Dynasties of Ancient China | Definition & Meaning

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Thousands of years ago, Ancient China had a sophisticated society. Different dynasties ruled over a large portion of China over this lengthy period of time.

Describe a dynasty.

A dynasty is when one family holds power over a state or territory for a protracted length of time. In most cases, the head of the family will be the monarch or emperor who rules the nation. When that ruler passes away, normally the oldest son assumes control instead. A new dynasty starts when a new family assumes power.

Order of Heaven

The Chinese thought that their kings and emperors had the right to rule because of the Mandate of Heaven. It indicated that person had received the blessing of the gods to govern. To uphold the Mandate of Heaven, a monarch had to be a decent and just ruler. It was assumed that when a king or dynasty lost their position of authority, they had also forfeited the Mandate of Heaven.

Important Dynasties

The important dynasties in Ancient Chinese history are as follows:

Xia (2205 to 1575 BC) – Very little is known about the Xia dynasty, which ruled China from 2205 until 1575 BC.

The Shang (1570–1045 BC) dominated a large portion of the region along the Yellow River. The magnificent city of Yin served as their previous capital.

Zhou (1045 to 256 BC) – The longest-ruling dynasty in Chinese history, the Zhou (1045–256 BC), was the first to employ the Mandate of Heaven to support their reign. Feudal lords who were related to the Zhou family reigned over a large portion of the country.

Qin (221 BC to 206 BC) – Shi Huangdi became the first Chinese Emperor during the Qin period (221 BC–206 BC), which marked the start of the Chinese Empire. Even though it was only a short dynasty, much was done, including the construction of the Great Wall, the establishment of weights, measures, and money standards, the construction of several roads and canals, and the adoption of a single form of writing throughout the nation. Future dynasties would employ all of these developments to fortify China.

Han (206 BC to 220 AD) – The civil service was formed by the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) in order to build a powerful and well-organized administration. At this period, porcelain and paper were also created. The Han also valued poetry, literature, and Confucianism.

Six Dynasties (222 to 581 AD) – China was not united under a single ruler throughout the Six Dynasties (222–581 AD).

Sui (589–618 AD): The Sui reunite China under a single monarchy once more. They also constructed the Grand Canal and enlarged the Great Wall.

Tang (618 – 907) – The Tang era is commonly referred to as the Golden Age of Ancient China because it was a time of stability and prosperity. Technology, literature, and the arts are all thriving. Chang’an, the nation’s capital, surpasses all other cities in size.

Five Dynasties (907 – 960) – The Tang dynasty is overthrown by a peasant insurrection, which also ushers in an era of division, during the Five Dynasties (907–960).

Song (960 – 1279) – China became a global leader in science and technology during the Song era (960–1279), which saw the discovery of the compass and gunpowder.

Yuan (1279–1368): Kublai Khan, a leader of the Mongols, founded the Yuan dynasty after the Mongols conquered the Song in a protracted conflict.

Ming (1368 – 1644) – Last of the major Chinese dynasties, the Ming (1368–1644) completed the construction of the major Wall and the Forbidden City, a vast residence for the Emperor. The Mongols’ rule was overthrown by the Ming, who then took control.

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