A Concise History of China – Three Thousand Years, from the last of the pre-Imperial Dynasties to the present day gleaned to a fair part from Wikipedia but massively edited, shortened, added to and simplified to give a basic knowledge of the history of the country including the progressive order of the Dynasties and their relevance, through to the forming of the Republic under Sun Yat Sen, the resulting Civil War, Japanese occupation, Chairman Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward”, the Cultural Revolution (and it’s dreadful aftermath), the formation of “The People’s Republic of China” with the separation of Formosa (Taiwan) to become a seperate country in its own right known, confusingly, as “The Republic of China”, and the evolution of the PRC into the current, Government-controlled, capitalistic-orientated, single-party Communist-State that now towers on the World stage.
Chapter 1 – The Last Pre-Imperial Dynasty?
The vast country known to its inhabitants as Zhonguo (Middle Kingdom), and that we in the West know as China, was once – like most of the world at one time or another – a number of separate territories, all with their own warlord leaders who had fought their way to the top of their own particular fiefdoms.
The Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC)
The longest-lasting dynasty in Chinese history, the Zhou, emerged from the Yellow River valley, having overrun the Shang. The ruler of the Zhou, King Wu, along with his brother, the Duke of Zhou, conclusively defeated the Shang at the Battle of Muye.
Wu, like later monarchs elsewhere around the world, was the first to invoke the concept of the “Mandate of Heaven” (God’s chosen leader) to legitimize his rule. During the Zhou Dynasty there were the following periods:
The Spring and Autumn Period (722-476 BC)
In this period, local military leaders used by the Zhou began to assert their power and vie for hegemony. The situation was aggravated by the invasion of other peoples from the northwest, such as the Qin, forcing the Zhou to move their capital east. Local strongmen held most of the political power and continued their subservience to the Zhou kings in name only. Local leaders started using royal titles for themselves and the country fragmented into many separate states.
The Hundred Schools of Thought of Chinese philosophy blossomed during this period, and such influential intellectual movements as Confucianism, Taoism/Daoism, Legalism and Mohism were founded.
Confucianist Statuary, Beijing
The Warring States Period (476-221 BC)
After a good deal of political consolidation, seven prominent states remained, and the years in which these states battled each other are known as the Warring States Period. Though there remained a nominal Zhou king until 256 BC, he was largely a figurehead and held little real power.
The final expansion in this period began during the reign of Ying Zheng, the king of Qin. His unification of the other six powers, and further annexations in 214 BC enabled him to proclaim himself the First Emperor (Qin Shi Huang). Qin is pronounced “Chin” in Chinese, and some think this may have been the origin of the name given to the whole of China.