China Old History

By | January 2, 2023

China is an independent nation in Eastern Asia. With the capital city of Beijing, China 2020 population is estimated at 1,439,323,787 according to countryaah. From the 20th century BC, imperial dynasties ruled the Middle Kingdom, which China was called by the residents. The three hundred-year rule of the Mingke emperors was followed in the 17th century by the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, when extensive trade in tea, silk and china was built with Europe. But the empire was finally overthrown in 1912, weakened by economic problems, popular uprisings and defeat in battles against the Japanese, Russians and Europeans.

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Chinese civilization is thought to be around 5,000 years old, but the oldest source writings extend “only” over 3,000 years back. Legends and myths about the country’s origins speak of hunters, fishermen and farmers, not of migrations or conquests. According to tradition, the semi-mythical Xia dynasty ruled China’s first state, but no archaeological evidence for the Xia kingdom’s existence has been found. For China political system, please check carswers.

The following Shang or Yin dynasty (c. 1500–1000 BC) provided written testimony in the form of bronze castings and the so-called oracle bones, bone carvings or turtle shells.

Society during the Zhou dynasties (ca. 1000–221 BC) is usually compared to Europe’s feudalism from the early Middle Ages. When the last Zhou dynasty broke down in rebellion and war, Shi Huangdi, the ruler of the Qin state formation in northwestern China, stepped forward, subdued his rivals and founded a new dynasty, Qin. His strong, centrally governed unity state largely covered what one might call the real China. With its administrative reforms and its defense works, the first Chinese wall, Shi Huangdi can be described as China’s true founder. His empire, however, became short-lived and fell into a peasant uprising in 206 BC.

For a year and a half millennia, then long periods of fragmentation alternated with quieter stages during the Han, Tang and Song dynasties. Materially, scientifically and culturally, China reached a very high level of development and began to trade with almost the entire world then known.

In the long run, the Song emperors could not hold together their vast kingdom. At the end of the 13th century, the country was conquered by Mongol forces led by Khubilai khan (the Mongolian ruler Djingis khan’s grandson), who moved the capital from Xian to Beijing. After the collapse of the Mongols, the last indigenous emperor dynasty, Ming, took over in 1368. Ming ruled for nearly three centuries, which coincided largely with the Renaissance of Europe. Its first stage was a new heyday, when the country was expanded again. Corruption and peasant revolts eventually caused the Ming dynasty to lapse as well.

Another northern invasion, now from Manchuria, placed China under a new foreign power in 1644, the Qing Dynasty. It came to exist until the Revolution in 1911. Its rule also began vigorously to gradually weaken and erode. Now it was the western country that was in need. Already during the Ming era, Portuguese, Russians, Dutch and English had tried to trade with the Chinese. But China’s leaders hesitated before meeting with “barbarians” and wanted to keep the Middle Kingdom closed and untouched.

The stagnant Qing dynasty did not have much resistance to Europeans’ increasingly aggressive trade offensive. The emperor’s attempt to prevent foreigners from paying for Chinese goods with opium, a commodity forbidden in China, led to the first opium war of 1839-1842 between China and Britain. China was defeated and forced to resign from Hong Kong to the British and open five port cities for foreign merchants. China’s opium imports swelled uncontrollably with devastating social and economic consequences.

The resentment of the Chinese triggered a new great rise, the so-called Taiping rebellion, which targeted both the emperor regime and the foreigners and devastated large parts of southern China. Before the revolt had been crushed, another war broke out between China and Britain, which was now supported by France. Through the victory of the Second Opium War 1856-1860, Europeans were able to dictate new harsh conditions for an increasingly degraded and powerless Chinese government.

On the coast was now a pearl band of forced-open port cities, including Shanghai and Guangzhou (Canton). Russia seized large areas on China’s northern border. In the war of 1894-1895, Japan, long dismissed as a barbaric dwarf state, shocked the Chinese from Korea and entered parts of China.

For the Chinese, accustomed to seeing their country as the center of civilization, all these forced treaties created a deep xenophobia and new uncertainty, which still today causes China’s leaders to react sharply to external pressure. The nationalist boxer uprising of 1899–1901 was the last attempt to resist foreign influence. Supported by the reactionary widow Empress Tzü Hsi, so-called boxers, many of them poor peasants, attacked Chinese and foreign Christians, missionaries and Europeans who entrenched themselves in part of Beijing. Only after two months did British, American, Russian and Australian troops come to the rescue. They crushed the uprising, plundered Beijing and forced the government into a new humiliating peace.

The defeat of the nationalists paved the way for reform-minded Chinese circles who wanted to seize external impulses to modernize society. When a revolution broke out in 1911, the empire was weakened and fell in February the following year.

The Republican uprising in 1911 became the source of bitter internal contradictions, which divided the country even more. Since the revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen had died in 1925 without having succeeded in creating a strong central power, his closest husband, General Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek according to previous writing), sought to rally China under his leadership. First, his nationalist party Kuomintang (Guomindang) collaborated with the 1921 Chinese Communist Party founded. In 1927, Jiang abruptly turned his troops against the ally and established himself the Republic of China based in Nanjing.

The Communists, led by, among others, the peasant son Mao Zedong, fled into the mountains between the southern provinces of Hunan and Jiangxi. In the fall of 1934, they broke out through a year-long bypass maneuver during constant fighting and tremendous punishments – the legendary Long March. Nearly 100,000 soldiers, party members and relatives embarked on the hike, which came through eleven provinces. After forcing mountains, rivers, swamps and snow forests – occasionally in the biting winter cold and constantly chased by Kuomintan troops – less than a third of the rebel army reached Yan’an in Shaanxi province in the north. There, the movement set up its headquarters. During the march, Mao Zedong also emerged as the undeniable leader of the Communist Party.

In 1936, Jiang and the Communists allied with the Japanese, who had occupied Manchuria in northern China and were heading south. When Japan attacked in 1937 near Beijing, open war broke out. Kuomintang was forced back into western China, while communists in the north began guerrilla war against the occupiers.

China Old History