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Years Image Event Description Keywords
1300 BC - 1045 BC   Capital of the late Shang Dynasty   Yin, Shang Civilization
221 BC - 210 BC Reign of the First Qin Emperor Ying Zheng (d. 210 BCE), the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE), unified the warring "central states" into a single polity under his rule, creating the title of "emperor" (Ch huangdi) for his new status. The capital of this newly centralized empire was at Xianyang (near modern Xi'an). Shi huangdi organized the administration of the country by commanderies, each of which was linked to the other by roads of standard width. In addition, he enacted a standardized written script, currency, and a uniform system of weights and measures. To help protect the northern border, he linked various "long walls" to create the first "Great Wall." He is also remembered as a despot who enforced harsh laws, burned books, and ruthlessly executed Confucian scholars and others who opposed his draconian rule. Emperor of the Qin Dynasty
221 BC - 206 BC The Terracotta Army The Terracotta Warriors and Horses are among the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Buried about a half mile from the tomb of the First Emperor of Qin near Xi'an in Shaanxi Province, they point to both the might of the Qin military machine and the concern of the First Emperor with the afterlife. tombs, Qin Dynasty
202 BC - 195 BC Reign of the First Han Emperor Liu Bang (r.202-195), was an unlettered but militarily brilliant peasant rebel leader who overthrew the oppressive Qin regime, and defeated his rival Xiang Yu to found Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE). This dynasty became the first lasting imperial regime of China. emperor, dynasty
141 BC - 87 BC The Reign of Emperor Wu Liu Che: Emperor Wu (r. 141-87 BCE ) expanded the Han Empire into Central Asia, Vietnam, and the Korean peninsular, he promoted state activism, and his reign also witnessed the rise of Imperial Confucianism which served as the ideological justification for his imperialistic policies Emperor of the Han Dynasty
119 BC   Government monopolies established As a means to increase revenue, the Han dynasty established monopolies in salt, iron, and liquor. monopolies
9 - 23   Wang Mang interregnum After serving as regent, Wang Mang usurped the throne and founded the short-lived Xin ("New") dynasty. usurpation, dynasty
23 - 220 Later or Eastern Han Dynasty Liu Xiu, an imperial clansman, reclaimed the throne for the Han dynasty. The capital, which in the Former or Eastern Han had been located in Chang'an (modern Xi'an), was moved east to Luoyang. dynasty
184 - 190   Yellow Turban Rebellion Based on the interpretation of omens and inspired by utopian Daoist ideolgy, several hundred thousand peasants rebel against the Han dynasty. The emperor is too weak to effectively control the rebellion. rebellion, Daoism
220   Wei dynasty founded Before his death in this year, Cao Cao had taken the title "King of Wei." The last Han emperor abdicated, and Cao Pei (Cao Cao's son) established a new dynasty with its capital at Luoyang. dynasty
439   Tuoba clan founds Wei dynasty The Tuoba were a clan of the Xianbei people, who lived in northern Shanxi. They raided Chinese settlements for livestock, and eventually decided the wealth of the central plain could best be exploited by ruling over it. In the 490s they established a capital at Luoyang, but rebellions in the 520s led to the collapse of the dynasty. dynasty, Luoyang
589 Reunification of China by the Sui dynasty The general Yang Jian of the Northern Zhou dynasty (a member of the Xianbei ethnic group) seized the throne in 581, founding the new Sui dynasty. By 589 he had conquered the south. The Sui established their capital at Chang'an, and undertook a number of projects to restore or establish imperial institutions, but were quickly overextended. dynasty
618 Tang dynasty established As Sui control broke down, the military commander Li Yuan (Gaozong, r. 618-626) emerged victorious and founded a new dynasty. His son Li Shimin (Taizong, r. 626-49) ruled much longer, and is in many ways a co-founder. Both men largely continued the institituion-building begun by the Sui. dynasty
690 - 705   Zhou dynasty of Wu Zetian Once a concubine to both Emperor Taizong and his son Gaozong, she was made empress to Gaozong, and later ruled as regent for her two sons. She usurped the throne; her rule was marked by her faith in Buddhism, her sexual indulgence, and the expansion of the bureaucracy. dynasty, women
712 - 770 Du Fu Du Fu is perhaps the most famous poet of the Tang dynasty. He is known as the "Poet-Historian" because of his poems describing his experiences during and after the An Lushan Rebellion. poets
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768 - 824   Han Yu A leading intellectual of the later Tang dynasty, Han Yu advocated a return to Confucian learning as a means to revitalize the government. To this end, he argued against imperial patronage of Buddhism, and promoted the "ancient style" (guwen) of prose. He is considered a forerunner of the Song Neo-Confucian movement. Neo-Confucianism, Confucianism
915 - 1125 Liao Dynasty The Khitans established a dynasty with semi-Chinese administration in Manchuria and northern China. They created a script based on Chinese characters with which to write their own language. In 1004, the Liao signed a treaty with the Song stipulating the Song had to provide annual tribute to ensure peace. dynasty
960 - 976 Reign of the First Song Emperor Zhao Kuangyin, founder of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) brought an end to the preceding war-torn Five Dynasties period. To ensure a unified state, the Song founder concentrated all military power in the hand of the central government at the capital in Kaifeng (Henan), and expanded the civil bureaucracy to govern the empire. Emperor of the Song Dynasty
1019 - 1086 Life of Sima Guang Sima Guang, a renowned historian and statesman during the Song Dynasty. He is remembered for his most celebrated work, "The Mirror for Aid of Government, Zizhi Tongjian" and his rivalry with contemporary statesman Wang Anshi. Sima Guang, Historian, Statesman, Song Dynasty
1021 - 1086 Life of Wang Anshi Chinese Song dynasty statesman. As chief councilor (1069-74, 1075-76) he directed sweeping administrative and fiscal reforms that drew strong conservative opposition. His aim was to strengthen the central government, but the poor also benefited from reforms such as the graduated land tax, cheap government credit, and reduction of the forced labor levy. Wang revived government price and commodity controls, local police administration, and the militia system. Followers of Wang competed with conservative bureaucratic opponents for high office after his resignation. (The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001) Wang Anshi, Statesman, Song Dynasty
1126 Fall of Kaifeng The Jin dynasty (1115-1234) of the semi-nomadic Jurchens captures the Song capital of Kaifeng, leading to the Song's loss of the North China plain. The Song relocated its capital to Lin'an (mod. Hangzhou). Its new northern border would be the Huai River.  
1260 - 1294 Reign of Emperor Shizu of the Yuan Dynasty Khubilai Khan or Emperor Shizu of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) succeeded as ruler of the Mongolian Empire in 1260. He renamed his empire as the Yuan Dynasty in 1271, and had completely conquered China by 1279, establishing a new capital in Dadu (Beijing). Henceforth, for the first time China was ruled in its entirety by a non-Han political regime. Khubilai employed a mixture of Chinese and non-Chinese means of governance, and his reign witnessed institutional and legal changes that revealed ethnic discrimination. Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty
1313 The Four Books in the Examinations The Yuan court reopens the civil service recruitment examinations. For the first time the examinations test the Four Books with commentaries by Zhu Xi (1130-1200), the leader of the Neo-Confucian movement. They would continue to be required in the the Ming and Qing dynasties. The examinations were abolished in 1905. Neo-Confucianism
1368 - 1398 Reign of the First Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (d.1398), founder of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was a poor peasant and former monk who overthrew the Mongol Yuan Dynasty and vanquished all his military rivals during his reign as the Hongwu Emperor (r. 1368-98). The Ming founder established a centralized government at the capital, Nanjing, deployed his sons to garrisons throughout the country, encouraged local self-regulation at the village level, and repeatedly and ruthlessly purged his bureaucracy during the latter half of his reign. Emperor of the Ming Dynasty
1405 - 1433 Voyages of Zheng He These imperially sponsored voyages took Zheng He and his fleet to India, the Persian Gulf, and as far as eastern Africa. The largest of the ships was 440 feet long, far bigger than any European ship of the time. Trade was not the objective of these trips; rather they were to "show the flag" of the Ming dynasty. ships, travel
1472 - 1528 Wang Yangming The leading Neo-Confucian of the Ming dynasty, he argued for the identity of mind (xin) and principle (li), and emphasized the innate knowledge of the good (liangzhi). Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism
1644 - 1911 Memorial Arch Memorial arch in the Qing period. During the late imperial period, the government promoted Confucian virtues in society by endowing privilege to build memorial arches to those who exemplified virtues such as filial piety, righteousness, harmonious family relations, or relieving the poor. Qing Society
1654 - 1722 Life of the Kangxi Emperor Second emperor of the Qing dynasty. Subdued Three Feudatory rebellion in the south and the Zheng family forces in Taiwan and consolidated Chinese territory following the tumultuous Ming-Qing transition period. Emperor of the Qing dynasty
1711 - 1799 Life of the Qianlong Emperor Qianlong, the fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty, led military campaigns to bring China to its current shape, built imperial libraries to house books from the whole realm, and also launched continuous literary inquisitions against literati. Emperor of the Qing Dynasty
1760 - 1820 Life of the Jiaqing Emperor The Jiaqing Emperor commenced his reign in 1796, under the shadow of his retired father Qianlong. Upon Qianlong's death in 1799 he immediately took measures to staunch the corruption associated with his father's powerful favorite, Heshen. His reign was beset by a number of major rebellions and natural disasters, which gravely affected the finances of the dynasty despite his attempts to promote frugality. Emperor of the Qing dynasty
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1785 - 1850 Life of Lin Zexu Lin, with a reputation as an able and experienced administrator, was deputed to Canton in 1839 on a mission to destroy the illegal trade in opium. His forceful policies led to the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain. This struggle, commonly named the Opium War, proved unfavorable to the dynasty and was terminated by the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing. Lin was dimissed from his post in 1840, and exiled to Ili. Opium War
1894 - 1895   Sino-Japanese War In a conflict over Qing tributary Korea, Chinese naval forces were decisively defeated by the Japanese military. foreign relations, Japan, Korea
1905   Abolition of the examination system In last-ditch efforts to reform, the Qing put an end to the examinations and consequently the traditional system of education. education, examination
1911 End of the Qing With the abdication of the child emperor Puyi, the Qing dynasty and the 2,000-year era of imperial China came to a close. A republic was formed, led by general Yuan Shikai at the head of the Nationalist Party. Qing, republic, Yuan Shikai

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