China’s Dynastic Cycle Illustration

China’s Dynastic Cycle
Ancient China for Kids

There was a pattern to rise and fall of all the dynasties that ruled China. It is called the dynastic cycle.

Think of a circle.

  1. When a new family overthrew the old dynasty and took the "Mandate of Heaven", this was the top of the circle. As the dynasty ruled for the first half of the circle, they were good and gave land to the peasants, and cut down taxes and corruption. This lasted through the first half of the dynasty (or circle).

  2. Starting at the bottom half of the circle, the Emperor would become cut off from the peasants and people of China. Corruption would start in the outer provinces. There would be minor uprisings amongst the peasants, which would be put down, and land would be taken away from the peasants. Taxes would rise and become a burden on the people.

  3. Towards the end of the dynasty, there would be a major natural disaster or series of disasters, which the emperor would not or could not address, and the people would be left on their own. At this time, one of the noble or rich families would start a major revolution, which would be supported by the people of China, and soon the old dynasty would be overthrown, bringing us back to the top of the circle.

  4. Then the circle would start again with a new dynasty.

This was the pattern of dynastic rule in China. It was repeated over and over throughout China’s history.

Mandate of Heaven

Dynasties (Story and Game)


Shang and Chou



Age of Division




Timeline of ancient Chinese Dynasties

Free Ancient China Presentations in PowerPoint format - Dynasties

See Also: The Mongol Empire