China Dynasties Guide

A brief history of the Dynasties of China
All lands under the watch of Heaven

Introduction to the Chinese Dynasties

Image above - "Spade Money"
Warring States (5th Century BC)


All lands under the watch of Heaven

The two-thousand year history of China and its civilization originates from small populations that settled along the valleys of the Yellow River (and the Yangtze River), considered the cradle of Chinese civilization. The first writings found on Chinese history date back to the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC), although philosophy, culture and literature developed in the following Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 BC).

china dynasties
Chinese Dynasties

The imperial period, began by the Emperor Qin Shi Huang (221 BC), gave birth to a history dominated largely by various dynasties that ruled parts of China. It all ended with the last dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, which was defeated by Republican rebels in the Wuchang Uprising, in 1911, followed by the abdication of Emperor child Pu Yi(1912) and the appointment of Yuan Shi-kai as president of the Republic of China.

The term "dynasty" means a succession of rulers from the same family clan. While some dynasties persisted for centuries (see Zhou and Ming), others lasted only a few decades (see Qin and Sui) .

The ancient Chinese did not know the concept of "nation" and only rarely national boundaries were permanently defined permanently. "All lands are under the watch of Heaven" was a basic principle of the dynasties that effectively unified China as a nation. The emperor, called the Son of Heaven, ensured titles to the rulers of neighboring territories, thus uniting several regions and ethnic groups under a single administration.

It is also a history characterized by alternating periods of unity, with the expansion of dynasties, and period of divisions (or disunity) , with the presence of other peoples from Central Asia, which over the centuries were assimilated into the Han population (often it is the name used as the original ethnic Chinese population, to differentiate themselves from other ethnic minorities in China).

1912 puts an end to the Celestial Empire.

Since each dynasty was unique, it left behind a wide range of culture, art, philosophy and historical artifacts for us to admire.

All Chinese Dynasties:

Ancient Period:

Archaic Neolithic Period: 3000-2100 BC    
Xia Dynasty: 2070-1600 BC    
Shang Dynasty: 1600-1046 BC    
Zhou Dynasty: 1045-256 BC.    

Imperial Period:

Qin Dynasty: 221-206 BC    
Han Dynasty: 206 BC-220 AD    
Six Dynasties and 16 Kingdoms: 220-589 AD    
Three Kingdoms: 220-280    
Jin Dynasty: 265-420    
Southern and Northern Dynasties: 420-589    
Sui Dynasty: 581-618    
Tang Dynasty: 618-907    
5 Dynasties - 10 Kingdoms: 907-960     Liao Dynasty: 907-1125
Song Dynasty: 960-1279     Jin Dynasty: 1115-1234
Yuan Dinasty: 1271-1368    
Ming Dynasty: 1368-1644    
Qing Dynasty: 1644-1911    

Modern Period:

Repubblic of China: 1912-1949    
People's Repubblic of China: 1949-present