__ Asian Dynasties (China / Japan)

Japanese Eras


4000 BC - 300 BC

ca. 4000 BCE


300 BC - 250

Yayoi Culture

More advanced agricultural society, using metals and wheel-turned pottery


250 - 538

Tomb Period: Kofun (250-538)

Great earthen grave mounds and their funerary objects, such as clay haniwa — terra cotta figurines of people and animals, models of buildings and boats — attest to emergence of powerful clan rulers. Among these was the Yamato clan, whose rulers began the imperial dynasty that has continued to the present.


538 - 710

Tomb Period: Asuka (538-710)

Great earthen grave mounds and their funerary objects, such as clay haniwa — terra cotta figurines of people and animals, models of buildings and boats — attest to emergence of powerful clan rulers. Among these was the Yamato clan, whose rulers began the imperial dynasty that has continued to the present.


710 - 814

710-814 Nara Period

Establishment of first permanent capital at Nara; emergence of Japanese patterns of administration and institutions. Beginning of classical period.


794 - 1185


Heian Period; Late Heian (Fujiwara)

Great flowering of classical Japanese culture in new capital of Heian-kyo (Kyoto). Court aristocracy, especially women, produced great body of literature — poetry, diaries, the novel The Tale of Genji — and made refined aesthetic sensibility their society's hallmark.


1185 - 1333

1185-1333 Kamakura Period

Beginning of military rule, as samurai (warriors) replaced nobles as real rulers of Japan. Imperial court remained in Kyoto but shoguns governing organization based in Kamakura, south of modern Tokyo.


1336 - 1573


Ashikaga (Muromachi) Period

New warrior government in Kyoto retained weak control of the country, but from its base in Kyoto's Muromachi district became patron of newly flourishing artistic tradition, influenced by Zen Buddhist culture as well as samurai and court society.


1600 - 1867

1600-1867 Tokugawa (Edo) Period

Country unified under military government which maintained 250 years of secluded peace, leading to development of vibrant urban, "middle-class" culture with innovations in economic organization, literature, and the arts.


1868 - 1912

1868-1912 Meiji Period
Emergence, with Western stimulus, into modern international world, marked by dramatic alterations in institutions, traditional social organization, and culture.


1912 - 1926


Taisho Period


1926 - 1989

Showa Period


1989 - 2012

Japan as a world power in the 20th century

Chinese Dynasties

Mystical Dynasty

3000 BC - 2100 BC

Chinese Emperor Huang Ti, Queen Lo Tsu found mystical dynasty on geometry & astrology.


2100 BC - 1600 BC

Xia (Hsia) Dynasty
ca. 2100-1600 BCE


1600 BC - 1050 BC

One of the Three Dynasties, or San Dai (Xia, Shang, and Zhou), thought to mark the beginning of Chinese civilization: characterized by its writing system, practice of divination, walled cities, bronze technology, and use of horse-drawn chariots.


1046 BC - 256 BC

A hierarchical political and social system with the Zhou royal house at its apex: power was bestowed upon aristocratic families as lords of their domains or principalities. Although often compared to European "feudalism," what actually gave the system cohesion was a hierarchical order of ancestral cults. The system eventually broke down into a competition for power between rival semi-autonomous states in what became known as the Spring and Autumn period (ca. 770-475 BCE) and the Warring States (ca. 475-221 BCE) period. It was during these tumultuous times that Confucius (551-479 BCE) lived.


221 BC - 206 BC

221-206 BCE
Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty
Created a unitary state by imposing a centralized administration and by standardizing the writing script, weights and measures. Known for its harsh methods of rule, including the suppression of dissenting thought.


206 BC - 220

206 BCE-220 CE Han Dynasty
Modified and consolidated the foundation of the imperial order. Confucianism was established as orthodoxy and open civil service examinations were introduced. Han power reached Korea and Vietnam. Records of the Historian, which became the model for subsequent official histories, was completed.

Six Dyn.

220 - 589

Six Dynasties Period
The empire was fragmented. The North was dominated by invaders from the borderland and the steppes. The South was ruled by successive "Chinese" dynasties. Buddhism spread.


265 - 420

Jin Dynasty


618 - 906

Tang (T'ang) Dynasty
A time of cosmopolitanism and cultural flowering occurred. This period was the height of Buddhist influence in China until its repression around 845. Active territorial expansion until defeated by the Arabs at Talas in 751.


960 - 1279

Song (Sung) Dynasty
An era of significant economic and social changes: the monetization of the economy; growth in commerce and maritime trade; urban expansion and technological innovations. The examination system for bureaucratic recruitment of neo-Confucianism was to provide the intellectual underpinning for the political and social order of the late imperial period.


1279 - 1368

Yuan Dynasty
Founded by the Mongols as part of their conquest of much of the world. Beijing was made the capital. Dramas, such as the famous Story of the Western Wing, flourished.


1368 - 1644

Ming Dynasty
The first Ming emperor, Hongwu, laid the basis of an authoritarian political culture. Despite early expansion, it was an inward-looking state with an emphasis on its agrarian base. Gradual burgeoning of the commercial sector; important changes in the economy and social relations in the latter part of the dynasty; also a vibrant literary scene as represented by publication of the novel Journey to the West.


1644 - 1912

Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty
A Manchu dynasty. Continued the economic developments of the late Ming, leading to prosperity but also complacency and a dramatic increase in population. The acclaimed novel Dream of the Red Chamber was written in this period. Strains on the polity were intensified by a rapid incorporation of substantial new territories. Its authoritarian structure was subsequently unable to meet the military and cultural challenge of an expansive West.