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China, one of the countries that can boast of an ancient civilization, has a long and mysterious history. Nearly 5,000 years of acknowledged history have helped create the sense of inherited culture and reverence for the past that permeates Chinese culture.

The rise and fall of the great dynasties forms a thread that runs through Chinese history, almost from the beginning.

Earliest Chinese Origins:
Like most other great civilizations of the world, China can trace her culture back to a blend of small original tribes which have expanded till they became the great country we have today. It is recorded that Yuanmou man, who lived approximately 1.7 million years ago, is the oldest hominoid in China. Man in China passed from primitive society to slave society in the 21st century B.C., with the founding of China's first dynasty, that of the Xia(). The subsequent dynasties, the Shang (16th-11th century B.C.) and the Western Zhou (11th century-770 B.C.) saw further development of slave society. This era was followed by the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (春秋战国770-221 B.C.). There was a nominal Zhou Emperor until the third century BC, but the several centuries proceeding were characterized by constantly sparring feudal kings.

The First United Kingdom, Qin: In 221 BC, one of these kings finally succeeded in conquering his rivals, and the Imperial China of the next two millennia took its mode and form. The Qin () Dynasty lasted only fourteen years, but used ruthless tactics to standardize writing, currency, legal codes and procedures, and even methods of scholarship. The dynasty fell under the poor leadership of the second emperor.

From Han to Qing: After Qin, the Han(汉,206 B.C.-A.D. 220) Dynasty arose. The Han set the standards for imperial governance, declaring China a Confucian state and expanding her influence across East Asia. In the Han Dynasty, agriculture, handicrafts and commerce were well developed. The Han lasted for 400 years, beginning the succession of dynasties that was to last until 1912. Major dynasties include the Tang (618-907), usually viewed as the high point of classic Chinese culture and Buddhism; the Song ( 960-1279), an age of Confucian revival and deeper philosophical probing;  the Yuan  (1271-1368) Dynasty founded by the grandson of Genghis Khan,  and the Ming ( 1368-1644), the peak of Chinese power and famous for its exquisite art and architecture. Notable was the steady southward expansion of the Chinese influence; the boundaries of modern-day China did not fully take shape until the Qing(, 1644-1911) dynasty.  

Modern Period: Most scholars agree that the fall of Imperial China was rooted in the inability of China to enter the modern world. The Opium War of 1840 marked a turning point in Chinese history. Western powers, though lagging behind China for many millennia, established semi-colonial rule over parts of China Following the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, other internal sources of chaos also fragmented late imperial China. The Taiping, Nian, and Boxer Rebellions all gave voice to the frustrations of the Chinese people. This all came to a head in 1911 in a sudden and sweeping revolution, led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, ended the rule of the Qing Dynasty, wiping away the throne and instituting an unstable republic. The 1910’s and 20’s were dominated by internal struggle for power and intense ideological debate among intellectuals.

World War II and Civil War: The Chinese Communist Party, or the CCP, emerged in the 1920’s. The communists were at odds with the Nationalists, led at this time by Chiang Kai-shek. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and China proper in 1937. By the beginning of World War II, Japanese troops occupied all of northern and large parts of central and southern China. The Communists and Nationalists both retreated westward and formed a temporary alliance to fight the Japanese. When World War II ended, both parties moved to reclaim Japanese-occupied territory, and civil war erupted. By 1949, the Communists gained the decisive upper hand, and Chiang led the Nationalists in a retreat to Taiwan. In Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong declared the foundation of the People’s Republic of China.

China Today: Today, the Chinese economy is booming. The government has developed industry and tourism. Coastal cities provide prosperous environments for multi-national companies. Skyscrapers and modern buildings are replacing old neighborhoods at a head-spinning speed. Cars clog streets, and citizens engage in leisure activities such as shopping and hiking. Though despite this development, there are continuities from earlier periods in Chinese history, most notably a central government concerned with unifying diverse regions and people, the gap between the rich and poor, and the struggle of the Chinese people to preserve their heritage in a global environment.


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