This is part four of a 5-part series on the Complete History of China (abridged). I am covering the basics of China’s history to help me (and you) understand what makes China the way it is. Last week, we covered ancient China and the beginnings of the Dynastic age. Today, we cover 1000 years of China’s History.
960 AD – The Song dynasty takes over after the 5 Periods and Ten Kingdoms period. This dynasty happened at the same time as the Khitan Dynasty in the North of China. The Song are the first government to issue paper money. (cue the Money, money, money song!) The population has reached 100 million people! Even with all those mouths to feed, rice farming technologies improved creating a food surplus. In fact, the same techniques for farming rice are used up until the 20th Century. Other technological advances are made including the invention of the printing press, perfecting gun powder, and even a flame thrower!
1115 AD – Meanwhile in the north, the Khitan empire fell to the Jin Dynasty. Not happy with just that, the Jin went on to take the northern half of the Song Dynasty as well. Everything was great until the Mongols, led by Ghegis Khan, started encroaching from the West. The Southern Song Dynasty was feeling pressure from the Mongols as well.
1271 AD – The Mongols are finally able to defeat both the Jin and the Song Dynasties and created the Yuan Dynasty, made up of Mongols. This was more an occupying government than an actual Dynasty. The Mongol influence brought a diversity in culture, including changes in the novel and written word, the Chinese Opera, and new religions. In the end, the civil the Chinese and their culture proved too much for the foreign occupiers.
1368 AD – A rebellion against the Mongol led Yuan dynasty founded the Ming Dynasty. The last Han-led dynasty and the second to the last great dynasty of China. The Grand Canal is expanded enticing more internal trade. Naval exploration reaches Africa and some theorize even the Americas. A rift between Confucian scholars and the government led to laws against leaving the country. Occasionally trade ships were still sent out, mainly to the Philippines, but most ocean travel had halted. Because of a plot against the emperor, the prime minster of China is killed, along wit his family and anyone connected to him. Also at this time, the Ming built the Forbidden City and gaveMacao (of gambling fame today) to Portugal. An oversupply of money, famine and plague was the downfall of the Ming Dynasty.
1644 AD – The Ming were followed by the Qing Dynasty who were of Manchu decent. It is during this time that China truly shuts itself off from the rest of the world, much to the disappoint of the West. The Emperor attains god-like status and China gains an attitude of superiority over every other country. The Great Chinese novel is written. Like all other dynasty rebellion eventually ripped apart this one. With rebellion attacking from within China and foreigner attacked from outside, theQing Dynasty fell in 1911.