Chinese Dynasties

Xia        C.2200-1750 BC
Shang        C.1750-1066 BC
Zhou        C.1066-221 BC
Spring & Autumn Period        770-476 BC
Warring States Period        475-221 BC
Qin        221-206 BC
Han        206 BC-220AD
Three Kingdoms Period        220-280
Jin        265-420
Northern & Southern Dynasties        420-581
Sui        581-618
Tang        618-907
Five Dynasty        907-960
Song        960-1279
Yuan        1279-1368
Ming Dynasty       1368-1644

Ming Emperor
Hongwu (1368 - 1399)
Jianwen (1399 - 1403)
Yongle (1403 - 1425)
Hongxi (1425 - 1426)
Xuande (1426 - 1436)
Zhengtong (1436 - 1450)
Jingtai (1450 - 1457)
Tianshun (1457 - 1465)
Chenghua (1465 - 1488)
Hongzhi (1488 - 1506)
Zhengde (1506 - 1522)
Jiajing (1522 - 1567)
Longqing (1567 - 1573)
Wanli 1573 - 1620)
Taichang (1620 - 1621)
Tianqi (1621 - 1628)
Chongzhen (1628 - 1644)
Qing Dynasty           1644-1911

Qing Emperor
Shunzhi         (1644-1662)
Kangxi        (1662-1723)
Yongzheng        (1723-1736)
Qianlong         (1736-1796)
Jiaqing         (1796-1821)
Daoguang         (1821-1851)
Xianfeng        (1851-1862)
Tongzhi         (1862-1875)
Guangxu         (1875-1908)
Xuantong        (1908-1911)

Republic        1911-1949

People's Republic        1949-now

※ Ming and Early Qing dynasties are  the golden
time of Chinese furniture.
Chinese White Plum Blossom
Chinese Dynasties Through the Ages - A Concise Cultural History-Chinese civilization

PALEOLITHIC: (From about 50,000BP - 20,000BP, beginning of the later Ice Age) According to Palace
Museum exhibits, Taipei. The only collectible artifacts that survive are a small quantity of flint projectile points
and simple stone tools. People were migratory hunters and gatherers.

NEOLITHIC: (about 12,000BP-2200BC) Cave dwellers, early settlements around water, to small towns of
specific ethnic association. Artifacts include stone/bone/shell/wood/horn tools, beads, simple sun/moon/earth-
worship antiquities, fine decorated pottery vessels, and some animalistic and astrological-type jades of laborious
workmanship. This dynasty saw the emergence of snake, tortoise, tiger, hare, fish, dragon & bird/phoenix as
major symbols of shamanistic power and clan identity. Burial practices of incorporating large amounts of
precious objects established, and silk discovery produces a world-class material.

XIA-SHANG Dynasties/the Bronze Age: (22nd century BC - end of 12th C. BC)
Xia        C.2200-1750 BC
Shang        C.1750-1066 BC
Early alliances produced major power assertion of a ruling family, a trend that would continue throughout
Chinese history. 2,000 city-states arose across the land. Development of writing, bronze metallurgy, money,
musical instruments and trade from afar. Inscriptions on bronze vessels are among the earliest written records of
civilization. Continual wars produced large numbers of captives/slaves that were the labor-base for the nobility.

ZHOU Dynasty: (C.1066 to 221 BC)
Consolidation of the many into the few: By the 4th C. BC, five major "states" vied for power. Elaborate trade
networks required large amounts of fine bronze coins in various natural shapes;
the finest craftsmanship
produced exquisite decorative pottery, bronzes, jades, ivories and glass. Iron-working perfected for the first time,
with states vying for control of the raw metal
. Horse-drawn vehicles sprouted everywhere, and the crossbow
revolutionized warfare. Carved jades called the "highest forms of money and wealth". Though tumultuous times,
the voices of Lao-Tzu and Confucius emerged from the Zhou as beacons of moral and spiritual right, carrying
the Chinese of all levels into the modern world.
Slave society evolves into feudalism, as large landholders jockey
for control of the regional governments. Live burial of relatives eliminated by Confucius.

QIN-HAN Dynasties: (221BC-220AD)
Qin        221-206 BC
Han        206 BC-220AD
Qin Shi Huangdi, the first Emperor in Qin Dynasty, unified China over a period of thirty years. He built roads,
standardized laws, weights and measures, extracting large annual sums in tribute.  T
he Great Wall was built
under his order
A commoner rising to General would defeat his son and establish the HAN Dynasty in 207BC, ushering in the
golden age of Chinese culture and thought. Private ownership of land in some regions encouraged by
illuminated magistrates. Jade culture at zenith, with jade burial suits encasing rulers for eternal protection, and
massive pottery armies standing at watch in the tombs. Massive stone sculptural tradition emerges, especially
around the major tombs of the rulers. Unification of the empire spawns the Great Wall. And trade is extensive
with the outlying provincial areas, silk being the most profitable.
(It is said that the demand within the Roman
Empire for Chinese silk was so insatiable that it virtually bankrupted Rome and directly led to its downfall in the
5th and 6th centuries AD
The Silk Road, or Silk Routes, refers to an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian
continent connecting East, South and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, including North Africa and
The Silk Road, or Silk Routes, refers to an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian
continent connecting East, South and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, including North Africa and

Three Kingdoms Period-Wei, Shu Han and Wu -which divided China from 222-280AD
Jin        265-420AD
Northern & Southern Dynasties        420-581AD
This dynasty saw another period of unrest and conflict. Jade culture in decline, as many small dynasties struggle
against corruption, natural disasters that produced widespread famine. There was extensive movement of ethnic
tribes, the Mongols expanding southward into Qinghai and Tibet. Collapse of trade, but Buddhism - coming over
the mountains from India - catches hold in the West among the elite.

SUI-TANG Dynasties (589-906 AD)
Sui        581-618
Tang        618-907
Cultural reawakening among the Emperor, his family and the court. Buddhism was allowed to take precedence
Daoism and Confucianism, which resulted in a mass reaction against it during the late 9th century. Contacts
and trade reestablished with the far-flung tribes of the Empire, producing massive amounts of glass beads and
other trade items. Large glazed and unglazed pottery animals and officials adorned the tombs of the great and
near-great, but jade creation limited to a few auspicious figures and decorative belt fittings.

Five Dynasty    ( 907-960AD)
LIAO (907-1125AD) and JIN (overlapping, later)
Dynasties Northern tribes assert themselves, but cannot conquer the south. This is left to the SONG dynasty.

SONG Dynasty (that held off the Mongols from 960-1279AD) strengthened Confucianism as the state
"religion" and made rigorous testing compulsory for the myriad of officials that ruled the country on a daily basis.
Painting, literature, music, and the other arts flourished, and a literati developed that often renounced wealth
and power in favor of scholarly pursuits. Jade collecting and use mushroomed, with kings & emperors vying for
the best things that could be found in "excavations" (grave robbing was an endeavor sponsored by the ruling
family) or created by the officially subsidized workshops in the major cities of the East. Pure white nephrite was
esteemed and prices rose for the best raw material that could be found in the western mountains of Turkestan
(todays Xinjiang Province).

YUAN Dynasty (1279-1368AD)
Genghis Khan was the official title of a Mongol warrior named Temujin, a 13th century ruler who founded an
empire that included parts of China, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe in Ming dynasty (1368-1364).  
The visits of
Marco Polo,an Italian traveler, merchant (1254-1324) made China finally "known" around Europe,
introducing them to tea, gunpowder, white and color-glazed porcelain, jade and paper money, among other
things. But the Mongols were great conquerors but terrible administrators. Before the end of a hundred years
they had lost the will to rule, and gave way to a native family more adept at intrigue and control of a far-flung

MING Dynasty (1368-1644AD) A wonderful period in China, when the country was at peace, the arts continued
to flourish, and trade with the other nations of Asia (especially Indonesia and the Philippines) grew to extensive
Zheng He ((1371–1433) made the voyages collectively referred to as the travels of "Eunuch
Sanbao to the Western Ocean"  or "Zheng He to the Western Ocean", from 1405 to 1433. China exported
porcelain, tea, silk to the world and imported Zitan and Huanghuali wood from South Asia. Ming's furniture took
leading place in the world for its simplicity and elegance. The raw material of jade was available and flowed to
the carving centers, and the patron-commission system allowed newly-wealthy merchants to acquire jades (when
previously such ownership was restricted to the titled and landed nobility or royalty).

QING  Dynasty (1644-1911AD) Another revolt brought the Manchus to power (from Manchuria, in the far
northeast of the country). Life for the ordinary Chinese changed little, and Emperor Kangxi and his grandson
Qinlong were great scholars and patrons of the arts. They expanded the Palace workshops paying the talented
carvers well and made sure that the finest jade material flowed into the Imperial treasuries. Only in the 19th
century did the interest and quality in jade craftsmanship slip, as superficial decorative accessories in amber,
coral, silver, gold and blue kingfisher feathers, for example, were among the things that supplanted them.
In early Qing dynasty, the Zitan and Huanghuali furniture is intricate and luxurious.
Blue and white porcelain made at Jingdezhen probably reached the height of its technical excellence during the
reign of the Kangxi emperor of the Qing Dynasty (reigned 1661 to 1722).
Influences on European porcelains:

By the beginning of the 17th century Chinese blue and white porcelain was being exported directly to Europe. In
the 17th and 18th centuries, Oriental blue and white porcelain was highly prized in Europe and America and
sometimes enhanced by fine silver and gold mounts, it was collected by kings and princes.

The European manufacture of porcelain started at Meissen in Germany in 1707. The early wares were strongly
influenced by Chinese and other Oriental porcelains and an early pattern was blue onion, which is still in
production at the Meissen factory today. Early English porcelain wares were also influenced by Chinese wares
and when, for example, the production of porcelain started at Worcester, nearly forty years after Meissen,
Oriental blue and white wares provided the inspiration for much of the decoration used. Hand-painted and
transfer-printed wares were made at Worcester and at other early English factories in a style known as
Chinoiserie. Many other European factories followed this trend. At Delft, in The Netherlands, blue and white
ceramics taking their designs from Chinese export porcelains made for the Dutch market were made in large
numbers throughout the 17th Century. Blue and white Delftware was itself extensively copied by factories in
other European countries, including England, where it is known as English Delftware.

A blue and white Staffordshire Willow pattern plate. The plate shown in the illustration (right) is decorated with
the famous willow pattern and was probably made at a factory in the English county of Staffordshire. Such is the
persistence of the willow pattern that it is difficult to date the piece shown with any precision; it is possibly quite
recent but similar wares have been produced by English factories in huge numbers over long periods and are
still being made today. The willow pattern, said to tell the sad story of a pair of star-crossed lovers, was an
entirely European design, though one that was strongly influenced in style by design features borrowed from
Chinese export porcelains of the 18th Century. The willow pattern was, in turn, copied by Chinese potters, but
with the decoration hand painted rather than transfer-printed.

Republic period (Taiwan China 1911-Present)
Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945)
People's Republic (Mainland China 1949-Present)
Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)
Interest in things from the old and disgraced dynastic periods was discouraged by the governments and social
mores during much of the 20th century. The Republican period (generally thought of as 1912-1937 or so , when
China was invaded by Japan) saw many jade workshops closed, with some of the few remaining catering to
overseas tastes. Only in the last 30 years or so has a "highly active consortium of forgers" set about to fool
collectors (and not just foreigners) with counterfeit bronzes, pottery and jades. Prior periods saw mostly isolated
fakery: individual efforts on a small scale. This is contrasted with the legitimate pieces made in the time-honored
traditions of the past that were reverently done - not to fool but to satisfy. That the Chinese of the last 1000
years felt so good about their history and craft traditions that they commissioned many pieces similar (to the best
creations of the ancient Zhou and Han) emphasizes both the continuum that characterizes the long history of
China and her art as well as the high level of jade craft that the ancients had achieved during the 1st millennium

Chinese civilizations:
  • Four Great Inventions of Ancient China: Compass, Gunpowder, Paper & Printing.
These inventions are celebrated in Chinese culture for their historical significance and as signs of ancient
China's advanced science and technology. These four discoveries had an enormous impact on the development
of Chinese civilization and a far-ranging global impact.

Ancient China

Early Civilization in China:
• Long distances and physical barriers isolated China from other ancient civilizations, leading the Chinese to
believe that China was the center of the Earth and the sole source of civilization.
Yellow River - The Yellow River, or Huang He, received its name due to loess.  It was nicknamed the "River of
Sorrows" because it often flooded and destroyed crops..
Yangzi River - The Yangzi River Valley, along with the Yellow River Valley, supported the first people of the
early Chinese civilization.
• Early Chinese rulers promoted the idea that they ruled by the Mandate of Heaven. The Chinese later expanded
this idea to explain the dynastic cycle: When rulers became weak or corrupt, the Chinese believed, Heaven
withdrew its support and gave it to another ruler.
• Chinese religious practices centered on the veneration of ancestors and the belief that the universe was
balanced between two opposing forces, the yin and the yang.
• During the Zhou and Shang periods, the Chinese made remarkable achievements in astronomy and
bronzework, learned to make silk and create books, and developed a complex system of writing.
Three Schools of thought in China
• Confucius, China's most influential philosopher, taught that harmony resulted when people accepted their
place in society. Confucianism stressed the values of filial piety, loyalty to superiors and respect for inferiors,
honesty, hard work, and concern for others.
• Chinese rulers based their government on the Confucian model, which taught that the best ruler was a virtuous
man who led by example.
• Legalists stressed strength, not goodness, as a ruler's greatest virtue, while Daoists, who rejected the
everyday world, believed that the best government was the one that governed least.
Strong Rulers Unite China
• Shi Huangdi (click here to learn more about Shihuang Di) united China and built a strong, centralized,
authoritarian government. His most remarkable achievement was building the Great Wall (click here).
• Han rulers strengthened China's government and economy, expanded China's borders and influence, and
opened up the Silk Road, a major trade route that would link China and the west for centuries.
• The Han period was one of the golden ages of Chinese civilization, with tremendous advances in the sciences,
astronomy, technology, medicine, and the arts.
  • Confucianism was chosen by Han Wudi (141 BCE - 86 BCE) for use as a political system to govern the  
    Chinese state. Despite its loss of influence during the Tang Dynasty, Confucian doctrine remained a
    mainstream Chinese orthodoxy for two millennium until the 20th century and it was still in most parts of
    China, when it was attacked by radical Chinese thinkers as a vanguard of a pre-modern system and an
    obstacle to China's modernization, eventually culminating in its repression during the Cultural Revolution
    in the People's Republic of China. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, Confucianism has been
    revived in mainland China, and both interest in and debate about Confucianism have surged.
    Confucianism is an ancient Chinese ethical and philosophical system originally developed from the
    teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius. It focuses on human morality and good deeds.
    Confucianism is a complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious thought that
    has had tremendous influence on the culture and history of East Asia. Some consider it to be the state
    religion of East Asian countries because of governmental promotion of Confucian values. The cultures
    most strongly influenced by Confucianism include Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and
    Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people. Confucianism as passed
    down to the 19th and 20th centuries derives primarily from the school of the Neo-Confucians, led by Zhu
    Xi, who gave Confucianism renewed vigor in the Song and later dynasties. Neo-Confucianism combined
    Taoist and Buddhist ideas with existing Confucian ideas to create a more complete metaphysics than had
    ever existed before. At the same time, many forms of Confucianism have historically declared themselves
    opposed to the Buddhist and Taoist belief systems. Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE) was a sage and
    social philosopher of China whose teachings have deeply influenced East Asia, including China, Korea,
    and Japan for two thousand five hundred years. The relationship between Confucianism and Confucius
    himself, however, is tenuous. Confucius' ideas were not accepted during his lifetime and he frequently
    bemoaned the fact that he remained unemployed by any of the feudal lords.

  • Ben Cao Gang Mu: Compendium of Materia Medica was written by Li Shizhen Li (1518—1593) in
    Ming dynasty
  • Four Great Chinese Classic Famous Novels- The Chronicle of the Three Kingdom, Water
    Margin, Journey To The West & Dream of the Red Chamber
  • Traditional Chinese holidays-Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Sweeping Tomb Day, Dragon
    Boat Festival, Double Seventh/Chinese Valentine's Day, Mid-autumn Festival, Chongyang
    Festival, Laba Festival            The Traditional Chinese holidays have been part of Chinese tradition for
    thousands of years; they are an  essential part of Chinese culture. Many holidays are associated with
    Chinese mythology and folklore tales, but more realistically, they probably originated from ancient farmer
    rituals for celebrating harvests or prayer offerings. The most important Chinese holiday is the Chinese
    New Year (Spring Festival), which is also celebrated in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries.
    All traditional holidays are scheduled according to the Chinese calendar (except the Qing Ming and Winter
    Solstice days, falling on the respective Jie qi in the Agricultural calendar).