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History of China

China's recorded history is one of the longest in the world and for much of that time they ruled the region of the Far East and were more technologically advanced than any place in the world. Written records have been gathered from as long ago as 1300 B.C., but their "modern" recorded history begins in 214 B.C.

After unification and division for years, in 214 B.C. China was united under the rule of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Although his family's rule was short lived, he created what is known today as the beginning of "Imperial China." The Qin Dynasty created, or began, two of the world's greatest architectural feats ever: the Army of Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an and the Great Wall of China. Although Qin Shi Huang is best known for his protectorate soldiers near his tomb, the Army of Terracotta Warriors, he also created a centralized government and made standards for the legal system and for the development of business.

Following the Qin Dynasty came the Han Dynasty, whose most profound contribution was the introduction of Confucianism to the entire country. They were also a very outwardly looking dynasty, known for being active in the Silk Road, which began on their land, and for making contact with and regularly communicating with the Romans.

After the Han Dynasty came chaos, ethnic tensions, the Sui Dynasty in the 500s, the Tang Dynasty and external trade in the 600s, and the Song Dynasty in the 900s, who brought with them the arts and sciences.

Despite the building of the Great Wall of China over the years, the country was overcome by the Mongols, which led to the collapse of the Song Dynasty and the beginning of Mongol rule in China. The Mongols established their capitals in Beijing and the greatest of their rulers, Kublai Khan, adopted local customs and united China once again. Although the empire was vast, it fell quickly to the emerging Ming Dynasty in 1368.

Following the Ming Dynasty, came the ethnic Manchurian Qing Dynasty, who forced Manchurian customs and dress on the Han Chinese. They had a strong rule, but created tension with both their own people and foreigners. Under Qing rule, Hong Kong fell to the British in 1842 and the country, during that same century, was involved in numerous opium wars with Britain. The Qing Dynasty also faced a number of internal rebellions, including the Boxer Rebellion in the early 1900s, which demanded a return to former ways. This chaos eventually led to the fall of "Imperial China" and caused the formation of the Republic of China in 1912, which soon proved itself extraordinarily corrupt after the overthrow of their first president.

The country again fell into chaos under Japanese rule, but the Chinese Nationalist Party led the suppressed people and united the country, however not without resistance from the ruling Japanese, the Soviets and the Communist Party of China.

In 1934 the Nationalist Party almost destroyed the communists, but they escaped north on an event now known as "The Long March." During this time the Nationalist Party weakened as they fought their Japanese occupiers and the communists gathered momentum in recruitment. This struggle lasted throughout the Sino-Japanese war, which by 1941 was little more than one battle within World War II. By 1949 Mao Tse-tung and the Communist Party had defeated the Nationalist Party and had taken most of China as the Nationalist Party leadership and many of their supporters retreated to Taiwan.

Since the communists took power in China, the country has been approached with various viewpoints, but what is certain is the enormous amount of change that has occurred. Almost immediately, Mao introduced the "Great Leap Forward," which was a plan to advance technologically and militarily. The plan succeeded, but at the expense of millions of lives. Next came the "Cultural Revolution," which destroyed much of China's physical history.

Since Mao's death in 1976, the country has been, relatively, opened up. China has introduced a free market economy, welcomed tourists, hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, and improved education and healthcare, but the government still controls the country and this is particularly true in small towns and villages.

This page was last updated: March, 2013