History of China

China is known for its extensive and fascinating history. This country has several major eras even dating back to prehistoric times. Even today as what is now known as the People's Republic of China is marked with rises and falls of a nation – but all in all, the Chinese history is truly great and an archaeologist's and a historian's dream come true.

The origin of Chinese civilisation is thought to be in various centres along the Yangtze River's valleys and the Yellow River during the Neolithic era. However, the Cradle of Chinese Civilisation is said to be Yellow River. Homo erectus lived in China over a million years ago. In fact, the earliest use of fire by Homo erectus dates back to Xihoudu, Shanxi Province, 1.27 million years ago. The most famous specimen of Homo erectus was found in 1923 – 1927, called the Peking Man. 3 pottery pieces were also unearthed in Liyuzui Cave, Liuzhou which date back to 16,500 and 19,000 BC.

The Xia Dynasty (2100 – 1600 BC) is said to be the first dynasty. This is also described in ancient texts such as the Bamboo Annals and the Records of the Grand Historian. However, even then, there is some disagreement as to whether this actually existed even though there is archaeological evidence that proves this such as markings found on shells and pottery from a bronze smelter dating back to 2000 BC. As a result, this dynasty which ended after the Battle of Mingtiao in 1600BC is poorly understood.

In terms of written history, the earliest findings formally recognised by Historians date back to 1500 BC during the Shang Dynasty. However, the origins of Chinese philosophy, literature, and culture date back to the Zhou Dynasty (1045 – 256 BC). This ancient nation is steeped in deep oral history. Unfortunately, many Historians do not take this into account when studying or teaching the conclusive history of China. Any written documents from Ancient China are obscure. However, 3,172 cliff carvings which date back to 6,000 BC and feature individual characters such as gods, stars, moon, the sun, grazing, or hunting. Oracle bones were also found dating back from the 13th century BC which were inscriptions on the shells or bones of animals with divination records. These oracle bones were also used to predict the future around 1500BC. The Chinese would also worship gods, the supreme god called Shangdi, their ancestors, and Heaven. Heaven rules amongst all gods and decided who would rule the nation under the Mandate of Heaven. Emperors and empresses who lost the Mandate of Heaven were overthrown – usually after a major natural disaster occurred or the ruler had lost his or concern for their people.

After this, there were many other dynasties, each with its own unique history. The dynasties are split up into 2 categories – the ancient era and the imperial era. The ancient era includes the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. There was also a Spring and Autumn Period (722 – 476 BC) as well as a Warring States Period (476 to 221 BC) where there were multiple states during those periods where the ruler pronounced themselves as king.

The Zhou dynasty flourished the longest and the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought, also known as the Golden Era of China, occurred. This era is responsible for many philosophies despite bloody battles and wars as thoughts and ideas were discussed and developed freely. This intellectual era included policies on war, government, and diplomacy. The intellectual movements that blossomed included Confucianism, Legalism, Taoism, Mohism, and the School of Diplomacy which featured Su Qin and Zhang Yi.

There are 12 dynasties comprising of the imperial era. They are the Qin Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Wei and Jin Period, Wu Hu Peroid, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, the 5 Dynasties and 10 Kingdoms; Song, Liao, Jin, and Western Xia Dynasties; Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty, and Qing Dynasty. The most famous of these is the Qin Dynasty which only reigned for 12 years. The doctrine of Legalism guided the Qin Emperor that he adhered to was more militaristic and proved unworkable during a time of peace. The Qin Dynasty is also known as being the operating word for “China”. It is also known that the Great Wall of China started during the Qin Dynasty, created a centralised government, unified the legal code, developed the written language, created currency and measurement to create a uniform and viable trading system in this kingdom.

The modern era was brought about after the downfall of the Qing Dynasty in the early 1900s. Revolutions started, spearheaded by the revolutionary hero, Sun Yat-sen. He was the founder and the first president of the Republic of China. Many revolutionary uprisings were fought such as the Wuchang Uprising; as well as a Chinese civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China. This also occurred during World War II's invasion of China, where the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China formed an alliance. However, by 1949, most people backed the Communist Party of China due to Russia's influence, so Chiang-Kai Shek and the rest of the people who were part of the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan where he led with an iron fist. Unfortunately, his rule of Taiwan was not as good as many would have hoped where many Taiwanese still have mixed feelings about his rule and his statues were dismantled after he passed away.

With the Communist Party's victory, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China on the 1st of October, 1949. Taiwan was once again separated politically from the mainland. Chairman Mao then started to create a more socialist nation.

Now in the 2000's, China is a major player in the world again. Economically, it was thanks to the late Deng Xiaopeng's excellent economic reforms in the 1970's and 1980's, which created the foundation for China's economic policies and power today despite protests including the famous Tiananmen Square incident. It has also hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics which united the people of China with nationalism. This nationalism as well as awe continued on with the earthquake in Sichuan where the Government was praised both locally and by foreign nations.