plague was the main factor behind the demographic decline during this period. The 14th century epidemic of plague (Black Death), which is infamous for slaying perhaps a third of the European population, is also estimated to have killed 30% of the population of China. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Ming Dynasty (明朝) – [1368 AD – 1644 AD]
Throughout the Yuan Dynasty, which lasted less than a century, there was relatively strong sentiment among the populace against the Mongol colonialism. The frequent natural disasters since the 1340s, interpreted as the wrath of Heaven, finally led to peasant revolts. The Yuan Dynasty was eventually overthrown by the native Ming Dynasty in 1368.
Urbanization increased as the population grew and as the division of labor grew more complex. Large urban centers, such as Nanjing and Beijing, also contributed to the growth of private industry. In particular, small-scale industries grew up, often specializing in paper, silk, cotton, and porcelain goods. For the most part, however, relatively small urban centers with markets proliferated around the country. Town markets mainly traded food, with some necessary manufactures such as pins or oil.
Despite the xenophobia and intellectual introspection characteristic of the increasingly popular new school of neo-Confucianism, China under the early Ming Dynasty was not isolated. Foreign trade and other contacts with the outside world, particularly Japan, increased considerably. Chinese merchants explored all of the Indian Ocean, reaching East Africa with the voyages of Zheng He.
Zhu Yuanzhang or (Hong-wu, the founder of the dynasty, laid the foundations for a state interested less in commerce and more in extracting revenues from the agricultural sector. Perhaps because of the Emperor's background as a peasant, the Ming economic system emphasized agriculture, unlike that of the Song and the Mongolian Dynasties, which relied on traders and merchants for revenue. Neo-feudal landholdings of the Song and Mongol periods were expropriated by the Ming rulers. Land estates were confiscated by the government, broken up, and rented out. Private slavery was forbidden. Consequently, after the death of Emperor Yongle, independent peasant landholders predominated in Chinese agriculture. These laws might have paved the way to removing the worst of the poverty during the previous regimes.
The dynasty had a strong and complex central government that unified and controlled the empire. The emperor's role became more autocratic. Zhu Yuanzhang, meanwhile, continued to use what he called the "Grand Secretaries" (内阁) to assist with the immense paperwork of the bureaucracy, including memorials (petitions and recommendations to the throne), imperial edicts in reply, reports of various kinds, and tax records. It was this same bureaucracy that later arguably prevented the Ming government from being able to adapt to changes in society, and eventually led to its decline.
Emperor Yongle strenuously tried to extend China's influence beyond its borders by demanding other rulers send ambassadors to China to present tribute. A large navy was built, including enormous (for the day and age) four-masted ships displacing 1,500 tons. A standing army of 1 million troops (some estimate as many as 1.9 million[who?]) was created. The Chinese armies conquered Vietnam for around 20 years, while the Chinese fleet sailed the China seas and the Indian Ocean, cruising as far as the east coast of Africa. The Chinese gained influence in eastern Moghulistan. Several maritime Asian nations sent envoys with tribute for the Chinese emperor. Domestically, the Grand Canal was expanded and proved to be a stimulus to domestic trade. Over 100,000 tons of iron per year were produced. Many books were printed using movable type. The imperial palace, also known as Beijing's Forbidden City, reached its current splendor. It was also during these centuries that the potential of south China came to be fully exploited. New crops were widely cultivated and industries such as those producing porcelain and textiles flourished.
In 1449 Esen Tayisi led an Oirat Mongol invasion of northern China which culminated in the capture of the Zhengtong Emperor at Tumu. In 1542 the Mongol leader Altan Khan began to harass China along the northern border. In 1550 he even reached the suburbs of Beijing. The empire also had to deal with Japanese pirates attacking the southeastern coastline; General Qi Jiguang was instrumental in defeating these pirates. The deadliest known earthquake of all time, the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556 that killed approximately 830,000 people, occurred during the Jiajing Emperor's reign.
During the Ming dynasty the last great construction on the Great Wall was undertaken to protect China from foreign invasions. While the Great Wall had been built in earlier times, most of what is seen today was either built or repaired by the Ming. The brick and granite work was enlarged, the watch towers were redesigned, and cannons were placed along its length. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Qing Dynasty (清朝) – [1644 AD – 1911 AD]
The Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) was founded after the defeat of the Ming, the last Han Chinese dynasty, by the Manchus, formerly known as the Jurchen. When Beijing was captured by Li Zicheng's peasant rebels in 1644, the last Ming Emperor Chongzhen committed suicide. The Manchu then allied with Ming Dynasty general Wu Sangui and seized control of Beijing, which became the new capital of the Qing dynasty. The Manchus adopted the Confucian norms of traditional Chinese government in their rule of China proper.
The Manchus enforced a 'queue order' forcing the Han Chinese to adopt the Manchu queue hairstyle and Manchu-style clothing. The traditional Han clothing, or Hanfu, was also replaced by Manchu-style clothing Qipao (bannermen dress and Tangzhuang). Emperor Kangxi ordered the creation of the most complete dictionary of Chinese characters ever put together at the time. The Qing dynasty set up the "Eight Banners" system that provided the basic framework for the Qing military organization. The bannermen were prohibited from participating in trade and manual labor unless they petitioned to be removed from banner status. They were considered a form of nobility and were given preferential treatment in terms of annual pensions, land and allotments of cloth.
Over the next half-century, the Qing consolidated control of some areas originally under the Ming, including Yunnan. They also stretched their sphere of influence over Xinjiang, Tibet and Mongolia.
But during the 19th century, Qing control weakened, because European exploration and colonialism were catching up with China. The British had developed a thriving opium trade with the Chinese, which the British wanted to continue and which the Emperor banned, as the drug was addictive and unhealthy. Britain's desire to continue its opium trade with China collided with imperial edicts prohibiting the addictive drug, and so the First Opium War erupted in 1840. The British forced the Chinese to give up Hong Kong, and that island was ceded in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking.
The Qing Dynasty was now in decline, and rebellions became more plentiful. A large rebellion, the Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864), involved around a third of China falling under control of the Taiping Tianguo, a quasi-Christian religious movement led by the "Heavenly King" Hong Xiuquan. Only after fourteen years were the Taipings finally crushed - the Taiping army was destroyed in the Third Battle of Nanking in 1864. The death toll during the 15 years of the rebellion was about 20 million.
In addition, more costly rebellions in terms of human lives and economics followed with the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars, Nien Rebellion, Muslim Rebellion, Panthay Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion. In many ways, the rebellions and the unequal treaties the Qing were forced to sign with the imperialist powers are symptomatic of the Qing's inability to deal with the new challenges of the 19th century.
The Qing Dynasty doused the rebellions at enormous cost and loss of life by the end of the 1860s, but the damage was done. The credibility of the Qing regime had been undermined, and local initiatives by provincial leaders and gentry, due to the rebellions, contributed to the rise of warlordism in China.
The imperiled Qing Dynasty, under the Emperor Guangxu, proceeded to deal with the problem of modernization through the Self-Strengthening Movement. However, conservatism struck back: between 1898 and 1908 the Empress Dowager Cixi had the reformist Guangxu locked up for being "mentally disabled". The Empress Dowager, with the help of conservatives, initiated a military coup, effectively removed the young Emperor from power, and overturned most of the more radical reforms. Guangxu died one day before the death of the Empress Dowager (some believe he was poisoned by Cixi). Official corruption, cynicism, and imperial family quarrels made most of the military reforms useless. As a result, the Qing's "New Armies" were soundly defeated in the Sino-French War (1883-1885) and the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).
A new revolt now sprung up. At the start of the 20th century, the Boxer Rebellion threatened northern China. This was a conservative anti-European-imperialist movement that sought to return China to old ways. The Empress Dowager sided with the Boxers when they advanced on Beijing and laid siege to foreign embassies representing Western countries with interests in China. In response, a relief expedition of the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded China to rescue the besieged foreign missions. Consisting of British, Japanese, Russian, Italian, German, French, US and Austrian troops, the alliance defeated the Boxers and demanded further concessions from the Qing government.
Frustrated by the Qing court's resistance to reform and by China's weakness, young officials, military officers, and students began to advocate the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the creation of a republic. They were inspired by the revolutionary ideas of Sun Yat-sen. When Sun Yat-sen was asked by one of the leading revolutionary generals to what he ascribed the success, he said, "To Christianity more than to any other single cause. Along with its ideals of religious freedom, and along with these it inculcates everywhere a doctrine of universal love and peace. These ideals appeal to the Chinese; they largely caused the Revolution, and they largely determined its peaceful character." Slavery in China was abolished in 1910. The Qing Dynasty would follow soon afterwards, ushering in the last of China's eras of chaos and disorder. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 Modern Era
 Republic of China (中华民国) - [1912 AD – 1949 AD]/ Warlords/ Colonialism/ Japanese interference
- Although Republic of China ceased to rule China from 1949 AD onwards, the nationalists regime in Taiwan still held the regime name of “Republic of China”.
A revolutionary military uprising, the Wuchang Uprising, began on October 10, 1911 in Wuhan. The provisional government of the Republic of China was formed in Nanjing on March 12, 1912 with Sun Yat-sen as President, but Sun was forced to turn power over to Yuan Shikai, who commanded the New Army and was Prime Minister under the Qing government, as part of the agreement to let the last Qing monarch abdicate (a decision Sun would later regret). Yuan wanted to be emperor himself. Over the next few years, Yuan proceeded to abolish the national and provincial assemblies, and declared himself emperor in late 1915. Yuan's imperial ambitions were fiercely opposed by his subordinates; faced with the prospect of rebellion, he abdicated in March 1916, and died in June of that year. His death left a power vacuum in China; the republican government was all but shattered. This ushered in the warlord era of the twentieth century, during which much of the country was ruled by shifting coalitions of competing provincial military leaders.
In 1919, the May Fourth Movement began as a response to the terms imposed on China by the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I (which was mostly a European war), but quickly became a protest movement about the domestic situation in China. The discrediting of liberal Western philosophy amongst Chinese intellectuals was followed by the adoption of more radical lines of thought. This in turn planted the seeds for the irreconcilable conflict between the left and right in China that would dominate Chinese history for the rest of the century.
In the 1920s, Sun Yat-Sen established a base in southern China, and set out to unite the fragmented nation. With Soviet assistance, he entered into an alliance with the new Communist Party of China. After Sun's death from cancer in 1925, one of his protégés, Chiang Kai-shek, became a warlord, seized control of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party or KMT), and succeeded in bringing most of south and central China under its rule in a military campaign known as the Northern Expedition. Having defeated the warlords in south and central China by military force, Chiang was able to secure the nominal allegiance of the warlords in the North. In 1927, Chiang turned on the Communist Party of China and relentlessly chased the CPC armies and its leaders from their bases in southern and eastern China. In 1934, driven from their mountain bases such as the Chinese Soviet Republic, the CPC forces embarked on the Long March across China's most desolate terrain to the northwest, where they established a guerrilla base at Yan'an in Shaanxi Province. At this point, Japan jumped into the fray, driven by its own colonial and military urges. The Japanese invaded China, set up a puppet state in Manchuria, and sacked Nanking (present day Nanjing).
During the Long March, the communists reorganized under a new leader, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung). The bitter struggle between the KMT and the CPC continued, openly or clandestinely, through the 14-year long Japanese occupation (1931–1945) of various parts of the country. The two Chinese parties nominally formed a united front to oppose the Japanese in 1937, during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), which became a part of World War II. The Japanese bombed Hawaii in 1941, and the United States then wrecked the Japanese navy and Japan's cities, while Russia and China pounced. Japan capitulated, freeing up Chinese territory. Following the defeat of Japan in 1945, the war between the KMT and the CPC resumed, after failed attempts at reconciliation and a negotiated settlement. By 1949, the CPC had taken most of the country, forcing the KMT to retreat to the isle of Taiwan. (At the end of WWII in 1945 as part of the overall Japanese surrender, Japanese troops in Taiwan surrendered to Republic of China troops giving Chiang Kai-shek effective control of Taiwan. When Chiang was defeated by CPC forces in mainland China in 1949, he retreated to Taiwan with his government and his most disciplined troops, along with most of the KMT leadership and a large number of their supporters.) <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>
 People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国) – [1949 AD – Present]
With the CPC's victory, and their proclamation of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, Taiwan was again politically separated from mainland China, although neither Beijing nor Taipei formally recognized the separation, and continues to be governed from Taipei to the present day. No peace treaty has ever been signed between the two opposing parties. However, people from each side of the strait between the mainland and Taiwan began to visit one another, and so there is a state of de facto peace. The People's Republic of China has also gotten Hong Kong back from the British, and maintains it as a Special Administrative Region. In recent years, China has come to boast many of the world's tallest skyscrapers and most spectacular skylines, its most extensive high-speed rail network, its second largest economy, and one of its largest dams. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_china</ref>