Dynasties - Xia, Shang, Chou, Qin, Han, Tang and more Illustration

Ancient China for Kids


What is a dynasty? A dynasty is a ruler or ruling family. Various dynasties ruled ancient China for about 11,000 years! There were not that many dynasties. Most ruled for a very long time, for hundreds and even thousands of years.

The first dynasty was the Xia, followed by the Shang and Chou (also spelled Zhou and pronounced "joe". This was the bronze age of oracle bones, gods of nature, Taoism, and the great teacher, Confucius.

Then followed the short lived but very important Qin Dynasty. You could not disagree with Qin or you would be put to death. The Great Wall was started. Books were burned. Qin developed a system of bureaucracy so that he could control every minute of peoples lives. Qin only ruled for 15 years. They were very cruel years, but he got a lot done. Under Qin, China was pulled together as one country.

The Han Dynasty was not the golden age, but new things were happening like the invention of paper, the beginning of the Silk Road, and free public education.

After the Han came a period of several small warlike dynasties. This period is called the Age of Division. It was a rough time. It seemed like war would never stop.

Finally, much to the relief of the people, the Tang took over. The Tang Dynasty is called the Golden Age of Ancient China. People were happy. The wars were over. There was a gaiety in China in Tang times. Many new things were introduced like bananas. Tea drinking became popular. The Tang Dynasty is famous for it's encouragement of literature, dancing, music, scroll painting, and art. Craftsmen worked with bronze and silver and gold and copper. Scroll painting became popular during Tang times. Pottery was painted with ornate scenes of daily life, and of carriages, and bridges, and signs of the zodiac. People came from as far away as India and Korea to study the arts in China. There were special rooms in the imperial palace for training. You had to have talent, but the opportunity was there.

Like the Han and the Tang Dynasties, the Song Dynasty was a time of wonderful invention and art. Chinese opera began during the Song Dynasty, as did the art of paper cutting. So many things were invented during the Song Dynasty that this period in history is sometimes referred to as China's Age of Invention.

The Ming Dynasty was the dynasty in power in China during the Middle Ages. This was China's Age of Exploration. The great Chinese mariners sailed and mapped the world. They brought back treasures from around the globe, some of which are on display today in the fabulous Forbidden Palace.

There were other ancient dynasties here and there, but these were the biggies. Each ancient dynasty played a part in making China into the fascinating country it is today.

Dynasties (Story and Game)

Dynastic Cycle

Know Your Dynasties

Which Emperor Are You? (Take the quiz, interactive)

Chinese Dynasty Maps (interactive)

Timeline of Ancient China (interactive)

Timeline of ancient Chinese Dynasties

Free Ancient China Presentations in PowerPoint format - Dynasties

Interactive Quiz for Ancient China (with answers)

See Also: The Mongol Empire

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