Chinese History - History of China
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Chinese History

terracotta warrior chin dynasty

June 2016 - Modern humans first came to China from Central Asia and/or India about 50,000 BC. These were Stone Age people, who lived in caves with their dogs and wore fur and leather. They hunted and gathered their food. By around 6000 BC, these people were starting to farm rice and keep sheep and chickens.

By about 3000 BC, they were using pottery and living in houses, and they soon afterward learned from Central Asian people how to use horses to pull wheeled chariots.

By 2000 BC, Chinese people had entered the Bronze Age and had begun to use writing. Soon afterwards, about 1800 BC, the Shang Dynasty conquered most of China and ruled it under one Emperor. From this point on, people measure most Chinese history in dynasties - one family of related rulers.

About 1100 BC, the Zhou dynasty conquered China. By about 700 BC, Chinese metal-workers learned to make iron tools and weapons. This was the time of Confucius. But beginning in 481 BC, China fell apart into many little Warring States that fought each other.

map showing eurasian empires in the time of the han

In 221 BC, the Ch'in dynasty succeeded in putting China back together again. They made China even bigger than it had ever been before, and they built the Great Wall of China. But the Ch'in dynasty only lasted a short time before the Han dynasty took over in 202 BC. The Han dynasty was very successful. They traded along the Silk Road with the Sogdians, and bought things from as far away as the Parthians, the Roman Empire, and East Africa. They invaded India and brought back Buddhism to China. But by 220 AD, China had fallen apart again.

Learn by Doing - China History Bingo

Bibliography and further reading about China:

More Chinese history
Ancient China


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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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