Chinese civilization is unique in world history through its continuity over 4,000 years to the present century. No other civilization has experienced this longevity, or even come close. The written history of China dates back over 3,300 years.

Traditionally, the northern Yellow River region has been recognized as the cradle of the Chinese civilization. However, in the last decades this view has been challenged by recent finds in the Yangtze River Region where modern archaeological studies provide evidence of ancient cultures flourishing more than 10 000 years ago.

Chinese history, until the twentieth century, was meant to provide the ruler with precedents to guide his policies and justify his authority. The accounts focused on dynastic politics and colorful court histories. The historians described a Chinese political pattern of dynasties, one following another in a cycle of ascent, achievement, decay, and rebirth under a new ruling family.

A salient trait contributing to thius longevity has been the capacity of the Chinese to absorb the people of surrounding areas into their own civilization. Over the centuries Confucian scholars proved to be a resource to manage the vast country  Since the wealth of the country was based on farming, it was by nature a rural society.

Over the ages a recurrent historical theme has been the unceasing struggle of the Chinese against the threat posed by non-Chinese peoples on the margins of their territory in the north, northeast, and northwest. In this struggle the Great Wall can, besides its military value, be seen as an important tool for unifying those "inside" against those "outside".

From the earliest times,The Great Wall could in times of droughts also easily keep out the grazing herds of the nomadic outsiders from the Chinese cultivated river valleys and the fields on the Chinese lowland.

In the thirteenth century, the Mongols from the northern steppes became the first outsiders to conquer all of China. Although basically nomadic they left some imprint on Chinese civilization while heightening Chinese perceptions of the threat from the north.

China came under outside rule for the second time in the mid-seventeenth century; the conquerors - the Manchus - came again from the north and northeast.

For thousands of years virtually all the foreigners that Chinese rulers saw came from less developed societies which conditioned the Chinese view of their domain as the center of the universe and derived from this image the traditional (and still used) Chinese name for their country - Zhongguo, the Middle Kingdom.

To understand the problems that occurred in the Chinese contacts with the rapidly industrializing Western countries one has to consider the Chinese focus on farming as the one activity that actually produced something of value, that most business of the state was run by - as well as the Emperors advisors were - Confician scholars with an age-old view of the merchant class as the lowest possibly class, and the huge distance between the governmental center in the North of China and the more trade and commercially oriented Southern China.

Since most contacts with the Western powers were run with the Southern Hong merchants as middlemen, the key problem was that no tradition of contacts and understanding between China and the West ever came to be, on the ruling level.

Lacking information and understanding China took it for granted that its relations with Europeans would be conducted according to the tributary system that had evolved over the centuries between the emperor and representatives of the lesser states on China's borders as well as between the emperor and some earlier European visitors.

But by the mid-nineteenth century, humiliated militarily by superior Western weaponry and technology and faced with imminent territorial dismemberment, China began to reassess its position with respect to Western civilization. By 1911 the two-millennia-old dynastic system of imperial government was brought down by its inability to make this adjustment successfully.

Chinese Dynasties & Periods

    Neolithic Cultures (5900 -1700 BC)
         Cishan-Peiligang (5900 - 5100)
         BeiXin (5400 - 4500)
         Hemudu (5000 - 4800)
                 Banpo (4800 - 4200)
                  Majiayao (3300 - 2000)
                  Banshan (2700 - 2400)
                  Machang (2400 - 2000)
         Majiabing (4750 - 3900)
         Dawenkou (4500 - 2300)
         Shilingxia (4000 - 3500)
         Daxi (4000 - 3300)
         Miaodigou (3900 - 3500)
         Songze (3900 - 2700)
         Hongshan (3500 - 2200)
         Qingwangzhai (3400 - 3000)
         Henan Longshan (2800 - 1900)
         Qujialing (2700 - 2600)
         Shixia (2700 - 2500)
         Liangzhu (2700 -1250)
         Shandong Longshan (2300 -1700)
         Erlitou (1900 -1600)

    Xia (2100 -1600 BC)

    Shang (1600 -1100 BC)

    Western Zhou (1100 -771 BC)
    Spring & Autumn (770 - 476 BC)
    Warring States (475 - 221 BC)

    Qin (221 - 207BC)

    Western Han (206BC - 24AD)
    Eastern Han (23 - 220)

    Three Kingdoms (220 - 280)
          Kingdom of Shu (221 - 265)
          Kingdom of Wei (220 - 265)
          Kingdom of Wu (222 - 280)

    Western Jin (265 - 317)
    Eastern Jin (317 - 420)
    Northern Dynasties (386 - 581)
          Bei Wei (386 - 534)
          Xi Wei (535 - 556)
          Dong Wei (534 - 560)
          Bei Qi (550 - 577)
          Bei Zhou ((557 - 581)
    Southern Dynasties (420 - 589)
          Liu Song (420 - 479)
          Qi (479 - 502)
          Liang (502 - 557)
          Chen (557 - 589)    

    Sui (589 - 617)

    Tang (618 - 906)

    Five Dynasties (907 - 959)

    Liao (907 -1125)

    Song (960 -1179)
    Jin (1115 -1234)

    Yüan (1280 -1368)

    Ming (1368 -1644)

    Qing (1644-1911)

    Republic (1912 - 1949)

    PROC (1949 - Present)
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