Preparation

Travel Preparation

Chinese Dynasties

The history of Chinese civilization stretches back almost 5,000 years and chronicles a fascinating transition from primitive society through warring states to prosperous dynasties that led the world in innovation through to the end of dynastic China. Wherever you travel in China you will be surrounded by history both ancient and modern.

Timeline of Chinese dynasties

As you will see from the table below, China’s dynasties were not always clearly delineated; there was a great deal of overlap and infighting as different rulers and factions competed to control the largest possible share of the country. In fact, the area we refer to as China today was only really unified in the mid to late-Qing dynasty.

Dynasty

Period

Capital

Notable figures

Xia

2070-1600 BC

Xia County, Shanxi


Shang

1600-1046 BC

Xiangqiu, Henan


Zhou

1046-256 BC

Xi’an


Spring and Autumn Period

770-476 BC

Xi’an

Confucius, Laozi, Sun Tzu

Warring States Period

475-221 BC

Xi’an

Mencius

Qin

221-207 BC

Xi’an

Qin Shi Huang

Han

202 BC-220 AD

Xi’an, Luoyang (Eastern Han, 25-220 AD)

Zhuge Liang, Cao Cao

Three Kingdoms

220-280 AD



Kingdom of Wei

220-265 AD

Luoyang


Kingdom of Shu

221-263 AD

Chengdu


Kingdom of Wu

222-280 AD

Nanjing


Jin

265-420 AD

Luoyang (265-317 AD), Nanjing (317-420 AD)


Southern and Northern

420-589 AD



Sui

581-618 AD

Xi’an


Tang

618-907 AD

Xi’an

Li Bai

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms

907-960 AD

Kaifeng, Henan


Song

960-1279 AD

Kaifeng (960-1127 AD), Lin’an, Zhejiang (1127-1279 AD)


Liao

907-1125 AD

Liaoning


Western Xia

1038-1227 AD

Yinchuan, Ningxia


Jin

1115-1234 AD

Beijing


Yuan

1271-1368 AD

Beijing

Kublai Khan

Ming

1368-1644 AD

Beijing

Yongle Emperor

Qing

1644-1911 AD

Beijing

Kangxi Emperor, Qianlong Emperor, Pu Yi, Sun Yat-Sen


Historical highlights on your trip to China

Qin Dynasty

Terracotta Warriors

In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang founded the first centralized, unified, multi-ethnic state in Chinese history under the Qin dynasty. His achievements were manifold, including introducing standardized weights and measures and beginning the construction of the Great Wall of China. You can visit his mausoleum on the outskirts of Beijing and see the hundreds of clay figures that were created to protect him in the afterlife - better known today as the Terracotta Warriors.

Tang Dynasty

Tang Dynasty Show

Often regarded as the “golden age” of Chinese culture and civilization, with politics, economics, and military strength reaching new levels of advancement during this period. The Tang dynasty capital was Chang’an (today’s Xi’an), which was one of the largest cities in the world at the time. If Xi’an is on your itinerary, you can see the impressive Tang Dynasty Show, which uses music, dance, and song to take you on a journey through the prosperous Tang dynasty.

Song and Yuan Dynasty

The Song dynasty was an era of great economic and social development, including the growth of commerce and trade, the expansion of urban areas, and many technological innovations. The Song, and later Yuan, dynasties are credited with the advent of China’s so-called “four great inventions”: paper-making, printing, gunpowder, and the compass.

Founded by the grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty made Beijing (then known as Dadu) the capital for the first time.

Ming and Qing Dynasty

the Forbidden City

Both the Ming and Qing dynasties were times of great development, change, and upheaval, culminating in the end of dynastic China in 1911 after the revolution lead by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen.

Many of the main sights you will see in Beijing - the Forbidden City, the Ming Tombs, and some restored sections of the Great Wall - are from the Ming and Qing dynasties, as it was the capital during these periods.


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