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Who's Who in Ancient China (cheat sheet) Illustration

Who's Who
in Ancient China?

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Civilization in ancient China began over 11,000 years ago. That's a lot of time! The study of ancient China is broken up into big blocks of time to help make the study of ancient China a lot easier.

What's confusing is that people refer to the same block of time by different names. Someone might say "in Tang times" or in "T'ang times" or in "the Golden Age". But they're all the same block of time. They might say in the Chou Dynasty (when the Chou family ruled) or in the Zhou Dynasty (when the Zhou family ruled). But, the Chou and Zhou Dynasties were the same dynasty, only spelled differently. They are both pronounced the same - it sounds like the "Joe" Dynasty.

The cheat sheet below provides a quick glance at the various chunks of time.

Ancient Chinese history is full of adventure and invention and dragons and superstitions and gods and goddesses and fascinating philosophies and some really weird holidays. We think you'll enjoy learning about the ancient Chinese!

Time Period Dynasty Quick Glimpse

Early
10,000-1500 BCE

Xia (Hsia)

Lungshan people, the great engineers
Silk, potters wheel, baked brick houses, flood control, irrigation

Bronze Age
1500-600 BCE

Shang

Chou (Zhou)


Rich Nobles & Poor Farmers
Oracle Bones & Ancestor Worship (Shang)
Mandate of Heaven (Chou)
Chariots, bowmen, great royal hunts, bronzecandlesticks, feudal lords, jade carvings, Chinesewriting (pictographs), calligraphy

Classical Age
600 BCE-
200 CE

Late Chou

Ch'in (Qin)

Han


Building the Great Wall
First Emperor (Qin)
Confucius & Taoism (Chou)
Silk Road (Han)
Central government, public schools, mirrors, oil lamps,
fancy shoes, fireplaces, window frames with colored glass, marble staircases
Chinese New Year & Lantern Festival
Chinese Zodiac

Age of Division
200-600 CE

A bunch of
dynasties

Hu the Tiger (who reminds me of Jaba the Hut in Star Wars!)
Invention of gunpowder.
Tea! (Confucius probably never tasted tea, and it really didn't become popular until T'ang times, but this era is when it first started to be enjoyed.)

Early Medieval Period
600-900 CE

T'ang

The Golden Age!
Furniture, ceramics, spoons, amber, turquoise, gold,silver, goblets, teacups, sports, games, music, dancing, even akind of football, and a neat form of air-conditioning. Fancy hats, silk robes, jade belts, Buddhism

Tea was used as barter with areas in Mongolia for horses in an exchange called the "Tea and Horse" Policy.

OTHER KEY TOPICS

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