The Shang Dynasty

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The Shang Dynasty

The Shang Dynasty was the first Chinese dynasty with written records. The Shang ruled from around 1600 BC to 1046 BC. Some historians consider the Shang to be the first Chinese Dynasty. Other historians consider it to be the second dynasty, coming after the legendary Xia Dynasty

The Shang tribe grew into power around 1600 BC. Legend has it that the Shang were united under the leadership of Cheng Tang. Cheng Tang defeated the evil King Jie of the Xia to begin the Shang Dynasty. The Shang ruled an area around the Yellow River Valley for around 500 years. They had many rulers and capital cities during that time. The government became corrupt under the rule of King Di Xin. He was overthrown by Wu of Zhou and the Zhou Dynasty was founded. 

How do we know about the Shang? 
Much of what we know about the Shang comes from oracle bones. These were bones that the Shang used to try and determine the future. Religious men would write a question on one side of the bone and then burn the bone until it cracked. They would then interpret the cracks for the answers and write the answers on the other side of the bone. Historians are able to decipher much of the history of the Shang through these questions and answers. Thousands of oracle bones have been found by archeologists. Other information about the Shang comes from Ancient Chinese historians such as Sima Quian from the Han Dynasty. Some short inscriptions are also found on bronze religious items of the Shang. 

The Shang were the first Chinese Dynasty to invent writing and have a recorded history. This ancient writing is fairly similar to modern Chinese script. Writing enabled the Shang to have a fairly organized society and government. 

The government of the Shang was fairly advanced. They had many levels of leaders starting with the king. Most of the high level officials were closely related to the king. Warlords often ruled areas of land, but owed allegiance to the king and would provide soldiers during times of war. The government collected taxes from the people and tributes from surrounding allies. 

The Shang also developed bronze technology. They did not make normal tools out of bronze, but used bronze for religious items and weapons. Bronze weapons such as spears gave the Shang an advantage in war against their enemies. The Shang also used horse-drawn chariots in battle, giving them a further advantage. 

Interesting Facts about the Shang Dynasty

  • It is sometimes referred to as the Yin Dynasty.

  • One of the most famous kings of the Shang was Wu Ding who ruled for 58 years.

  • The last capital of the Shang was the city of Yin Xu. Archeologists have discovered many oracle bones at Yin Xu.

  • Most of the oracle bones discovered have been the shoulder blades of oxen or turtle shells.

  • Questions on oracle bones included things like "Will we win the war?", "Should we go hunting tomorrow?", and "Will the baby be a son?"

  • The Shang worshiped their dead ancestors as well as a supreme being called Shangdi.

The Zhou Dynasty

The Zhou Dynasty ruled Ancient China from 1045 BC to 256 BC. It was the longest ruling dynasty in the history of China. 

Establishment of the Dynasty 
The land of Zhou was a vassal state of the Shang Dynasty. A powerful leader of the Zhou named Wen Wang began to plan to overthrow the Shang Dynasty. It took many years, but finally Wen Wang's son, Wu Wang, led an army across the Yellow River to defeat the King of the Shang Dynasty. King Wu established a new dynasty, the Zhou Dynasty. 

The early leaders of the Zhou Dynasty introduced the idea of the "Mandate of Heaven". This concept taught that the leaders gained their authority to rule from the gods. They believed that when the Zhou overthrew the Shang Dynasty, this was because the Shang had become tyrants and the gods allowed them fall. The government of the Zhou was based on the feudal system. The emperor divided the land into fiefs that were usually ruled by his relatives. The nobles who ruled the fiefs basically owned the farmers who worked their lands. 

The latter period of the Zhou Dynasty is famous for the beginnings of two major Chinese philosophies: Confucianism and Taoism. The Chinese philosopher Confucius lived from 551 to 479 BC. Many of his sayings and teachings impacted the culture and government throughout the rest of the history of Ancient China. Taoism was introduced by another famous philosopher Lao Tzu. He introduced the concept of the yin and the yang. 

Several technological advances occurred in China during this period. One was the invention of cast iron. This enabled strong and durable iron tools and weapons to be manufactured. Other important innovations included crop rotation which allowed more efficient use of the land and the addition of soybeans as a major crop. 

Warring States Period 
This period began around 475 BC and lasted up until the end of the Zhou dynasty in 221 BC. There were seven major states left in the empire. It was clear that they would fight each other until only one was left. At the end of this period the leader of the Qin state, Qin Shi Huang, conquered the other six states and crowned himself as the first emperor of a united China. 

Interesting Facts about the Zhou Dynasty

  • A lot of the bronze vessels made during this time had detailed inscriptions on them. Archeologists have been able to learn a lot about the Zhou from these inscriptions.

  • One of the most popular pieces of literature was a collection of poems called the Book of Songs.

  • Battles between the states were generally fought under a strict set of "rules". The soldiers of the time were considered chivalrous and fought with honor.

  • The famous book on war the Art of War was written by Sun Tzu during this time.

  • Although iron was introduced during this period, the Zhou are most famous for their work with bronze.

The Han Dynasty

The Han Dynasty was one of the great dynasties of Ancient China. Much of Chinese culture was established during the Han dynasty and it is sometimes called the Golden Age of Ancient China. It was an era of peace and prosperity and allowed China to expand to a major world power. The Han Dynasty ran for over 400 years, from 206 BC to 220 AD. It was the second Imperial dynasty after the Qin Dynasty. It was followed by the Three Kingdoms period. 

How did it get started? 
The Han Dynasty began with a peasant revolt against the Qin Emperor. It was led by Liu Bang, son of a peasant family. Once the Qin Emperor was killed there was a war for four years between Liu Bang and his rival Xiang Yu. Liu Bang won the war and became emperor. He changed his name to Han Gaozu and established the Han Dynasty. 

Civil Service 
One of the first things that Emperor Gaozu did was to establish the civil service. He gathered a number of educated men about him to help him run the empire. Later Han emperors would establish examinations and schools to make sure that only the most intelligent men would run the government. This method of government would run for over 2,000 years. 

Major Advances 
The period of the Han Dynasty was a time of invention and science. One of the most important inventions was paper. Paper allowed the government to easily keep records and pass on instructions throughout the empire. Other important inventions include iron casting, crop rotation, and acupuncture as well as advancements in medicine, mathematics, building, agriculture, engineering, and astronomy. 

What was life like? 
Many people lived in the cities. Life was nice for the rich who lived in big houses that were finely decorated with carpets and art. They wore silk robes and were well educated. Life in the city was difficult for the poor who lived in crowded houses and often went without food. Life in countryside was better for the peasants. They had to work hard, but they generally had food and shelter. Taxes were reduced during the Han Dynasty and people who tilled the soil were often respected. Merchants were generally not respected. However, they were able to become rich, especially with trade improving due to the Silk Road and general peace in the country. Laws were made to make merchants wear white clothes and pay high taxes. 

Fun Facts about the Han Dynasty

  • The biggest products in the Han economy were iron, salt, copper work, and silk.

  • The Silk Road was established during the Han Dynasty. This trade route from China to Europe was a great source of wealth and luxury items.

  • Buddhism first came to China during this time.

  • Social status was very rigid. There were 20 ranks of status and each level had increased privileges. Merchants were ranked low while craftsmen, doctors, and farmers were ranked fairly high.

  • There was a short period when the Han Dynasty was overthrown by the Xin Dynasty. This lasted from 8 - 22 AD. The time before the Xin is often called the Western Han and the time after the Eastern Han.

  • The name of the first Han emperor, Gaozu, means "high ancestor." He named his palace Lasting Joy.

Period of Disunion

The Period of Disunion began with the fall of the Han Dynasty in 220 AD. It continued for over 350 years until China was once again united under the Sui Dynasty in 589 AD. The history of the Period of Disunion is often divided up into three different time periods: the Three Kingdoms, the Jin Dynasty, and the Southern and Northern Kingdoms. 

Three Kingdoms 
After the Han Dynasty fell in 220 AD, three different warlords rose to power. Each of them claimed to be emperor and took control of a different region of China. These three kingdoms were called Wei (north), Shu (west), and Wu (south). This period was marked by wars between different warlords and millions of Chinese people died in battle. The period of the Three Kingdoms has become a popular part of Chinese history in many stories, movies, and legends. Leaders such as Cao Cao (founder of the Kingdom of Wei), Liu Bei (founder of the Kingdom of Shu), and Sun Quan (founder of the Kingdom of Wu) are household names in China and popular characters in stories and plays. 

Jin Dynasty 
In 265 AD, a general name Sima Yan took control of the kingdom of Wu and established the Jin Dynasty. The Jin became the strongest dynasty in China ruling much of southern China from 265 AD to 420 AD. At one point they managed to unite all of China in 280, but this didn't last long. Northern China soon rebelled and broke up into a number of smaller states ruled by warlords. 

Southern and Northern Dynasties 
The final stage of the Period of Disunion is called the Southern and Northern Dynasties. This period lasted from 420 to 589 AD. During this time, China remained divided with different dynasties ruling in the north and in the south. It came to an end when the Sui Dynasty came into power and unified China in 589 AD. 

Although China was not united during this time, the Period of Disunity saw many advancements and accomplishments. New inventions include the stirrup for horses, the wooden ox (like a wheelbarrow), and the kite. There were also advances in astronomy, mathematics, and medicine. 

The Period of Disunion saw a rise in the power of warlords and leading families. The government was less organized than under the Han Dynasty. Local warlords were often the main source of power. 

Despite the constantly changing kings and emperors, the arts continued to flourish during this time. The period produced brilliant and innovative artists in areas such as poetry, calligraphy, sculpture, and painting. Outside influences and the integration of nearby peoples also impacted the Chinese culture. Perhaps the most significant of these was the spread of Buddhism as a major religion. 

Interesting Facts about the Period of Disunion

This period is sometimes referred to as The Six Dynasties.

  • Landscape painting became the most popular form of Chinese painting during the Jin Dynasty.

  • Poetry gained heightened popularity through the actions of seven famous poets who became known as the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.

  • The Chancellor for the kingdom of Shu, Zhuge Liang, is famous for being one of the most brilliant military strategists in the history of China.

The Sui Dynasty

The Sui Dynasty is most famous for unifying China under one rule after the Period of Disunion. The Sui Dynasty only ruled for a short time from 581 to 618 AD. It was replaced by the Tang Dynasty

Since the fall of the great Han Dynasty in 220 AD, China had been divided. Different regions fought for control and there was constant war. In the early 500s, China was ruled by two major kingdoms known as the Northern and Southern Dynasties. In 581, a man named Yang Jian took control of the Northern Dynasty. He established the Sui Dynasty and became known as Emperor Wen. After gaining control of northern China, Emperor Wen gathered a massive army and invaded the south. Eight years later, in 589, he conquered southern China and brought all of China under the rule of the Sui Dynasty. Emperor Wen was a strong leader. He made many changes including organizing the government of China, establishing fair taxes, giving land to the poor, and building up grain reserves. 
The Sui Dynasty didn't last long, however. It began to decline under the rule of Emperor Yang (son of Emperor Wen). Emperor Yang ruled China as a tyrant. He forced the peasants to work on massive projects such as the Grand Canal and rebuilding the Great Wall. Millions of peasants died under his rule. In 618, the people rebelled and the Sui Dynasty was overthrown. It was replaced by the Tang Dynasty. 

Despite being a short-lived dynasty, the Sui had many accomplishments.

  • Reunifying China under one rule

  • Setting up a national government

  • Building the Grand Canal which improved national transportation and trade

  • Reconstructing the Great Wall

  • Establishing grain reserves to feed people during times of famine

Emperor Wen set up a new central government for China. The government consisted of Three Departments and Six Ministries. The Three Departments were the Chancellery, the Secretariat, and the Department of State Affairs. The Six Ministries reported to the Department of State Affairs.

The dominant religion during the Sui Dynasty was Buddhism. Emperor Wen established himself as a Buddhist leader and the religion became a unifying point in the culture for all of China. Poetry and painting were important art forms during the period. 

Interesting Facts about the Sui Dynasty

  • The Sui built the Zhaozhou Bridge across the Jiao River. It is known as the oldest surviving stone arched bridge in the world.

  • Emperor Yang attempted to conquer Korea, but failed despite having a massive army of over 1 million soldiers. This loss contributed heavily to the fall of the Sui Dynasty.

  • The Sui implemented civil service exams to determine the most qualified government officials.

  • The Sui Dynasty is often compared to the Qin Dynasty. Both dynasties unified China, but were short-lived.

The Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty ruled Ancient China from 618 to 907. During the Tang rule China experienced a time of peace and prosperity that made it one of the most powerful nations in the world. This time period is sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Ancient China. 

Establishment of the Dynasty 
When the Sui Dynasty began to collapse in 618, an aristocrat named Li Yuan who lived in the north marshaled an army and marched on the capital city of Chang'an. He helped to put a new child emperor on the throne, but Li Yuan really ruled the country as Prime Minister. When the old Emperor Yang was assassinated, Li Yuan then declared himself as emperor and established the Tang Dynasty. 

Technology and Inventions 
Many advancements in the areas of engineering and technology were made during the Tang Dynasty. Perhaps the most important was the invention of woodblock printing. Woodblock printing allowed books to be printed in mass production. This helped to increase literacy and to pass on knowledge throughout the empire. The first full-length book to be printed was the Diamond Sutra in 868. Another major invention of the time was gunpowder. Although it would continue to be perfected over hundreds of years, gunpowder was mostly used for fireworks during the Tang Dynasty. The people believed that fireworks could help to scare off evil spirits. Other inventions included a ceramic called porcelain, advances in mapmaking, gas cylinders for natural gas, advances in medicine, and advancements in clock making. 

The arts flourished during the Tang Dynasty. It was during this time that poetry became an integral part of the Chinese culture. Poetry was a required study for those who wished to pass the civil service exams. Talented poets were well-respected and often recited their poetry as entertainment at parties. Some of the great poets in Chinese history lived during this time such as Li Bai, Du Fu, Li Po, and Wang Wei. While the Tang Dynasty is most famous for its poetry, other arts also became popular during this time. Many forms of literature were written including short stories, encyclopedias, and histories. Also painting was very popular and the era produced famous painters such as Wu Daozi, Wang Wei (also a famous poet), and Zhou Fang. 

The Tang Dynasty ruled over a vast area that stretched from Korea to Northern Vietnam. It even reached west as far as Afghanistan. It took a very organized government to control all of this territory. The Tang established a detailed code of laws and administrative functions. They taxed the people based on their land and also required that farmers serve in the army for a period of time. The capital city of the Tang Empire and center of the government was the city of Chang'an. This is the modern day city of Xi'an. It was here that the emperor lived and ruled over his vast empire. Government officials were assigned based on their scores on the civil service examinations. In an effort to get the best talent into the government, examinations were more open to men of the non-noble classes than with previous dynasties. There were even government run schools to help educate more people. 

At the start of the Tang Dynasty the emperors were tolerant of many religions. Buddhism became a very popular religion throughout China. However, near the end of the dynasty, the rulers made Confucianism the national religion and banned all other religions. Many Buddhist monasteries and temples were shut down. 

Decline and Fall 
Over time, the Tang Dynasty began to weaken due to government corruption and high taxes. A rebellion by the over-taxed people occurred in 874 where much of the city of Chang'an was destroyed. The Tang managed to halt the rebellion, but the government never fully recovered. In 907 the dynasty came to an end when a general named Zhu Wen removed the last Tang emperor and took power. 

Interesting Facts about the Tang Dynasty

  • The Tang Dynasty benefited from the hard work of the earlier Sui Dynasty which finished the Grand Canal and rebuilt much of the Great Wall.

  • It was during the Tang Dynasty that drinking tea became a leisure activity and the author Lu Yu wrote a description on the art of drinking tea called the Classic of Tea.

  • Toilet paper was invented during this time.

  • A census taken by the government in 609 showed that there were around 50 million people living in China.

  • The capital city of Chang'an was the largest city in the world at the time. It is estimated that the total population of the city and the countryside around it totaled nearly 2 million people.

The Song Dynasty

The Song dynasty ruled Ancient China from 960 to 1279. It followed the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Ancient China was the most advanced civilization in the world during the rule of the Song dynasty. It is famous for its many inventions and advances, but eventually collapsed and was conquered by the Mongol barbarians to the north. The history of the Song dynasty is usually divided up between the Northern Song and the Southern Song. 

Northern Song (960 to 1127) 
The Song dynasty was founded by a general named Zhao Kuangyin. Legend has it that his troops no longer wanted to serve the current emperor and begged Zhao to wear the yellow robe. After refusing three times eventually he took the robe and became Emperor Taizu, establishing the Song dynasty. 
Emperor Taizu reunited much of China under his rule. However, he also appointed scholars to lead his army. This weakened his army and eventually caused the fall of the Northern Song to the Jin peoples. 

Southern Song (1127 to 1279) 
When the Jin conquered the Northern Song, the son of the last emperor escaped to the south. He established the Southern Song in southern China. The Southern Song paid a fee each year to the Jin in order to maintain the peace. After paying the Jin for over 100 years, the Southern Song allied with the Mongols to conquer the Jin. This plan backfired, however. Once the Mongols had conquered the Jin, they turned on the Southern Song and captured all of China. 

Inventions and Technology 
The period of rule under the Song dynasty was a time of great advancements and invention. Some of the most important inventions in the history of Ancient China were made during this time including moveable type, gunpowder, and the magnetic compass. The invention of moveable type allowed for mass printings of documents and books. Millions of copies were made of some popular books allowing books to become affordable to everyone. Other products were printed on paper in great quantities including paper money, playing cards, and calendars. The magnetic compass was part of many improvements in boating and navigation. The Song dynasty had the first standing navy in world history. They built large ships over 300 feet long that had watertight compartments and onboard catapults that could toss huge rocks onto their enemies. Gunpowder had a lasting impact on warfare. The Song used gunpowder for fireworks, but also found ways to use it in battle. They developed various bombs, rockets, and fire arrows. Unfortunately for the Song, the Mongols copied their ideas and ended up using these weapons against them. 

The arts flourished under the Song dynasty. Poetry and literature were especially popular with the invention of moveable type and the availability of books to many people. Painting and the performing arts were also very popular. A high value was put on education and many of the nobles were very well educated. 

Rice and Tea 
It was during the Song dynasty that rice became such an important crop for the Chinese. Drought-resistant and fast-growing rice was introduced to southern China. This new rice allowed farmers to have two harvests in a single year, doubling the amount of rice they could grow. Tea became popular during this time as well due to the efforts of tea lover Emperor Huizong. He wrote the famous "Treatise on Tea" which described the tea ceremony in detail. 

Conquered by the Mongols 
The Song dynasty came to an end when they allied with the Mongols against their longtime enemies, the Jin. The Mongols helped them to conquer the Jin, but then turned on the Song. The leader of the Mongols, Kublai Khan, conquered all of China and began his own dynasty, the Yuan dynasty. 

Interesting Facts about the Song Dynasty

  • The capital city of the Southern Song was Hangzhou. It was the largest city in the world at the time with a population of well over 1 million people.

  • It was during the Song dynasty that the foot-binding among women became a widespread custom.

  • One of the most legendary fighters and generals of Ancient China, Yue Fei, lived during this time. He was put to death by the emperor who became jealous of his following.

  • The architecture of the Song dynasty is most famous for its tall pagodas

The Yuan Dynasty

The Yuan Dynasty was a period of time when China was under the rule of the Mongol Empire. The Yuan ruled China from 1279 to 1368. It was followed by the Ming Dynasty. 

The Chinese had fought with the Mongol tribes of the north for hundreds of years. When the Mongols united under the leadership of Genghis Khan, they swept across northern China destroying many cities along the way. The Mongols and the Chinese continued to fight for many years until Kublai Khan took control. Under Kublai Khan, the Mongols first allied with the Southern Song Chinese to defeat the Jin Chinese of the north. Then they turned on the Southern Song. Kublai eventually conquered much of China and established his own Chinese dynasty called the Yuan Dynasty. 
Kublai Khan took on much of the culture of the Chinese. He soon realized that, although the Mongols were great warriors, they didn't know how to run a large empire. Kublai used Chinese officials to run the government, but he kept a close eye on them, never quite trusting his former enemy. Kublai encouraged trade and communications with lands beyond China. He brought in people from all around the world. One of his famous visitors was Marco Polo from Europe. Kublai also permitted freedom of religion including Confucianism, Islam, and Buddhism. 

Racial Groups 
In order to keep control of his Chinese subjects, Kublai instituted social classes based on race. The Mongols made up the highest class and were always given preference over other races. Below the Mongols were the non-Chinese races such as Muslims and the Turks. At the bottom were the Chinese with the people of the Southern Song considered the lowest class. 

The Yuan rulers encouraged advancement in technology and transportation. They also encouraged arts such as ceramics, painting, and drama. In some ways the Mongols became more like the Chinese over time. They were a small percentage of the overall population. Many Mongols, however, attempted to retain their own culture. They continued to live in tents, drink fermented milk, and only married other Mongols. 

Downfall of the Yuan 
The Yuan Dynasty was the shortest lived of all the major Chinese Dynasties. After Kublai Khan's death, the dynasty began to weaken. The heirs of Kublai began to fight over power and the government became corrupt. Chinese rebel groups began to form to fight against the Mongol rule. In 1368, a Buddhist monk named Zhu Yuanzhang led the rebels to overthrow the Yuan. He then established the Ming Dynasty. 

Interesting Facts about the Yuan Dynasty

  • The social classes were dictated by the order that people groups were conquered by the Mongols. The Southern Song Chinese were the last to be conquered, so they were at the bottom.

  • The Yuan introduced paper money throughout all of China. The money later experienced high inflation.

  • Today, the "yuan" is the basic unit of money in China.

  • The capital city was Dadu. Today, the city is called Beijing and is the current capital city of China.

  • Kublai also had a "summer" capital city in Mongolia called Shangdu. It is sometimes called Xanadu.

The Ming Dynasty

The Ming Dynasty is often called the last of the great Chinese dynasties. It ruled Ancient China from 1368 to 1644. It was followed by the Qing Dynasty. 

How did it start? 
Prior to the Ming Dynasty, China had been ruled by the Yuan Dynasty. The Yuan Dynasty was set up by the Mongols who had conquered China about 100 years earlier. Many Chinese did not like the Mongols and considered them the enemy. Finally, the Mongols were overthrown and ousted from China by a peasant uprising. The peasant uprising that removed the Mongols and the Yuan Dynasty from power was led by a man named Zhu Yuanzhang. He took control of China and named himself Emperor Hongwu. This was the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. 

Great Projects 
This was an era of large civil engineering projects including: The Great Wall of China - The Great Wall was almost completely rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty. The tall and wide brick walls that are still standing today were built by the Ming.Grand Canal - The Grand Canal was rebuilt during this time. This had a significant impact on trade and helped the economy to flourish.Forbidden City - This city was the emperor's palace and was located inside the capital city of Beijing. It had almost 1000 buildings and covered over 185 acres of land. 

Culture and Arts 
Art flourished during the Ming Dynasty. This included literature, painting, music, poetry, and porcelain. Ming vases made of blue and white porcelain were prized at the time throughout the world. They are still considered quite valuable. Literature reached new heights during this era as well. Three of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature were written during the Ming Dynasty. They are Outlaws of the MarshRomance of the Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West

The government was run by an organization called the civil service. In order to get a job with the civil service, applicants had to take difficult exams. The men with the highest scores would get the best jobs. Some men would study for years to try and pass the exams and earn one of these prestigious positions. The exams often covered a number of subjects, but a significant portion of the testing was on the teachings of Confucius. 
Fun facts about the Ming Dynasty

  • The Forbidden City took 15 years and over 1 million workers to complete.

  • Folding fans became very popular. They were brought over from Japan and Korea.

  • Portuguese traders first arrived in China in 1517.

  • People could only enter the Forbidden City if they had permission from the Emperor.

  • Yingzong became emperor when he was just 8 years old. He was later captured by the Mongols. When he was released he found his brother was emperor. He would later regain his rule.

  • When Emperor Hongwu became worried about losing his thrown, he established a secret police called the Jinyi Wei to spy on people.

The Qing Dynasty

The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China. The Qing ruled China from 1644 to 1912 before being overthrown by the Republic of China. It is sometimes referred to as the Manchu Dynasty. 

In the early 1600s, the Manchu people of northern China began to unite against the Ming Dynasty. They formed a somewhat military society and mobilized a large army. In 1644, the Manchus crossed the Great Wall and invaded China. They soon took control of the Chinese capital city, Beijing, and declared the beginning of a new dynasty called the Qing. The first Qing Emperor was a five-year-old boy who became the Shunzhi Emperor. The Manchus continued to expand and conquer more of China. In 1683, under the Kangxi Emperor, the Qing Empire included all of China. At first, the Manchu maintained order through harsh discipline. They executed anyone who was suspected of treason. Later they restored much of the Ming government including the civil service exams, but only Manchu people could hold high offices. For around 150 years, China experienced growth and peace under the rule of the Qing. The population grew to around 400 million people. Under the Qing Dynasty, China remained somewhat isolated from the outside world. They traded some items such as tea and silver, but had little else to do with foreign countries. For many years, foreign ambassadors were not even allowed to approach the Chinese capital. In order to keep out European influence, Christianity was outlawed in the 1800s. 

The three main philosophies followed by the Chinese during the Qing Dynasty included Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. The Qing leaders were generally strong followers of Buddhism. Art flourished under the Qing including painting, sculpture, poetry, opera, and porcelain. 
In society, the Manchu people were considered at the top of the social class. The majority of the people, the Han Chinese, were generally discriminated against. For example, Han Chinese and Manchu were not allowed to marry. This created discontent among the people and eventually led to the downfall of the Qing. 

Opium Wars 
In the 1800s, the British began selling opium in China. Many Chinese people became addicted to opium and the government soon made the drug illegal. The British, however, continued to smuggle in opium. When the Chinese government boarded British ships and dumped their opium into the ocean, a war broke out. At the time, China had a small and outdated navy. The British ships defeated the Chinese in both the First and Second Opium Wars. By the end of the Opium Wars in 1860, the British gained control of Hong Kong, Christianity was legalized, and all of China was opened to British merchants. 

Fall of the Qing 
In the early 1900s, the Qing Dynasty began to crumble. Multiple natural disasters, internal rebellions, and war with Japan all led to famine and a poor economy. Finally, in 1911, a group of revolutionaries overthrew the Qing government. The last emperor, a six-year-old boy named Puyi, officially gave up his throne in 1912 and the Republic of China took over. 

Interesting Facts about the Qing Dynasty

  • The Kangxi Emperor ruled for 61 years, the longest rule of any Chinese Emperor.

  • The Qing required that all men cut their hair in a queue hairstyle with the hair shaved off at the front of the head and the rest of the hair tied into a long ponytail.

  • The Manchu Dynasty was briefly restored in 1917.

  • The Boxer Rebellion of 1899 was led by a secret society of martial arts experts.

  • The first president and founding father of the Republic of China was Sun Yat-sen

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