Timeline for China to 1700  

Dates marked by * are ones you should know precisely.

Ancient Period | Early Imperial Period| Mid/Later-Imperial Period

China After 1700

DATE

POLITICS

SOCIETY

CULTURE

PEOPLE

B.C.

Ancient China (from earliest times to 221 B.C.)

2000-1500

Earliest use of bronze technology (gradually superseded by iron technology after c. 500)

Earliest bronze ritual vessels

c. 1500

Shang Dynasty begins

c 1200

Earliest inscribed oracle bones; flourishing of Shang ritual bronzes

1100-1050

Reigns of last Shang king, and of King Wen of Zhou

Zhou [Chou] Dynasty (Western Zhou, 1045-771 B.C.; Eastern Zhou, 771-256 B.C.)

1045*

Zhou conquest of Shang

Initiation of Zhou feudal system

Inception of the "Mandate of Heaven (Tian)" doctrine

1043-40

Death of Zhou founder, King Wu, leads to civil war; regency of Duke of Zhou (to 1036)

Era of the Duke of Zhou

1040

Founding of "Eastern" capital at Cheng-Zhou (Luo-yang)

c. 1000-800

Era recalled as Golden Age of peace and stability

"Classical Era" (771-221 B.C.)

771*

Fall of the Western Zhou capital at Zong-Zhou; flight of infant king to Eastern capital at Cheng-Zhou

Beginning or era of civil wars and the growth of chariot warfare as a principal occupation of the patrician class

c. 750-600

Book of Poetry compiled from earlier and contemporary poems.

551

Confucius born in Lu

c. 500*

Development of iron technology begins

*Date assigned to the first flourishing of Confucius and his teachings.

Confucius exiled from Lu

c. 500-484

Period of Confucius's wandering

482

Hegemony of King Fuchai of Wu; Wu invaded by Yue armies of King Goujian

479

Confucius dies in Lu

360-338

Shang Yang is Prime Minister in Qin

Qin reforms:  establishment of centralized bureaucracy,  fixed codes of penal and administrative law.

Foundations of the Legalist school of thought are laid

c. 350

Development of early Daoist cults; earliest portions of Dao de jing composed

Zhuangzi at midlife during this period

320-256

Era of state alliances collaborating with or resisting Qin.

256

Qin extinguishes the Zhou royal house (the end of the Zhou Dynasty).

230-221

Qin armies conquer Han, Zhao, Yan, Wei, Chu, and Qi.

Early Imperial Era (Qin Dynasty through Six Dynasties)

Qin [Ch'in] Dynasty (221-208 B.C.)

221*

Qin state re-unifies China

Feudalism abolished on recommendation of Li Si, who becomes Prime Minister

213

The great book proscription (lifted only in 191 B.C.)

210

First Emperor dies

Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - A.D. 220)

202

Han takes control (official date 206 B.C.): Liu Bang becomes emperor

c. 165-145

Han state loosens opposition to Confucianism -- appointment of Confucians as state scholars

Dong Zhongshu revises Confucianism as state scholar, with new emphasis on yin/yang cosmology

140-87

Reign of Emperor Wu (Wu-di)

Era of massive state expansion through war, financed by heavy taxation

136

Emperor Wu implements recom-mendations of Dong Zhongshu

Establishment of Confucianism as state ideology; creation of the Imperial Academy

c. 100*

*Date used to represent height of Emperor Wu's power

First "examination" of academy graduates (initiation of what develops into exam system)

A.D.

9-23

Period of Wang Mang's Xin Dynasty

25

Restoration of the Han Dynasty

c. 50

Buddhism first enters China

c. 100-200

Increasing scholasticism of Confucianism and factional disputes with eunuchs at court

220

Fall of the Han Dynasty -- China enters long era of political division known as the Six Dynasties period

Period of social and cultural division (particularly North/South)

Six Dynasties Period (220-589)

220-589

Era of renewed political fragmentation; different ruling houses divide China -- cultural gap between North and South China emerges

Disillusionment with ideology and institutions of the Han period; social and intellectual experimentation

c. 250-350* *Approximate date for flourishing of Neo-Daoism Era of the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove"

c. 350

Influence of Buddhism emerges as most powerful religious force in China

Mid/Later-Imperial Era (Sui & Tang through Early Qing Dynasties)

Sui Dynasty (589-617)

589

The Sui Dynasty reunites China

The examination system re-established in a stable and enduring form

Tang (T'ang) Dynasty (618-907)

618

Founding of the Tang Dynasty

618-755

Capital of Chang'an the most developed site of world culture, influenced by contacts with India and West through "Silk Route" across Central Asia

Early Tang era of cosmopolitan culture; flourishing of "Religious Taoism"

c. 750

Du Fu (712-770) reaches height of poetic powers

755*

The Rebellion of An Lushan

755-907

Late Tang era of cultural closing

Rise of Confucian intolerance; era of first persecutions of Buddhism

c. 800

Approximate midpoint of career of Han Yu (768-824)

Five Dynasties Period (907-960)

907-960

Brief era of renewed political fragmentation; different ruling houses divide China

Song (Sung) Dynasty (960-1279) -- Northern Song (960-1127); Southern Song (1127-1279)

960-1127

Northern Song Dynasty

Capital at Kaifeng, near the central reaches of Yellow River in North --

Beginning of medieval China's "commercial revolution"

Era of Confucian dominance

1070-1127

Factional battles between "Cultural Confucians" and "Pragmatic Confucians"; "Neo- Confucian" founders develop theories in withdrawal from political arena

Major Confucian figures of this period include: Sima Guang (1019-1086), Wang Anshi (1021-1086)

1127*

Fall of North China to Jurchen tribes (Jin Dynasty)

1127-1279

Southern Song Dynasty

Song capital moved to Yangzi River delta area, at Hangzhou

Era of growth of Neo-Confucianism

1200

Death of Zhu Xi (1130-1200), who synthesized teachings of N.Song 'Five Masters" as Neo-Confucianism -- despite intitial persecution by government, Neo-Confucianism becomes dominant ideology until 1911

Yuan Dynasty Period (1279 - 1368)

1279

Conquest of North and South China by Mongol armies -- establishment of Mongol ruling house, the Yuan.

Capital moved to Beijing.

Italian merchant Marco Polo in China in service of first Yuan Emperor, Shizu (Khubilai Khan), 1275-1292

Ming Dynasty Period (1368-1644)

1368

Dynastic founder Zhu Yuanzhang leads military rout of remnants of Yuan forces and reestablishes Chinese rule.

Capital at Nanjing, later moved back to Beijing.

1400-1600

Collection of vernacular tales by literati found in Birch's story anthology.

1514

Arrival in South China of first European traders since Marco Polo (Portuguese).

1557

Macao ceded to Portugal as colony.

1601

Jesuit Matteo Ricci received at Ming court -- establishes Jesuit presence in Beijing

Qing [Ch'ing] Dynasty Period (1644-1911)

1644

Manchu military forces complete invasion and conquest of China.  Found Manchu ruling house, the Qing.

1670-1672

Years during which Huang Liu-hung was magistrate of T'an-ch'eng County (Death of Woman Wang)