Timeline for Early China   

Dates marked by * are ones you should know precisely.

Neolithic | Shang | Western Zhou | Spring-Autumn | Warring States | Qin | Han

DATE (B.C.)

POLITICS

SOCIETY

CULTURE

PEOPLE

Neolithic China

7000-2000

Neolithic era

Flourishing of Yang-shao, Long-shan, & Liang-zhu cultures

Legendary rulers (Yellow Emperor, Yao, Shun) projected to  3000-2500

c. 2000

Xia Dynasty ?

Early Bronze Age China

2000-1500

Earliest use of bronze technology (gradually superseded by iron technology after c. 500)

Earliest bronze ritual vessels

Shang Dynasty Period

c. 1500

Shang Dynasty begins

c. 1250

Importation, through Central Asia, of the war chariot

Zhou people move to Wei River valley

c 1200

Reign of King Wu-ding

Earliest inscribed oracle bones

1100-1050

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

Age of King Wen

Western Zhou Period

1045*

Zhou conquest of Shang

Initiation of Zhou feudal system

Triumph of King Wu

1043-40

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

Earliest chapters of the Book of Documents probably date from these years

Era of the Duke of Zhou

1040

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

11th-8th centuries

Era of Bronze inscriptions

Eastern Zhou  (I) -- Spring & Autumn Period

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

707

Armies of the state of Zheng crush armies of Zhou royal alliance; last attempt of Zhou kings to assert power

During the period c. 800-650, the Book of Poetry is compiled from earlier and contemporary poems.

680

Duke Huan of Qi acknowledged as first "Hegemon" (assembly of Juan)

680-643

Hegemony of Duke Huan of Qi

Institution of household registration, government market goals, and codified law in Qi.

Guan Zhong serves as prime minister in Qi (to 645)

632-628

Hegemony of Duke Wen of Jin

Duke Wen's system of power-sharing in Jin brings stability to Jin patricianate; Jin becomes preeminent power

594

State of Lu initiates tax on farming acreage.

584

Jin & Wu form alliance

551

Confucius born in Lu

546

Sung minister Xiang Shu brokers peace treaty among the states ("The Peace of Xiang Shu")

540-529

King Ling of Chu prevails as hegemon from 538 until his disastrous defeat in Wu

526

Han Qi visits the state of Zheng, where Zi-chan is prime minister

506

The invasion of Chu by Wu

Wu Zi-xu advisor to King He-Lü of Wu

Iron Age China

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 Fu-chai of Wu; Wu invaded by Yue armies of King Gou-jian

479

Confucius dies in Lu

Eastern Zhou  (II) -- Warring States Period

453

The division of Jin into three states (Zhao, Han, Wei) -- dividing point of Spring-Autumn and Warring States Periods

446

Marquis Wen becomes ruler of Wei and initiates call for wise men from all states to join his court.

Wei's policies initiate the era of the "wandering persuaders."

Confucius's disciple Zi-xia travels to Wei and become Court Tutor, spreading Confucian thought.

c. 420

Prime Minister Li Kui's policies of government intervention in markets contributes to emergence of state power in Wei.

c. 400

Mohist cults reach first flourishing.

386

The Tian family completes its usurpation of the ruling throne in Qi

360-338

Shang Yang is Prime Minister in Qin

Qin reforms:  establishment of centralized bureaucracy, right to buy and sell land, fixed codes of penal and administrative law.

c. 350

Development of early Daoist cults.

c. 350-325

Rulers of Qi establish the Ji-xia Academy; endures to 265.

335

Rulers of Qi and Wei first adopt title "King."

c. 325-314

Mencius's career as a wandering persuader.

320-256

Era of "Horizontal & Vertical Alliances" of states collaborating with or resisting Qin.

314

Qi invades Yan.

Mencius retires after debacle of Yan invasion.

300

Lord Meng-chang flourishes in Qi

284-279

Yan occupation of Qi; weakness of Qi opens more opportunity for Qin

c. 275

Naturalistic schools of thought flourish at Ji-xia.

The Confucian Xun-zi a leader of the Ji-xia Academy

257

Lord Xin-ling of Wei rescues the Zhao capital city of Han-dan from the siege of the Qin army.

256

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

246

Ying Zheng, the future First Emperor, takes the throne in Qin; Lü Bu-wei is Prime Minister (to 237).

233

The influence of Li Si in Qin begins to grow.

Legalist thinker Han Fei-zi dies in Qin

230-221

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

Qin Dynasty

221*

Qin state re-unifies China

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

213

The great book proscription

210

First Emperor dies while on tour seeking immortals; death concealed by Li Si & Zhao Gao

209

Rebellion of Chen She

Shu-sun Tong flees from Qin

208

Rebel forces of Liu Bang & Xiang Yu occupy Qin

Han Dynasty

206

Official date of founding of Han Dynasty

206-202

Civil War (Liu Bang vs. Xiang Yu)

202

Han takes control: Liu Bang becomes Gao-di (Emperor Gao)

Establishment of ten "feudal" kingdoms in eastern China

201

Unsuccessful Xiong-nu war

Establishment of appeasement policies in dealings with non-Chinese peoples

195

Nine of ten feudal kingdoms have, through policy of "provoke and conquer" been brought under Liu control

Death of Liu Bang -- beginning of influence of his wife, Empress Lü

191

Lifting of the book ban

179-157

Reign of Wen-di

Reinstatement of "provoke and conquer" policies towards feudal kingdoms

Height of Huang-Lao influence

Gradual imperial patronage of Confucian scholarship

Dong Zhong-shu appointed "erudite" of Spring & Autumn Annals

154

Unsuccessful rebellion of feudal kingdoms permanently breaks their power

140-87

Reign of Wu-di

140-135

Huang-Lao court influence persists through power of Dowager Empress Dou (widow of Wen-di)

140

Wu-di calls for talent search and policy advice -- Dong Zhong-shu responds

135

Wu-di implements recom-mendations of Dong Zhong-shu

Establishment of Confucianism as state ideology

Empress Dou dies

98

Sima Qian's defense of General Li Ling's conduct leads to his castration.

91

Great witchcraft crisis closes Wu-di's reign in a shambles

78

The Sui Meng incident