Chinese History Time Line

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NEOLITHIC china

2500 BC - 2000 BC

This period in Chinese history, or pre-history, roughly tracks with the pre-dynastic period and pyramid building period of Egypt, the lake dwelling Culture of Central Europe, the later Stone Age of Northern Europe, the early Indus Valley culture of India, The Mayan Culture of Central America and the basket makers and pueblo dwellers of the Southwestern U.S. It is known in Chinese history as the pre-Legendary and Hsia Periods or, more inclusively, the Neolithic Period

The Warring States Period

1000 BCE - 256 BCE

was a time of turmoil and violence, with constant warfare between the regional states, but it was also a time of great intellectual and artistic activity, when the intellectual traditions of Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism originated.

As military conflict became more frequent and more deadly, one by one the smaller states were conquered and absorbed by the half dozen largest ones. One of the more successful such states was Chu, based in the middle reaches of the Yangzi River. It defeated and absorbed fifty or more small states, eventually controlling a territory as extensive as the Shang or Western Zhou dynasties at their heights.

The Chinese imperial period

206 BCE - 220 AD

began with the unification of China in 221 by the state of Qin and the consolidation of a huge empire under the succeeding Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 220). Consolidating the empire involved not merely geographical expansion, but also bringing together and reconciling the ideas and practices that had developed in the different states. The new state incorporated elements of Legalism, Daoism, and Confucianism in its ideology but the officials who administered the state came to be identified more and more with Confucian learning. Reflecting the development of religious practices during the Warring States period, Han art and literature are rich in references to spirits, portents, myths, the strange, and the powerful.

Buddhism

618 AD - 906 AD

brought to China a large range of divine beings, all of whom came to be depicted in images at temples, either on their walls or as free standing statues.

The earliest Buddhist images in China owed much to traditions developed in Central Asia, but over time Chinese artists developed their own styles. Here we look separately at the evolution of the different divine beings in the Buddhist pantheon, then look briefly at groupings of deities.

Military technology

960 AD - 1276 AD

The Song period is a good point to take stock of China's military technology. First, warfare was central to the history of the period. The confrontation between the Song and the three successive non-Chinese states to the north (Liao, Jin, and Yuan) made warfare not only a major preoccupation for those in government service, but also a stimulus to rethinking major intellectual issues. Second, we have illustrated sources for the military arts of the period, in particular, The Essentials of the Military Arts, published in the eleventh century. Most of the illustrations in this section have been drawn from this book. Third, the military technology of the Song-Yuan era can be compared to that of Europe in the same period. In this era, although China did not win all the wars, it had surprisingly advanced military technology.

Shang dynasty was defeated in battle by armies from Zhou

1050 - 1051

In about 1050 BC the Shang dynasty was defeated in battle by armies from Zhou, a rival state to the west, which seems both to have inherited cultural traditions from the Neolithic cultures of the northwest and to have absorbed most of the material culture of the Shang. The conquerors retained their homeland in the Wei River valley in present-day Shaanxi province and portioned out the rest of their territory among their relatives and local chiefs, creating a number of local courts or principalities.

Interiors

1368 AD - 1644 AD

One of the most impressive features of courtyard homes is the flexibility of the courtyard space. Traditionally, much time was spent in these courtyards. Plants and trees often grew in courtyard spaces, providing shade from summer sun. Courtyards could be used as a place for carrying out household tasks, or as a place to relax.

Clothing

1644 AD - 1911 AD

For periods before photography, our evidence of Chinese clothing styles comes primarily from paintings, supplemented by tomb figurines and archaeological discoveries of actual clothing, mostly of the wealthy and high-ranking. We will take a brief look at what is known of clothing from earlier periods through paintings, then a closer look at the Qing dynasty, which allows us to make use of photographs. We have also included an independent unit on textile technology, primarily on women making silk and cotton.

Political posters

1950 AD - 2000 AD

Committed to a more egalitarian social and economic order, Mao Zedong and other leaders of the Communist Party set about fashioning a new China, one that would empower peasants and workers and limit the influence of landlords, capitalists, intellectuals, and foreigners. Spreading these ideas was the mission of the propaganda departments and teams. Political posters, reproduced from paintings, woodcuts, and other media, were displayed prominently in classrooms, offices, and homes. The artists who produced these works had to follow the guidelines set by Mao Zedong at the 1942 Yanan Forum for Literature and Art. Art was to serve politics and further the revolutionary cause. Toward that end, it must be appealing and accessible to the masses. Artists, previously fairly independent from politics, were now a key component in the revolutionary machine. “Cultural workers” were sent out to villages and factories to study folk art and learn from real life. In addition, workers and peasants were encouraged to attend art schools and create artwork of their own.

INTERIOR LIVING SPACES

One of the most important spaces in Chinese homes was reserved for the family's ancestors. Chinese families encompassed the dead as well as the living. As a result, traditionally Chinese families, rich or poor, devoted a space to the ancestors of the family.

silk production

Before this time period began, Silk production, for which China is famous, had already been invented. Pottery was also present at the same time, which has two main types, Painted Pottery and Black Pottery. The dwellings of this time were in clusters that suggest kinship was important. Clothing was made of hemp and the main domesticated animals were pigs and dogs.

chinas history

This period in Chinese history, or pre-history, roughly tracks with the pre-dynastic period and pyramid building period of Egypt, the lake dwelling Culture of Central Europe, the later Stone Age of Northern Europe, the early Indus Valley culture of India, The Mayan Culture of Central America and the basket makers and pueblo dwellers of the Southwestern U.S. It is known in Chinese history as the pre-Legendary and Hsia Periods or, more inclusively, the Neolithic Period