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Timeline - Chinese Dynasties




To help us have a better "feel" of the length of time, y.a. is used (to denote years ago).









c. 5000-
3000 BCE
7000 y.a.


仰韶文化 yǎng sho wn hu
Yangshao (neolithic) Culture

 
red and black pottery


 

See also Banpo Musuem, in Xian
 
 
















c. 3400-
2250 BCE

 

Liangzhu 良渚 ling zhǔ
neolithic culture
of Changjiang 长江 chng jiāng delta
 











2500 -
1700 BCE

Longshan Culture
龙山文化
lng shān wn hu


Yellow River 黄河 hung h Valley
- regarded as
Cradle of Chinese Civilisation















Year Dynasty Main Event(s) Key
Achievements
Key People
Notes

     

 
BCE 2500   Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors
三皇 sān hung    五帝 wǔ d
    Mainly Legendary (at the moment)
=========================

4500 y.a.            Mythological Sage-Rulers Potter's Wheel  
 

         Farming    

   
The Three Noble Kings
三皇 sān hung

     

    燧 人su rn

Inventor of Fire (legendary)

   

    伏羲 f xī


Founder of Chinese
governance

   

    神农 shn nng
 
agriculture and
herbal medicine

 

       
Five Emperors
五帝 wǔ d

 

2697-
2597

 
      Yellow Emperor 黄帝hung d



 
buried in the Mausoleum of Yellow Emperor
黄陵 hung lng Huangling county
in Yan'an 延安 (yn ān),
Shaanxi 陕西 shǎn xī
 

 2513
-2435
      Zhuan Xu 颛顼 zhuān xū
 
 





Di Ku or Emperor Ku 帝喾 d k

great-grandson of Yellow Emperor 黄帝


2342
(2200)



Emperor Yao (4th Emperor)
Tang Yao 唐尧 tng yo
second son of Di Ku 帝喾









2256





Traditional first date for the
通书 tōng shū   almanac



According to the 书经 shū jīng (The Book of History),
the 通书 tōng shū (Ancient Almanac) has been in publication
since 225


2256       Emperor Shun (5th Emperor)
虞舜 y shn
legendary emperor of great wisdom
  

           

           


   
 

     
 

     
   



        

           

2207          

~ 4200 y.a.          

Year Dynasty Main Events Key Achievements Key People Notes

2206 Xia
 xi cho


Start of Xia Dynasty


late neolithic cultures
 
wine making

ancient three-legged
bronze wine vessel
/ wine goblet 
斝 jiǎ

horse herding
carriages 
Yu 大禹 d yǔ
founder of Xia Dynasty
夏朝 xi cho
Erhlitou Culture
二里头文化
in Yanshi county  偃师 yǎn shī
in Luoyang 洛阳

 r lǐ tu wn hu ==> Xia Dynasty ??

first dynasty to be recorded,
some claimed it to be quasi legendary
along the banks / valley of the Yellow River 黄河 hung h

slavery

Yu the Great 大禹 d yǔ controls the Flood
大禹治水

4200 y.a.
17 Kings

Capital: Anyi

    14 Generations
   

     
   

     
   

1766          

3770 y.a.          

Year Dynasty Main Events Key Achievements Key People Notes

1766
3770 y.a
.

 
Shang


shāng cho
 
Start of Shang Dynasty 商朝 shāng cho

 


 
turtle shells with markings
oracle bone writing
殷契 yīn q

oracle-bone inscriptions
甲骨文字 jiǎ gǔ wn z


 
Wu Ding 武丁 wǔ dīng
legendary founder
Shang dynasty
 
 
 
 
 
 
Capital: Bo (Shanqiu in Henan) and Yin 殷 (Anyang in Henan)
 
 
 


  
 
   



 
 

    civilisation based on
agriculture,
hunting
animal husbandry
bronze work
青铜 qīng tng

 
   

         jade 玉 y    

      ancient three-legged round
(occasionally four-legged
and rectangular)
cauldron with
two ear-shaped handles
   

           

     
   

      chariots,
yoke saddle
    

           

1401 ...
1374
 
 
Yin

yīn
    Pan Geng / Ban Geng 般庚
 



Period starting from Pan Geng 般庚
is known as the Yin yīn Dynasty -
the Golden Age of the Shang Dynasty
 
 
n

 
     

          Capital: Yin     near modern day Anyang
安阳ān yng
in Henan 河南 h nn

         
Yin (Shang) Ruins

Anyang 安阳ān yng
in Henan 河南 h nn

   

mid 1300
- 1200

 
    writing first appeared
toward the end of the
Shang Dynasty
商朝 shāng cho
 
  oracle bones contained divination texts
 
 
 

1200
 

 
      Fu Hao 妇好 f hǎo
wife of King Wu Ding 武丁 wǔ dīng ?
Lady Hao, female Chinese general
late Shang Dynasty
商朝 shāng cho


          well known to art lovers for

          fine bronze vessels, bronze artifacts, weapons

          astronomers found Mars and comets
 

        Emperor Di Xin 帝辛 d xīn
last ruler - tyrant
 
 
 

1122


 

revolt
End of Shang Dynasty -1027BCE


 
  Legend: Jizi




refused to surrender - founded one of the earliest Korean states



  

3116 y.a.
 



     

Year Dynasty Main Events Key Achievements Key People Notes

1122 or
1045



 
 
 
Zhou


zhōu cho
 
Start of Western Zhou
西周
xī zhōu





 
Mandate of Heaven
天命 tiān mng
doctrine used to rule
the dynasty


 
   
   
Founder: Zhou Wu
周武王
zhōu wǔ wng
 (Ji Fa 姬发)




 
Capital: Haojing 镐京 ho jīng
near Xian 西安
and Fengjing)





 

1050

 
 





 

    one of the longest dynasties in China
1122 BC -> 221 BC
 
 

Ji family in control of this
dynasty - 39 family members
ruled during this period
 
天命 tiān mng -  political theory asserted that Heaven,
天tiān was primarily interested in the affairs of man
 
 

     

The Emperor must rule fairly and justly.

    first half - high stratified

If a ruler / dynasty rules only with its own self interest, 

    feudalistic system
lesser lords owing allegiance to
greater lords
    Heaven will remove the mandate from the ruler

 

     
   

      customs, laws and
institutions
  The concepts of the 天命 tiān mng and 命 mng
(physical order of the universe)

          combined make the Dao 道 do  (Way of Heaven)

           

771 W Zhou End of Western Zhou 西周 xī zhōu      

770

 


 
 
Eastern
 Zhou


dōng zhōu
Start of Eastern Zhou






 
    Capital: Luoyang 洛阳 lu yng
 (in Henan 河南 h nn) in the East





 

2775 y.a.           decline of feudal aristocracy from bronze to iron  

      use of money    

            Age of Philosophy      

Year Dynasty Main Events Key Achievements Key People

722







 



Spring and Autumn Period
春秋时代
chūn qiū sh di


春秋战国时代
chūn qiū zhn gu sh di

the Spring and Autumn (770-476 BC)
and Warring States (475-221 BC) periods
Eastern Zhou (770-221 BC)
   Five dukes









 
 





























           

           

604
 
 
  Birth of Lao Zi 老子lǎo zǐ

 
Dao de Jing
道德 经
do d jīng
Lao Zi 老子lǎo zǐ



     
 

     
 

         

         

           

          Knowing others is wisdom;

    feudal states fought against each other     Knowing the self is enlightenment.

           

551

 


 
   Birth of Kong Zi 孔子 kǒng zǐ





 
Confucianism - ethical and
philosophical system



 
 
Kong Zi 孔子 kǒng zǐ

 


 
Five Classics 五经 wǔ jīng
 
1) Book of Odes / Songs / Poetry 诗经shī jīng
2) Book of History 书经 shū jīng
3) Book of Changes I Ching 易经 y jīng
4) Book / Classic of Rites 礼记 lǐ j
5) Spring and Autumn Annals 春秋 chūn qiū

521
 
   
Death of Lao Zi 老子lǎo zǐ
 

            

           The Analects 论语 ln yǔ 

                  

              

         

         

505   Birth of Zeng Zi 曾子 zēng zǐ   Zeng Zi 曾子 zēng zǐ Philosopher and student of Kong Zi 孔子 kǒng zǐ 

          presumed author of a large portion of Great Learning 大学 d xu

          and important compiler of the Analects 论语 ln yǔ

481/
476

 
  End of Spring and Autumn Period
春秋时代
chūn qiū sh di
 
 
     

479
 
  Death of Kong Zi 孔子 kǒng zǐ
 
     

475
 
 
 
 
 
 

zhn gu
 
Start of Warring States Period
战国 zhn gu
 
 
 

 
  Seven overlords
 
 
  
 


 

   
  Mo Zi 墨子m zǐ  Mohist School founded

436   Death of Zeng Zi 曾子 zēng zǐ      

400
 
  Death of Mo Zi 墨子m zǐ
 
 
 

372
 
  Birth of Meng Zi 孟子 mng zǐ
 
  Meng Zi 孟子 mng zǐ
 
 

369
Birth of Zhuang Zi
Zhuang Zi important interpreter of Daoism

310   Birth of Xun Zi   Xun Zi  

289   Death of Meng Zi      

286
Death of Zhuang Zi



259

 
  Birth of Prince Ying Zheng
(Qin Shi Huang
秦始皇 qn shǐ hung)
     

256
Birth of Liu Bang 刘邦 li bāng



237   Death of Xun Zi      

232
Birth of XIang Yu 项羽 xing yǔ



229
 
 
  Birth of Qin Er Shi (son of Qin Shi Huang)
(Qin Shi Huang
秦始皇 qn shǐ hung)
     

221 Zhou End of Eastern Zhou/Warring States Periodd      

Year Dynasty Main Event Key Achievements Key People
Notes

221







 
Qin


qn di


 
China Proper was unified









 
  Qin Shi Huang
秦 始皇 qn shǐ hung







Capital: Chang 'an near  Xian 西 安市 xī ān








 


    Qin Shi Huang
秦 始皇 qn shǐ hung
became the First Emperor
forced imposition of
common system of writing

Lesser Seal writing
Meng Tian - General of Great Wall


 
 

     
Li Si - Prime Minister  

     
Zhao Gao - eunuch  

210


 
  Death of Qin Shi Huang
秦 始皇 qn shǐ hung

end of feudalism
 
 
 
Qin Er Shi (Hu Hai) became the
Second Emperor
 

 


 
 
 
 

208   Li Si's execution  
 

    Zhao Gao became powerful      

207   Zi Ying became the third and last Emperor burning of classics


207
 


Battle of Julu 巨鹿县j l

 
Xiang Yu 项羽xing yǔ 's
Chu
defeated Qin army

The Great Wall
Age of sculpture - high brush used in writing; beginning of literacy
















206


End of Qin 秦代qn di    

Year Dynasty Main Events Key Achievements Key People Notes
BC 206



 
 
 
 
Han


hn di
Start of Western Han









founder: Liu Bang 刘邦 li bāng
He ruled as the first Han Emperor
reign name: Han Gaozu
汉高祖刘邦 hn gāo zǔ li bāng




conflict between Xiang Yu 项羽xing yǔ
 and Liu Bang 刘邦 li bāng
 
Western Han 206 BCE to 9 BCE with the capital
Changan 长安 chng ān




202
 

  Strife between
Chu
and
Han
  (warlord of Chu
Xiang Yu 项羽xing yǔ)
 
 

    Death of Xiang Yu 项羽xing yǔ  


195   Birth of Dong Zhongshu      

           

145
 
 
 
  Birth of Sima Qian
司马迁 sī mǎ qiān
 
 
 
Shiji
史记 shǐ j
Records of
the Grand Historian
 
Sima Qian
司马迁 sī mǎ qiān
 

 
Sima Qian 司马迁 sī mǎ qiān is a pioneering historian.
He is the author of Records of the Grand Historian
and refers to himself as The Grand Scribe
太史公 ti shǐ gōng


 141   Han Wudi 汉武帝 hn wǔ d
began his reign

Emperor Han Wudi
汉武帝hn wǔ d
He reigned for 54 years (141BCE - 87BCE)
- considered the most glorious period of Han Dynasty 汉代hn di

       
 

115   Death of Dong Zhongshu      

85
 
  Death of Sima Qian
司马迁 sī mǎ qiān
     
AD






3
 

 

Birth of Ban Biao 班彪bān biāo


 
started the Book of Han
aka Han History
汉书 hn shū
 
Father of
Ban Gu 班固 bān g
Ban Chao 班超bān chāo
Ban Zhao 班昭bān zhāo (daughter)
But credit for the Book of Han / Han History 汉书 hn shū
is given to Ban Biao 班彪bān biāo 's son
Ban Gu 班固 bān g
 
AD 9   End of Western Han      
AD 9






 
Xin


xīn cho

 
Start of Xin 新朝xīn cho







  Wang Mang 王莽wng mǎng

overthrew the Han Dynasty
汉代hn di and founded the
Xin 



 The character 新xīn means new / fresh








23 Xin End of Xin      

25
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Eastern
 Han
or
Later Han


hu hn
 
Start of Eastern Han

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
    Capital:
Capital: Luoyang 洛阳 lu yng
 (in Henan 河南 h nn) in the East
Xuchang



 





32








 

Birth of Ban Gu 班固 bān g




 
Birth of Ban Chao 班超bān chāo


 
 
completed the Book of Han
aka Han History
汉书 hn shū
started by his father
Ban Biao 班彪bān biāo
 
renowned military man
- Western Regions /
- The Silk Road
base: Xianyang
咸阳市 xin yng sh

Xianyang prefecture level city in Shaanxi
咸阳市 xin yng sh
 

45
 
 

Birth of Ban Zhao 班昭bān zhāo
 

daughter of Ban Biao 班彪bān biāo
sister of Ban Gu 班固 bān g and
Ban Chao 班超bān chāo
Code of Conduct for Women

 

58    
Emperor Ming  

75
 

 
    Introduction of 
Buddhism
into China

 
 
   








121


 






First Chinese character
dictionary - Shuowen
说文解字 shuō wn jiě z

with about 10,000 entries





Xu Shen许慎 xǔ shn
author / compiler








See also:
Kang Xi( 康熙 ) dictionary of the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)
康熙字典 kāng xī z diǎn  (~ 47,000 character entries)

Zhonghua Zihai 中华字海 zhōng hu z hǎi
the most comprehensive Chinese character dictionary
(over 85 000 character entries)

 


140
Birth of Hua Tuo 华陀 hu tu



162   Birth of Guan Ti      

184


 
 

Yellow Turban Rebellion or
Yellow Scarves Rebellion
黄巾起义
hung jīn qǐ y
 




189
 

 
 
 

Emperor Shao (Liu Bian)
was deposed by 董卓 dǒng zhu
 
Liu Xie (Prince Chenliu) succeeded
the throne as Emperor Xian
 

董卓 dǒng zhu
 


 
  


192
 

Death of 董卓 dǒng zhu
 




205
 

End of Yellow Turban Rebellion
 




211
 
 
  Birth of Sima Zhao
司马昭 sī mǎ zhāo


     

220
 
 
E. Han

 
 
End of Eastern Han
 

 
     

220





 
 Three
Kingdoms


sān gu
Three Kingdoms 三国sān gu







 
     




  220-265   Wei 魏 wi
the Wei 魏wi state
of the Three-Kingdoms Period 三国sān gu
founded by Cao Cao 曹操 co cāo

Cao Wei 曹魏 co wi - regarded as
the most powerful of the Three Kingdoms
三国sān gu


 
  Cao Pi 曹丕 co pī
Emperor of Cao Wei 曹魏 co wi
(calligrapher)
ruled as Emperor Wen
魏文帝 wi wn d

Sima Zhao
司马昭 sī mǎ zhāo
military general and statesman
of Cao Wei 曹魏 co wi

 

    221-263   Shu
蜀汉 shǔ hn

founded by Liu Bei
刘备 li bi
 
 
     

    229-280   Wu 吴 w
 
IWu 吴 w 's famous king Sun Quan
孙权 sūn qun
     

265


 
 

 
 Jin


jn di
Start of Western Jin

  

 
 
 
 
  Death of Sima Zhao
司马昭 sī mǎ zhāo
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

280   End of Three Kingdoms 三国sān gu      

316   End of Western Jin      

317   Start of Eastern Jin      

420   End of Eastern Jin      

420   Start of Northern and Southern Dynasties      

495
 
  Northern Wei Dynasty


 

Construction of the Shaolin
少林 sho ln temple

566
 

Birth of Li Yuan 李渊lǐ yuān


later to be the First Emperor of Tang
Gaozu - 唐高祖 tng gāo zǔ


588   End of Northern and Southern Dynasties      

581


 
 Sui

su
Start of Sui Dynasty 隋

 


    capital: Chang'an 长安 chng ān
 
 



582
 

capital estabished in Chang'an
长安 chng ān
 


Grand canals
 
 








617   End of Sui Dynasty      

Year Dynasty Main Event(s) Key Achievements Key People Notes

618
 
 
 


 
Tang

tng di
Start of Tang Dynasty
唐代tng di

 
 
 
  
 
  Tang Gaozu 唐 高祖 tng gāo zǔ
First Emperor of Tang
唐高祖 tng gāo zǔ

 
 
 

 
capital: Chang'an 长安 chng ān

 
 

 
 
 

626

  



Xuanwu Gate Incident
玄武门之变xun wǔ mn zhī bin

 


Li Shimin 李世民 lǐ sh mn
became the second Tang 唐tng
emperor and reigned as
Emperor Taizong
唐太宗tng ti zōng
Li Shimin 李世民 lǐ sh mn
- second son of Gaozu 唐高祖tng gāo zǔ
 - assassinated his brothers, staging a "gate coup"
 
 




     

690


Emperor Regent Wuzetian















907

Tang
 
End of Tang Dynasty 唐代tng di
 











Year
Dynasty
Main Event(s)
Key Achievements Key People Notes

907   Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms      period of political upheaval

960   五代十国 wǔ di sh gu     5 dynasties succeeded each other in succession















Year Dynasty Main Event(s) Key Achievements Key People Notes

960
Song
sng di
       

 

       

990   Birth of Fan Kuan 范寬 fn kuān
 
Traveler Amid Mountains
and Streams (7ft tall)
Fan Kuan 范寬 fn kuān
Chinese Landscape Painter
greatest single example of the monumental landscape style of painting
based on Taoist principle of becoming one with nature

     


 

     
 

1030
 
  Death of Fan Kuan 范寬 fn kuān
 

   

1037
Birth of Su Dongpo
苏 东坡 sū dōng pō






1071
 
 

Su Dongpo 苏东坡 sū dōng pō appointed
Secretary General of
Hangzhou 杭 州 hng zhōu





1089
 
 


Su Dongpo 苏东坡 sū dōng pō became
Governor of Hangzhou
Hangzhou 杭 州 hng zhōu


















1130
 
  Birth of Zhu Xi 朱熹 zhū xī
 
 
  Zhu Xi 朱熹 zhū xī
most significant / influential
Neo-Confucian
Four Books and Five Classics
 
 

1200   Death of Zhu Xi 朱熹 zhū xī  
 

1236
 
  Birth of Wen Tianxiang
文 天祥 wn tiān xing

  hero who resisted the Mongol
invasion of Jiangxi 江西 jiāng xī
 


 

Death of Wen Tianxiang
文 天祥 wn tiān xing





1279 Song
宋代
       

Year Dynasty Main Events Key Achievements Key People Notes

1279 Yuan
yun cho
       

 

  start of Forbidden Palace  Temujin - Genghis Khan  

  Mongol   project                Universal Ruler  

        Kublai Khan  

           

 1283
 
 
  Death of Wen Tianxiang
文 天祥 wn tiān xing
     

           

1368          

Year Dynasty Main Events Key Achievements Key People Notes

1368 Ming
mng di
 First Emperor : Zhu Yuanzhang
朱元璋zhū yun zhāng
Founder of Ming dynasty
明代mng di
   

 

       

1360
 
  Birth of Zhu Di 朱棣zhū d
the third Ming Emperor
   
  Zhu Di 朱棣zhū d
Reign name : Yongle Emperor
永乐yǒng l
commissioned most of the exploratory sea voyages of
Zheng He 郑和 zhng h
 
 

          capital: Beijing

1371
 
  Birth of Zheng He
郑和zhng h
    moved from Nanjing

1403    
   

     
   

     
   

     

 

1405
 
      The 7 Voyages of Zheng He
郑和下西洋
zhng h xi xī yng
led seven naval expeditions for Ming Emperor Yongle 永乐yǒng l

          His first entourage included 62 ships and 27,800 men

1408



 


world's earlier and largest
known encyclopedia
Yongle Encyclopedia
Yongle Dadian
永乐大典 yǒng l d diǎn



1424   Death of Zhu Di ? ?     fantastic naval ventures the world had yet seen

1435
Death of Zheng He ??  
 

1470






 

Birth of Wen Zhengming
文征明wn zhēng mng



   
  
  

Four great southern talents
(of the Ming)
江南四大才子
 jiāng nn s d ci zǐ
Tang Bohu 唐伯虎,
Zhu Zhishan 祝枝山,
Wen Zhengming 文征明 and
Xu Zhenqing 徐祯卿
 


1494
Birth of painter Qiu Ying 仇英Qi Yīng
Qiu Ying 仇英Qi Yīng specialised in the gongbi 工笔gōng bǐ brush technique

1521
Start of the reign of Zh? Huc?ng ???
Emperor Zh? Huc?ng ???

1528
 
 

Birth of Qi Jiguang
戚继光 qī j guāng
 

Military strategist Qi Jiguang
戚继光 qī j guāng
 
resisted Japanese pirates
 
 

1552
Death of painter Qiu Ying 仇英Qi Yīng



1559
 
 
  Birth of Nurhaci / Emperor Tai Zu
努尔哈赤 nǔ ěr hā ch
 
Death of Wen Zhengming
文征明wn zhēng mng
  Nurhaci
努尔哈赤 nǔ ěr hā ch
 founding father of the Manchu state
 
 
 

   
 
 

1588
 
 

Death of Qi Jiguang
戚继光 qī j guāng
 




1616
 
  Reign of Nurhaci
努尔哈赤 nǔ ěr hā ch
 
     

1618
Birth of Wu Jiajing 吴嘉经w jiā jīng



1626   Death of Nurhaci
努尔哈赤 nǔ ěr hā ch
     

      Secret Art of War:     

      The 36 Stratagems    

           

Year Dynasty Main Events Key Achievements Key People Notes

1644 Qing
qīng di

 
 

 


 
 

    Manchu Dynasty founded by the
Aisin Gioro clan
爱新觉罗 i xīn ju lu
  Manchus 满族mǎn z -
semi nomadic people
in northeastern China


1839

 
  Start of the first Opium War
鸦片战争yā pin zhn zhēng

Start of 近代 jn di
     

1842
End of the first Opium War



1856
Start of the second Opium War



1860
End of the second Opium War




         

1899

 

Recognition that oracle bones甲骨  jiǎ gǔ
were a form of writing
甲骨文字 jiǎ gǔ wn z

Wang Yirong
王懿榮 wng y rng










1912   Overthrown in the Xinhai Revolution
End of Qing Dynasty 清代qīng di
  Last Emperor
 
 

           

1919
May 4 Movement
End of 近代 jn di