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Far East Kingdoms

China

 

 

 

China's dynasties begins here.

FeatureChou / Zhou / Shu Dynasty (Bronze Age)
1122 - 255 BC (1027 - 256 BC)

An ancestor of the Zhou, Dan Fu, was made lord of the fiefdom of Qi during the reign of Shang King Wu-yi. Dan Fu's direct descendant, Wu Wang, leds the rebellion against desperately poor Shang leadership in 1122 BC, overthrowing the dynasty in favour of one of his own.

Under the Zhou (pronounced in English as 'Jio' but with a very soft 'j'), people began to use the twelve branches system to record time and set solar terms to guide agriculture. An accurate eclipse is record in this period, and branches of medicine appear. The first Zhou king, Wu Wang, also laid down the rules for all later Chinese leaders - rulers must be virtuous and keep harmony between humanity and the cosmos by observing the rights and the music of the heavens. Some of the Zhou rituals survive to this day, deeply imbued in Daoism, the oldest of China's faiths.

This dynasty should not be confused with the independent Shu state which was conquered by the Qin in 316 BC, during the Warring States period.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

Early Zhou Period
1122 - 771 BC

Western Zhou
1122 - 722 BC

Capital: Hao.

Eastern Zhou
1122 - 722 BC

Capital: Chengzhou originally, then Luoyang.

(Additional information from Tsinghua University.)

1122 - 1119 BC

Wu Wang

Western Zhou. Great-grandson of Duke Dan Fu, lord of Qi.

1122 - ? BC

Wugeng Lufu

Son of Zhou Shang vassal ruler of the Shang.

1119 BC

Following the death of Wu Wang, the Shang, probably still under Wugeng Lufu, join the Three Governors' Rebellion. Wu's brother, Zhou Gongdan, acts as regent for the king's young son and plays a major role in defeating the rebellion and consolidating the rule of the Zhou. Thanks to his fiefdom being based around the Zhou capital of Chengzhou, Gongdan is also known as Zhou Gong, Zhou Gong Dan, Shu Dan, and Zhou Dan.

1119 - ? BC

Chêng Wang

Son.

1119 - 1112 BC

Zhou Gongdan / Chou Kung-tan

Uncle and regent. Known colloquially as 'The Duke of Zhou'.

K'ang Wang

1099 BC

An earthquake is recorded by the Zhou dynasty, striking the capital in Shaanxi province. The earthquake's epicentre is not recorded, but it could be farther to the west, possibly closer to the Sanxingdui culture. The people of this culture have not yet developed writing of their own, and are too far removed from Shaanxi province for it to have reached them, so their opinion on the matter is not recorded.

c.1000 BC

Another earthquake shortly after 1000 BC may be the culprit in the mysterious disappearance of the Sanxingdui civilisation. The massive temblor may cause catastrophic landslides, damming up the Sanxingdui culture's main water source and diverting it to a new location. This in turn may spur this ancient Chinese culture to move closer to the new river flow, abandoning its previous dwellings.

c.950 BC

Chao Wang

Western Zhou.

Mu Wang

Kung Wang

I Wang

Hsiao Wang

I Wang

878 BC

Li Wang

841 BC

First solid date in Chinese chronology.

827 BC

Hsüan Wang

781 - 771 BC

Yu Wang

Western Zhou.

FeatureMiddle Zhou Period / Spring & Autumn Period
771 - 473 BC

By this stage in Chinese history, the central kingdom governs a great many tribes and smaller kingdoms, all vassals, but all struggling against one another for regional superiority and even against the ruling king for dynastic supremacy. The country is frequently in turmoil, but out of that turmoil evolves the same evolution of philosophy and a spirit of examination of all that the world contains that is taking place in contemporary Greece.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

771 BC

P'ing Wang

Eastern Zhou.

722 - 481 BC

This is the 'Spring and Autumn Period' of Chinese history. The country is divided into many small states, all of which are frequently at war against one another, and sometimes even with themselves. The Yue state that, in the Xia dynasty period, had according to tradition been founded by Wuyi son of Emperor Shào Kāng, is now flourishing as one of those small independent states.

719 BC

Huan Wang

696 BC

Chuang Wang

681 BC

Hsi Wang

676 BC

Hui Wang

651 BC

Hsiang Wang

618 BC

Ch'ing Wang

612 BC

K'uang Wang

606 BC

Ting Wang

c.600 BC

Until recently, the accepted theory has been that the Thai people originate in north-western China, and migrate southwards to Thailand around this time. Once there, they split into two main groups; one settles in the north and found the kingdom of Lan Na, the other settles further south to found the kingdom of Sukhothai. A modern theory suggests that the migration takes place in the opposite direction, from Thailand to China and elsewhere.

585 BC

Chien Wang

571 BC

Ling Wang

551 BC

Confucius is born in the town of Qufu (pronounced 'chufu'), which is the capital of the warring kingdom of Lu. His name in English is a Latinisation of his Chinese honorific, K'ung Fu-tzu, which is comprehended as Kong Fuzi by Jesuit missionaries in the sixteenth century AD. Confucius' parents had migrated from the Song state to Lu, and Confucius himself is a direct descendant of the Shang nobility, via their reduced successors, the lords (or dukes, in western terms) of Song.

One of his early accomplishments in his twenties, in what has become a fairly high-level ministerial role, is to act as a peace broker between three ruling clans within the Lu state - the Jisun (or Ji), Mengsun (or Meng), and Shusun clans. He persuades them to demolish their fortifications and acknowledge the duke as their lord. He realises that his true goal in life should be to restore civilisation by teaching rulers to be virtuous. Only this and the ability to rule with morality would preserve the Chinese state.

544 BC

Ching Wang

519 BC

Ching Wang

Warring States Era
481 - 221 BC

Late Zhou Period
472 - 256 BC

475 BC

Yüan Wang

469 BC

Confucius dies having so far failed in his mission to bring virtuousness to the country's rulers and moral values to the method of their rule. The warring states continue to fight until the last of the Zhou have fallen, but the ideas that Confucius leaves behind are taken up by his disciples and eventually reach a much wider audience.

468 BC

Chêng-ting Wang

440 BC

K'ao Wang

425 BC

Wei-lieh Wang

401 BC

An Wang

c.400 BC

The dynasty collapses and fragments.

375 BC

Lieh Wang

368 BC

Hsien Wang

320 BC

Shên-ching Wang

316 BC

The Qin kingdom conquers the independent Shu state which is located in the modern Sichuan province. For the first time, this act draws the Sichuan Basin into a China that has previously been centred on the Yellow River.

314 - 256 BC

Nan Wang

King of Chou.

311 - 279 BC

Chao-hsiang Wang

King of Yen.

Ch'in / Qin Dynasty
255 - 207/6 BC

The kingdom of Qin (pronounced 'chin') was the westernmost of the seven warring kingdoms, forming a wide north-south barrier to the barbarian lands beyond, and bordering the kingdom of Zhao to the east. In his time as the third ruler of the dynasty, Wang Chêng was the most feared leader, regarded as a common threat by all the other kingdoms. His ruthless drive to unite China saw him conquer the others one by one (there are numerous tales of assassins sent to kill the king, one of which is depicted in the Chinese feature film, Hero / Ying Xiong.). He produced a contemporary super-army, a strongly regimented force with mass-produced bronze weapons that was expertly led. China had seen nothing like it.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

250 BC

Hsiao-wên Wang

King of Qin.

249 BC

Chuang-hsing Wang

King of Qin.

247 - 221 BC

Wang Chêng

King of Qin. Upon the reunification of China, he changed his name.

222 BC

The Qin conquer the Yen/Yan, who also rule Korean Chosen.

221 BC

FeatureThe 'Warring States Period' comes to an end as the Qin conquer the last remaining rival kingdoms and unify the Yellow Plain, and therefore ancient China. Having created the first empire of all China, Emperor Shi Huangdi dispossesses many of the old aristocracies and creates a huge captive labour force so that he can begin construction of the Great Wall to keep out the barbarians and ensure peace for his unitary state. He also creates a standardised coinage system and bureaucracy, a simplified Chinese script, and a terracotta army to safeguard him in the afterlife. Even the name of his kingdom is used forevermore by outsiders - Ch'in becoming China - although the Chinese themselves use a different name.

Around 220 BC, Greco-Bactrians may be responsible for expeditions that reach as far as Kashgar and Urumqi in Chinese Turkestan, establishing the first known contacts between China and the West. The name Daxia appears in Chinese records from around this time to designate a mythical kingdom in the west, possibly referring to Bactria itself.

Even more remarkably, recent examinations of the terracotta army have established a startling new concept - the terracotta army may be the product of western art forms and technology. An entire terracotta army plus imperial court are manufactured using five workshops and a form of human representation in sculpture that has never before been seen in China. Archaeologists today continue the process of discovering new pits and even a fan of roads leading out from the emperor's burial mound, one of which, heading west, may be a sort of proto-Silk Road along which Greek craftsmen may be travelling.

221 - 210 BC

Shi Huangdi / Shih-huang-ti / Qin Shihuang

Formerly Wang Chêng. Reunified China.

210 - 207 BC

Erh-shih-huang-ti

Puppet ruler. Second son. Committed suicide.

207/6 BC

?

Puppet ruler.

Early Han (Western) Dynasty
207 BC - AD 25

The hated Qin did not long survive the death of their great leader, Shi Huangdi. The Han state almost immediately rebelled and, under the leadership of Kao Tsu and Liu Bang, pursued a four year war to overthrow the Qin and to reunite China. Liu Bang achieved success in 202 BC, and his magical birth to a dragon who mated with his mother created an enduring legacy for Chinese culture.

However, the Qin achievement of creating a unified China was not lost. Following their war of unification the Han made sure that they preserved it, The Han also provided a popular dynastic name that the Chinese continued to use to refer to their country as a whole - Han. Travellers to Japan under the Wei Dynasty reported on its early development as a kingdom.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from External Link: Listverse.)

207 - 202 BC

Qin/Han War. Liu Bang overthrows the hated Qin and founds a new dynasty.

207 - 202 BC

Kao Tsu

202 - 195 BC

Liu Bang

195 - 180 BC

Empress Lü

194 BC

Korean Old Chosen rebels against Chinese rule and regains independence as Wiman Chosen.

195 - 187 BC

Hui Ti

187 - 179 BC

Lu Hou

179 - 156 BC

Wên Ti

Son of Liu Bang.

c.165 BC

Defeated by the Xiongnu, the Yeuh Chi/Yuezhi are forced to evacuate their lands on the borders of the Chinese. They begin a migration westwards that triggers a slow domino effect of barbarian movement.

156 - 140 BC

Ching Ti

140 - 87 BC

Wu Di / Wu Ti

c.155 BC

The Sakas (as the Amyrgians) are displaced from Farghana by the Great Yuezhi (Tocharians). This is an event that is connected with the migration of the Yuezhi across Da Yuan (the Chinese term for Farghana), following another defeat, this time by an alliance of the Wusun and the Xiongnu. The Tocharians are forced to move again, causing a ripple-effect of barbarian migration.

These mass migrations of the second century BC are confused and somewhat lacking in Greek and Chinese sources because the territory concerned is beyond any detailed understanding of theirs. Whatever the reason, the Saka king transfers his headquarters to the south, across the Hanging Passage that leads to Jibin. This is part of a southwards trend for the Sakas, and by approximately the mid-first century BC, Saka kings appear in India.

c.140 - 130 BC

Following their long migration from the Chinese border in about 165 BC, the Tocharians/Yuezhi follow the Indo-Scythians in invading Bactria. The Yuezhi are later united under one of their tribes, the Kushans, to form an empire which stretches into India.

126 BC

The name Daxia is used by the explorer Zhang Qian to designate Bactria.

111 BC

The Chieu rulers of Nam Viet are defeated and conquered by China, and only re-emerge in AD 544.

90s BC

The nomadic Yancai are recorded by Sima Qian, centred on the northern shore of the Aral Sea. Their territory lays to the north-west of the Kangju nomadic federation, to whom they hold some similarities in terms of customs.

86 - 73 BC

Chao Ti

73 - 48 BC

Hsüan Ti

53 BC

Rome suffers one of the worst defeats in its history when Triumvir Crassus leads an army to annihilation against the Parthians at Carrhae (Harran). Subsequent legend says that a small band of Roman prisoners wander through the desert and are eventually rounded up by the Han military seventeen years later (36 BC).

First century Chinese historian Ban Gu later writes an account of a confrontation with a strange army of about a hundred men fighting in a 'fish-scale formation' unique to Roman forces. A comparison of ancient records by Homer Dubs at Oxford results in the claim that the lost legion escapes the Parthians and serves as mercenaries for the Huns for the next two decades.

48 - 32 BC

Yuan Ti

36 BC

The Huns are defeated at the Battle of Zhizhi (in modern Kazakhstan) by Chinese troops of the Western Han. According to Homer Dubs at Oxford, a total of a hundred and forty-five of the Romans who had escaped captivity after the battle of Carrhae fall into Chinese hands and are recruited to guard the newly created town of Liqian (pronounced lee-chen, in modern Gansu Province). They settle there, with the result that later generations of the town's inhabitants have green eyes, blonde hair and, it seems, a fondness for bullfighting. In 2005, DNA tests show that the Liqian villagers are fifty six per cent Caucasian, although that's not proof of a direct link to a Roman legion.

Liqian
The town of Liqian may be the location in which Roman soldiers settled in the first century BC, but it so far remains unproven

32 - 6 BC

Ch'eng Ti

6 BC - AD 1

Ai Ti

AD 1

P'ing Ti

Eight year-old.

1 - 5

Wang Mang

5 - 9

Ju-tzu

Child.

Hsin / Xin (New) Dynasty
AD 9 - 23

9 - 23

Wang Mang

Later Han (Eastern) Restoration
AD 23 - 220

23 - 55

Guang wu di / Kuang-wu Ti

55 - 76

Ming Ti

61 - 67

Kashyapa Matanga introduces Buddhism to China.

76 - 89

Chang Ti

89 - 106

Ho Ti

c.90 - 112

The Kushan emperor, Kadphises II, expands the borders of his empire up to the limits of Chinese influence, and even sends ambassadors to the imperial court.

106 - 107

Shang Ti

107 - 126

An Ti

c.125

By now, in Chinese records, the Yancai have become the Alanliao (or the 'old Yancai') and have expanded towards the Caspian Sea. They appear to remain dependent upon the Kangju.

126 - 145

Shun Ti

c.132

The successor to the Kushan throne, Kanishka, is apparently killed by his own soldiers during one of his military expeditions to China.

145 - 146

Ch'ung Ti

146 - 147

Chih Ti

147 - 168

Huan Ti

168 - 189

Lingdi / Ling Ti

189 - 220

Xiandi / Hsien Ti

Puppet. Period of anarchy.

Warlords of the Three Kingdoms
AD 220 - 265

Minor Han (Shu Han) Dynasty
AD 221 - 265

220 - 223

Cao Pei / Chao-lieh Ti (Wei Dyn)

Wei King.

223 - 263

Hou Chu

263

The Shu kingdom is subjugated.

Wei Dynasty
AD 220 - 265

Travellers to Japan under the Wei Dynasty reported on its early development as a kingdom.

c.168 - 207

A Chinese chronicle known as Sanguozhi records that the Kushan king, Vasudeva I sends a tribute to Cao Rui of Wei. The vacuum created by the Chinese retreat in Central Asia is apparently filled by Vasudeva.

244

The Wei capture the capital of Korean Koguryo.

c.240s - 250s

The Alans are no longer dependent upon the Kangju, as recorded by the Weilüe history of the Wei dynasty.

Wu Dynasty
AD 220 - 258

More usually known as the Eastern Wu.

265 - 589

China is split into North and South kingdoms.

Jin / Tsin Dynasty
AD 265 - 589

North China

South China

Western Jin / Tsin Dynasty
AD 265 - 317

The Western Tsin were driven out of Korea in 313.

Eastern Jin / Tsin Dynasty
AD 317 - 420

265 - 290

Wu Ti / Sima Yan

317 - 323

Jin Sima (Yuan Di)

280

The Wu Kingdom is subjugated.

323 - 326

Ming Ti

290

Hui Ti

326 - 343

Ch'êng Ti

307

Huai Ti

343 - 345

K'ang Ti

307

The Succession Civil Wars take place.

345 - 362

Mu Ti

308 - 310

Liu Yuan

362 - 366

Ai Ti

313

Min Ti

366 - 371

Fei Ti

371 - 373

Chien-wên Ti

373 - 397

Hsiao-wu Ti

Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians
AD 317 - 386

397 - 419

An Ti

1. Northern Wei [Wèi] Dynasty AD 386 - 534 (Tuoba Wei)

At the start of the fifth century, China was still divided. Several regional kingdoms rose and fell, and each fought the other for power and territory. This allowed various barbarian empires also to rise and fall along China's western borders. To the north-west this included the Rouran, who governed much of Mongolia until the middle of the century.

The Northern Wei were also known as the Tuoba Wei. They inflicted a massacre on the Turkified Xianbei, who may have re-emerged soon afterwards as the Göktürks of Mongolia.

(Additional information from The Origin of the Turks and the Turkish Khanate, Gao Yang (Tenth Türk Tarih Kongresi, Ankara 1986), from Türkiye halkının kültür kökenleri: Giriş, beslenme teknikleri, Burhan Oğuz (1976), from The Turks in World History, Carter Vaughin Findley (Oxford University Press 2005), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), and from Ethnogenesis in the tribal zone: The Shaping of the Turks, Peter Benjamin Golden (2005).)

419 - 420

Kung Ti / Gong

Abdicated.

423 - 452

Tuoba Tao / Taiwu

439

The Book of Sui reports that on 18 October the Tuoba ruler Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei overthrows Juqu Mujian of the Northern Liang in eastern Gansu. The attack results in five hundred Ashina families fleeing to the north-west, into the Rouran khaganate in the vicinity of Gaochang. These Ashina families soon emerge as the Göktürks.

 

? - 471

Tuoba Hung

471 - ?

Xiaowen

Sung / Song (Anterior) Dynasty AD 420 - 479

(Unknown)

420 - 423

Wu Ti

(Unknown)

423 - 424

Fei Ti

- 515

(Unknown)

424 - 454

Wen Ti

515 - 529

Empress Dowager Ling

454 - 465

Hsiao-wu Ti

515 - 528

(Unknown)

465 - 473

Ming Ti

(Unknown)

473 - 477

Fei Ti

528 - 529

(Unknown)

477 - 479

Shun Ti

529 - 534

(Unknown)

534

Northern Wei splits into Eastern and Western Wei, Chi and Zhou.

Ch'i / Qi (Southern) Dynasty AD 479 - 502

2. Western Wei Dynasty AD 535 - 556

(Additional information from The Origin of the Turks and the Turkish Khanate, Gao Yang (Tenth Türk Tarih Kongresi, Ankara 1986), from Türkiye halkının kültür kökenleri: Giriş, beslenme teknikleri, Burhan Oğuz (1976), from The Turks in World History, Carter Vaughin Findley (Oxford University Press 2005), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), and from Ethnogenesis in the tribal zone: The Shaping of the Turks, Peter Benjamin Golden (2005).)

479 - 483

Kao Ti

535 - ?

(Unknown)

483 - 494

Wu Ti

? -556

(Unknown)

494 - 499

Ming Ti

552

The Göktürks rise up against their Rouran overlords with support from the Western Wei. The Rouran are defeated and eclipsed, allowing the Göktürks to replace them as the regional power.

499 - 501

Tung Hun Ho

556

Western Wei becomes Northern Zhou.

499 - 501

Tung Hun Ho

501 - 502

Ho Ti

3. Eastern Wei Dynasty AD 534 - 550

550

Eastern Wei becomes Northern Chi.

Liang (Southern) Dynasty AD 502 - 557

502 - 549

Wu Ti

4. Northern Ch'i [Qí] Dynasty AD 550 - 577

550 - 552

Chien-wên Ti

577

Conquered by Northern Zhou.

552 - 555

Yüan Ti

555 - 557

Ching Ti

5. Northern Chou [Zhou] Dynasty AD 557 - 581

(Unknown)

Chen (Southern) Dynasty AD 549 - 589

? - 578

Wu

557 - 560

Wu Ti

578 - 581

Yu-wen Bin

560 - 567

Wên Ti

Seven unknown rulers in this period

567 - 569

Fei Ti

577

Conquers Northern Chi.

569 - 583

Hsuan Ti

583 - 589

Hou Chu

589

North conquers South and unites China.

Sui Dynasty
AD 590 - 617

Feature(Additional information from The Origin of the Turks and the Turkish Khanate, Gao Yang (Tenth Türk Tarih Kongresi, Ankara 1986), from Türkiye halkının kültür kökenleri: Giriş, beslenme teknikleri, Burhan Oğuz (1976), from The Turks in World History, Carter Vaughin Findley (Oxford University Press 2005), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), and from Ethnogenesis in the tribal zone: The Shaping of the Turks, Peter Benjamin Golden (2005).)

590 - 604

Yang Jian / Chien / Wen Ti

Usurper General.

583 - 603

Bilge Tardu of the Western khagans denounces the sovereignty of Bagha İşbara of the Eastern khagans, despite his being elected by the high council. Tardu leads an army into the east to claim the seat of imperial power at Otukan. İşbara is forced to contact Emperor Yang of Sui for protection (seemingly before the Sui have established their kingdom in 590) which diverts Tardu. He attacks the Sui capital at Chang'an, around the year 600, and demands that Emperor Yang end his interference in the civil war. In retaliation, Chinese diplomacy successfully incites a revolt of Tardu's Tiele vassals, which leads to the end of Tardu's reign in 603.

Map of Central Asia AD 550-600
As was often the case with Central Asian states that had been created by horse-borne warriors on the sweeping steppelands, the Göktürk khaganate swiftly incorporated a vast stretch of territory in its westwards expansion, whilst being hemmed in by the powerful Chinese dynasties to the south-east and Siberia's uninviting tundra to the north (click on map to show full sized)

603

The Early Li dynasty of Nam Viet is conquered, and remains under Chinese control until 939.

604 - 617

Yangdi / Yang Kuang

612

The Korean state of Koguryo is invaded, but the Chinese are defeated.

615 - 617

Khagan Şipi of the Göktürks is the first of the great khagans to contemplate rebellion against his overlords, the Sui Chinese, since Bagha İşbara first submitted to them to outwit his rival, Bilge Tardu of the Western khagans. He employs Sogdian viziers to help him plot and plan so that, when the Sui ministers arrive at the Chinese town of Mai for peace negotiations in 615, they are all killed.

During the last, turmoil-filled years of Emperor Yangdi's reign, Şipi fuels his troubles by supporting various warlords in north-west China who have claimed the throne. One of these warlords is Li Yuan of the Tang who eventually secures the throne and replaces the Sui with his own dynasty. Şipi supplies him with two thousand horses and cavalry of five hundred so that the Tang are able to make good progress, especially at the Battle of Huo-i, which virtually finishes the Sui as a military force.

617

Kung Ti

Tang / T'ang Dynasty
AD 617 - 689

Li Yuan was a rival warlord in north-western China, one of many who had their eyes on the weakening Sui throne. He was supported in his efforts by Khagan Şipi of the Göktürks in Mongolia, a vassal of the Sui until he revolted in 615. Şipi supplied him with two thousand horses and cavalry of five hundred so that the Tang were able to make good progress, especially at the Battle of Huo-i, which virtually finished the Sui as a military force.

One of the first great endeavours to be enacted by the Tang was the construction of the Grand Canal. Begun in the 600s, it was a vast undertaking that connected together the Yellow River and the Yangtze towards their eastern reaches, providing a north-south route that suddenly opened up southern China to newfound wealth and expansion as a trading centre. The canal remains a vital part of modern China's industrial efforts. Employing around five million men, around AD 605 the canal reached north to a small town called Beijing (over a thousand years before Europe's industrial revolution). Additionally, by the time of the Tang, a hot drink known for its beneficial effects of health became a mass drink. Tea became a drink for everyone.

(Additional information from The Origin of the Turks and the Turkish Khanate, Gao Yang (Tenth Türk Tarih Kongresi, Ankara 1986), from Türkiye halkının kültür kökenleri: Giriş, beslenme teknikleri, Burhan Oğuz (1976), from The Turks in World History, Carter Vaughin Findley (Oxford University Press 2005), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), from Ethnogenesis in the tribal zone: The Shaping of the Turks, Peter Benjamin Golden (2005), and from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

617 - 626

Li Yuan / Gaozu / Kao Tsu

Warlord who replaced the Sui.

626 - 649

Taizong / T'ai Tsung / Li Shih-min

627 - 630

During the early years of his reign, Khagan Khieli of the Göktürks makes the mistake of attacking the powerful Tang empire and is defeated by a revolt of the Tiele tribes that is led by the Uyghurs and the Xueyantuo. In 627 he attempts to levy horses from the vassal Tiele tribes after all his livestock are killed during a summer snowstorm. The Tiele revolt as part of a Xueyantuo coalition, and Emperor Taizong wastes no time in allying himself with the Tiele and the Khitans in a joint attack.

Khieli is already facing internal dissent from the Göktürk generals who are jealous of the influence of his Sogdian viziers. Now he is defeated and captured by the Tang (in 630). Emperor Taizong spares his life but he is not allowed to return home. The eastern Göktürks now enter a period of Chinese domination without a khagan of their own. The Western khagans continue to remain independent.

630 - 700

The legendary life of Ti Jen-chieh (Di Renjie), or Judge Dee. In 630 Taizong defeats and imprisons Kara Khieli of the Eastern khagans. Nestorian missionaries arrive in Ch'ang-an in 635. The conquest of the Tarim Basin takes place in 645.

635 - 638

In 635, Raban Abraha, a 'wise man from the west' - perhaps from Persia - decides to bring the Christian scriptures to China, presumably following the Silk Road to the Tang capital at Xi'an. The emperor welcomes him and has the scriptures translated in the imperial library before he considers them in his private apartments. In a culture that welcomes any path to enlightenment, he is deeply convinced of their truthfulness.

In 638 a stone inscription is created that records the coming of Christianity to China (now one of China's most valuable historical artefacts and national treasures). It records: 'The way for humanity at different times in  different places did not have the same name. And the great sage at different times and different places was not in the same human body. Over history, heaven ordained that true religion would be established in different countries and different climates so that all of humanity might be saved. We have considered the Christian scriptures and have decided that in all their essentials, they are about the core values of humanity, and we decree that they be propagated throughout the empire'.

639 - 640

A noble of the Eastern Göktürks, Kür Şad, revolts and attacks the Chinese imperial palace with no success. He and his followers flee to the north but are cornered and killed by their pursuers. Following his subjugation of the Göktürks, Emperor Taizong had briefly resettled them within Tang borders, but after a failed Göktürk assassination attempt against him in 639 he changes his mind and decides to move them between the Great Wall and the Gobi Desert, to serve as a buffer between the Tang and the Xueyantuo. To keep the Göktürks in order he raises Qilibi Khan to the position of khagan of the Göktürks in a weakened recreation of their khaganate.

645 - 647

An attempt to occupy Korean Koguryo fails.

647

The emperor sends an emissary to the Indian kingdom of Thaneshwar expecting it to meet Harsha Vardhana but finding a usurper, Arjuna, on the throne.

649 - 683

Gaozong / Kao Tsung

Son.

659 - 665

Transoxiana (to the north-east of Persia) is occupied for a short period around the same time as the Islamic empire is conquering Persia itself and setting up the Islamic emirate of Khorasan within parts of Transoxiana.

660

The Korean kingdom of Paekche is conquered.

668 - 676

Korean Silla is occupied. Koguryo falls.

679 - 682

A descendant of the defeated Eastern khagans manages to organise a successful revolt against Chinese rule in 679. He reunites the tribes with a mixture of diplomacy and war and re-establishes the state. He is given the names İl Teriş and Kutlug, and is aided by Tonyukuk (vizier in 682-721). The Chinese are defeated in 681 and the khaganate is restored in Mongolia.

683 - 689

Chung Tsung

Son of Kao Tsung.

Chou / Zhou Dynasty
AD 689 - 705

689 - 705

Empress Wu Zhao

Wei Dynasty
AD 705 - 710

705 - 710

?

Name unknown.

Tang Dynasty Restoration
AD 710 - 906

By AD 715, the Tang dynasty controlled an empire that would not be matched in terms of its westwards extent until the eighteenth century.

710

Chung Tsun

710 - 712

Jui Tsung

712 - 756

Hsuan Tsung / Xuanzong

742

Emperor Hsuan Tsung backs a revolt by three Turkic tribes within the Eastern khaganate that are not related to the royal house of Ashina. The Basmıl, Karluk and Uyghur khans rise up and kill Kutluk Yabgu Khagan, allowing Ozmış to be selected as the new khagan. However, after he refuses to accept the suzerainty of the Tang emperor, the uprising is sponsored again so that it kills Ozmış.

744 - 745

Basmıl Khan (known also by the reignal name of Kulun Beg and by the Chinese name of Pomei or Pai Mei) is elected Eastern khagan but the khaganate has already lost the Central Asian steppe. The Tang emperor decides that it is time that the Göktürks were removed entirely, and he sends an army to defeat Basmil Khan. This it does, and Basmil is captured and handed over for execution by the Uyghurs.

751

The battle of Talas. Arabs defeat the Chinese under Kao Hsien-chih, but advance no further into Central Asia.

756

When General An Lushan declares his rebellion against the emperor for the killing of his son, he rides straight into Ch'ang-an with his Tibetans. Xuanzong is forced into ignominious flight with his bodyguard and his favourites (concubines). They get as far as the hills before the bodyguard puts down its collective foot and refuses to go any further until the favourites are dispensed with. Helpless, the emperor relents and all of the concubines, even the emperor's beloved Lady Yang, are strung up from the trees, the latter by a silk cord.

Greater Yen Dynasty
AD 756 - 761

Far to the north-west, General An Lushan gathered his forces in order to take revenge after the Tang emperor had killed his son. Territory that was under China's control had stretched farther to the west than ever before. Ultimately, it was too far, with too great an expanse to control and too many disparate and fractious tribes to monitor and suppress. Areas of the east were abandoned, not to be regained until the eighteenth century. The crisis point that led to this policy was the eight-year rebellion by An Lushan. Troops were recalled from western outposts and stations, not to return there.

An Lushan took Ch'ang-an without a fight, sweeping in with his mounted Tibetan forces. The Tang emperor fled in the night, with only his bodyguard and his concubines, his authority in tatters. An Lushan was not especially interested in taking his place, though. The result was that central government broke down and China underwent nearly a decade of turmoil, with an enormous number of people being killed or displaced. Something like thirty-five million people who were on the previous census were missing from the next.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

756 - 757

General An Lushan

Usurper rebel.

757

?

Son.

Tang Dynasty Restoration (Continued)

By the eighth century the Tang had grown distant from the people they ruled. The life of the imperial court was one of hunting and parties, and they ignored the gathering storm in the west. When General An Lushan declared his rebellion he rode straight into Ch'ang-an with his Tibetans and Emperor Xuanzong was forced into ignominious flight with his bodyguard. The state was destroyed by this sudden attack and flight.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

756 - 762

Su Tsung

763

The Chinese lose the Tarim Basin to the Tibetans.

762 - 780

Daizong / T'ai Tsung

780 - 805

Tê Tsung

805 - 806

Shun Tsung

806 - 821

Hsien Tsung

821 - 825

Mu Tsung

825 - 827

Ching Tsung

827 - 841

Wen Tsung

841 - 847

Wu Tsung

840s

Unsettled by the continuing destabilisation in China, the Tang have seemingly lost their nerve and have begun to look inwards. In this decade they begin to persecute Buddhists, now convinced that this religion is un-Chinese.

847 - 860

Hsüan Tsung

851

Despite the inward-looking leadership of the Tang, international trade is still flourishing. The Arab merchant Sulaiman visits the south-western Kerala region of India in this year and attests to the fact that trade with China is strong. Sthanu Ravi Varman of the Chera kingdom in the south is indicated by the Tillaisthanam Inscription as being on friendly terms with Chinese monarch.

860 - 874

Yi Tsung

874 - 889

Hsi Tsung

889 - 904

Chao Tsung

904 - 907

Chao-hsüan Ti

Last Tang emperor. Abdicated.

907 - 1227

In 907 Chao-hsüan Ti abdicates, bringing to an end a period of advancement and high culture in China. Now the state plunges headlong into anarchy. Tartar tribes encroach on China's borders and found several of their own dynasties, ruling areas of China itself. This leads to much instability within Chinese China, and a period of civil war.

Liao (Khitan) Tartar Dynasty
AD 907 - 1125

The Liao empire was located largely in northern China and eastern Mongolia.

1125

The Liao are displaced by the Kin/Chin and retreat into Central Asia where they form a short-lived empire, the Qara-Khitaï. Their departure allows the Khamag Mongols to begin to play a more pivotal role on the Mongolian plains.

Civil War Period of the Five Dynasties
AD 907 - 960

With the fall of the Tang, China suffered a near-permanent break up as it plunged into civil war. The soldier poet Wang Renyu witnessed the destruction of his country and recorded that cities had been abandoned, temple courtyards lay in ruins, and a dark time had begun. After 907, the country fragmented into sixteen dynasties in a little over fifty years, each led by its own warlord who fought the other warlords for control of the empire.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

1. Liang (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 907 - 923

907 - 915

T'ai Tau

915 - 923

Mo Ti

2. T'ang (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 923 - 936

923 - 926

Chuang Tsung

926 - 934

Ming Tsung

934 - 936

Min Ti

3. Tsin / Jin (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 936 - 947

936 - 943

Kao Tsu

939

Nam Viet briefly reasserts its independence with the founding of the Ngo Dynasty.

943 - 947

Ch'u Ti

4. Han (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 947 - 951

947 - 951

Kao Tsu

Same as Tsin ruler?

5. Chou / Zhou (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 951 - 960

951 - 954

T'ai Tsu

954 - 960

Shih Tsung

Sung / Song (Northern) Dynasty
AD 960 - 1127

The Song brought China out of its dark age and reunited the country. Since the great age of the Tang, China had shrunk dramatically.

The story of Kaifeng and its Song dynasty begins with the birth of two brothers who, like Romulus and Remus, would become the first emperors of the new dynasty. During the preceding Civil War period, a man called Chen Tuan fled to the sacred mountain of Huashan, where he lived in a cave and became a hermit. There he acquired prophetic visionary powers. One day he came off the mountain and whilst travelling on the road he met a crowd of refugees. One of them was a poor man who was carrying two baskets on a pole on his shoulders. Inside the baskets, there were two baby boys, but when he looked at them the hermit saw dragons and he roared out with laughter. Asked why he was laughing, he exclaimed; 'I never expected that the Mandate of Heaven would come back to earth so quickly.'

In 960, the older of the two brothers, Taizu, announced the new dynasty. He made the provincial backwater city of Kaifeng in eastern-central China his capital. and it soon became a vast new metropolis of wood and brick, thrown up in a feverish construction boom. Within a century, Kaifeng had blossomed into the greatest city on Earth, with a level of creativity and inventiveness that surpassed the later European Renaissance. The Song Chinese set out to build the most enlightened society on the planet, with the best governance, housing and food, and the best education and science. Today parts of Song Kaifeng can still be found, although its city walls, continually improved and heightened by later dynasties, now lay over nine metres (thirty feet) below ground. The main reason for them being at such a depth is the nearby Yellow River, which frequently floods, depositing tons of yellow mud across the city.

Taoism and Buddhism were the official cults of the Song empire, but religion was not an area around which the government intruded into people's lives. Though always watchful of foreigners, the Song, just like the Tang, had many Muslim and Christian communities, which still survive today. A form of football - 'kick ball' - was also popular at this time. Although not as massively popular as today's game, it was a spectator sport, with clubs, handbooks, rules, and fans. In line with the Song practice of good manners, abusing the referee was un-Confucian, and professional fouls were (almost) unthinkable.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

960

Chao Kuang-yin

Re-imposed unity.

960 - 976

T'ai Tsu / Taizu

Elder brother.

965 - 968

Nam Viet is briefly controlled by China.

976 - 998

T'ai Tsung

981

An attempted invasion of Nam Viet is repulsed.

998 - 1023

Chên Tsung

1023 - 1064

Jên Tsung

c.1040

Shortly after this date a person called Bi Sheng uses clay to print with moveable typeset - the earliest form of printing. Unfortunately the Chinese do not find printing to be useful to them. Chinese characters are so numerous, with perhaps every character on a single page being different, that printing isn't seen as being economically viable, especially when compared using a single woodblock print. Despite this, literacy is becoming much more accessible for everyone in Song China.

1064 - 1068

Ying Tsung

1068 - 1086

Shên Tsung

1086 - 1101

Chê Tsung

c.1100

Towards the end of the tenth century, China is on the brink of becoming the first modern society, with the most egalitarian system of government anywhere before modern times. Why this fails to happen is due to events that are beyond the control pf the Song, and which will eventually overwhelm them. The last fifty years of Song China witnesses climate change and famine, and the incessant drumbeat of foreign armies on the frontiers. The 'Mandate of Heaven' may not be lost, but the harmony is destroyed.

In 1101, the last great emperor of the united Northern and Southern Song comes to the throne - Huizong. He is a Renaissance prince, one who surrounds himself with poets and thinkers and who himself is an accomplished painter. But as he ventures deeper into his introverted speculations about sacred kingship, he loses touch with reality. When much harder choices are required, choices about military expenditure, defence budgets, and the deployment of armies as the barbarian forces gathered on the frontier, he fails to act.

1101 - 1126

Hui Tsung / Huizong / Qinzong

Captured and died in captivity.

1120s

Jurchen Tartar invaders sweep down from the north and bring chaos to civilised Song China.

1126 - 1127

Ch'in Tsung

1127

The Siege of Kaifeng begins. The city holds out, offering bribes of silver and riches to the barbarians, but in time the food runs out, people start dying in droves, and even acts of cannibalism are rumoured. The city falls, and Huizong and thousands of his courtiers are seized and taken north, where they die in captivity. Huizong's brother, Gaozong, flees south, beyond the reach of the invaders and across the Yangtze River to found the Southern Song dynasty which attempts to hold onto some of the previously glorious civilisation of China. Vast numbers of refugees follow him. The Song are displaced as China's main power by the Kin / Chin.

Hsi-Hsia / Xi Xia (Western Xia / Tangut) Tartar State
AD 990 - (1032) -1227

1209 - 1210

The Mongols under Chingiz Khan campaign against the Hsi-Hsia, forcing the payment of tribute to placate them. As the Mongol camp has been flooded, they accept.

1226 - 1227

Although they had been defeated by the Mongols in 1210, the Hsi-Hsia had not been properly subjugated. Now, with the Jin fighting back against Mongol dominance, they refuse to pay tribute, so the aging Chingiz Khan conducts one final campaign against them, overthrowing them. Their Tarter state is subsumed within the Mongol empire.

Kin / Chin / Jin (Jurchen / Nü-Chên) Tartar Dynasty
AD 1115 - 1234

Based in northern China. The Jin dynasty was formed by the Jurchen people. They lost a large swathe of their territory to the Mongols in 1211-1216, but were able to survive and even fight back until a final Mongol campaign swept them away. A century of Jin rule of the steppes was ended and they became relatively insignificant in the face of Mongol greatness. Renaming themselves in the seventeenth century, they re-emerged to rule China as the Manchu Qin dynasty.

1130

The sudden rise to power of the Mongols is very temporary at first, but lasts long enough for them to defend their lands from Jin attacks and force the Jin to pay tribute.

1156

Ambaghai of the Khamag Mongols delivers his daughter to the Tartars in preparation for her wedding to one of their number. The Tartars take him prisoner and hand him over to the Jin who promptly execute him. The Tartar betrayal prompts Ambaghai's successor to engage them in a series of battles.

1211 - 1216

The Jin empire is attacked by the Mongols, but the initial invasion is foiled when Chingiz Khan is wounded and retires to Mongolia. In 1213, he divides his army in three, the other two sections falling under the command of his sons. The Jin empire is devastated by this three-pronged attack, and its capital at Zhongdu (modern Beijing) is captured in 1214, while the following year areas of territory to the north of the Huang He (Yellow River) fall under Mongol control. The Jin move their capital southwards Kai-feng.

1223

Following the initial Mongol victories of 1211-1216, Chingiz Khan had appointed Mukali as his commander in northern China. Mukali dies in 1223, and the Jin begin a fierce resurgence against their Mongol enemy.

1231 - 1234

A large Mongol army led by Ogedei Khan, with Subedei and Tolui, launch a fresh campaign against the Jin. After a series of setbacks, the Mongols approach the Jin capital at Kai-feng in 1234 with 20,000 Song Chinese auxiliaries. The city is taken and the Jin fall, ending the northern empire and its rule of the steppes.

1373

Not content with kicking the Mongols out of China, the Ming emperor begins a military push into Mongolia, albeit unsuccessfully. The Mongol General Köke Temür defeats 15,000 Ming soldiers at the River Orkhon. The Mongols recapture Funin and Suijin districts in Sinhe, Liaoning and Hebei provinces, cutting off the Ming from Liadong with the help of the Jurchen.

Liao (Qara-Khitaï) (Western) Tartar Dynasty
AD 1125 - (1141) -1218

After being ousted from China in 1125, the Qara-Khitaï ruled the Transoxiana region from Samarkand.

1125

The Qara-Khitaï are ousted from China.

1217 - 1218

Conquered by Mongols.

FeatureSung / Song (Southern) Dynasty
AD 1127 - 1279

Following the disastrous destruction of the Northern Song dynasty at the Siege of Kaifeng in 1127, the half-brother of the captured emperor fled south across the Yangtze River. Gaozong founded the Southern Song, creating a focus for the survival of the glorious civilisation which had endured for the previous century and-a-half. Until now in Chinese history, it had been the north that had been the focus of the great kingdoms and empires while the south was somewhat peripheral. Now that changed for the first time. The north was ruled by barbarians. The south was home to China's surviving bastion of civilisation.

The site chosen for the new capital was the then-unimportant town of Hangzhou, standing on the West Lake, one of China's most beautiful locations. In fact, the location may have been the reason that it was chosen at all. Here the Southern Song attempted to recreate the lost civilisation of the north - and they succeeded. When the Italian explorer Marco Polo came here in the thirteenth century, he called it the best city on earth. Out in the countryside, to the south of the river, hundreds of new towns and villages were planted so that they could supply the capital with food, coal, and timber.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

1127 - 1163

Kao Tsung / Gaozong

1163 - 1190

Hsiao Tsung

1190 - 1195

Kuang Tsung

1195 - 1225

Ning Tsung

1225 - 1265

Li Tsung

1252

The invasion of the Song empire by the Mongols begins. It is the last of the three Chinese powers to remain independent and unconquered to date. Mongke Khan leads the campaign himself, while entrusting a Middle Eastern campaign to Hulegu.

1265 - 1275

Tu Tsung

1275 - 1276

Kung Tsung

1276 - 1278

Tuan Tsung

1278 - 1279

Ti Ping

Killed in battle.

1267 - 1276

Hangzhou, the Song capital in the south, is conquered by the Mongols. The great khans now concentrate their rule almost entirely on China itself, forming the Yuan dynasty to rule a united China.

Yuan (Mongolian) Dynasty
AD 1279 - 1368

FeatureThe Great Khans of the Mongol empire took control of China through a series of conquests, the last of these being the Southern Sung. The Mongol leader, Temüjin, had been named Chingiz Khan by the Chinese emperor, before he and his descendants began conquering China. In 1260-1264, the Mongol empire was engulfed in a civil war between two aspirants for the position of great khan. Kublai and Ariq-Boke were both elected to the position in 1260 at two separate 'khuriltai', with Kublai basing himself in China and Ariq-Boke at Karakorum. When Kublai was victorious in 1264, he retained China as his main base, implying (or perhaps establishing) China as the most important Mongol possession. It was only a matter of time before China became central to the great khans, and the Mongol dynasty was christened the Yuan by Kublai Khan in 1279, from which time he was emperor of the Chinese as well at great khan of the Mongols.

1267 - 1279

The Southern Sung are conquered and with that the Great Khans of the Mongols concentrate their rule almost entirely on China itself. With this, effective control of a single Mongol empire has ended, with each of the main ulus (inheritances) now being ruled independently, albeit with nominal control being exercised by the great Kublai during his lifetime.

1279 - 1294

Qubilai / Kublai Khan

Great Khan. Shih Tsu in 1280. Ruled China from 1279.

1274 - 1294

Venetian trader Marco Polo arrives in Kanbaliq on a visit to the court of Kublai Khan. He remains in China for seventeen years, and returns to Venice after completing a diplomatic mission for the emperor. His voyage, opening up new sea routes, contributes to a marked decline in the use of the ancient Silk Road within 150 years of his return home.

Also in 1274, the first Mongol invasion of Japan is defeated through bad weather conditions, with the outnumbered Japanese facing superior and much more modern forces. The defeat is an unexpected one for the otherwise near-universally victorious Mongols.

First Mongol invasion of Japan
This illustration of the first Mongol attempt to invade Japan shows the Mongol fleet being smashed to pieces by the 'divine wind' that saved the Japanese

1277 - 1278

Burma is invaded, and a puppet government is installed there. While it is a victory, it is far from the total conquest and domination that previous great khans would have expected.

1281

The second Mongol invasion of Japan is again defeated through bad weather conditions. The Mongols suffer around seventy-five per cent casualties and a clear limit is set on their expansion in Asia. Japan praises the kamikaze, or 'divine wind', which has saved it twice from invasion.

1294

With the death of Kublai Khan, the Yuan dynasty survives under his successor, but the Mongol empire effectively ceases to exist. There are no further Khakhans (great khans), and command of the empire's territory is now permanently divided into four distinct and fully independent kingdoms: the Golden Horde (made up of the Blue Horde and White Horde), the Il-Khanate, Mughulistan, and Yuan China, which incorporates Mongolia and much of southern Siberia, along with governing Tibet through the institution of the Xuanzheng Yuan, and with Korea as a tributary state. Mongolia is governed by the nominated heir to the imperial throne who resides in Karakorum.

1294 - 1307

Temur Öljeytu Khan

Grandson via Crown Prince Zhenjin. Ch'eng Tsung in 1295.

1295

Following his accession, Mahmud Ghazan of the Il-Khanate accepts Islam, marking a departure in the politics of Mongol Persia. From this point onwards, despite Ghazan maintaining strong links with the Yuan, the Il-Khanate becomes increasingly Islamicised, turning away from its Mongol origins.

1296

Temur finds that he has to quell revolts in the mountainous south-west of the Chinese lands. Tribal chieftains such as the female leader Shejie and her contemporary, Song Longji, refuse to submit to the Yuan, so a campaign taking several months has to be undertaken to suppress them.

1301

Thanks to the support of Kaidu of Mughulistan for the opposing faction in the White Horde dynastic conflict, Buyan has won support both from Great Khan Temur and Mahmud Ghazan of the Il-Khanate. Temur now organises a response against Kaidu, ending with the latter's defeat at the bloody Battle of the River Zawkhan. Kaidu dies shortly afterwards.

1304

The Chaghatayids under Du'a and Chapar, son of Kaidu, the Golden Horde under Toqta, and the Il-Khanate under Mahmud Ghazan negotiate peace with Temur Khan so that trade and diplomatic relations are not harmed by constant bickering and fighting. The Yuan emperor is also accepted as the nominal overlord of the three junior Mongol states. As is customary (but not always observed in recent times), Temur designates Öljeytu as the new Il-Khan. Soon afterwards, the former allies Du'a and Chapar fall out over the territory they control within Mughulistan, so Temur backs the rightful ruler, Du'a, and sends a large army into the region in 1306, forcing Chapar to surrender.

1307 - 1311

Qayshan Guluk / Khaisan / Hai-Shan

Son of Darmabala. Wu Tsung in 1308.

1308 - 1309

The Seljuq sultanate of Rum collapses and the area is ruled through regional governors by the Mongols. In the same year, Qayshan nominates Ch'ungson as the successor to King Ch'unguyol of the Koryo kingdom of Korea. In addition, the rebellious Chapar and his key supporters in Mughulistan appear before Qayshan to submit to him, ending the threat posed by them to stability in the empire.

Mongol horse warrior
The Mongols in China, such as this horse archer (a typical Mongol warrior) gradually became more and more Sinicised

1311 - 1320

Ayurparibhadra / Ayurbarwada

Brother. Jên Tsung in 1312.

1311

Following the death of Qayshan and the succession of Ayurparibhadra, their mother, Dagi, leads the aggressive Khunggiad faction in the imperial court to purge it of Qayshan's officials and supporters. Qayshan's son and Ayurparibhadra's agreed successor, Toq-Temur, is driven out. Under Ayurparibhadra, the Yuan become increasingly integrated into Chinese culture.

1320 - 1323

Suddhipala Gege'en / Shidebala

Son. Ying Tsung in 1321. Assassinated.

1323

A promising reign under Suddhipala is cut short when he is assassinated by the embittered former followers of the late Empress Dagi. They carry out the act to avoid possible action against them for supporting Dagi and her (equally late) puppet minister, Temüder. The head of the assassins is Temüder's son, Tegshi. He offers the throne to Yesun-Temur, and he accepts, but not until after he has purged the court of Tegshi's faction to avoid becoming a puppet.

1323 - 1328

Yesun-Temur

Tai-ting Ti in 1324.

1328

Arigaba Aragibag / Ragibagh

Son. Defeated by his rival.

1328

Arigaba succeeds his father, installed by Yesun-Temur's Muslim aide, Dawlat Shah. Before that succession can be made official, an uprising is triggered by nobles who are dissatisfied with Yesun-Temur's monopolisation of power under a few select and very powerful officials. Arigaba leads an army against them but their commander, a Mongolised Kipchak general named El Temür, defeats them. The capital is seized by El Temür and Jayaatu Khan while Arigaba disappears, presumably murdered.

1328 - 1329

Jayaatu Khan / Jijaghatu Toq-Temur

Son of Qayshan. Ming Tsung in 1329.

1328 - 1329

During the successful campaign by El Temür and Jayaatu Khan to capture the imperial throne, Qoshila Qutuqtu begins his own campaign against them in Mongolia. He enters Mongolia from the Tarbagatai region of the Khangai Mountains with support from the Chaghatayid khans, Eljigedey and Du'a Temur. The nobles of Mongolia also support him, so he has himself declared emperor on 27 February at a location to the north of Karakorum. Jayaatu Khan recognises that he has been defeated and abdicates.

1329

Khutughtu Khan / Qoshila Qutuqtu

Wen Tsung? In 1330? Died suddenly.

1329

Ruling as Khutughtu Khan, Qoshila accepts Jayaatu Khan as his heir and the two meet at a banquet. The new khan is busy filling imperial positions with his own people so it seems likely that it is El Temür who is responsible for his unexpected death just four days after the banquet, probably because he fears losing his own power and influence to other Mongols and Chaghatayids (however, conflicting sources state that the khan's own son, Toghan-Temur, is responsible). Now Jayaatu Khan is able to resume his position on the throne after the briefest of interludes.

1329 - 1332

Jayaatu Khan / Jijaghatu Toq-Temur

Restored as Khutughtu Khan's heir.

1332

Jayaatu Khan's own son and designated heir, Aratnadara, has already died just just a month after being nominated in 1331. As a result, Jayaatu nominates Toghan-Temur as his heir. El Temür resists this as it is Toghan-Temur who is strongly suspected of murdering his father (lending support to the alternative report for this event in 1329). Instead, Toghan-Temur's younger brother, Rinchenpal, is nominated, and duly succeeds upon Jayaatu's death.

1332 - 1333

Rinchenpal Irinchibal / Rinchinbal Khan

Son of Qoshila. Aged 6 at accession. Died 53 days later.

1333 - 1368

Toghan-Temur

Brother. Shun Ti in 1333. Fled to Mongolia. Died in Karakorum.

1340s

The Red Turban Army is created as a result of opposition to the faltering, unpopular, and despotic Mongol rulers by the followers of the White Lotus sect of Buddhism. Kuo Tsu-hsing founds the army, named after the red turbans its members wear and the red banners they carry. The rebellion starts slowly, with Yuan officials being assaulted, but it blossoms, although overtures towards the Korean Koryo are repulsed militarily by Ch'unajong.

Red Turban warrior fighting a Mongol
A Mongol warrior defends himself against a Red Turban Army warrior with his characteristic red headband

1351

When an armed White Lotus rebellion is uncovered and terminated, along with one of the army's prominant leaders, others come forward to establish the Red Turban Army. This sparks similar rebellions to the south of the Yangtze which collectively use the name Southern Red Turbans.

1356 - 1367

One of the more prominent Red Turban Army leaders is Chu Yüan-chang (Zhu Yuanzhang). He carries out a series of campaigns against his own Red Turban Army rivals until he is dominant. Then he leads the popular fight against the Yuan emperor.

1368

The Mongols are expelled from China by Chu Yüan-chang when he captures Dadu (modern Beijing). Toghan-Temur flees to Mongolia and dies in Karakorum two years later, while Chu Yüan-chang seizes the throne and is proclaimed the first Ming emperor of a reunited China. This act effectively dissolves the Mongol empire. The surviving khanates, the Blue Horde, White Horde, and Chaghatayids (the Il-Khans have already fallen), are now ruled as entirely independent kingdoms in their own right. The descendents of Kublai Khan and the great khans continue to rule locally in Mongolia until the seventeenth century, and are known to China as the Northern Yuan.

FeatureMing (Bright) Dynasty
AD 1368 - 1644

The founder of the Ming dynasty, Chu Yüan-chang (Zhu Yuanzhang), came from the poorest of peasant families. His mother and father had given him away when he was a child, after which he had spent years as a wandering beggar, and as a penniless Buddhist monk. He'd risen through the ranks of the secret peasant societies that were fighting against the the increasingly unpopular Yuan dynasty emperors, and won a series of staggering victories. He quickly became a key leader in the Red Turban Army, a rebel military force that was created to provide a unified opposition to the Yuan. Once he had reached a senior position within the Red Turban Army, Chu Yüan-chang showed a level of single-minded ruthlessness in opposing and defeating his rivals for overall command of the army. Ultimately, this single-minded determination from this course, often brutal peasant warrior was instrumental in providing China with a force that could destroy the Yuan.

It was he who expelled the Mongols when he captured Dadu (modern Beijing). The last Yuan emperor, Toghan-Temur, fled to Mongolia and died in Karakorum just two years later, while Chu Yüan-chang seized the now-vacant throne and was proclaimed the first Ming emperor of a reunited China. This act effectively served to dissolve the once-mighty Mongol empire, and China was back in Chinese hands. Under the Ming, China entered its most dazzling age. The new dynasty was to be called 'the bringer of light' Ming. After driving out the last of the Mongols in 1368, Chu Yüan-chang's stronghold at Nanjing became China's new capital. Setting out to rebuild the Chinese state, he used force and fear, surrounding his capital with giant walls (thirty-three kilometres of them) to show the might and legitimacy of Ming rule.

Chu Yüan-chang had been an outlaw in the hills, and his bitter experience of the time of anarchy drove him to compile an all-embracing set of laws and punishments -- the Great Ming Code. It drew on a thousand years of Chinese law, but its severity has never been forgotten. He registered all land to make taxes fairer, he had irrigation systems built, and reduced the demands for forced labour, but punishments for breaking the law could be swift and merciless, including execution for convicted murderers. His reign would be a turning point in Chinese history for another reason. He concentrated power in the person of the emperor himself - something that would prove a dangerous legacy.

The names of Ming dynasty emperors can be a confusing experience. They would start with a birth name and a family name (the latter being the name of their father or royal house), and then a given name which is what sees them through much of their life. This is subject to alteration by the person concerned - Chu Yüan-chang amended his name when he started gaining power amongst the rebel leaders. Then there is a courtesy name, bestowed upon reaching adulthood to be used alongside one's given name. Then there is an era name that is acquired along with the imperial throne (these are shown in the notes for each emperor, below). The emperor could often be known by his era name rather than his given name - so that Chu Yüan-chang is commonly known as the Hongwu emperor. Finally there is a posthumous name and a temple name. The former could be vastly elaborate (Chu Yüan-chang has eleven such names), whilst the temple name is often two short names combined. Where possible, the given name and then posthumous or temple name is shown here. None of that even starts to cover the multiple various spellings for each and every name.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

1368 - 1398

Chu Yüan-chang / T'ai Tsu / Taizu

Ruled most of southern China from 1366. Hongwu Era.

1372 - 1373

Not content with kicking the Mongols out of China, Chu Yüan-chang (nicknamed Hongwu) begins a military push into Mongolia. Mongol General Köke Temür, the half-Chinese grandson of a Mongolian prince who had been known as Wang Baobao during the Yuan dynasty days) leads the defence of Mongolia. In 1373 he defeats 15,000 Ming soldiers at the River Orkhon. The Mongols recapture Funin and Suijin districts in Sinhe, Liaoning and Hebei provinces, cutting off the Ming from Liadong with the help of the Jurchen (former rulers of the Jin dynasty which itself had been defeated by the Mongols).

1380 - 1381

Chu Yüan-chang invades Mongolia again, reaching Karakorum, which is looted. Other Mongol cities are also attacked and looted, but a further invasion the following year is repulsed. However, the Yuan loyalists who had been holding out in the southern Chinese territory of Yunnan are finally defeated in the same year.

1387 - 1388

A Mongolian official in the former north-eastern Chinese province of Liaoyang (now in Mongolian hands) invades Liaodong. Nahachu envisions a restoration of the Yuan dynasty in China, but he and his army of about 200,000, suffering in the midst of a famine, are persuaded to surrender by Ming diplomacy.

1390s

The third grouping of Mongols, the Uriyangkhai, surrender to the Ming, along with some Borjigin princes. Led by Ukshal Khan's former minister, Necelai, the Mongols are divided by the Ming into three sub-groups, known as the Three Guards: Doyin, Fuyu, and Tai'nin. They are settled as a buffer force in territory that becomes the modern Inner Mongolia. Necelai is killed by Shirmen, the late Mongol khan's chingsang who is now allied to Jorightu Khan.

1398 - 1402

The death of the mighty Chu Yüan-chang plunges China into crisis. Civil War erupts between rival claimants. The late emperor's chosen successor is his grandson, Yunwen. The boy's uncles rise up against him in the Jingnan Rebellion which lasts for the rest of his reign.

1398 - 1402

Yunwen / Hui Ti

Grandson. Chien-wen / Jianwen Era.

1402 - 1424

Di / Ch'eng Tsu

FeatureUncle. Yung-Lo / Yongle Era.

1402 - 1403

Ch'eng Tsu's era name is Yongle - ''Perpetual Happiness' - which is a sure sign that he is a tyrant to be avoided. Having removed his nephew, he ruthlessly purges his enemies amid rumours that he is in fact an illegitimate son of the late Hongwu emperor. Those who refuse to sign a statement confirming his legitimacy are executed along with their families. One steadfast old minister is executed along with all family members to the tenth degree of separation.

In 1403, he orders the building of a new capital at his own power-base seven hundred miles to the north. There, on top of the old Mongol capital, he builds a vast new city which is named Beijing (translated from Chinese as 'Peking' until the late twentieth century). This is the beginnings of the Forbidden City which even today lays at the heart of Beijing. Construction takes a million men a total of twenty years.

1405 - 1433

The Muslim eunuch Admiral Zheng He is placed in command of a large fleet that is sent on seven great voyages of discovery in this period. The fleet numbers sixty-three ocean-going vessels, the biggest of them with 28,000 crew. The expeditions are not exploratory, or trade-related, but are intended to impress the world with the magnificence of China's glory and to collect tribute. The great Ming voyages are made possible by Chinese inventions - the stern rudder, watertight compartments, and the magnetic compass, which had been invented under the Tang emperors.

1407 - 1428

Nam Viet is occupied by China during the beginnings of a golden age for Chinese mercantile traffic and prosperity. The birth rate increases so that the country very quickly holds entirely one third of the world's human population.

1409 - 1422

Ch'eng Tsu invades Mongolian lands three times in this period, in 1409, 1414, and 1422. The first time he is repulsed by Öljei Temür Khan, while the Oirats successfully defend Mongolia on the other occasions, showing that the Mongols are still powerful enough to ably defend themselves against Chinese aggression. Continually foiled on the battlefield, the emperor begins a policy of politically dividing the Mongols by conspiring to encourage internecine feuding.

1415

The Mongols under Delbeg are defeated in a pyrrhic victory for the Ming in which nothing is really gained. Despite penetrating as far as the River Tuul, the Ming subsequently withdraw.

1424 - 1425

Gaochi / Jen Tsung

Son. Hung-hsi / Hongxi Era.

1425 - 1435

Zhanji / Hsüan Tsung

Son. Hsuan-te / Xuande Era.

1435 - 1449

Qizhen / Ying Tsung

Son. Cheng-T'ung / Zhengtong Era.

1449

The Mongol warlord, Esen Tayisi, has been leading diplomatic attempts to negotiate with Emperor Qizhen to improve trading conditions with China. Finding that he has been rebuffed, Esen Tayisi leads a startling military campaign which defeats a force of 50,000 Chinese, captures the emperor, and besieges Beijing. The emperor is captured and imprisoned for a year - the greatest military fiasco in Ming history. The fact that the Chinese raise his brother to the throne reduces his worth as a prisoner. He is released, accorded the flattering but powerless title of 'grand emperor' and is forced to live in obscurity for eight years.

Ming artillery
Ming artillery was no defence against the campaign conducted by Mongol Esen Tayisi, and Chinese defeat at the Battle of Tamu Fortress meant the capture and imprisonment of the twenty-one year-old Emperor Qizhen himself

1450 - 1457

Qiyu / T'ai Tsung

Brother. Ching-t'ai / Jingtai Era. Dethroned and died.

1450

The Chinese reaction to the humiliating defeat by the Mongols is virtually instantaneous. A massive rebuilding programme is launched along the Great Wall, and a new mood of defensiveness grips the court. The Juyongguan Pass through the Wall is one of the most famous passes in Chinese history, known as the 'First Fortress of the World'. It is as important in Chinese history as the Khyber Pass is in the history of India.

1457 - 1464

Qizhen / Ying Tsung

Restored. T'ien-shun / Tianshun Era.

1464 - 1487

Jianshen / Hsien Tsung

Son. Ch'eng-hua / Chenghua Era.

1487 - 1505

Youcheng / Hsiao Tsung

Son. Hung-chih / Hongzhi Era.

1505 - 1521

Houzhao / Wu Tsung

Son. Cheng-te / Zhengde Era.

1521 - 1567

Houcong / Shih Tsung

Cousin. Chia-tsing / Jiajing Era.

1535 - 1557

Ming China has been changing, especially in the rich cities of the south, such as Suzhou. What had begun as an agricultural state with a stifling command economy has given birth to to a growing market economy and a new urban moneyed class, while the emperors themselves become gradually more isolated from their people, shut up in the Forbidden City. Suzhou is somewhat like Renaissance Florence, with its high culture and its palaces and mansions. Also, having made an initial exploratory voyage in 1513-1514, the Portuguese are allowed to begin trading at Macau in 1535, and by 1557 they are allowed to establish a permanent base.

The founding of a base at Macau is not part of a formal treaty. Instead, the Ming government looks after them very carefully. They have a landward wall that is garrisoned in order to make sure that they don't venture out except at the allotted times - twice a year, when they can sail to Canton to trade. Despite the restrictions, it is Europe's first foothold.

1547 - 1551

The Mongol ruler, Daraisung Guden Khan, is unable to quash the growing power and arrogance of Altan Khan of the Tümet Mongol subgroup. Altan Khan forces Daraisung to flee eastwards, and the two only come to a compromise in 1551. Altan accepts Daraisung's suzerainty in return for being granted the title 'Geegen Khan' for himself. The more senior khan has to relocate his capital to a location near Manchuria, and his distance from the heartland of Mongol territory engenders a further decline in the authority of his position.

1567 - 1572

Zaihou / Mu Tsung

Son. Lung-ch'ing / Longqing Era.

1572 - 1620

Yijun / Shên Tsung

Son. Wan-Li / Wanli Era.

1582

In August a visitor arrives at the tiny Portuguese trading post of Macau on the South China Sea. He is an Italian Jesuit called Matteo Ricci, and his mission is to convert China to Christianity. He spends the next fifteen years learning to speak Chinese like a native.

1598 - 1610

Father Matteo Ricci sets off overland towards Beijing, writing about his travels as he goes, and spending the rest of his life in this country (he dies in 1610). Once at his destination he prepares a map of the world for the emperor, thanks to which the Chinese learn of new continents and see that the world is far bigger than they have ever imagined. In Ricci's western science, the mandarins find even more astonishing revelations - that the world is apparently a sphere that 'hangs' in space. The Chinese lunar calendar is replaced with a solar calendar, which is much more accurate.

1620

Changluo / Kuang Tsung

Son. T'ai-ch'ang / Taichang Era.

1620 - 1627

Youxiao / Hsi Tsung

Son. T'ien-ch'i / Tiangi Era.

1627 - 1644

Youjian / Szu Tsung

Brother. Ch'ung-chen Era. Hanged himself at Manchu approach.

1634

Legdan Hutuhtu Khan is the last of the Borjigin khans, ruling from Chahar. He has been unpopular and has treated his fellow Mongols harshly, while pursuing an alliance with the Ming. Two of the Mongol subgroups under his direct rule, the Jarud and Khorchin, have been intermarrying with the Manchu, and the khan's court has lost most of its authority to them. Legdan's death signals the end of the khanship that has descended directly from Chingiz Khan and a virtual surrendering of Inner Mongolia to the Manchu.

1644

Pei-ching (Beijing) is occupied by rebels, the emperor commits suicide, and the rebels are thrown out by Manchuria. A Manchu occupation begins in the north, while an independent remnant of the Ming briefly survives in the south.

Ming (Southern) Dynasty
AD 1644 - 1662

1644 - 1645

Fu Wang, Prince of Fu / Chu Yu-sung

Hung-kuang / Hong-guang Era.

1645 - 1646

Tang Wang / Chu Yü-chien

Lung-wu Era.

1646 - 1662

Yung-ming Wang / Chu Yu-lang

Yung-li Era.

1662

The emperor is captured in Burma in 1661, and executed by the Manchus in 1662. This puts to an end the rump Ming state in the south and allows the Manchu to unite the country under their rule.

FeatureManchu Ch'ing / Qin (Clear) Dynasty
AD 1644 - 1911

The Manchu were a Tungusic people who inhabited the region of Manchuria (modern north-eastern China). They adopted the Manchu name in the seventeenth century, having previously been known as the Jurchen, rulers of the Jin dynasty of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In 1634 they conquered the weakening Chahar Mongols, securing Inner Mongolia.

Their invasion of China began in the north. Pei-ching (Beijing) had been occupied by rebels and the emperor had committed suicide. The Manchu saw their opportunity and swept in to throw out the rebels. They subsequently occupied the north themselves while the independent remnant of the Ming briefly survived in the south. When the city of Yangzhou resisted the Manchu, it was plundered and burned in a ten-day reign of terror. A total of 300,000 people died. Afterwards, the writer Zhang Dai visited the West Lake in Hangzhou, once China's paradise on earth. As he sailed along the shore, he was shocked by the aftermath of the fighting. Overall the conquest took thirty years, reaching a bloody climax in the 1670s.

The Chinese themselves saw the Manchu as barbarians. However, they integrated themselves into Chinese society and provided the leadership and impetus for a general rebuilding process following the storm of a change of dynasty. They also provided the last imperial dynasty in China (to date) and created what became modern China. Even today, it takes about seven hours to fly between Beijing and Kashgar, capital of Xinjiang province in the far west, but the Manchu covered the 4,345 kilometres (2,700 miles) by road. They brought this distant region into the empire, defeating the Yongle Mongols in the process, and defined their estate not as an exclusively Han civilisation but a multi-ethnic one. For the first time since the Tang, China ruled over the Central Asian peoples of Xinjiang.

Known to twentieth century historians as the Ch'ing, fine-tuning of Chinese-to-English translations at the end of the century revised this as Qin, although Qing is also used. As with the Ming before them, the Manchu dynasty emperors used an era name that was acquired along with the imperial throne (these are shown in the notes for each emperor, below). The emperor could often be known by his era name rather than his given name - so that the second Manchu emperor, Shêng Tsu, is commonly known as the Kangxi emperor.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016, and from External Link: Britannica.com.)

1644 - 1662

Shih Tsu

Led the conquest of China. No Era.

1662 - 1723

Shêng Tsu

K'ang-Hsi / Kangxi Era.

1662

With the Ming dynasty having ended in decadence, the new rulers of China see themselves as being men with a far more sober sense of public duty. Emperor Shêng Tsu, generally known as Kangxi, the upright one, is certainly such a man. He is the first of three great Qin emperors - father, son, and grandson - who rule for a total of one hundred and thirty-three years. Between them they build China's largest empire, and create the essential shape of modern China.

1673 - 1681

The Manchu invasion and conquest of China climaxes in this decade. A savage struggle takes place in the south when three great provinces rise against the Manchu and their teenage emperor, Kangxi. The war lasts for eight years and, by the end, the Qin government has half a million troops fighting in these wild mountains of the south-west. When the fighting ends in 1681, Kangxi is aged twenty-seven, and will become the longest ruling, and some might say, the greatest of all Chinese emperors.

1687

A series of conflicts begins between the powerful Dzungar khanate and the Manchu, the latter aided by their Mongolian vassals. The various confrontations last until 1758, with the nomadic Dzungars forming perhaps the last such Mongol state in the style of its predecessor state, the Mongol empire.

1723 - 1736

Shih Tsung

Son. Yung-chêng / Yongzheng Era.

1736 - 1796

Kao Tsung

Son. Ch'ien-Lung / Qianlong Era.

1758

The Dzungar khanate is divided and most of its khans are now appointed by the Manchu Qin themselves. One final revolt by would-be khan, Amursana, is crushed at the battles of Oroi-Jalatu, Khorgos, and Khurungui, and then finally at Mount Khurungui, after which Amursana flees to Russia. Through these victories, the Qin are able to incorporate into China the regions of Outer Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang. These new conquests virtually doubles the size of China. In many large settlement areas of Xinjiang, the Chinese build new cities alongside, with the old town being known as the Uyghur or 'Hui town', and the new one being known as the 'Man town' or 'Han town'.

1771

With the Dzungar khanate having been defeated, the division of the Mongolian Koshut tribe of Oirats which had migrated to the Volga in the seventeenth century now returns to Zungaria where they are resettled by the Qin and survive into modern times.

1792

Nepalese expansion is halted by defeat at the hands of the Chinese in Tibet.

1793

The British are becoming a great power in India, opening up a global trading network for the first time in history. They want to get into the Chinese market but like other European trading nations they have largely been kept out because China is self-sufficient. It is the massively popular tea trade that finally drives Britain to find a solution. If China doesn't have an urgent need for external supplies then one could be created. A small amount of opium is already being requested by Chinese traders, and with India the key to opium growing, lots more can be supplied.

The East India Company begins selling opium to China in large quantities in exchange for large quantities of tea. The profits are high but so is the risk, so the British now send an embassy to China under the command of Sir George McCartney to try and get favoured trading nation status. The eventual meeting with the emperor (delayed because the British will not kow-tow) is disappointingly negative, so the East India Company decides to continue to smuggle in larger quantities of opium.

1796 - 1821

Jên Tsung

Son. Chia-ch'ing / Jiaqing Era.

1821 - 1851

Hsüan Tsung

Son. Tao-kuang / Daoguang Era.

1821

By this time opium addiction has become socially visible, following a steady increase in recorded cases between the 1790s and 1830s. There are opium dens on many streets, and people are dying of their addictions, dozing off on the street and not waking up. It's becoming a social problem.

1836

A poor tutor by the name of Hong Huoxiu is in Guangzhou to take the provincial civil service examinations (which he fails, twice). While there he come across an American missionary, the Reverend Edwin Stevens, who is illegally handing out Christian pamphlets. Hong sees in the pamphlet the story of Noah and the flood and reads his own name, 'Hong, literally, the flood - God's instrument to punish humanity for failing to follow the path of righteousness. Gradually forming the opinion that he himself is God's Chinese son (and the younger brother of Jesus), Hong is soon forced to move far to the west, to the isolated country around Guangxi, where he forms a sect of followers who are also of his Hakka minority group.

1839

Shocked by the social effects of the opium trade and by its drain on their silver supply, the emperor and his advisors appoint the incorruptible Commissioner Lin to lead the fight against it (incorruptible because bribery is rife and there is a great fortune to be made from corruption). Lin gives the order to destroy all of the opium held in British warehouses, and in June 1839 a total of 1,200 tonnes of it is burnt, mixed with lime, and dumped into ponds by a force of five hundred workers. It takes them more then three weeks to complete the job.

Perhaps naively, the commissioner writes to Queen Victoria begging to know by what right such a distant country sells such destruction in China, while still stating 'they [the opium traders] may not necessarily intend to hurt us but, by putting profit above all things, they are disregarding the harm they do to others'. However, China seems unaware of the shift in world power towards the European maritime nations which can now reach right into the heart of the empire with their sailing vessels (much as Vikings had reached into the heart of European states a millennium before). In fact, all they have done is trigger the First Opium War.

1841

In the first days of the new year, a British naval task force enters the Pearl River carrying native Indian infantry. It is a highly mobile force that the static Chinese defences are incapable of stopping. Their key attack weapon is an almost-sixty-one metre-long (nearly two hundred feet) iron vessel with swivel and pivot-mounted heavy weaponry and a rocket launcher. The flagship Chinese junk is obliterated in a colossal explosion when its powder store is truck by the rocket launcher.

The defences are breached, and the British ravage the river's shoreline, storming the port of Ningbo. The Qing government sues for peace at the very location at which, four hundred years before, Admiral Zheng had given thanks after his great exploratory voyages. Here they sign the first of 'The Unequal Treaties'. The British gain trading rights in China, and five treaty ports on the Chinese coast, one of which is the island of Hong Kong, while another is Shanghai.

1850

The Taiping Rebellion pits the Qin against the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom under the leadership of Hong Huoxiu from 1850 until 1864. The Qin begin by attacking the increasingly powerful Taiping in their home province of Guangxi on 1 January 1851. The war escalates so that, in 1853, the Taiping seize Nanjing and Hong declares it to be his capital. The subsequent fighting rages back and forth for over a decade.

1851 - 1862

Wen Tsung

Son. Hsien-fêng / Xianfeng Era.

1856

The Taiping are weakened by internal feuding. Prime Minister Yang Xiuqing, the 'eastern king' (the most powerful of the four regional commanders), plots to seize Hong Huoxiu's throne after disagreements about doctrine. Hong has him murdered, and then wipes out Yang's family and about twenty thousand followers. The bloodletting weakens the Taiping, as they become more involved in their own intrigues and less observant about defeating the Qin. However, the Qin are also weak, and the war continues with some ferocity.

1860

British troops occupy Beijing, effectively ending the Second Opium War and humiliating the Qin dynasty. Many more concessions are forced from the government, including treaty ports that are soon filled with European-style streets lined with European-style villas. The Taiping rebels operating from their capital cities of Nanking and Suzhou capture large areas of imperial China, claiming fully half of it by 1861. The corrupt and ineffective imperial army is in full retreat on all fronts. Desperate to protect Beijing, the Qin minister of war, Lord Di, accepts any and all volunteers, bandits and beggars into the ragtag Qin army. It is a bandit band of eight hundred men that forms the Shan army, a force that is led by General Pang Qing-Yun that will turn the tide of the war.

1862 - 1908

Tz'u Hsi (Cixi) the Empress Dowager

Wife, and mother of Mu Tsung. Dominated China. No Era.

1862 - 1875

Mu Tsung

Son. No political influence. No heir. T'ung-chih / Tongzhi Era.

1864 - 1866

Hong Huoxiu dies, although various rumours and theories exist to explain how this happens. Nanjing falls within six weeks, ending the main thrust of the Taiping Rebellion. A core of rebels collects around Hong's son, Tianguifu, but he is captured by the Qin on 25 October 1864. The last rebels are driven into the hills where they are finally defeated in 1866.

1870

After successfully taking Suzhou and then Nanking to end the Taiping Rebellion, on 8 April 1870 General Pang Qing-Yun is assassinated on the way to his inauguration as governor of Nanking. General Pang's murder remains one of the Qin dynasty's unsolved crimes (the main events of the rebellion and the murder are depicted in the Jet Li feature film, The Warlords, 2008).

1875 - 1908

Tê Tsung

Cousin. Kuang-hsu / Guangxu Era.

1894 - 1895

With the Qin rapidly losing the age-old Chinese influence in Korea to a newly-resurgent Japan, tensions are high. A decade of peace between the two over Korea comes to an end when the pro-Japanese Korean leader of the 1884 coup, Kim Ok-kyun, is lured to Shanghai and is assassinated. Japanese public opinion is outraged by the subsequent treatment of his body. The peasant-led Tonghak Uprising breaks out in Korea in the same year, and Chinese attempts to reinforce the Korean king are met with military opposition by Japan.

The First Sino-Japanese War is triggered. Japan's modern military forces entirely outmatch the more numerous but outdated forces of China. By March 1895 the Japanese have successfully invaded Shandong Province and Manchuria and have fortified posts that command the sea approaches to Beijing. China sues for peace. In the Treaty of Shimonoseki China recognises the independence of Korea and cedes to Japan the island of Taiwan, the adjoining Pescadores, and the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria.

1899 - 1901

Already humiliated by its various defeats, China now faces an even more serious crisis. A secret organisation called the 'Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists' leads an uprising in northern China. They are protesting at the spread of Western and Japanese influence there, and calling for the killing of foreigners and the wiping out of foreign influence. The rebels are referred to by the colonials as 'Boxers' because they perform physical exercises which they believe will make them invulnerable to bullets.

In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion or Boxer Uprising sweeps down onto Beijing. The royal court flees the capital and, in the European quarter in Beijing, the colonials are trapped in a fifty-five-day siege. In the end a relief army of 20,000 men drawn from the eight foreign powers marches from the coast and takes revenge in a rampage of looting and killing. Beijing has not endured such horrors for centuries. The Boxers are crushed mercilessly and huge financial reparations are imposed on China in 1901 under the terms of the Boxer Protocol. To make matters worse the foreigners also demand that 'their' area of Beijing, the Legation Quarters, should be turned over to them to be protected by a defensive wall and self-administered from within.

1907 - 1908

On 15 July 1907, the thirty-one year-old feminist poet and republican, Qui Jin, is executed by beheading in Shaoxing.

On 18 June 1908, Empress Dowager Cixi orders the killing of all foreigners in China, in support of the Boxer Rebellion.

1908 - 1911

Puyi / Pu Yi ('Mo Ti  / Last Emperor')

Great-grandson of Daoguang. Hsuan-t'ung / Xuantong Era.

1908 - 1911

Zaifeng / Prince Chun

Father and regent.

1911 - 1912

On 10 October 1911, a coalition of the army, bankers, and the urban bourgeoisie declare China to be a republic. The imperial state has been in terminal decline for almost a century, and the boy emperor, Puyi, is now forced to abdicate early in 1912. Approximately two thousand years of Chinese imperial power comes to an end, a total of three thousand years after the Zhou had proclaimed the Mandate of Heaven.

Republic of China
AD 1911 - 1949

The China of the twentieth century can be said to have begun in Canton in the country's south. In the 1830s, China was arguably still the world's greatest state, but the Europeans were growing in influence. In Canton, the new ideas of the West were mingling with the culture of old China, including traders selling opium and missionaries preaching Christianity. This could sometimes have unexpected effects, such as being the initial trigger both for the Taiping Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion. The result was that the Qin dynasty of emperors was fatally weakened. Revelation was in the air and republican sentiment was fast gaining ground. In the end the last emperor, the child Puyi, was removed from 'power' in 1911 and forced to abdicate at the start of 1912.

But what would the Chinese people introduce in place of the imperial throne? It would be a republic with an elected president. The first incumbent was the Hawaiian-educated Sun Yat-sen, who had led the republican movement in exile and had long dreamed of a free, democratic China. However, although the emperor was gone, the old powers - army, warlords, and foreigners - were still there and still meddling, and the new republic never knew peace.

China was also undergoing a rapid process of cultural and economic change, and was learning to be modern. Treaty and concession ports such as Shanghai and Hong Kong enjoyed a massive boom, with modern dress worn by colonials and Chinese alike. In the vast countryside, however, things were not going so well. In the late 1920s, ravaged by floods and famines and armed conflict, peasants were selling their children, and were dying in their thousands from disease and starvation.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

1914

With the First World War already underway in Europe, Japan declares war on Germany on 23 August 1914. The principle motive is to take advantage of Europe's confusion - especially Germany's - to expand its own sphere of influence in China and the Pacific. China also sides with the allies, providing nearly 150,000 labourers to the Western Front.

Allied with Britain which has its own need to put down any German forces in the region, Japanese and British troops take Tsingtao Fortress which houses the German East Asia Squadron's headquarters. German-leased territories in China's Shandong Province are also taken, as are the Marianas, Caroline, and Marshall Islands in the Pacific, all of which are part of German New Guinea.

1919 - 1921

Following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, China's youth are shocked to find that the former German colonial territory in China is now to form part of a Japanese territory. They regard this with a sense of outrage. On 4 May 1919, using their newfound rights to freedom of speech, a huge student demonstration is organised in the capital. Three thousand students gather in Tiananmen Square, in front of the gates to Peking University, with English language statements which they hope to hand over to the embassies of the colonial occupying powers.

The protest sparks a wildfire of revolutionary thinking across China. Writers and journalists now call for a wholesale renewal of Chinese society and politics. They want to sweep away the old and create a new culture based on Western democracy and science. A key voice is modern China's greatest writer, Lu Xun, a trained physician who writes that China's people '...were slaves before and now we're ruled by slaves'.

Among many ideals now taking hold is a Western political philosophy, a communist philosophy, Marxism. The first meeting of a Chinese communist party is held in July 1921. Twelve people are present, including a Hunan peasant's son by the name of Mao Zedong (or Mao Tse Tung, the twentieth century spelling).

1934

Following Prime Minister Chang Kai-shek's attempted extermination of communist elements - the first round of the Chinese Civil War - the survivors embark on what becomes known as the Long March, a six thousand-mile trek to north-western China. Only about ten per cent of them survive - eight thousand or so - to establish a base at Yan'an amid bleak countryside on what seems to be the edge of the world.

1937

The Second Sino-Japanese War is triggered when Japan launches a full-scale invasion of China, inadvertently saving the nascent communist movement from utter obscurity and extinction. That December, in a six-week reign of terror, the Japanese army massacres more than 250,000 people in Nanjing. In distant Yan'an, the defeated communist guerrilla army now finds itself part of a liberation struggle. One of the most fervent leaders of the movement, Mao Zedong, has gained power over the party and has emerged as a formidable and ruthless revolutionary.

A 'United Front' is formed with the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and the communists under Mao, fighting the common enemy - the Japanese.

1937 - 1949

Chang Kai-shek / Jiang Jieshi

Prime minister-turned-'United Front' war leader. On Taiwan (1949)

1937 - 1949

Mao Zedong / Mao Tse Tung

'United Front' coalition co-leader for the communists.

1945

In February, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay belatedly join the war on the side of the allies, while in March Argentina joins, followed by Chile in April. On 6 August, an atom bomb is dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima by the US bomber, 'Enola Gay'. A further bomb dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August brings a declaration of surrender from Japan on 2 September. Japan also surrenders its empire, including territory in China and Korea.

In China the 'United Front' falls apart in 1946 after negotiations to form a coalition government fail. The nationalists and communists now resume fighting in the bitter Chinese Civil War. Backed by the West, and especially the US, the nationalists have the manpower and equipment. The communists are outgunned, but they are tenacious and are led by idealism.

1949

After twelve years in Yan'an, the communist land reforms have gathered mass support across the countryside, boosted by propaganda that promises a golden age of social justice. In one year the Red Army is able to sweep down the length of China and, after heavy fighting, the nationalists admit defeat and withdraw from mainland China to occupy the island of Taiwan, still with Chang Kai-shek in command. The victorious communists declare the 'People's Republic of China.

Modern China / Han
AD 1949 - Present Day

Located across a very broad swathe of eastern Asia, China is bordered to the north by Mongolia and Russia, to the east by North Korea and South Korea plus, across the Yellow Sea, by Japan and, across the Taiwan Straight, by Taiwan, while to the south lie the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma, and to the west are Tibet (whose position as part of China is highly controversial), Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

Modern China is, to the Chinese themselves, the state of Han. The name 'China' has been used by outsiders since the third century BC, when the Qin dynasty created the first Chinese unitary state in 221 BC. It was the land of the Ch'in, or China. But the Qin were universally hated by the Chinese themselves. Instead they took as the name of their new unitary state that of the succeeding dynasty, the Han. To Chinese, ever since then the country has been known as 'Han'.

Seemingly in line with the rest of the world, China went through much the twentieth century in turmoil. The many regional rebellions of the nineteenth century had gathered pace until the Qin (Manchu) could withstand them no longer. The last emperor of China was deposed in 1912, to be replaced by a nationalist republican government that was never able to get on top of the country's problems and find peace. The colonial ports flourished while those in the countryside starved. Rebellions were crushed, and the newly-founded communist movement was almost extinguished. Only the Second Sino-Japanese War saved it, allowing a previously unthinkable coalition with the nationalist government that provided resistance to Japanese occupation. Following Japan's surrender in 1945, the civil war resumed, and the communist 'Red Army' launched a victorious campaign in 1949 that ended the conflict. The communist leader, Mai Zedong, was able to declare the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949.

Unfortunately, Mao Zedong forged a repressive state. In early 1950s China, the Soviet Union's Stalin was a god. Words and thoughts were strictly controlled, class war was waged, and society was to be organised on new values, doing away with centuries of stifling Confucian tradition. Workers were organised into collective farms and work brigades, directed by the rigid and secretive Chinese Communist Party, with Stalin's advisers controlling the people's lives from cradle to grave. Despite this, there were real achievements, especially in public health, education, and literacy, and a great improvement in the role and status of women. Ultimately, though, Mao's new economic ideas were calamitous. The collectivisation of farming massively disrupted society, and a drive to industrialise the countryside was disastrous. That led to the Great Famine between 1959 and 1961, killing well over thirty million people. Not content with that failure, in 1964 Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, which aimed to smash the past into rubble, leaving nothing to stand in the way of a glorious future. That also failed, and China spent a generation recovering from the turmoil it caused.

Relatively quiet and inward-looking for the remainder of the twentieth century, twenty-first century China is rediscovering its glorious past whilst at the same time building a bright new future. Many ceremonies that were banned during the twentieth century, especially the one in honour of the mother goddess of the Chinese people, Nuwa, have been resurrected (the latter was last practised a century ago, at the end of the empire). These recreations often use ancient texts that are up to two millennia old, ensuring cultural continuity. China has also been one of the early twenty-first century's powerhouses of industry as it rebuilds itself into a state that is the equal of any in the West.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

1949 - 1976

Mao Zedong / Mao Tse Tung

Former communist rebel leader. First chairman of the party.

1949

Having swept to power in China the communist forces under the command of Mao Zedong (or Mao Tse Tung, the twentieth century spelling) now have to cope with the country's inherited problems. On Taiwan the 'New Republic of China' is declared by the exiled General Chang Kai-shek (or Chiang Kai Chek to twentieth century writers).

1950 - 1953

After several years of increasingly hostile small scale actions along the thirty-eighth parallel, North Korea's forces attack South Korea on 25 June 1950. North Korean troops sweep south, capturing most of the country, but an allied army pushes the North Koreans back to the Manchurian border. This prompts Communist China to intervene, pouring troops across the frontier and taking Korea as far south as Seoul. By 1951 the allies have stabilised a front line around the thirty-eighth parallel and the remainder of the Korean War consists of heavy fighting in this region, until a ceasefire is agreed in July 1953.

1959 - 1961

Mao's policy of collectivising and industrialising farming fails abysmally, much as it had done in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The Great Famine kills over thirty million people. Mao is sidelined by the communist party.

1961

By December 1961, the Soviet Union breaks off diplomatic ties with Albania, and Enver Hoxha, in search of a new patron, turns his attention to the Far East. The Sino-Albanian alliance, which lasts until July 1978, radicalises political, economic and social life in Albania and isolates the country even more from Europe and the rest of the world.

1962

A land dispute with India leads to a Chinese invasion of the country's border territories. Indian troops face a humiliating defeat.

1964

Aged seventy, Mao Zedong regains control of the party and launches the Cultural Revolution. Frustrated by the Chinese people's loyalty to their culture, Mao urges millions of young people, Red Guards, to smash old customs, old ideas, and Confucian values. Millions of ordinary people face terror and abuse, and the destruction of their treasured past. Many hide away their historical relics, family heirlooms, and works of art and literature, although much is also destroyed.

1965

As part of the Sino-Albanian alliance, China has been providing Albania with a good deal of development assistance, including goods and low-interest loans, but this aid is not enough to promote economic growth. To stem the tide of popular dissatisfaction with his rule, Enver Hoxha employs his usual tactic of counter-attack, launching a Chinese-style campaign at the end of 1965 for the 'revolutionising of all aspects of life in the country', a campaign that coincides with the Cultural Revolution in China.

1976

The death of Mao Zedung allows the party to move away from his extremist Marxist ideals and begin to follow a more moderate path. However, firm control over power in China is retained. Dissention is punished and demonstrations are forbidden.

1976 - 1981

Hua Guofeng

Designated successor as chairman.

1978 - 1989

Deng Xiaoping

Outmanoeuvred Hua Guofeng to become 'paramount leader'.

1978 - 1981

Hua Guofeng

Remained chairman but without true power.

1981 - 1987

Hu Yaobang

Designated successor as chairman. Gen Secretary from 1982.

1987 - 1989

Zhao Ziyang

General Secretary.

1989 - 1992

Welcoming the fairly liberal improvements to China's economy and society, there have been calls for more of the same. Now, in 1989 another great demonstration in Tiananmen Square also calls for change, but the party fears the loss of its own monopoly on power. The protesters are brutally crushed, and their protest is dropped from Chinese history, never to be officially mentioned.

In the same year, Deng Xiaoping officially retires from his top level positions and, in 1992, retires from politics altogether. However, China is widely considered still to be in the 'Deng Xiaoping Era', with the former de facto leader still understood to be wielding significant levels of control from behind the scenes. Even though his position has been weakened by the Tiananmen Square protests, his policies are generally continued, even after his death in 1997.

1989 - 2002

Jiang Zemin

General Secretary.

1999

The Portuguese colony of Macau is handed back to China on 20 December. The enclave is guaranteed a high degree of continued autonomy until 2049 at the earliest, maintaining everything except defence and foreign affairs for itself.

2002 - 2012

Hu Jintao

General Secretary.

2010

China, a long-term ally of Pakistan, announces that it will set up nuclear stations in the country similar to those of the India-US civilian nuclear deal amidst international condemnation considering Pakistan's nuclear proliferation record.

2012 - Present

Xi Jinping

General Secretary.