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Introduction to Dynasties in History

Last updated by chinatravel at 2014/4/20

Introduction to Dynasties in History

Boasting a civilization of over 5000 years, China is one of the four ancient countries in the world. Since Xia Empire was established in 21 BC, the society experienced Shang Dynasty, Western Dynasty, Spring and Autumn Period, and the slave system. Starting from the period of Warring States in 475 BC, the society developed from Qin Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Three Kingdoms, Jin Dynasty, Northern and Southern Dynasties, Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, the period of Five Dynasties and Ten States, Song Dynasty, Liao Dynasty, Jin Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty, and Qing Dynasty. But from the Dynasty of Qin to Qing China remained to be a feudal society. It was then reduced to be a semi-colonized and semi-feudal society after the Opium War in 1840 initiated by imperialist invaders. It was not until 1911 that the rule of Qing Dynasty was overthrown by Revolution 1911 led by Sun Yet-sen. On October 1st, 1949, the Communist Party of China with Mao Zedong as the Chairman united Chinese people and founded the People’s Republic of China.

Introduction to Dynasties in Chinese History and Emperors

 

Dynasty

Ruling Years

Capital

Today’s Site

First Emperor

Xia Dynasty

about 2146 BC-1675 BC

 

Anyi

Xiaxian County, Shanxi Province

Yu

Shang Dynasty

about 1675 BC-1029BC

Hao

Shanqiu City, Henan Province

Tang 

Zhou Dynasty

Western Zhou Dynasty

about 1029 BC-771BC

Haojing

Xi’an, Shanxi Province

Ji Fa

Eastern Zhou Dynasty

770 BC-256 BC

Luoyi

Luoyang, Henan Province

Ji Yijiu

 

Spring and Autumn

770 BC-476BC

 

 

 

Warring States

475 BC-221BC

 

 

 

Qin Dynasty

221 BC-207 BC

Xianyang

Xianyang, Shanxi

Ying Zheng

Han Dynasty

Western Han Dynasty

206 BC-8 AD

Chang’an

Xi’an, Shanxi Province

Liu Bang

New Dynasty

9 AD-23 AD

 

 

Wang Mang

East Han Dynasty

25 AD-220 AD

Luoyang

Luoyang, Henan Province

Liu Xiu

Three Kingdoms

Wei 

220 AD-265AD

Luoyang

Luoyang, Henan Province

Cao Pei

Shu

221 AD-263AD

Chengdu

Chengdu, Sichuan Province

Li Bei

Wu

222 AD-280AD

Jianye

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

Sun Quan

Jin Dynasty

West Jin Dynasty

265 AD-316 AD

Luoyang

Luoyang, Henan Province

Sima Yan

East Jin Dynasty

317 AD-420 AD

Jiankang

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

Sima Rui

Sixteen Kingdoms

304 AD-439 AD

 

 

 

Southern Dynasties

Song

420 AD-479 AD

Dynasty

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

Liu Yu

Qi

479 AD-502 AD

Dynasty

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

Xiao Daocheng

Liang

502 AD-557 AD

Dynasty

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

Xiao Yan

Chen

557 AD-589 AD

Dynasty

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province

Chen Baxian

Northern Dynasties

Northern Wei 

386 AD-534 AD

Pingcheng

Datong, Shanxi

Tuo Bagui

Wei

 

Luoyang

Luoyang, Henan Province

 

Eastern Wei

534-550

Ye

Linzhang, Hebei Provicne

Yuan Shanjian

Western Wei

535-556

Chang’an

Xi’an, Shanxi Province

Yuan Baoju

Northern Qi

550-577

Ye

Linzhang, Hebei Provicne

Gao Yang

Northern Zhou

557-581

Chang’an

Xi’an, Shanxi Province

Yu Wenjue

Sui Dynasty

581-618

Daxing

Xi’an, Shanxi Province

Yang Jian

Tang Dynasty

618-907

Chang’an

Xi’an, Shanxi Province

Li Yuan

Five Dynasties and Ten States

Later Liang

907-923

Bian

Kaifeng, Henan Province

Zhu Huang

Later Tang

923-936

Luoyang

Luoyang, Henan Province

Li Cunxu

Later Jin

936-947

Bian

Kaifeng, Henan Province

Shi Jingtang

Later Han

947-950

Bian

Kaifeng, Henan Province

Liu Gao

Later Zhou

951-960

Bian

Kaifeng, Henan Province

Guo Wei

Song Dynasty

Northern Song Dynasty

960-1127

Kaifeng

Kaifeng, Henan Province

Zhao Kuangyin

Southern Song Dynasty

1127-1279

Lin’an

Lin’an, Zhejiang

Zhao Gou

Liao Dynasty

907-1125

Huangdu

Liaoning

Yuelv Abaoji

Dali

937-1254

Taihe City

Dali, Yunnan

 

Western Xia

1032-1227

Xingqing Prefecture

Yinchuan, Ningxia

 

Jin Dynasty

1115-1234

Huining

Acheng, Heilongjiang Province

Aguda

Zhongdu

Beijing

 

Kaifeng

Kaifeng, Henan

 

Yuan Dynasty

1206-1368

Dadu

Beijing

Hubilie

Ming Dynasty

1368-1644

Beijing

Beijing

Zhu Yuanzhang

Qing Dynasty

1616-1911

Beijing

Beijing

Huang Taiji

Republic of China

1912-1949

Nanjing

Nanjing

 

 

 

The People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1st, 1949. Its capital city is Beijing.

 

1 .Introduction to Dynasties in Chinese History

(1) Pre-history Period   about 1.7 million years ago21 Century BC

The prehistory refers to the phylogeny of human being within the border of China before record. The society in this period experienced Early Ape Man Stage, Late Ape Man Stage, Matriarchal and Patriarchal Communes, Three Emperors and Five Kings, and Xia Dynasty. The prehistory period is a long time span, starting from 1.7 million years ago to the 21 century BC. Ape Man includes Yuanmou Ape Man in Yunnan and Lantian Ape Man in Shanxi. In the primitive times, Ape Man living in Beijing could only use rough stone wares and led a hard life.

Later came the period of Matriarchal and Patriarchal Communes. The Matriarchal Communes have a common ancestor, and the Chinese character “姓”, the left part of which means “female”, symbolizes the ruling period of Matriarchal Communes. When it declined gradually, the Patriarchal Communes began. From then on the monogamy system of family came into being and the primeval society reached its end.

The era of historical figures was ushered in after the period of Patriarchal Communes. The mid and lower reaches of Yellow River became a densely populated area; Guanzhong Plain and East China Basin soon developed into the communities of Huaxia People (4000 BC). This era witnessed the emergence of many heroes, such as Huang Di or Yellow Emperor, Yan Di or Emperor Yan, and Chi Yao. In fact, after the death of Yellow Emperor, the primitive tribes in the Yellow River Valley were ruled in succession by such legendary figures as Yao, Shun and Da Yu (Great Yu) who subdued floods and harnessed rivers for his people. The ruling periods of Yao, Sun, and Da Yu were still under slave systems. When Da Yu won the title called Xiahoushi, he declared the funding of Xia Dynasty and, at the same time, the end of prehistory. Later China entered the ancient times of civilization.

(2) Xia Dynasty   about 21 century BC17th Century BC

The founder of Xia Dynasty Da Yu is a historic figure famous for harnessing rivers and subduing floods for his people. The territory of Xia comprised of the mid and lower reaches of Yellow River, the whole Yellow River Drainage, as well as areas nearby Yangtze River. Various ethnic groups were under the leadership of Yu and united in the form of alliance. Later, Qi, the son of Da Yu, ascended the throne. He consolidated his ruling position by winning a series of major wars, such as the war with Youhushi and Wuguan at Xihe River. He was finally reputed the emperor who unified the then territory of China.

Legendary has it that Hou Yi, a figure in the story of “Hou Yi Shooting at the Sun with Arrow”, is a person of Xia Dynasty. He drove out Taikang Zheng, the son of Emperor Qi, and then became the king. But soon he was too absorbed in toxophily to pay any attention to governance, and finally killed.

The last emperor of Xia Dynasty is Jie, a notorious cruel ruler in history. There were totally 17 emperors from Da Yu to Jie in the ruling period of Xia Dynasty. Jie was a courageous and intelligent man, but unfortunately he was very atrocious and then became addicted to killing. In addition, he was a bibulosity letch who reduced his people into misery. Another state Shang caught the opportunity and overthrew Xia Dynasty overnight.  

Shang Dynasty also has a long history as Xia Dynasty. It is said that a female called Jiandi ate a bird egg and then gave birth to Qi, the ancestor of Shang Dynasty. There are 14 emperors from Qi to Tang (the last emperor of Shang Dynasty), quite similar to that of Xia Dynasty. Through 500 years development, the kingdom of Shang grew stronger and stronger, and finally conquered Xia Dynasty by defeating it in Mingtao War. 

After Emperor Tang, Shang Dynasty experienced the period of consolidation and further development. After the ruling years of Tai Jia, the grandson of Tang, the whole Shang Dynasty was in stability.

During the ruling period of Pan Geng, the capital of Shang Empire was changed for several times and finally settled in a place called Yin. That is the reason why Shang Dynasty is generally known as Yin Dynasty. The change of capital promoted the economic and social development of Shang Dynasty.

Shang Dynasty followed a hereditary system of regality. The son of the emperor should inherit the throne when his father died; the brother of the emperor should ascend the throne when the emperor passed by; in late Shang Dynasty it was stipulated that only the oldest son of the emperor had the right to inherit everything first when his father left the throne. That lays a very important foundation for regulations and rules of Zhou Dynasty. At the same time, auspice in Shang Dynasty was very popular and recorded by oracle-bone inscriptions. The ruling power of the Emperor was limited to a strip of central area of the state while the bordering areas were governed by nobles and feudal lords.

However, contradiction within the empire started to arise at its late ruling years. It centered on the fight for kingship, and became serious for revolts of slaves all over the state. The then emperor tried to suppress it but failed and finally burned himself to death. The Dynasty of Shang had existed for about 600 years, covering 17 generations and 35 emperors.

(3) West Zhou Dynasty    about 11th Century BC771 BC

Zhou used to be a marquisate of Shang Empire. It is said people lived there were the offspring of Di Ku. In the early times of Shang Dynasty, Zhou grew stronger and stronger in today’s Binxian County of Shanxi Province. When Ji and later Ji Yijiu took the governance, the marquisate enjoyed prosperity. Soon it overthrew Shang Empire in Muye War and founded Zhou Dynasty which was later called West Zhou.

West Zhou had its own ruling and power system. There were Three Dukes, namely, Grand Preceptor, Grand Mentor, and Grand Guardian supporting the emperor. Taizai, referring to the Chief of Counselor, was in charge of specific affairs. The title and position Zhougong required the Grand Preceptor to take up the position of Taizai and manage political affairs all over the state. Under Zhougong, there were other official positions, like Minister of Education, Commander-in-chief, and Grand Minister of Works, etc. Officials of the empire had different affairs to manage according to their corresponding positions. Most of them were nobles. They followed the hereditary system of official positions and franchise. There was a regulation expressed as “Never salute to the common people and never inflict physical punishment on Censor-in-chief”. It clearly reflected the system of social ranks and franchise.

In Late West Zhou Dynasty, social contradictions, especially the conflicts within the ruling empire, grew more and more intense. Contradictions for land and power accelerated the decline of the empire. Moreover, national revolts deeply wakened the ruling foundation of the dynasty. In 771 BC, the then emperor was killed by Quan Rong, symbolizing the end of West Zhou Dynasty.

(4) Spring and Autumn  770 BC476 BC

From 770 BC when the family members of West Zhou Empire moved to Luoyi in the first ruling year of Pingwang Emperor to the 44th ruling year of Jingwang Emperor in 476 BC, history in this period could generally coincide with what was recorded (from 772 BC to 481 BC) in Spring and Autumn Annals emended by Confucius. Therefore history in this period is known as Spring and Autumn.

(5) Warring States    475 BC221 BC

Warring States refers to the historical period when the seven states were in fight with each other. It was an era of turmoil.

During Warring States, the seven fighting states were in fact only the larger ones among all states. There were still smaller states including Zhou, Lu, Wei, and Zheng, and many ethnic groups such as Hun and Donghu in the north, Baiyue in the south, and Bashu in the southwest. But later they were gradually conquered and annexed by those larger states.

Warring States can be divided into three stages. The first stage refers to 475 BC—338BC when Shang Yang (Councilor-in-chief in State of Qin)  was killed. In order to become much stronger and more prosperous, each country made efforts to conduct various reforms, and the famous ones included reforms carried out by Shang Yang in Qin, reforms proceeded by Wu Qi in Chu, and reforms conducted by Li Li in Wei. Therefore social condition in the first stage was relatively stable.

The second stage was from 338 BC to 288 BC when Qi and Qin agreed to be the ruling states together. In 284 BC, the six larger states joined together to attack Qi. Each state increased its military spending and opened the arm race with each other. Wars were frequent in this period. The larger states conquered the smaller ones and finally became seven strong states. In 288 BC, Qin and Qi were respectively known as West Empire and East Empire, and the fight between the two grew more intense.

In the third stage from 284 BC to 221 BC, Qin finally annexed the other six states and unified China Proper for the first time.  

(6) Qin Dynasty     221 BC207 BC

The fifteen years from 221 BC to 207 BC is a short, transitory period.

After the unification of China Proper by Ying Zheng, the first emperor of Qin Dynasty, the system of fiefdom was abolished. A new system of Prefecture and County was proposed by Li Si, a Chief of Councilor in Qin Dynasty. Under the new system, the power of positioning officials was concentrated in the central empire. It helped to overcome the division of power, and avoid the similar turmoil as that in Spring and Autumn. The original 36 prefectures increased to 46. The central political system centered on Three Dukes and Nine Ministers, an optimized and systemized bureaucracy of the Warring States. It adopted an assessment system, the operation of which was similar to today’s annual report by officials. Besides, Qin Dynasty standardized the form of writing and measures, largely facilitating the development of social economy and culture. However, the practice of unifying all ideas, putting into death many dissenting Confucian scholars, as well as confiscating and burning their books posed serious destruction to human civilization, inhibited the development of various ideas, and gave an and end to the booming condition of “Hundred Schools of thought contended”. Many emperors of later dynasties followed the similar practices as those of Ying Zheng. That largely blocked the development of ancient ideas.

In order to defeat the possible invasion of Hun, the then emperor of Qin ordered the completion of Great Wall on the basis of what had been built up by Yan and Zhao Empires. The well known Great Wall was finally built up completely, much longer to the north than the retained Great Wall from Ming Dynasty.

The die out of Qin Dynasty was caused by its cruel codes and regulations. The breakout of revolts by peasants undoubtedly drew a full dot to the ruling regime.

(7) Western Han Dynasty      207 BC25 BC

West Han Dynasty is the first stage of Han Dynasty, lasting form 207 BC to 25 BC. In the whole Han Dynasty, West Han was more prosperous than other periods. Thanks to the Enlightened Governance during the reign of Emperor Wen Di and Jing Di and Rehabilitation Policy by Emperor Wu Di, the development of politics, economy, and culture entered a boom in this stage.

Although Western Han Dynasty replaced Qin Dynasty, most institutions and systems were inherited directly from Qin. Changes were only made on major policies. It drew a lesson form the perdition of Qin Dynasty caused by cruel tyranny, and carried out policies of rehabilitation. During the ruling years of Wen Di and Jing Di, taxes were reduced by a large percentage. It therefore laid a solid material foundation for future prosperity in the ruling period of Wu Di Emperor. Legal system in this stage became more civilized along with the abolishment of excruciation step by step. 

Wu Di Emperor further strengthened his ruling power by adopting the proposition of Dong Zhongshu that “abolishing the various schools of thought while holding high the Confucian School”. But the way of carrying it out was different from that in Qin Dynasty. They combined academic study with the selection of officials, guided people to read books of Confucius, and gradually unified the ideas of the state. Its final purpose of consolidating the imperial rule was thus achieved.  

Western Han Dynasty was also famous for developed foreign trade. The Silk Road was a good representation of it. Social economy enjoyed rapid and unprecedented development: farmland was largely expanded, and metallurgy and spin technologies were quite advanced. Now the low temperature steel furnace unearthed in Gongxian County plays an epoch-making role in the history of metallurgy technology development.

In late Western Han Dynasty, due to serious impropriation and annexation of land as well as practices of corruption and squandering, social contradictions were very intense and even became more acute. Soon it was replaced by New Dynasty founded by Wang Mang. Unfortunately Wang Mang was killed in the surge of Greenwood Army Revolt and Red Eyebrows peasants uprising. In 25th BC, Liu Xiu reestablished Han Dynasty and raised the curtain of Eastern Han Dynasty.

(8) Eastern Han Dynasty        25 BC—189 AD

Emperor Ying Zheng in Qin Dynasty founded the first autarchy with the centralization of state power in Chinese History. Compared with that of Western Dynasty, the Eastern Han Dynasty was more tyrannized.  Guangwu Di, the then emperor, conducted reforms on governance and distributed more power to the Department of State Affairs. Therefore, the power of the emperor was reduced and helped prevent extreme tyranny. However, if the emperor happened to be fatuity or incapable on governance, the imperial power would be monopolized by the Department of State Affairs. Unfortunately, it did happen in the history of late Eastern Dynasty. The new emperor ascended the throne when he was very young. The Queen Mother therefore held court behind a screen, controlling the power behind the throne. Nobles, who were relatives of the Queen Mother, monopolized the state. The balance of power between the emperor and the central department under the system of concentrated state power in imperial autarchy was totally destroyed. When relatives of the Queen Mother came into power, there must be disasters of eunuch who supported the emperor. Later Eastern Han Dynasty failed to have its real imperial offspring to ascend the throne; the Queen Mother had no blood relationship with the puppet emperor on the throne; and thus relatives of the Queen Mother carried out autarchy themselves. When the young emperor grew up, he would determine to get back his due power and there must be conflicts between him and his relatives-in-law. Then the emperor would plot with the eunuchs to get rid of the obstacles on his road. Therefore the strife between eunuchs and his relatives-in-law would begin both openly and secretly.

Diplomacy in East Han Dynasty reached long term development. Ban Chao, a famous general, managed to persuade more than 50 countries in the west to submit to the empire of Eastern Han Dynasty and send their hostages to worship the then emperor. At the same time, an ambassador called Gan Ying was assigned by Ban Chao to visit the Ancient Rome Empire, but unfortunately cheated by an Arab on the road. He only reached the Mediterranean instead of his destination.

In 57 AD, Japan sent its first ambassador to China. From then on the two countries started to exchange with each other.

In 64 AD, Ming Di, the emperor of Eastern Han Dynasty, heard there were immortals in the west and they were called Buddha. Soon he assigned Cai An, Vice Minister, to Tianzhu (today’s India) to learn Buddhism. In 67 AD, Cai An came back to Luoyang and brought with him some Buddhist scriptures. Also along with him were Shemoteng and Zhu Falan who were invited by Cai An to China. In the next year Emperor Ming Di ordered the built up of Baima Temple, where Shemoteng and Zhu Fahu could live and translate the Forty-two Chapters of Buddhist Scriptures. After that Buddhism began to spread in China.

(9) Three Kingdoms    189 AD—265 AD

At the end of Eastern Han Dynasty, the empire was seriously shaken by Yellow Turban’s Uprising led by Zhang Jiao. Divisions of power in different places gradually broke away from the central empire and became local dominions. The three kingdoms came into being in such a situation and they were respectively Wei, Shu, and Wu.

Cao Pei adopted the system of Nine Grade Official Ranks before conquering Han Dynasty and funding Wei. Later the system was reduced to be a tool of monopolization on power. It had a lot of disadvantages and was soon replaced by the imperial examination system for recruiting officials. The system of Nine Grade Official Ranks was the foundation of Menzha System. After the establishment of Shu by Liu Bei and Zhu Geliang, the local economy was largely promoted, and the abundant produce of brocade told it well. Although Zhu Geliang undertook the North Expedition for many times, he still suffered defeats due to the great disparity on military force from his enemy and finally died from illness in battalion. Wu, located to the southeast of Shu, enjoyed developed economy and advanced technology of shipbuilding.

The three kingdoms were integrated after West Jin Dynasty replaced Cao and Wei. The long period of disintegration since Eastern Han Dynasty was finally came into a conclusion.

(10) Western Jin Dynasty    265 AD—316 AD

In 265 AD, Sima Yan overthrew Cao Empire and funded Jin Dynasty. The Western Jin Dynasty began. In 311 AD, Liu Cong led Hun, occupied Luoyang, the capital of Western Jin Dynasty, and captured Emperor Huai Di. The army of Western Jin supported Emperor Min Di to ascend the throne in Chang’an so as to continue the Western Jin regime. Five years later, which was in 316 AD, Liu Yao led his army to occupy Chang’an. Emperor Min Di gave it up and surrendered without resistance. That was the end of Western Jin Dynasty. In the second year Sima Rui ascended the throne in Jiankan City and reestablished the Dynasty of Jin known as East Jin.

West Jin Dynasty only extended for 52 years. But it gave an end to the disintegrated situation since the period of Three Kingdoms, and reunified China in 280 AD by Sima Yan. It created an opportunity for temporary social and economic development. West Jin Dynasty followed the system of Nine Grade Official Ranks from Cao Empire. But it had many disadvantages and soon was reduced to be a manipulation tool for power. After that the Menfa System came into being. Besides, West Jin Dynasty prescribed the franchise of bureaucratic nobles according to codes, and the franchise included the right of land-impropriation. Although Western Han Dynasty had been existed for 52 years, 16 years were in the turmoil of fights among eight leuds. It reflected the intense contradictions within the ruling empire.

West Jin Dynasty was quite advanced in social development. There were famous doctor Wang Shu and his great works Book of Pulse, geographer Pei Xiu and his Map of Yugong, and Chen Shou with the well known historical book Annals of the Three Kingdoms.

(11) Eastern Jin Dynasty   317 AD—420 AD

After Western Jin Dynasty, Sima Shi founded a new regime known as Eastern Jin Dynasty to the south of Yangtze River.

In more than 130 years from Emperor Liu Yuan to the unification of North China, various ethnic groups in the rank of nobles and bureaucratic landlords founded their own regimes. It was the period of Sixteen States in history.

(12) The Southern and Northern Dynasties   420 AD—589 AD

The Northern and Southern Dynasties in fact is an abbreviation of Northern Dynasty and Southern Dynasty. In Northern Dynasty, there was Northern Wei which later was separated into Eastern Wei and Western Wei, Northern Qi replacing Northern Wei, and Northern Zhou taking the place of Western Wei and overthrowing Northern Qi. Compared with the Northern Dynasty, the Southern Dynasty period was simpler. It was composed of the ruling states of Song, Qi, Liang, and Cheng in order.

During Southern and Northern Dynasties, economy in the south was more developed than that in other parts. That was because a large population migrated to the south to avoid the turmoil of war in the north. Therefore labor force in the south was largely strengthened together with advanced technologies in production. It greatly promoted the growth of local economy and gave birth to many developed economic areas such as Yangzhou.

In terms of culture, this period boasted of the development of metaphysics thought. The era of turmoil provided a fertile land for the free development of various ideas. Literature also achieved bright progress represented by poetry. In addition, communication with foreign countries in this period was very frequent and fruitful. Exchanges with the other parts of the world had reached Japan and North Korea to the east, Middle Asia and Rome to the west, and Southeast Asian Countries and areas.

The Southern and Northern Dynasties were a stage of national integration in a large scale. Communication between the north and the south was conducted in a deep level. The lasting wars and strife caused destruction and misery to people’s lives, but the development of culture was the only positive result which could only be understood rather than expressed out in the period of chaos. 

(13) Sui Dynasty    581 AD—618 AD

Sui Dynasty was a short life and only existed for 37 years. It started from 581 AD when Yang Jian (Wen Di Emperor) founded Sui Dynasty and stopped in 618 AD when Yang Guang (Yang Di Emperor) was killed. But it had wide influence in history, because many systems were proposed and established in that period. Emperor Gao Zu of Tang Dynasty and Emperor Yang Di of Sui Dynasty had blood relationships. Therefore, to large extent, Tang Dynasty was the extension of Sui Dynast.  Many historical books often refer Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty together to Sui and Tang Dynasty.

During Sui Dynasty, Emperor Wen Di contributed most. He abolished the Six-Official System in Northern Zhou Dynasty and established a new system of government officials, namely Three Councils and Six Boards. That main body of the system was inherited later by Tang Dynasty, and became the major content that Japan had learned from Sui and Tang Dynasties in its Dahua Reform. Besides, Emperor Wen Di also formulated a series of new laws. They played a key role in the improvement and consolidation of feudal laws in Tang Dynasty. Codes on physical punishment were not as cruel as those in Southern and Northern Dynasties. In addition, the creation and implementation of Imperial Examinations was another feat to history. The new form of examinations was an innovation to the selection of social servants. Moreover, it was more rational and fair than the previous ones.

Emperor Yang Di was remembered by the later generations only because of the great canal he ordered to build (for play as a major purpose). A poet in Tang Dynasty, known as Li Shangyin, once expressed through his poem that Emperor Yang Di was no less indulgent and fatuity than Chen Shubao, the offspring of an emperor in Jin Dynasty, captured by Wen Di Emperor. Emperor Yang Di was notorious in history for his cruel tyranny. Four of his brothers were killed continuously. Later he ascended the throne by killing his father. However, his people could not bear his inhuman rule and abnormal tyranny any longer, and initiated revolts against him. Finally he got what he deserved and was killed in Jingdu, declaring the end of Sui Dynasty. 

(14) Tang Dynasty   618 AD—907 AD

The empire of Tang Dynasty had existed for 289 years from 618 AD when Tang Dynasty was funded till 907 AD when Emperor Zhu Wen was killed. The whole Tang Dynasty comprised of two stages: the early stage and the late stage. With An-shi Rebellion as the watershed, the early stage enjoyed prosperity while the late stage was in decline. It was Emperor Gao Zu who funded the empire, and Li Shi Min, the Tai Zong Emperor who unified the whole China through ten years expedition. After the Palace Coup at Xuanwu Gate, Li Shimin ascended the throne and led feudal China into an unprecedented period of prosperity and peace. There was famous Enlightened Administration in Zhenguan Reign under Emperor Tai Zong of Tang Dynasty during which the politics, economy, and culture had achieved rapid progress and ranked first in the world. The later times witnessed another ruling period of stability and prosperity, and that was Enlightened Administration in Kaiyuan Reign under Emperor Xuan Zong by Emperor Xuan Zong. The country again boasted of strong capacity of national defense and the rich spiritual and material life of its people. Unfortunately, there happened An-shi Rebellion, leading Tang Dynasty to degradation.  

In the late stage of Tang Dynasty, the political life of the country went into turmoil. There were fights among eunuchs and divisions of power. Revolts of peasants broke out continuously, including the Uprising led by Huang Chao against the rule of Tang Empire. Zhu wen, one of leaders of that upring, later surrendered to the emperor of then Tang regime and finally overthrew it by crowning himself the new emperor. He funded the first dynasty in the period of Five Dynasties and Ten States—Late Liang Dynasty. 

(15) Five Dynasties and Ten States        907 AD —959 AD

Five Dynasties are usually known as Five Dynasties and Ten States. They began from 907 AD when Zhu Wen overthrew Tang Dynasty to 960 AD when Northern Song Dynasty was established, covering 53 years. In fact, six of the above mentioned states had perished with Northern Han Dynasty as the last one in 979 AD.

The Five Dynasties referred to the five empires located nearby Yellow River, and the Ten States were all situated to the south of Qinling Mountains and Huaihe River except Northern Han. Actually there were another two empires, Namely, Liao and Western Xia. However, they failed to be recorded into the history of China because most Chinese historical books only centered on Han ethnic groups.

The period of Five Dynasties and Ten States was a times of chaos. There were cruel emperors, irresponsible officials, heavy taxes, as well as fights and wars all through the year. The famous capital cities Chang’an and Luoyang were once destroyed. Therefore the stage of Five Dynasties was usually called by people in history the “Five Seasons” which mean the end and the worse. A famous poet, Ouyang Xiu, made in his poem History of the New Five Dynasties an exclamation “alackaday” to express his disappointment on that period of history. He did not exaggerate it but was telling the truth. There was a kind of very cruel penalty called Lingchi, according to which the criminal would be cut into thousands of pieces until he was dead, was enacted in that turmoil period.

However, the period of Five Dynasties and Ten States led to another dynasty of peace and stability. Chai Rong in Late Zhou dynasty spent ten years on finishing the chaos, and therefore made preparation for the final unification of North China. In addition, the invention of gun power, block printing and the astronomical clock, have substantially contributed to the development of world civilization.

(16) Song Dynasty   960 AD—1234 AD

The dynasty of Song had existed for 319 years, starting from 960 AD when Zhao Kuangyin (Emperor Tai Zu) established the regime in Chenqiao Bridge to 1279 when the empire was overthrown by Yuan Dynasty. Song Dynasty covered a longer time than Tang Dynasty but exerted less influence than Song and Tang Dynasty in history. In fact, Song Dynasty was composed of two periods: Northern Song Dynasty and Southern Song Dynasty. The former referred to the ruling and confronting years of Liao, Xia, and Jin, while the latter was the declining period of the empire.

Northern Song Dynasty achieved long-term development in terms of domestic economy, foreign trade, and culture after the unification of North China. There were also Wang Anshi Reforms and New Policies proposed by Fan Zhongyan in the ruling year of Emperor Qing Li, hoping to improve the governance of the then empire. Although they failed to guarantee long time prosperity of Northern Song Dynasty, they successfully solved some social contradictions. However, insurgences of Fang La and Song Jiang respectively in the south and north reflected that domestic conflicts and contradictions were deepening.

When Northern Song Dynasty was overthrown by Jin, Southern Song Dynasty decided to settle to the south of Yangtze River rather than unifying the north. The north expedition by Yue Fei, a great general and master of war, was considered as a measure of consolidating the rule of the empire. The corrupted ideas and misleading policies of Jia Sidao fastened the perdition of Southern Dynasty. Although there were upright and patriotic officials such as Wen Tianxiang who made vigorous efforts to improve the situation, decline of the dynasty failed to be hold up. The great poem of Wen Tianxiang, which can be interpreted as “Everyone must die, but let me leave a loyal heart shinning in the pages of history”, expressed the complicated emotions and sorrows of valiants in that period.

(17) Yuan Dynasty

Yuan Dynasty was founded in 1271 and perished in 1368, covering a ruling period of 97 years. Yuan Dynasty gave a conclusion to the 370 years’ disintegration since the end of Tang Dynasty. China was unified for the second time, laying the foundation for long term stability and unification in Qing Dynasty. Economy and culture achieved rapid development in Yuan Dynasty. Today’s Hui Nationality came into being at the same period. The empire of Yuan boasted a huge land area, which was the primary form of the territory of China today

Yuan Dynasty could be divided into three stages: the early, the mid, and the late stage. The early stage began from the ruling years of Kublai Khan to that of Tiemu’er. Yuan Empire in this stage followed the system of laws and regulations of Han Dynasty and invented various policies on politics, economy, and culture. The early stage was the demonstration of step forward. Starting from the mid stage, Yuan Dynasty went to decline. There are intense social conflicts, disputes for imperial power, and frequent insurgences of peasants all over the country. Ying Zong Reform in this stage had little effect. It was just like a flash in the pan, unable to save the empire from decline. Finally the reform failed to achieve its target and its initiator Ying Zong died an unnatural death. Form Emperor Ming Zong to Emperor Shun Di was the late stage of Yuan Dynasty. The continuous break out of peasant insurgences fastened the perdition of Yuan Regime. Later Zhu Yuanzhang became the peasant leader, cleared away other separatist military commissioner regimes, and founded the new dynasty—Ming. It was the end of Yuan Dynasty.

(18)Ming Dynasty        1368 AD—1644 AD

Ming Dynasty was founded in 1368 AD and was overthrown by Qing Dynasty in 1644 AD, lasting 276 years with 16 emperors. Zhu Yuanzhang, Emperor Tai Zu of Ming Dynasty, carried out reforms on various social aspects such as politics and military affairs. He won back the right of making decisions on political, military, and judicatory affairs into his hands. Therefore, the concentration of state power reached an unprecedented level which was inherited of course by Qing Dynasty. Economic development in the early period of Ming Dynasty recovered rapidly and soon reached the most advanced level in history. Zhu Yuanzhang therefore was remembered as an intelligent and enlightened emperor as Emperor Wu Di in Han Dynasty and Emperor Tai Zong in Tang Dynasty in feudal society. 

The booming period of Ming Dynasty happened in the ruling years of Yong Le, Emperor Cheng Zu. During the times, Admiral Zheng He established diplomatic relations with the neighboring nations, and thus facilitated the economic and cultural exchanges with each other.

However, due to eunuch tyranny, Ming Dynasty began to decline after Emperor Ying Zong ascended the throne. The society suffered a lot from the corrupted administration of irresponsible officials and heavy taxes. Peasant insurgences broke out here and there, and national defense was very weak. In Tumu Fortress War, Ying Zong was captivated. Although he was released later, it clearly reflected the empire was in crisis. When Emperor Jia Jing ascended the throne, he appointed Zhang Ju to conduct a national reform involving politics, economy, and military force. Situation turned better for a period of time, but the cruel tyranny of Wei Zhongxian accelerated the die out of Ming Dynasty. At the same time, the Nuzhen of the Kingdom of Jin in Northeast China grew strong. It swept south, and overthrew the Northern Song Dynasty when the late Ming Dynasty was deeply weakened by peasant uprisings. Emperor Chong Zhen of Ming Regime finally hung himself to death in Meishan Mountain in Beijing. 

(19) Qing Dynasty          1644 AD—1840 AD

To be strict, Qing Dynasty lasted from 1644 AD to 1921 when the Republic of China was founded. It was reduced to be a semi-colonized and semi-feudal society after the first Opium War. Normally the history of Qing Dynasty was divided into two stages.

The political system of Qing Dynasty was basically inherited from Ming Dynasty. But the central department for government affairs was Grand Secretariat with Chief Secretary functioning as the Grand Councilor. Six Boards were the executive organ. Later the Grand Minister of State in Privy Council received the same power of Grand Secretariat. Privy Council was very efficient; it reflected that the concentrated state power under emperor autarchy was strengthened. 

The Qing Dynasty reached the zenith of its power during the reigns of emperors Kang Xi, Yong Zheng and Qian Long. That period was reputed as the Booing Times of Emperor Kang Xi during which Taiwan Island was returned to the Chinese motherland and rebellions were successfully pacified. Its territory was extensive and production boomed.

In the ruling period of Emperor Qian Long in late Qing Dynasty, social contradictions and conflicts escalated together with continuous peasant uprisings. The serious, malpractice of corruption by He Shen, the Grand Councilor at late Qing Dynast, was an epitome of imperial administration. That was the major cause to the failure of Opium War.

(20) 1840—1919

In the early period of 19th century, Qing Dynasty declined rapidly. Great Britain took the chance to export a quantity of Opium to China. The government of Qing Dynasty then decided to ban the continuous importation of Opium. In order to protect the Opium trade with China, the British imperialists launched the Opium War against China in 1840. Qing Empire was defeated in the war and compelled to sign on the Treaty of Nanking, a great humiliation on the sovereignty of China. In the wake of the first Opium War came invaders from various countries. The foreign powers, including Great Britain, America, France, Russia, and Japan forced the corrupted and incompetent Qing government to sign a series of unequal treaties. From then on, China was reduced to be a semi-colonized and semi-feudal society.

Revolution of 1911 led Dr. Sun Yat-sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty which ruled for more than 200 years. At the same time, it concluded the feudal imperial tyranny extending for more than 2000 years, and gave rise to the Republic of China. This was the greatest event on the recent history of China.

(21) New Democratic Revolution        1919 AD 1949 AD

May Forth Movement in 1919 was considered as the source of major events in Chinese history. The blasting fuse of the movement was a series of unfair treaties imposed upon China after the First World War. Strong patriotism gave rise to first the movement initiated by students and then nation wide revolts o different social classes. May Fourth Movement introduced various new ideas into China and the most conspicuous one was the spreading of Marxism and Leninism. In 1921 in Shanghai, 12 representatives of Communist Groups all over the country, including Mao Zedong, held together the first National Congress which declared the founding of the Communist Party of China.

During the process of New Democratic Revolution led by the Communist Party of China, Chinese people experienced four historical periods, namely, Northern Expedition (1924-1927), Agrarian Revolution (1927—1937), War of Resistance against Japanese Invaders (1937—1945), and War of Liberation (1945—1949). During the war of Resistance against Japanese Invaders, the Communist Party and the Kuomintang Party entered into cooperation and won the war against Japanese invaders. In 1945, Kuomintang Party triggered the civil war which dragged on three years. Finally, the Communist Party of China overthrew the Kuomintang in 1949.

(22) People’s Republic of China      1949

On October 1st, 1949, 300,000 Chinese gathered at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing to hold the grand ceremony for the funding of People’s Republic of China. The Chairman of P.R.C., Mao Zedong, solemnly declared that “The People’s Republic of China now is founded”

In the early stage, Chinese government successfully carried out the Land Reform Movement all over China whose rural population was over 90%. 300,000 Chinese peasants received about 47 million hectares of farmland in total. From 1953 to 1957 the first Five-year Plan was implemented and completed with a great result. The annual increase of national income on average reached over 8.9%; a series of fundamental industries, which were in great need by national industrialization, were set up gradually. These industries included airplane and automobile manufacturing, heavy and accurate machine building, electricity-production equipment manufacturing, metallurgy and mining equipment manufacturing, as well as smelting of quality alloy steel and colored metal, etc.

Years from 1957 to 1966 witnessed the large-scale socialist development of China. Compared with that in 1956, the fixed asset of industry nation widely rose by three times on the basis of the original price of materials; national income registered a 58% increase according to the comparable price; the quantity of major industrials products climbed by several or even tens of times; the fundamental development of agriculture and technological improvement were carried out in a large scale. Form May, 1966 to October, 1976, China experienced the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution lasting ten years. The whole nation suffered the most serious setback on economic development and social life since the founding of P.R.C.

On October, 1976, the Counter-revolutionary Group headed by Jing Qing and Lin Biao was crushed, bring an end to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. China then entered a new historical stage. The position of Comrade Deng Xiaoping, the Secretary-general of new China, was soon resumed. Since the policy of reforming and opening-up to the outside world was carried in 1979, the central government of China focused upon modernization drive. Through economic and political restructuring, a new road of building up a socialist society with Chinese characteristics was identified. Great changes have taken place since reforming and opening up to the outside world. National economy grew rapidly and people’s life was improved in great sense. That was the booming period after the funding of P.R.C.

In 1989, Jiang Zemin was elected General Secretary of P.R.C. and soon President in 1993. The third generation of CPC under the leadership of Comrade Jiang Zemin adhered to and carried out the basic national policy of reforming and opening up to the outside world. China therefore enjoyed stable governance, rapid economic growth, and active diplomacy.

In November, 2002 at the first plenary session of the 16th National People’s Congress, Hu Jintao was elected General Secretary of the Central people’s Government, and in March, 2003 elected President of P.R.C.

Historical Figures of Culture in Ancient China

1 Philosophers and Hundred Schools of Thought

The Hundred Schools of Thought is a general abbreviation of various academic and ideological genres and their representative figures. Philosophers refer to Confucius and Mencius, and Xun Zi of Confucian School, Lao Zi of Taoism, and Han Feizi of School of Law. The Hundred Schools mean different schools of thoughts and ideas. After West Han Dynasty, Philosophers after Spring and Autumn can be summarized as disciples of Confucian School, Taoism, School of Yin-yang, School of Law, School of Ming, Mohism, School of Zong and Heng, Shool of Za, School of Nong (agriculture), as well as School of Xiaoshuo (novel). Except School of Xiaoshuo, the others are generally known as Ten Genres and Nine Schools. The most important include Confucian School, Taoism, School of Yin-yang, School of Law, School of Ming, and Mohism.

(1)  Confucius School:

Representative Figures: Confucius, Mencius, and Xun Zi.

Works: Confucius, Mencius, Xun Zi

Confucian School is one of the most important schools of thought in the Warring States. It admires Confucius as its master and has the Six Skills as its standards. This school emphasizes liyue (civilized and enlightened behavior) and renyi (benevolent and upright character), advocates zhongshu (loyalty and catholicity) and golden mean, and upholds dezhi (rule by moral education) and renzheng (enlightened governance). It focuses on moral and ethnic education as well as self-cultivation of character.

Confucian School values the function of education very much. It holds that the development of education and less punishment is a necessity to national stability and happy life. It believes that everyone should receive education and enlightenment so that the whole nation would become civilized and its people have high morality.

On politics, this school proposes that the head of the country should govern his nation with rites and morality. It also suggests the recovery of Zhouli Thought which is considered as an ideal way of implementing politics. In the period of Warring States, the School of Confucius was divided into eight genres, the most important of which were school of Mencius and Xun Zi.   

(2)  Taoism 

Representative Figures: Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi

Works: Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing and Book of Mater Zhuang

Like Confucian School, Taoism is one of the most schools of thought in the Warring States period and it is also called the School of Morality. This school takes the ideas of Taoism as its theoretical basis, and use Taoism to explain the nature, the source, and composition and the changes of the earth. It believes everything in the nature appears automatically and there is no god or immortal that has the power of control anything. Therefore it advocates that we should let everything as what it is, follow what is going to happen, live without desire, and cultivate heart calmly. People should take an amiable and reasonable way to persuade others rather than resorting to force. On politics, this school upholds ruling a nation with enlightenment instead of military force. After Lao Zi, Taoism developed into several groups and the most famous four are School of Zhuang Zi, Yang Zhu, Song Yin, and Huang Lao.

(3)  Mohism

Representative Figure: Mo Zi

Works: Mo Zi

The theoretical basis of this school is benevolent to and benefiting all. It suggests that people should love others as love themselves; as long as people in the country can love each other, they can benefit each other in communication. In terms of political governance, Mohism upholds co-existence and harmonization rather than exclusion; on economic development, it emphasizes consolidation and preservation; on thought, it believes the existence of and worships God. At the same time, this school proposes Feiming, which means people should survive and prosper through hard work and efforts.

Mohism has strict regulations and secret organizations. Its members are mostly from the middle and lower social classes. It is said all of them are very capable, and courageous enough to anneal their characters.

When Mo Di died, Mohism developed into genres. In the late period of Warring States, they evolved into two: one emphasized Ideology, Logistics, Math, Optics, and Mechanics, and was therefore called Late Mohism; the other turned into the paladins in Qin and Han Dynasties.

(4)  School of Law

Representative Figures: Han Feizi and Li Si

Works: Han Fei zi

The School of Law is also one of the important schools of thought in the period of Warring Stats. It upholds the rule of country by law, and proposes that all the people, no matter rich or poor, royal or common, should be treated equally and fairly under law and according to law. This is why it is called School of Law. During the times of Spring and Autumn, Guan Zhong and Zi Chan were eminent disciples of this school. In the early stage of Warring States, Li Li, Shang Yang, Shen Buhai, and Shen Dao established the School of Law. At the end of Warring States, Han Fei combined “Fa” (the idea of Shang yang), “Shi” (proposed by Shen Dao), and “Shu” (advocated by Shen Buhai), and largely promoted the development of the School of Law.

On economy, this school emphasizes agriculture while restricting commerce. It encourages the development of agriculture with awards; on politics, it holds that the country should abolish the divisions of power while set up prefectures and counties under imperial autarchy and rule with serious codes of punishments; on education and thought, it highly advertises banning the ideas of Hundred Schools while educating the public with law and history. Suggestions and propositions of this school provide the theoretical foundation and guidance of behaviors for the imperial autarchy.

(5)  School of Ming

Representative Figures: Deng Zhe, Hui Shi, Gongsui Long, and Heng Tuan.

Works: Gongsun Long Zi

School of Ming is one of the important schools of thought in Warring States. Its academic activities center on the explanation and argumentation of “Ming” (referring to names and concepts) and “Shi” (means fact), for which it is called School of Ming. Disciples of this school are named as Bianzhe (arguer), Chashi, or Xing Ming Jia. Outstanding figures of this school are Hui Shi and Gongsun Long.

(6)  School of yin and yang (light and shade principle)

Representative Figures: Zou Yan

School of Yin-yang is also one of the famous schools of thought in the period of Warring States. It advocates the theory of yin and yang and the five elements, and uses it to explain what happens in the social life. This school is originated from the ruling class of the then empire and its representative figure is Zou Yan in the period of Warring States.

School of yin and yang believes that yin and yang are two opposite and invertible kinds of strength within an object, and therefore can be utilized to the explanation of the rule of development. The theory of five elements holds that the world is composed of five kinds of matter, namely, wood, fire, earth, gold, and water. These five elements rely on and facilitate each other, which were later interpreted as two laws for explaining the changes in and source of the world. According to the laws, Zou Yan referred to the character of the five elements as five moralities and proposed the Law of Five Moralities. Later it was used to interpret the prosperity and decline of a dynasty, and inherited as the theoretical basis for national unification.

(7)  School of Zong and Heng

Representative Figures: Su Qin and Zhang Yi

Most of their ideas are recorded in Intrigues of the Warring States

School of Zong and Heng comprises of the idea men in the period of Warring States. Its disciples maneuvered among various political groupings to canvass, and conducted political and diplomatic activities. This school was listed as one of the Hundreds Schools of Thought, represented by Su Qin and Zhang Yi.

During the period of Warring States, the combination of the south and the north was called Zong, while that of the west and the east was called Heng. Su Qin strongly recommended six states, namely, Yan, Zhao, Han, Wei, Qi, and Chu, to cooperate with each other in the south and north and resist Qin. However, Zhang Yi suggested that the six states should join hands with each other in the east and west, and deal with Qin respectively. Therefore, this school won its name Zong and Heng because of the ideas of its representatives. Their activities had wide influence on the changes of political and military pattern of Warring States.

(8)  School of Za

Representative Figure: Lv Buwei

School of Za is a combined school of thoughts at the end of Warring States, and Za in Chinese means “various”. This school was known for combining the soul and extract of different schools. Lv Buwei, Chief of Councilor in Qin Dynasty, and his followers collaborated on Lü’ s Spring and Autumn Annals, a classic works of School Za.

(9)  School of Nong

School of Nong is an important school of thoughts during Warring States and Nong here in Chinese refers to agriculture or peasants. It emphasizes the importance of farming very much and is well known for that. This school is established by experts and professionals on agriculture. It holds that agriculture is the very foundation of social life and should be put above everything else.

(10) School of Xiaoshuo (Novel)

It is one of the nine schools of thoughts in early Qin Dynasty. It collected stories and folklores from the common people so as to know about various local customs and traditions.

Fourteen Saints in Ancient China

(1) Du Kang, Master of Wine

Du Kang was born in Baishui and was the pride of the local people. The wine brewed by Du Kang was an epitome of the pure and honest character of local people and the ancient civilization of Baishui. During Ming and Qing dynasties, and the Republic of China, Baishui was a famous place of wine, boasting thousands of wine-making pots and lanes. The aromatic Du Kang Wine well reflected the character of people in Baishui and Huangtu Plateau.  

(2) Confucius, Master of Culture

Confucius (551BC—479 BC) is a great thinker, educator, and founder of Confucian School. He was born in Lu State during the period of Spring and Autumn. Benevolence is a key component of his ideas.

Confucius made a determined effort on study and research, and soon became erudite. He set the example of private education and enrolled a lot of students no matter they were rich or poor. It is said he had 3000 disciples and 72 of them were excellent ones. Confucius was reputed as the herald in knowledge spreading. He visited a lot of countries of his times, and attended to compile ancient documents in his late years. He committed himself to education, collection of famous ancient works such as Book of History and Book of Songs, and adaptations of spring and Autumn Annals. His students made a record of his thoughts and behaviors in Analects of Confucius.

Through strenuous efforts by Confucius and his disciples of later generations, Confucian School became the mainstream of Chinese culture. Its influence on the thought of Chinese has extended more than 2000 years. The core of the system of Confucian Thought is rule with morality. He persistently advocates the moral cultivation of life and society. The highest standard for a society governed with morality is rite, and for a morally cultivated life is benevolence. Confucius suggests that we should first behave appropriately if we want to win trust from others; we should first satisfy other’s needs if we want to have our expectation achieved. He also offers good advice on how to deal with people around us and set up right philosophy, such as “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to so unto you”. Besides, Confucius proposes the harmonization between human being and nature and the idea of “Man is an integral part of nature. He explains why we should be benevolent to other people and friendly with everything on the earth. Confucius insists that a country should be governed with morality so as to create a comfortable life for its people and educate them. Only in that case could economy and culture reach long term development. Confucius believes that the most developed civilization is one that can give birth to sound characters of people and harmonious social environment, and can have the belief of “The whole world is one community” widely agreed upon. With his eminent contribution and wide influence, Confucius is respected as the greatest educator ever since in Chinese history.

(3) Sima Qian, Master of History

Sima Qian (145 BC—?) is a famous historian and litterateur in Western Han Dynasty. His great works Records of Historian is the first record of general history in a chronological style, and it exerts wide influence on historical studies by later generations. Records of Historian is well known for its vivid language and depicts of characters. It is also an excellent works of literature. Sima Qian has another works named as Latter to Tai Shi Duke, in which he recorded how he was tortured in prison and his ambition of writing books. Sima Qian is the greatest historian in Chinese history. Unfortunately, he suffered castration because of his sincere and direct suggestions to the then emperor. After that he made determined efforts to write books and finally completed the great works Records of Historian, a great surprise and treasure to world literature. It leaves with China and the world at large an invaluable legacy of culture.

(4) Master of Poem, Du Fu

Du Fu, 712 BC—770 BC, styled Zimei, is a famous poet in the booming period of Tang Dynasty.

Du Fu, together with Li Bai, another great poet, is generally knowen as Li Du (the combination of their family names). The core of his thought is benevolence, the idea of Confucian School. Du Fu is one of those who have grand ambitions and pursuit. He loved life, people, and his country, while made strict and acute criticism on the corrupted governance of the then regime and its degradation. He understood deeply the misery of his people, and made determined efforts to save his people from the dark life.

Du Fu is a great poet of realism. He wrote about more than 1000 poems in his life which could be divided into four stages.

(5) Zhang Zhongjing, Master of Medicine

Zhang Zhongjing is a famous doctor in East Han Dynasty. He was born in 150 AD and died in 219 AD. Zhang Zhongjing was very smart and industrious when he was young. Later he learned Medicine from Zhang Bozu and acquired the extract of his teacher’s knowledge. A book named Record of Practicing Medicine by Li Yuan in Ming Dynasty expressed that Zhang Zhongjing was even more excellent than his teacher, and his exquisite skills in curing disease deserved the title “The Best Doctor under Heaven”.

Zhang Zhongjing read extensive books on medicine. By investigations on various diseases and methods of curing them, he made a systematic summarization on the extract of medicine before Han Dynasty. On the basis of his experience in diagnosis and treatment, he wrote a book Comment on Average Diseases of 16 chapters. In Tang and Song Dynasties, this book was divided into two parts: Comment on Typhoid and Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Chamber. Zhang Zhongjing was reputed by doctors in later times as “The Master of Medicine”, and his two works Comment on Typhoid and Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Chamber were the divine scriptures of Medicine. Comment on Average Diseases is the first medical book featuring “reasoning”, “treating method”, “prescription”, and “medicine”. It is Zhang Zhongjing who first illustrated the pathogeny, pathology, principles of treatment, and specific methods of communicable diseases in a comprehensive and systematic way. It laid a solid foundation for the further development of different braches of clinics.

(6) Guan Yu, Master of Martial Arts

Guan Yu is a famous general at the end of East Han Dynasty. He emphasizes personal loyalty and is good at martial arts. Later generations respect him as “Master Guan or Guan Di”.

Guan Yu had many official positions in his life. When he served Cao Cao, he was appointed as Shouting Regional Inspector, Xiangyang Prefecture Governor, and Superior Governor in Jingzhou; when he followed Liu Bei, he was then positioned as Doukou General and Honorable Herald General, and designated as one the five most excellent generals of Shu State. In the 41st years after his death, Liu Chan, the new emperor of Shu after Liu Bei, offered him another tile Zhangmu Governor. That year (260 AD) happened to be the 100 anniversary of the founding of Shu State. In fact, Guan Yu received more and more admiration from the start of the Southern and Northern Dynasties to the end of Qing Dynasty. There he became well known at home and abroad, and memorized as one of the most favored idols in history. Today Guan Yu and Confucius are reputed together as “Two Masters of Wen and Wu”; Wen and Wu here in Chinese respectively refer to culture and martial arts. Guan Yu is famous for his allegiance, personal loyalty, braveness, and excellent martial arts. Emperors of each feudal dynasty need such figures to safeguard and consolidate its regime. Therefore they emphasize and even exaggerate the character of Guan Yu so as to encourage more of their liegemen to serve and contribute to the regime as loyal as Guan Yu.

(7) Wang Xizhi, Master of Calligraphy

Wang Xizhi was born in 307 AD and died in Jin Dynasty.

Wang Xizhi is reputed as Mater of Calligraphy. He is very good at formal script, running script, cursive hand, and official script, etc, all of which are exquisite and perfect. He is adored very much and learned from by calligraphers in later generations.

Wang Xizhi learned form script from Fa Zhongyao, and cursive script from Zhang Zhi, Li Si, and Cai Yi. He gave the advantages and unique points of each form of script into full play. His calligraphy could present an atmosphere of quietness and beauty, different from the style of Fan Zhongyao. It features smoothness and dignity, an innovation on official script. That can be interpreted as the major characteristics of today’s popular Chinese calligraphy. The real works of Wang Xizhi are hard to find today, and what we usually see are in most cases the copies of his calligraphies. The representative works of Wang Xizhi include Leyi Commentary and Huangting Scriptures in formal script, the Seventeen Tie (a book containing models of handwriting or painting for learners to copy) in cursive script, and the Yimu Tie, Temporary Snowy Days, and  Sangluan Tie in running script. The most famous one is Lanting Preface in running and formal script.

On March, 3rd in Chinese lunar calendar in the ninth ruling year of Yong He Emperor in Eastern Dynasty (353 AD), 41 calligraphers, including Wang XiZhi, Xie An, and Sun Zhuo, collected in Lanting Pavilion of Shaoxing City for Xiuqi (an religious activity which is believed helpful for getting rid of disease and bad luck). They drank wine, wrote poems, and collected the works into a book. Wang Xizhi wrote a preface for the book, and that was what we know as Lanting Preface. It is a draft of 28 liens and 324 words, recording what happened that day. It is said Wang Xizhi that day was so excited when he wrote the preface that his script in that it was superior to his other works. Character “之” in the preface appeared over 21 times but each time in different form. Another famous calligrapher Mi Di praised it to be the “Best Running Script under Heaven”. Legends have it that Li Shimin, the emperor of Tang Dynasty, treasured Lanting Preface very much, and buried it with himself in Zhaoling Mausoleum when he was dead. Therefore we have only the copies of Lanting Preface today.

(8) Zhang Xu, Master of Running Scrips

Zhang Xu was a great calligrapher in Tang Dynasty and he was famous for his cursive script. Zhang Xu is a person with strong character. It is said he usually got drunk, hurried to leave, and then started writing cursive script excitedly. He even dipped his hair into Chinese ink and used it write. Therefore he was given an agname Zhang Dian and “Dian” meant crazy. Later another calligrapher called Huai Su inherited and developed cursive script and became well known. He was later reputed together with Zhang Xu as “Zhang Dian and Zui Su”. “Zui” here means drunk and “Su” is the last name of Huai Su. Emperor Wen Zong in Tang Dynasty once, in a rescript, offered the title “Three Bests” to the poem of Li Bai, the sword performance of Pei Min, and the cursive of Zhang Xu together.

Han Yu, another famous poet in Tang Dynasty, expressed the life-long pursuit for art of an real artist in Preface for Artistic Talents that, “Whenever emotionally stirred, no matter it is because of happiness, anger, sadness, worry, cheer, complain, hate, admiration, inebriety, fastidium, dissatisfaction, or being touched, cursive script is the best way for you to express it”. Being attentive to everything around, including mountains, rivers, beasts, birds, fish, insects, flowers, trees, the sun, the moon, fire, water, wind, rain, thunder, dancing, fighting, and changes in life, Zhang Xu can reflect all what he saw through his cursive script. It is vivid, impressing and toughing beyond comparison, for which he is remebered for ever. It is no wonder when later generations talk about the script of other calligraphers they differ with each other while mentioning that of Zhang Xu everybody show their favor to it unanimously. Only Zhang Xu as a calligrapher in the history of China received such wide welcome and unprecedented recognition.

(9) Wu Dao Zi, Master of Painting

Wu Dao Zi (about 686 AD—760 AD) is a successful painter in Tang Dynasty. He is good at painting images of Buddha, immortals, demon, human figures, mountains, birds, beasts, grass, trees, towers, and pavilions, etc. He is especially skillful in fresco as well as painting Buddha and human figures. According to historical record, Wu Dao Zi painted frescos for more than 300 temples in Chang’an and Luoyang City. All his paintings vary from each other, and the most famous one is Conversion of the Hell.

Wu Dao Zi has his own unique style of painting. Pictures of mountains and rivers are endowed with life. Human characters are painted both with powerful lines and fine depictions of facial expression; Pleats on clothing and sleeves in the wind are fantastically presented. In a word, human figures on the picture are just like the real ones in life. Therefore Wu Dao Zi is reputed as “Wu Dai Dang Feng”, a title to praise his talent on and style of paintings. His works exert a wide influence on the development of this artistic form, and thus admired as the Master of Painting. Folk painters all respect him as the ancestor and founder of modern painting.

Unfortunately, works of Wu Dao Zi fail to be inherited or retained. Paintings, such as Devaguardian of Life, Image of Baojibinjialuo Buddha Statue, and Calligraphy of Dao Zi are probably copies. It is considered that the fresco named Weimo Scripture in the 103rd cave of Dunhuang is out of the painting style of Wu Dao Zi.

(10) Lu Yu, Master of Tea

In the history of tea culture, the creation of Tea Ceremony, Tea Art, and ideas on tea-infusing by Lu Yu (733-804) as well as his works Canon of Tea is a great sign of development. In order to find more kinds of tea and know about their planting and infusing methods, Lu Yu traveled all over the country, visited numerous mountains and river, and made pains-taking efforts. On the basis of rich materials, he fully considered the experience of former masters on tea and conducted in-depth research on the Study of Tea. He wrote three volumes of Canon of Tea in 780 BC (the ruling period of Emperor Jian Zhong), a great contribution to tea Art. This great works has rich content, involving botany, gardening, biology, pharmacology, hydrology, folklore, and historiography. Therefore, as the first works on tea study, Canon of Tea is reputed as the cyclopedia on tea.

(11) Sun Wu, Master of Strategy

Sun Wu is a great mater of war and famous general in the period of Spring and Autumn. Sun Wu, styled Changqing, was born in Le’an of Qi State (today’s Huimin City of Shandong Province) in 551 BC. His father and grandfather were all famous generals in Qi state, and had set illustrious records of battle achievement. Growing up in a family of masters of war, Sun Wu was very interested in military science, and made determined efforts to study how to get the upper hand in wars. He had a great ambition to apply these theories into practice in the front when he became a general and made great contribution to his country on the battlefield.

Sun Wu was admired as “Mater of War” and ‘Ancestor of Tactics”. Besides his brilliant records of battle achievement, he left the later generations a great works on military strategies. That is Master Sun’s Art of War. The book has 13 chapters of over 5000 words, which comprise of the broad and intensive theoretical system and rich content. It plays wide and in-depth influence on the development of strategics. Strategists and militarists of later generations all benefited a lot from the book, which guides the strategies in real battles and promotes the development of military theories. Later the book was introduced to Japan and European in 18th Century. Now it has been translated into 29 languages and well known in the world. Liddell Hart, a famous military theorist of Great Britain once admitted that the major ideas illustrated in his booking fact has been mentioned and talked about in Master Sun’s Art of War 2500 years ago. He said he was very interested in Sun Wu and his great works. Therefore he not only made a preface for the English version of this book but quoted a long paragraph of Sun Wu’s words in the font pages of his own book named On Strategies. In 1991 in the Gulf War, officials of American Marine Corps were required to bring with them one copy of Master Sun’s Art of War so as to guide their strategies.

(12)Zhang Liang, Master of Strategies

Zhang Liang is a great general in early Han Dynasty. It is said that he conspired to re-found Han State and therefore associated with assassins in Bolang (today’s Yuanyang City in Henan Province). But he failed in sniping Ying Zheng, the first emperor of Qin Dynasty. Legend has it that Zhang Liang later escaped to Xiapi (today’s Jiangsu Province), and met Hung shi Gong, a mysterious figure like immortals, and received Taigong Art of War from him. He introduced Han Xin, a talent on military affairs, to Liu Bang. Unfortunately, Han Xin was killed with a fabricated cause by Lü Hou, who, together with Liu Bang, asked Xiao He, Chief of Counselor, to make a trap and beguile Han Xin to enter Changle Palace with the identity of a close friend. Receiving the news that Han Xin, the great and brilliant state-funding general with excellent battle achievements, was killed together with his family members, Zhang Liang was very disappointed with Liu Bang, and then concealed himself in a deep mountain and make accompanies with immortals. Zhang Liang is good model of idea men, and is reputed as “Master of Strategies”.

(13)Zhang Heng, Master of Timber or Master of Science

During eastern Han Dynasty, that is more than 1800 years ago, “Shui Yun Hun Xiang”, the first large-size and water-powered chronometer instrument was invented in Luoyang, the capital city of Eastern Han Dynasty. It is said 20 years later (138 AD), Houfeng seismograph, another instrument installed in Luoyang, was invented. It accurately predicted the earthquake happened 500 kilometers off the west of Luoyang, ushering in the new era of using instruments to investigate and record earthquakes on human history. The above mentioned instruments were both invented by Zhang Heng, the most famous and outstanding scientist and litterateur in Eastern Han Dynasty.  He made great contribution to astronomy, seismology, and mechanics in ancient China. It is said he is also the inventor of compass carriage and mileage-counting carriage. Since the major material of his inventions is timber, he is therefore addressed respectfully Master of Timber.

(14)Sun Simiao, Master of Drug

Sun Simiao, born in 581 AD and died in 682 AD, is a great expert on Medicine during Sui and Tang Dynasty. He was very industrious as a child. When he grew up, he was summoned to the capital by Emperor Tai Zong, and positioned as an imperial doctor in the palace. But he refused the title and devoted his lifetime to the research on Medicine, making great contribution to the development of Chinese Medicine. In 652 AD, Sun Simiao completed his great works Golden Prescriptions composed of 30 chapters. This book collected more than 800 categories of drugs and over 5300 prescriptions, and recorded the fruit of the writer’s long time researches. It is an invaluable works which draw of the advantages of all previous medical books.

Fufang, a concept means “compound”, is the most outstanding contribution by Sun Simiao to medicine. Being innovative and progressive, Sun Simiao acquired experience from the treatment of patients in the folk, deleted those inconsequential prescriptions, and promoted the development of medicine with new prescriptions. His medical book played a very important role in the history of medical development. His hometown was abundant of medical materials and he often went to pick wild herbs in mountains. He did more research and identified the effect of many Chinese drugs. For instance, he found that Pulsatila Root and Goldthread Rhizome can cure diarrhea; betel palm can get rid of cestode; Cinnabar and arsenic sulphide are good for disinfection, etc.

On the basis of summarizing the practicing of folk medicine and his own clinic experience, Sun Simiao achieved new findings on the effect of some Chinese drugs—almond kernel, milk, and white honey which can cure beriberi. This is of great importance to the history of Medicine world widely. It is not until 1000 years later that Europeans gave an explanation to the treatment of beriberi.

From the perspective of modern Medicine, beriberi is a kind disease that is caused by the defect of Vitamin B1, an ingredient contained in the drug developed by Sun Simiao. On the development of acupuncture, Su Simiao gave a name to the aching point in our body ‘Ashi Point” according to the experience of pain-release through acupuncture and moxibustion therapy. On clinics, he innovatively used shallot leaf as catheter in the urological system operation for anuretic patients. Sun Simiao spent his lifetime on Medicine with concerted efforts. He emphasized practice, cared about his people, and won wide respect. Later generations addressed him as “Master of Drug”, and named Wutai Mountain, where Sun Simiao once concealed himself, as “Mountain of Master of Drug”. A temple called Temple of Master of Drug was built on the mountain so as to memorize Su Simiao.

Other Historical Figures in Chinese History

(1) Lao Zi


Lao Zi, styled Li, whose family name and literary name are respectively Li and Boyang, was born in Kuxian County of Qin State (today’s Luyi County). He lived from 571 BC to 471 BC and once served as Counselor of Document Collection in Zhou Dynasty. Lao Zi was very smart and industrious when he was young. He spent his late years in Cheng State, his hometown, and later went to Qin State to deliver speech and spread knowledge. He passed by in Fufeng, a place in Qin. Only one of Lao Zi’s great works was left to the late generations, and that is Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing, also called Lao Zi. The works is poetry of philosophy written with rhyme. It is a classic works of Taoism School and very important material for studying the philosophical ideas of Lao Zi. The book is reputed as the extract of ancient philosophy by many countries such as Soviet Union, Great Britain, and Germany, etc, and has been translated into many languages for publication. Recently Lao Zi is listed by the United States as the most outstanding and greatest ancient writer of the world.

Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing presents a system of materialism with plain thought of dialectics. The book advocates atheism, and Tiandao Thought which believes the objective existence of everything in the nature. The core of materialism is Taoism. Lao Zi does not believe the existence of God or mysterious strength which masters or controls everything on the earth. He proposes that Taoism is the foundation of everything; it does not govern the world with purpose or certain will but functions as the invisible rule of changes and development.

Lao Zi is a great thinker in ancient China and he is familiar to every Chinese. His great works Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing ushers in a new era of ancient philosophy. The Taoism School and the philosophical ideas of Lao Zi not only contribute much to traditional cultural and thought, but exerts wide influence on the 2000-year civilization of China.

(2) Mencius

Mencius (about 372 BC—289 BC), also known as Meng Ke, is a great thinker, educator, and politician in the period of Warring States. He was born in Zou, today’s Zouxian County in Shandong Province. Mencius accounts the major thoughts and political activities of Mencius in his life time. Mencius is believed to the heir of Confucian School and thus honored “Yasheng”, meaning second to Confucius, the Master of Culture.

(3)Qu Yuan

Qu Yuan is one of the world’s four most outstanding celebrities of culture. Born in 339 BC, he is also an eminent writer, the greatest patriotic poet, well known strategist, thinker, diplomat, and reformer of China.

Moreover, Qu Yuan was a famous poet and statesman during Warring States. He is the initiator and representative writer of the great works Chu Ci. In 21 century, Qu Yuan enjoys wide respect and memorization all over the world as one of the four most outstanding literators. After the revision work by Liu Xiang and his son, and annotation by Wang Yi, 25 works of Qu Yuan finally came to public. It includes one Li Sao, one Tian Wen, 11 Jiu Ge, one Yuan You, one Bu Ju, and one Yu Fu. According to Records of Historian, Qu Yuan’s Chronicles by Sima Qian, there was still another works of Qu Yuan called Zhao Hun. Some researchers believe that Da Zhao is also the works of Qu Yuan. But others suspect Yuan You, Bu Ju, Yu Fu, as well as many chapters in Jiu Zhang were not written by Qu Yuan. In terms of linguistic style, all the works of Qu Yuan broke up the traditional four-character sentence pattern, and used irregular number of characters within one sentence, such as three, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and even ten. Therefore sentences with different number of characters are very flexible in collocation and arrangement. The character “兮” is frequently used together with many empty words in Chinese, like之”,“于”,“乎”,“夫”, and “而”, etc. These empties words help regulate and adjust syllables so as to make the whole paragraph reads with rolling rhyme. In a word, the works of Qu Yuan is quite innovative from form to content.

(4) Ying Zheng

Ying Zheng (from 259 BC—210 BC), known as Emperor Shi Huang, was the first emperor of Qin Kingdom in the period of Warring States and the founder of Qin Dynasty. During his ruling period, Ying Zheng suppressed rebellions all over the country and embarked the war for unification. Finally, he annexed the then Six States and fOunded the first unified country with concentrated power of state in Chinese history.   

(5) Li Shimin

Li Shimin (599 BC—210 BC), known as Emperor Tai Zong, was the son of Emperor Li Yuan in Tang Dynasty. In 626 BC, he ascended the throne through Palace Coup at Xuanwu Gate Incident. During his ruling years, Li Shimin introduced and implemented Land Equalization System and Taxation System Composed of Land, Labor, and Household Cloth Taxes, strengthened assessment on local civil servants, and improved imperial examinations. He usually reminded himself of the lesson drawn from the perdition of Sui Dynasty, intelligently positioned capable persons, and listened to their advices. Therefore, social economy reached rapid development during the years which were reputed by historians as “Enlightened Administration in Zhenguan Reign under Emperor Tai Zong of Tang Dynasty.

(6) Li Bai

Li Bai, styled Taibai, with a literal name Qinglian Hermit, was a great poet in Tang Dynasty. His poems boast of grandness, boldness, and generosity. They present rich imagination, smooth diction, as well as colorful and flexible rhyme. He is good at folk songs and therefore drew nutrition from them, building up the unique style of magnificence in his works. He created a new summit on history of literature featuring poetry of optimistic romanticism.

(7) Tao Yuanming

Tao Yuanming is one of the greatest litterateurs of China. He is the founder of the School of idyll, and is reputed as the ancestor of hermit poets. Tao Yuanming was very interested in books when he was young, but he never tried to seek in-depth meanings of one book. He looked down upon imperial officials or civil servants, and soon retreated to rural areas. However, Tao Yuanming became addicted to wine but was usually in short of money. Hearing this, his admirers often offered economic support to him and thus aroused some interesting stories, such as Drunk Yuanming Fallen into Asleep and Sending Wine to Yuanming, etc. the poems of Tao Yuanming were not very popular at his times, but soon became well known and widely favored by literators after Tang and Song Dynasties. It can be said that the works of Tao Yuanming bring another boom in the history of literature.

(8) Sima Guang

Sima Guang is conservative in politics but very brilliant on the study of history. His major works is History as a Mirror. This book and Records of Historians by Sima Qian are two bright pearls in the historiography, and widely favored by later generations.

(9) Cao Cao

Cao Cao (155 BC—220 BC), styled Mengde, is an eminent statesman, militarist, and poet in the times of Warring States. He was born in Qiao (today’s Haoxian County in Anhui Province), and later became Emperor Wu Di of Wei. Cao Cao was very good at war. He did a lot of research on Master Sun’s Art of War, and made further illustrations on it according to his own experience on the battlefield. He wrote two famous books, namely, Personal Understandings on Master Sun and Art of War. Moreover, he was very good at poetry and made much contribution to the development of poetry.

(10) Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan (1162—1227), with a literal name Tie Mu Zhen, is a great militarist and strategist of ancient Mongol Nationality. He was born in a rich, noble family called Bo’erzhijin. From the end of 12th century to the early 23rd century, Genghis Khan unified various tribes of Mongol Nationality. He was elected as Dhahran in 1206 AD, and honored Genghis Khan for the founding of Mongolia State. In 1227, he died from illness in the palace situated in Qingshui County of today’s Gansu Province. After the founding of Yuan Dynasty, he was re-honored Emperor Tai Zu.

(11) Su Dongpo

Su Dongpo, generally known as Su Shi, is a very famous literator, painter, and calligrapher in North Song Dynasty. He is reputed as one of the “Eight Outstanding Litterateurs in Tang and Song Dynasties”, and addressed “San Su” (means three literators of the same family) together with his father Su Xun and his brother Su Zhe. Su Dongpo was conservative in politics and social rites, but he also had the ambition to carry out nation wide reform on obsolete social life. Therefore his official career was full of frustrations. The poems of Su Dongpo are bold and generous, just like a free and boundless sea. They boast of freshness and strong character, and are reputed as “School of Innovation”. Su Dongpo was frank and generous, and the same was true with his attitude towards ancient poets. He modestly learnt from them and at the same time made innovations featuring childlike romance. Meanwhile, he was good at painting and calligraphy, and very interested in sear trees and grotesque stones. He personally admitted that he was inferior to others in three aspects: drinking, singing, and playing chess. However, his poems, calligraphies, and paintings are very popular and widely favored by later generations. 

(12) Wang Anshi

Wang Anshi is a famous counselor in North Song Dynasty, and at the same time, a well known thinker and literator. He realized the social contradictions in the mid period of North Song Dynasty, and wrote a memorial titled Wan Yan Shu to the then Emperor Ren Zong. In the memorial he advised Emperor Tai Zong to carry out reforms on the administration of civil servants and implement new policies. In the ruling years of Emperor Shen Zong, Wang Anshi persistently carried out new policies and fought against the conservative parties headed by Sima Guang. He made unremitted efforts on the implementation of reform and was honored by Lenin the “Reformer of China in 11th Century”. Wang Anshi is a gifted poet with much achievement. He is listed among the “Eight Outstanding Litterateurs in Tang and Song Dynasties, and is well known for his article Sadness for Zhong Yong, in which his emotion and reasoning are well presented. Moreover, his lines “Here comes the spring wind, in which the south bank of Yangtze River turns into green; looking at the bight moon above the head, when will I return accompanied by your jade light?” are remembered and widely spread by later generations.

(13)Cai Lun

Cai Lun, styled Jing Song, is the inventor of paper-making technology in Eastern Han Dynasty. He was born in Guiyang in today’s Hunan Province, and became a eunuch in the 18th ruling year (75 AD) of Emperor Yong Ping. In the first ruling year of Emperor Zhang He, he was titled Chief Secretary for Imperial Secretariat. In 105 AD, that was the first year of Emperor Yuan Xing, Cai Lun invented the paper making technology. On the basis of the experience of former inventors, he used tree skin, hemp, clout, and old fishing net as the major material. Through the process of pinching, smashing, lifting, and baking, the first kind of paper—“Caihou Paper” was invented. It made much contribution to the reform and introduction of paper making. Cai Lun therefore is memorized as the inventor of paper making technology.

(14) Li Shizhen

Li Shizhen, styled Dong Bi, is a very famous doctor and expert on Medicine in Ming Dynasty. He was born in 1518 in Zhanzhou (today’s Zhanchun County of Hubei Province) and passed by in 1593. Before Li Shizhen, the number of recorded drugs in ancient medical books was 1558. They were recorded out of order with many different categories of drugs classified in one. Sometimes one drug was given more than two names, and two medicines were even mentioned with one name. In order to get rid of the mistakes and improve the disadvantages of ancient medical books, Li Shizhen paid numerous visits to peasants, fishermen, loggers, and herb planters, and sought advice from them. He spent over 30 years collecting herbs on mountains, and read more than 800 books on medicine. By differentiating and identifying drugs recorded in old medical books, correcting errors and misleading parts inside them, and adding a collection of another 374 kinds of new drugs to them, Li Shizhen finally completed the treasure of Medicine—Compendium of Materia Medica. This great works combines the rich experience of thousands of years of medical history of China. It reclassifies various drugs by illustrating them according to class, item, name, production area, shape, color, smell, and functions, etc. The whole book is composed of 16 sections and 52 volumes. It makes invaluable contribution to the development of medicine in later generations.

(15) Ji Xiaolan

Ji Xiaolan is a popular bel-asprit in Qing Dynasty. He is a gifted person and good at making couplets. He can express everything in his couplets in a fantastic and unique way. It is said nobody can compete with or surpass him in this aspect. Moreover, he is an eloquent talent, the remarks of whom are well organized, full of logic and very persuasive. Besides, he is good at dealing with people. Especially, he can make the right prediction of what is on the mind of the emperor, and is very capable in fighting against those treacherous officials with intelligence. Although he experienced several ups and downs in the official career, he all succeeded in saving his own life. Ji Xiaolan read numerous books in his life and left to later generations several great works, such as Si Ku Quan Shu and Records in Yuewei Hall. Ji Xiaolan is a widely recognized eminent writer. Average in political achievements, however, he is well known and admired by later generations.

(16) Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong (1893-1976), styled Run Zhi and with a literal name Zi Ren, was born in a family of peasant in Xiangtan of Hunan Province on December 26, 1893. He received education in No. 1 Normal School in Changsha City in his early age. When he grew up, he devoted himself to revolutionary activities, believed in Marxism-Leninism, and started to introduce it among Chinese people. In 1921, Mao Zedong became one of the founders of Communist Party of China. Later he was elected successively Chairman of the Central Committee of CPC, Chairman of Central Military Committee, and Chairman of People’s Republic of China. Besides dealing with political and military affairs, Mao Zedong was very interested in poetry and calligraphy, was very industrious in practicing them. The great works of Mao Zedong include five volumes of Mao Zedong Florilegium, Analogy of Mao Zedong’s Scripts, Analogy of Mao Zedong’s Epigraphs, Collections of Poetry and Lyric Scripts of Mao Zedong, and Analogy of Mao Zedong’s Poems and lyrics.   

(17) Lu Xun

Lu Xun is a great modern litterateur, translator, and founder of New Cultural Movement in China. He wrote 20 volumes of great works, which have exquisite and rich connotations, impressive reflections on history, and courageous introduction to new times. Kuangren Diary, Kong Yiji, and Drug laid the foundation for new literatures; The True Story of Ah Q established an ever-lasting monument on the history of new literature, exerting wide influence on writers in China and the world at large; Hot Wind and Erxin Collection written in a sarcastic and acute style developed a school of his own and ushered in an era of modern literature. The eminent works of Lu Xun nor only enriched the Chinese culture and art, but contributed a lot to world literature. Lu Xun is one of the most accomplished writers in the literary world. If you want to know about the real history, social development of China and especially Chinese people, the great essays of Lu Xun will tell you all. 

 Other Information

(1) Origin of the Title “Huang Di”

“Huang Di”, a title addressed by people in ancient times, was originated from “San Huang and Wu Di” which means three emperors and five monarchs. The three emperors refer to the Emperor of Heaven, Emperor of Earth, and Emperor of Human Being. They are three leading figures in ancient legend. “Di” in “Five Di” here refers to the dominator of everything in the universe. He has supreme power and is called Tian Di, one of the five monarchs mentioned above. Later there happened the chaos of war among different countries who honored themselves respectively as Xi Di (Monarch in the West), Dong Di (Monarch in the East), Zhong Di (Monarch in the Middle), and Bei Di (Monarch in the North). Therefore the title “Di” in the legend came to the world, and became a divine address of king. Some people say “Di” refer to Huang Di, Yan Di and Chi Yao.

When Ying Zheng, the founder of Qin Dynasty, unified the whole country, he considered himself to be one who made larger contribution than “San Huang and Wu Di”, the three emperors and five monarchs, and thus honored himself with a combined title of “Hung and Di”, namely, Huang Di. After that, the emperor of each dynasty is addressed Hung Di.

(2) The Color of Yellow and Emperor

People in ancient times advocated yellow color because in their eyes it was the symbol of imperial power. In fact, the idea was originated from the philosophy of worshipping earth by people living on agriculture. According to the traditional School of yin and yang, the color of yellow stands for earth, one of the five elements in the philosophy. Since this kind of earth is the very earth at the center of the universe, it is receives the most respect and honor.

(3) Huang Di and the Number “nine”

In ancient China, the number “nine” is the summit of Yang numbers. In other words, “nine” is the largest number among singulars. There “9” is often connected to emperors and the things related to them. For instance, the title or position of emperor is Jiu Wu (referring to Chinese characters “九五” and “Jiu” in Chinese means nine).

Other instances of relating number “nine” (whose Chinese pronunciation is “Jiu”) with imperial power include: Bronze ware is called Jiu Ding; there are nine ministers around the emperor; there was the Nine Grade Official Ranks; the Forbidden City has 9999 and a half rooms; Tiananmen Square Turret is nine-room in width and length; the doornails on the door of Forbidden City, Imperial Garden, and Xanadu palace are all 81 in number, the result of nine multiplying nine in mathematics.

Moreover, when there were large scale celebrations on the birthday of the emperor, there must be 99 kinds of performance, such as acrobatics and lantern show, etc. from this sense the 99 performances were called ‘Nine-nine Grand Celebration”. The number of tribute to imperial officials on their birthday parties or during Spring Festival is also counted by nine. But for the average people, including nobles or land lords, their daily necessities are of course should never be counted with number “nine”.

(4) The Origin of the Name “Zhong Guo” (China)

In ancient times, the meaning of “Guo” (country) means castle or state. “Zhong Guo” (China) has five different meanings in history, and they are, first, capital; second, the kingdom under the governance of Hung Di (emperor); third, the Yellow River Drainage areas; forth, the inland area; and fifth, the residence of Hua Xia People and their country.

Since Han Dynasty, people are used to call the empire founded in Yellow River Drainage area “Zhong Guo” (China), and the empires set up by other ethnic groups are also called “Zhong Guo” (China). During the period of Southern and Northern Dynasties, the former honored itself “Zhong Guo” by degrading the latter as “Wei Lu”. However, the Northern Dynasty addressed itself as “Zhong Guo” while dubbed the Southern Dynasty as “Dao Yi”. Later, most dynasties, such as Liao, Northern Song Dynasty, Jin, and Southern Song Dynasty, honored themselves “Zhong Guo” while refusing the other empires as a part of China.  

To be strict, “Zhong Guo” (China) in ancient times was an adjective rather than a noun. Moreover, no dynasties in history had ever changed the formal name of their states into “Zhong Guo” and all of them still used their respective styled names.

It was not until Revolution of 1911 that “Zhong Guo” was for the first time became the abbreviated name of Republic of China. In 1949, “Zhong Guo” or China was prescribed as the abbreviation of People’s Republic of China.

Now, there is only one “Zhong Guo” or China in the world, and that is the People’s Republic of China. Its capital lies in Beijing.

(5) Other Names of China

China has a lot of other names in history, and they are:

①      Shen Zhou

The ancient book Records of Historian, Meng Zi’s Chronicles mentioned that during the period of Wearing States there was a person in Qi called Yan Yan who mentioned that China used to be called “Chi Xian Shen Zhou”. Later people addressed China as “Chi Xian Shen Zhou”, but in most cases, they would like to call China by two separate names: “Chi Xian” or “Shen Zhou”.

②      Hua

People living in Yellow River Drainage areas liked to address their empire “Hua” which meant prosperity, because they believed they were living on a fertile land with developed civilization and lasting prosperity.

Zhong Hua

Before Qin Dynasty, people of Hua Xia Nationality usually call their empire “China”. After Qin Dynasty, they gradually developed into a country with many ethnic groups and that gave birth to another name “Zhong Hua Min Zu” (Chinese Nation). Here, “Zhong” refers to China and “Hua” means Hua Xia Nationality. Therefore, “Zhong Hua Min Zu” (Chinese Nation) is a general name of all nationalities in China.

Xia

“Xia” in ancient times has a meaning “big”. The first state of slave-system was founded by Da Yu, the emperor of Xia Dynasty. This is the reason why people use “Xia” to refer to China.

Hua Xia

In ancient times, Hua Xia Nationality in Yellow River Drainage area and ethnic minorities living the south and the north were under the reign of Shang Dynasty. Hua Xia Nationality was the major ethnic group at that time, for which “Hua Xia” became another address of China.

Jiu Zhou (nine prefectures)

China had nine prefectures in history. They were Shen Zhou, Ci Zhou, Rong Zhou, Zi Zhou, Yi Zhou, Tai Zhou, Ji Zhou, Bo Zhou, and Yang Zhou. Here “Jiu” and “Zhou” respectively refer to nine and prefecture. “Jiu Zhou”, therefore, became a general name of China. Besides, “Jiu Zhou” can give birth to many other names, such as Jiu Yu, Jiu You, Jiu Tu, and Jiu Qu, etc.

Hai Nei

Ancient people believed that China is circled by sea and therefore called China “Hai Nei”. Here, “Hai” refers to sea and “Nei” means the central part of something.

Systems in Ancient Times

Systems of Social Servants

Systems of Central Social Officials

Systems of Central Social Servants in ancient times were very complicated. In Shang Dynasty, there were no specific officials responsible for political affairs, religion, and other affairs. The central system of social servants in Zhou Dynasty was Three Dukes and Six Ministers. Three Dukes referred to Grand Preceptor, Grand Mentor, and Grand Guardian, and they were responsible for state affairs. Six Ministers were required to deal with specific tasks and they were the second high positions under Three Dukes. After Qin Dynasty, local and central systems of social servants were further improved.

(1)    In Xia Dynasty, there were Six Ministers supporting the reign of the then emperor. Among the six ministers, Sikong (Minister of Works) ranked highest in position; Houji was in charge of agriculture, Situ (Minister of Education) was responsible for education; Dali took care of justice; the task of Gonggong was administering projects and construction works; and Yuren managed farming and husbandry. Besides, in Xia Dynasty, departments on military affairs, agriculture, and levitation of taxes were basically set up.

(2)    In Shang Dynasty, a system of power with the emperor at the center was established. The major minister assisting the emperor was Yin (Chief Executive). Under Yin there were positions, including Situ (Minister of Labor Force), Sikong (Minister of Engineering), and Sikou (Minister of Justice). In Shang Dynasty, the idea of divine power played an important role in political life. Therefore, the minister on religion, who took charge of sacrifice, augury, and record of events, was very prestigious among all officials.

(3)    In west Zhou Dynasty, central system of the regime achieved further development. There were the Three Dukes assisting the then emperor and Three Censor-in-chiefs in charge of local affaire. The former referred to Grand Preceptor, Grand mentor, and Grand Guardian, and the latter comprised of Changbo or Mu taking care of civil administration at the local level, Renren or Changren charging the selection of local civil servants, and Zhunren or Zhunfu administering local political affairs.

(4)    During Qin and Han Dynasty, the system of Three Dukes and Nine Ministers with the emperor at the center was established. The Three Dukes referred to Chief of Counselor, Counselor-in-chief, and Chief of Defense, and they were in charge of administration, supervision, and military affairs respectively. Nine Ministers were composed of the chief administrative officials of the nine departments constituting the central regime. They were Fengchang, the top of the nine ministers charging religious affairs, rites, and cultural education; Longzhongling was responsible for the guard of different palaces at the gates; Weiwei (Regalia) was the chief janitor of palaces; Taipu (Stud) administered transportation tools, such as carriages and horses; Tingwei was the judicial administer at the highest position of the central regime; Dianke was in charge of ethnic affairs and official selection; the task of Zhili was to levy taxation on salt and grain and balance the fin acing income and expense. Shaofu took care of taxation on the use of sea and land resources as well as handicraft industry. At that time, the state affairs were not distinguished from the affairs in the imperial family, a characteristic of the system of central civil servants in Qin and Han Dynasties.  

(5) In order to strengthen the imperial power, Emperor Wu Di reduced the rights of Chief of Counselor and set up Zhongchao System. In other words, he selected a series of officials at lower positions to assist his reign. 

(6) In Sui and Tang Dynasties, the central regime with concentrated state power matured, and the system of Three Councils and Six Boards was established. The Three Councils referred to Secretariat, Department of State Affairs, and Chancellery, and they comprised of the structure at the highest level of power in charge of state affairs. The Three Councils were respectively responsible for policy making, deliberation and discussion on state affairs, and execution on policies. At the same time, the original Department of State Affairs became the composition of six boards, namely, Boards of Civil Service, Revenue, Rites, War, Justice, and Works. Under the Six Boards, there were components called Si. The head of each board was Shangshu (Secretariat) and the vice-head Shilang (Vice Minister). For the component of every board, Si, it was also equipped with Shilang (Vice Minister) and Yuanweilang. The system of Three Councils and Six Boards was the evolution result of the system of central civil servants and feudal regime. Compared with systems of previous dynasties, it was more complete in structure and much clearer in the distribution of responsibility. It signified the development and mature of feudal society, and most of its structures were retained till Qing Dynasty.     

(7) System of Central Civil Servants in Ming and Qing Dynasties

Ming and Qing Dynasties witnessed the summit of the development of imperial autarchy with concentrated state power. In the primary period of Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang made many adjustments on the system of central civil servants. First, he abolished the position Chief of Councilors (managing affairs in daily life) inherited from Qin and Han Dynasties, and changed it into Council of Ministers who were responsible for consultation service on state affairs; In terms of supervision departments, he reformed the Censorate to be Regional Command; on military affairs, the Grand Regional Command was changed into Regional Commands of Five Armies; the power of the Six Boards was raised so to assist the emperor directly; a huge structure of eunuchs and secret agent organizations under its control was established. Most of the changes or adjustments on the central regime were represented by the abolishment of Chief of Councilors. Council of Ministers was composed of Hanlin Academicians positioned as Prime Assistant, Secondary Assistant, and Common Assistant. The main responsibility of them was piaoni, which meant that they should help write drafts of rescript for the emperor and answer memorials to the throne. After Yong Le Emperor, academicians in the Council of Ministers gradually participated in state affairs. They not only provided consultation service but had real state power. After that the Council of Ministers evolved from the Secretariat of Consultation in early Ming Dynasty to the backbone of state administration.

In Qing Dynasty, the state affairs were co-managed by Chiefs of Eight Banners and Grand Ministers of State Affairs. During the ruling period of Emperor Yong Zheng, wars were very frequent in the northwest of the country. Therefore, Privy Chamber, later called Privy Council, was established so as to manage military affairs in time. It used to a temporary department at the very beginning; however, it later took the place of the Conference of Grand Ministers of State Affairs and won more power. It soon evolved to be a backbone department of assistance in charge of state military affairs directly under the control and command of the then emperor. The major characteristics of this department were high efficiency and secret operation. The power and rights of Six Boards was gradually reduced. It was no longer the center of state administration, nor the organ being responsible for issuance of imperial orders. In Qing Dynasty, there were Five Imperial Courts, namely, Dali Court, Taichang Court, Guanglu Court, Taipu Court, and HongLu Court. The power of Court of Imperial Clan was above that of Six Boards. Among the Five Commissions, only Commission for Education was retained and the other four were annexed by Board of Works one by one.

System of Local Civil Servants

(1) In Qin and Han Dynasties, the system of local civil servants was in the form of Prefecture and County. The chief official in one Prefecture or County was called Junshou (Prefect) in Qin Dynasty and Taishou (Prefecture Governor) after Emperor Jing Di in Han Dynasty. Under Prefectures there were various Counties, the chief official of which was called Xianling (County Magistrate).

(2) In Sui Dynasty, the system composed of three levels—Prefecture and County were changed into two levels, namely, Region and County. The chief official of County was still County Magistrate, while those of Yongzhou Region and other Regions were respectively called Zhoumu and Fuli. In the early period of Tang Dynasty, Prefectures were changed into Regions and their chief officials were called Cili (Regional Inspector).

(3) The system of local civil servants in Song Dynasty was basically inherited from Tang Dynasty. The structure of administration could be divided into two levels: Region and County. After Emperor Tai Zong, the whole country was divided according to Circuit, similar to Circuit in Tang Dynasty and Province in Yuan Dynasty. Therefore, the administration at local level was conducted at three levels, namely, Circuit, Prefecture, and County. County in Song Dynasty had its chief official called Xianling (County Magistrate).

(4) When Ming Dynasty began, the Secretariat was changed into Administrative Commission. The chief official was called Administrative Commissioner. He was the official at the highest level of power in a province and in charge of all the provincial affairs. Under the Administrative Commission there was the arrangement of Prefecture and Circuit.

(5) In Qing Dynasty, the highest official on limitary affairs was Governor of a province. Meanwhile, he was also in the position of Vice Minister of Board of War and Counselor of Censorate provincially. Therefore, he was in the power of administration, military affairs, and supervision of the whole province. Governor was also known as Fu Jun or Fu Tai. Under Province, there was Prefecture and its officials including Zhifu (County Magistrate), Tongpan, and Tongzhi, etc. Departments at the same level with Prefecture were Direct-administration Departments with civil servants titled Tongzhi and Tongpan; under Prefecture were Counties composed of County Magistrate, County Counselor, and County Secretariat, etc. Santing, which was at the same level with County, had the setting of Direct-administration Division.

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