Ancient China Facts, History and Information : Culture, Dynasties, Achievements, Art, Religion, Food Cutivation

Research Topics Presentation Tips History Essays Ancient Civilizations China

Foundations of Early Chinese Civilization

The Chinese civilization began earlier than other civilizations. It was never conquered until the Mongols. Therefore, the civilization was free from foreign influences. Early civilization was isolated from the rest of the world.

Food cultivation and pottery making began about 8000 BCE. Used slash and burn agriculture. Domesticated animals such as dogs, cattle, chickens, sheep, pigs and goats by 5000 BCE.

The first dynasty began in 1750 BCE on the Yellow River plain.

The Shang Dynasty 1750 - 1100 BCE

The Shang Dynasty used bronze technology which became a symbol of wealth and authority. It used chariots and horses in war without any influence from a far. It had a system of writing. Invented the compound bow which is deadlier than the English longbow. Used leather for armor. Invented the decimal system and invented laguer as a preservation for artwork.

The king owned all property and was the spiritual leader. They believed that human nature and natural events were linked together.

The Zhou Dynasty 100-256  BCE

After a rebellion against the Shang, The Zhou won and came to power. The new ruler proved to be a good administrator. He set precedent by passing power to his son in an orderly succession of power. He initiated the concept of god's will or divine right to rule.

The decline of the Zhou dynasty came to pass when the excesses of the king led to a refusal to of help by the warlords when called to repel an invasion. The ruler was killed. The palace ransacked. After which, the son rose to power and the capitol moved to a safer location.

The Zhou had five classes of people based on productivity: Scholars, farmers, artisans, merchants, soldiers, and slaves. The class system was never fully established.

A market economy developed

Men wore gowns that flowed to the ground and a black cap after age 16. White was the color of mourning. Girls reached adulthood at age 15 and afterwards, wore a hairclip.


  • No temples.
  • They worshipped many deities.
  • Human sacrifice was replaced by animal or object sacrifice.
  • Tian was the central deity. He represented the supreme collective powers, the universal moral law and an impersonal cosmic force. He gave the ruler the right to rule as a mandate from heaven.(a political theory of ancient China in which those in power were given the right to rule from a divine source).
  • There were earth mounds for rituals

Zhou dynasty was a period of intense philosophical thought. Three schools developed, Confucianism, Daoism and Legalism.

Confucius was one of the most influential men in all history. His teachings, Analects contains a collection of his sayings and dialogues compiled by disciples after his death. Confucius major effect came from his teachings which became effective after his death.

  • Knowledge is the key to happiness and to successful conduct
  • Anyone can acquire knowledge with effort
  • Independent thought was necessary
  • Human nature is cooperative rather than competitive
  • State is for the people
  • Health of the state is dependent upon the welfare of the village.
  • Mencius added in 200 BCE
    • Man is essentially good
    • A ruler who acts as a tyrant forfeits his mandate to rule and surrenders to the people the right to overthrow him
  • Zunxi added that human nature is evil and man could be redeemed through education and discipline.

Daoism was founded by Laozi or Old Sage. It advocated a simple honest life and noninterference with the course of natural events. It exalted the primitive. (A wise man learns more by staying at home than by traveling). It sought freedom from rule so people could live in harmony with nature. Zhuangzi promoted the yin/yang concept of the interplay of opposites as a necessary part of existence. Opposites are all natural as good and evil.

Legalism called for structure. People are motivated only by reward or punishment. A ruler is necessary. People need defined fundamentally punitive codes of conduct.

Other Achievements of the Zhou

  • Animal designs were cut into jade with technical expertise
  • Brush painting on silk
  • Sound were thought to represent audible expression of natural order
  • Designated a place for zero
  • Made the first directional compass
  • Pioneered the concept of intensive hoeing and planting in rows to increase yield
  • Produced the first wrought iron
  • Invented the trace harness so animal's windpipe was not pressed shut.
  • Invented kites that were used for military communication, carrying fish hooks, fishing troughs, and studying wind currents.

After the king had been killed, the government promoted impendent thought and action. Warfare and rebellion became the norm. The Qin state gradually conquered other states. The Zhou dynasty ended in 256 BCE.


Great Wall of China

  • A fortification 1,500 miles long built across northern China in the 3rd century BC; is 1,500 miles long and averages 6 meters in width
  • Constructed during the Ming dynasty
  • Made by the First Emperor

Oracle bones

  • Made from the shoulder bones of cattle or the shells of turtles
  • When cracked in ways that were interpreted by diviners as answers to questions previous posed to the spirits

The Silk Road

  • An ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean Sea extending some 6,440 km (4,000 mi) and linking China with the Roman Empire. Marco Polo followed the route on his journey to Cathay

Ban Zhao

  • Author who wrote a work entitled admonitions for women during the Han, in which she nevertheless upheld the Confucian model of a hierarchical family

The exam system

  • A test which came to be help decide the ruling elite
  • System fostered the cultural and political integration of the empire by standardizing the curriculum studied by students even in the farthest and most remote corners of the country

Zheng ho

  • Muslim commander, who lead some of the great voyages of exploration in human history, under the Ming dynasty

Kublai Khan

  • Mongol emperor (1260-1294) and founder of the Mongol dynasty in China. A grandson of Genghis Khan, he conquered the Song dynasty (1279) and established a great capital, now Beijing , where he received Marco Polo (1275-1292).

Filial Piety

  • Confucian thought, one of the virtues to be cultivated, a love and respect for one's parents and ancestors
  • Correct behavior for the son was absolute obedience to the father, even if the child is grown

Han Dynasty

  • Imperial dynasty that ruled China (most of the time) from 206 BC to 221 and expanded its boundaries and developed its bureaucracy
  • The first known book of Chinese medicine is during this time

Beijing (Peking)

The capital of China, in the northeast part of the country. Founded c. 700 B.C., it served as Kublai Khan's capital (13th century) and the capital of China


  • The longest river of Asia; flows eastward from Tibet into the East China Sea near Shanghai

The huang ho

  • River of northern China rising in the Kunlun Mountains and flowing about 4,827 km (3,000 mi) generally eastward to the Bo Hai. It is named for the vast quantities of yellow silt it carries to its delta.

The Mongols

  • Notoriously cruel conquerors, leaving ruined cities and mutilate corpses as monuments to the folly of those who resisted them
  • Instead of killing everyone in China, they decided to tax them