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Evaluating Prehistoric Chinese Empires

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We know very little of ancient Chinese dynasties. The very first of these are considered to be Xia. These dynasties developed extremely slowly, but their works ranged from bronze working to developing armies.

Later arose the first empires. The earliest of these was Quin (221 – 206 BC). The Quin dynasty is considered to be the first empire, for it was the first to have an Emperor. When that emperor died came the Han era (206BC – 220AD). The Han dynasty plays a very important role in Chinese history. They invented Chinese history as we know it today. They were the first to write it all down. They were unable to deal with two factors: a population shift from the Yellow River in the north to the Yangzi in the south; and they simply could not control barbarian tribal raiders from the north, which were one reason why people were moving to the south. Eventually, in AD 220, the center had lost so much control to the provinces that it collapsed (a small rebellion in the north helped), plunging China into 350 years of chaos and disunity. That time (220-259) does not have an official name, for 5 different groups were in control. During this time, China developed its religious beliefs, basing them on Daoism and Buddhism. Later came the Sui (589 – 618) and the Tang (619 – 907). The first was one of the shortest lasing dynasties. The later, is considered one of the greatest in Chinese history. They extended the boundaries of China through Siberia in the North, Korea in the east, and were in what is now Vietnam in the South. They even extended a corridor of control along the Silk Road well into modern-day Afghanistan. Then came the Song dynasty (1127 – 1279), they were formed by military rule. The most important development during the Song was that agricultural technology. Then came the Mongols and the Ming. The Mongols were considered in high regard, while the Ming has a reputation for being fatter, lazier, crazier, and nastier than the average Imperial family.

In 1644, the Manchus took over China and founded the Qing dynasty. The Qing (1644 – 1911) weren’t the worst rulers; under them the arts flowered. In 1911, the Qing dynasty collapsed and China plunged headlong into chaos. Then came the Republican China. During World War I, the Chinese Government, such as it was, sided with the Allies. In 1939, World War II started. This initially had little effect on the situation in China, as the Japanese were not involved with war in Europe. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the main thrust of the Japanese war effort turned away from fighting the Chinese and towards fighting the Americans. At the end of World War II, the war between the Nationalists and the Communists started up again. By that October, the Nationalists had fled to Taiwan and Mao Zedong had proclaimed the creation of the People’s Republic of China. And that brings us to present times.

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