History of china

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Historical map of China from 1402

China is one of the oldest civilizations and high cultures of mankind. As bearers of this culture and dominant ethnic group have in the history of China , the Han Chinese established.

Written records of Chinese culture go back over 3500 years. In myth, she goes initially to the three Urkaiser back: Fuxi , Shennong and finally the Yellow Emperor Huang Di , as the actual culture creators - they preceded 16 underground and a series of heavenly emperor. However, there is no historical evidence for the existence of these personalities; according to tradition, they lived between 5000 and 6000 years ago.

For a schematic chronological overview see: Timeline of Chinese history .


Amphora with string pattern from the Yangshao culture

Altpaläolithische findings prove that the Hominini - kind Homo erectus was up 600,000 years ago in what is now China at home in front of at least 500,000. This is evidenced by two skulls and various stone tools of the Yuanmou man , which were found in the province of Yunnan . They have been dated between 500,000 and 1.7 million years old; this long period is due to the fact that the exact location of the fossils at the time of dating was no longer known. The high-yielding site in the "dragon bone hill" of Zhoukoudian near Beijing proves that the Beijing people lived there about 400,000 years ago; they are also assigned to Homo erectus . However, the oldest evidence for the presence of early relatives of anatomically modern humans ( Homo sapiens ) is 2.1 million year old stone tools that were discovered in Lantian County ( Shaanxi Province ) in the Shangchen site , but none because of the lack of fossils could be assigned to a certain type of hominini. The Shangchen- finds are the datings According significantly older than the - with an age of 1.9 million years ago - the earliest fossils of Homo erectus / ergaster in Africa.

According to the fossil Tianyuan 1, anatomically modern humans have lived in China for at least 40,000 years.

After the last glacial period , the sea level rose, so that the coastline shifted inland. At that time, the region of what is now Beijing lay at the bottom of a sea, the plains along today's coasts consisted of large swamp areas.

In the Neolithic Age there were numerous more complex, regionally different cultures in China, which can be identified primarily by their cord pattern ceramics . For today's Hubei they are occupied for 10,000 years ago , for today's Fujian for 8000 years ago. The first farming south of the Yellow River was probably 8000 years ago, and it is possible that crops were started in southern China at around the same time. For the same time, the first homes with a stock economy are occupied. In northern China, after all, there are numerous sites that document the existence of wooden dwellings, the keeping of pets and the establishment of supplies for 7000 years ago, while the people of southern China were still living in caves. Numerous stone and bone utensils have also come to light during excavations.

5000 years ago the climate cooled down and tribes from the north slowly migrated south. During this time the transition from life as a hunter-gatherer to a sedentary lifestyle took place. Overall, for the fifth to second millennium BC Numerous Neolithic cultures in the area of ​​today's China are documented. The cultures of northern China have certain similarities with one another. There is evidence that millet began to be cultivated in northern China 8,000 years ago , harvested with stone sickles and stored in pottery bowls or tripod containers. Of these, the most important for the Chinese is the Yangshao culture , to which the well-researched Banpo settlement belongs; the Longshan culture and the Majiayao culture are also important.

The cultures of southern China have a different character than those of northern China. Instead of millet, the people of southern China domesticated rice; The oldest evidence of wet rice cultivation comes from Hemudu and is 7000 years old. There have been finds of rice that are significantly older at 11,500 years, but it is uncertain whether it is collected or planted rice.

These early cultures of China had all already reached a high technical level. They made fine ceramics and lacquer bowls, kept pets, and mastered numerous tools. The oldest traces of textile production are 6000 years old. The oldest silk was estimated to be 5300 years old. The oldest script-like characters are 7,000 years old. At the end of the 3rd millennium BC Bronze processing was introduced. The mechanisms by which these different cultures became the core cell of Chinese culture are still the subject of research. The Erlitou culture in today's Henan formed the basis for the following royal dynasties with its high level of organization, the rule of succession and its trade, rule and dependency relationships.

Early dynasties

The Xia , Shang and Zhou dynasties , which were already referred to as the three dynasties of ancient Chinese in the Zhou period , probably initially existed as tribes side by side and only began to gain importance for one another through supra-regional activities.

During the three dynasties, the transition to the Bronze Age and later to the Iron Age took place. Since the Shang period, a priesthood called Fangshi created the cultural foundation that was later summarized as Taoism and Chinese philosophy . The two main works of Taoism, the Daodejing (6th century BC) and the Zhuangzi (4th century BC), which, like the teachings of Taiji, were already widespread and established teachings at their respective times, emerged were recognized. The Confucianism (founded in the 5th century BC. Chr.) Summarized existing teachings together and expanded it to political dimensions and applications. Together with Buddhism , which was added later , Taoism and Confucianism form the three doctrines , which (in addition to the uniform language and writing) are important pillars of Chinese culture and have decisively shaped Chinese culture to this day.

Xia Dynasty (approx. 2200–1600 BC)

Expansion of the Xia dynasty

The Xia Dynasty (approx. 2200–1600 BC), which is said to go back to an emperor named Yu (禹), is referred to as the earliest Chinese dynasty in texts from the Zhou period. However, there is no archaeological evidence that the dynasty or its rulers actually existed; they could also be assigned to the realm of mythology. However, the archaeological finds in Erlitou in Henan Province , especially inscriptions on ceramics and seashells that are assigned to ancient Chinese, could be an indication of their real existence. In any case, the word Xia became an ethnic-cultural term for everything Chinese as early as the Zhou period.

Shang Dynasty (approx. 1570-1066 BC)

Expansion of the Shang dynasty

The Shang dynasty (approx. 1570-1066 BC) is the oldest Chinese ruling dynasty whose existence has been archaeologically proven. Its center lay in what is now northern Henan and western Shandong , and during its greatest power it ruled an area that stretched from present-day Hebei to the Yangtze River . The Shang capital has been relocated several times.

During the Shang period, the processing of bronze , especially the manufacture of ritual vessels, flourished early, but this should not hide the fact that the majority of the population still lived in the Stone Age . Collectively organized agriculture began to be practiced under the Shang, and the professions of artisans and civil servants developed. During this period, a calendar system was created, sacrificial and burial rites were practiced, and large underground tombs were built. Numerous finds of written documents date from this period , in particular manuscripts on mussel shells, which could be dated using the radiocarbon method, or on oracle bones . Even then, the script comprised several thousand characters, some of which are still used today with the same meaning as they were then.

A genealogy of 30 kings has come down to us. The Shang kings had a complicated succession plan and it is likely that the kings gave fiefs to their relatives and high officials.

In the areas of today's China not ruled by the Shang dynasty, there were other cultures that also worked bronze. Best known are the objects made of gold, bronze and jade that were found near Sanxingdui ( Chengdu ).

Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC)

Expansion of the Zhou dynasty

The Zhou Dynasty (周朝) (1045–221 BC) is divided into the two periods Western Zhou Dynasty and Eastern Zhou Dynasty . The latter in turn in the time of the spring and autumn annals and the time of the Warring States . While only late records exist from the first period, there are many contemporary documents from the Eastern Zhou period. The Zhou dynasty was probably an amalgamation of various small tribes that formed small states and whose head was Zhou. In the Western Zhou period, only the Zhou rulers called themselves King ( Wang王), while the other rulers called themselves Gong (公, usually translated as Duke). Only in the period of spring and autumn did the other rulers begin to call themselves kings as well, which is a clear indication of the Zhou rulers' loss of authority.

From the Zhou period onwards, it is also possible to assign unique dates to historical events. With the loss of power of the Zhou rulers, increasing centralization also took place. In the beginning there were around 170 small kingdoms, in which there was only a loose cohesion, but which already regarded themselves as one people - especially in contrast to the barbarians of the surrounding nomad tribes .

The kingdoms became more and more united through wars, marriage and diplomacy . At the time of the Warring States period, only seven kingdoms existed. At that time, the population grew rapidly due to improved agricultural cultivation methods. Iron weapons were used. The Zhou period was the heyday of China's great philosophers .

Imperial times

In the more than 2000 years of the Chinese Empire , times of relative stability alternated with incursions by nomadic peoples (especially from the northern regions) and violent upheavals between the dynasties, which led to long-lasting divisions.

Traditional Chinese historiography attaches great importance to the description of the respective main dynasties, while the times of division are rather neglected. Below is a list of all epochs with a brief description of each. The detailed descriptions of the respective dynasties, periods or states can be found in the detailed article.

Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC)

Expansion of China during the Qin Dynasty

The Qin Empire was one of the seven kingdoms at the end of the Zhou Dynasty. It had an efficient administration and extremely restrictive legislation that regulated the life of the peasants. Through intrigue, the merchant Lü Buwei managed to get Prince Zhuangxiang to succeed to the throne. This appointed Lü Buwei as chancellor.

After the prince's death, his son Zhao Zheng became the new king. He was characterized by a particular brutality. There were several assassinations , but they failed. In several campaigns, Zheng subjugated the other empires and thus led in 221 BC. The unification of the empire. He was crowned the first emperor and called himself Qin Shihuangdi ("First God Emperor of Qin"). A number of reforms were subsequently implemented. All of China received the efficient administrative system of the Qin Empire. In addition, dimensions and weights have been standardized. Minister Li Si standardized the script.

Against the nomadic tribes in the north and west, he had the Great Wall of China built using forced labor by connecting existing walls of the seven kingdoms. The first channels for the transport of goods were also built.

210 BC Emperor Qin Shihuangdi died. He was buried in a large complex, the famous terracotta army is one of his grave goods (and one so insignificant that it was not even mentioned in history). His grave has not yet been opened; the previous investigations revealed that it is said to have not been touched by grave robbers . Shortly after his death, peasant uprisings broke out under his son, which led to the founding of the Han dynasty in a civil war .

Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD)

Han Dynasty territory
Horse sculpture from the Han period

In view of the desperate conditions in the country, the first Han emperors tried to consolidate the situation through low taxes and generous land distribution. The successful measures made the Han period a heyday of the imperial period. In fact, the Han dynasty was so successful militarily and economically that the Chinese people were also referred to as Han Chinese. During her reign, the ethnic groups in what is now southern China were incorporated (111 BC conquest of the canton ).

With the subjugation of the small states along the Silk Road , an indirect trade relationship with the Roman Empire emerged . At the same time, Buddhism reached China in this way. However, the Han emperors elevated Confucianism to the state philosophy . In this function, it was to remain valid for the next two millennia. In the defensive struggle against the Xiongnu and other groups, the emperors used not only military actions but also the so-called heqin policy.

The usurpation of the imperial throne by Wang Mang 9 to 23 AD ended the so-called Western Han Dynasty . It was followed by the Eastern Han Dynasty , which temporarily succeeded in restoring central imperial power.

The rule of the last Han emperor was mainly weakened by internal power struggles at the imperial court (with the last emperors no longer exercising real control), the influence of rich large landowning families in the provinces (to the detriment of the imperial central government) and internal unrest. All this led to the strengthening of regional military rulers who were no longer loyal to the emperor. The uprising of the Yellow Turban , led by a sect of Taoism , plunged the country into complete chaos. The last Han emperor, Han Xiandi, was only a puppet and was forced to abdicate at the end of 220. The empire was divided into three individual empires.

Three Kingdoms Era (220-280)

The three realms

Long before the last Han emperor, Xian, was deposed, he had degenerated into an instrument of power for ambitious warlords who held him captive. The central power had collapsed, and regional warlords ruled in the individual territories who briefly entered into alliances with one another, only to fight against each other again a short time later.

In the year 220, when the last Han emperor had to resign, three regional powers emerged from these battles: The Wei dynasty of Cao Cao controlled the Chinese heartland on the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River . Shu (founded by Liu Bei ) had encircled himself in the inaccessible boiler province of Sichuan . The Wu dynasty under Sun Quan finally controlled the fertile land south of the Yangtze and was able to maintain the current as a natural border against the strong Wei.

Through the very popular novel The Story of the Three Kingdoms as well as countless plays (but also the historical work Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms ), many stories and heroes from this era are as well known among the Chinese as Adam and Eve are in the western world. Some of the heroes were even worshiped as gods or made god emperors by later emperors.

This interim period was ended by Sima Yan , a minister of the Wei. He deposed the last Wei emperor, Cao Huan , and took his place himself, thus establishing the Jin Dynasty . The weakness of the other two empires allowed him to reunite the country after 60 years of division and an even longer period of unrest.

Jin Dynasty (265-420)

Jin Dynasty area

The Jin dynasty was soon shaken by internal power struggles when armed clashes broke out among the emperor's brothers. Nomads from the north (like the Xiongnu ) were able to take advantage of this weakness . The western Jin dynasty ended with the capture and execution of the Jin emperor Jin Huaidi by the Xiongnu ruler Liu Cong . A relative of the emperor fled to what is now Nanjing and founded the Eastern Jin Dynasty, while the old Chinese heartland drifted into chaos. The invaded nomads were unable to establish a stable government, and the sixteen kingdoms separated in rapid succession.

The Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-581)

At the end of the Jin dynasty, two power blocs had established themselves: the foreign northern dynasty along the Yellow River and a national Chinese southern dynasty along the Yangtze River. Both power blocs fought with varying intensity for the whole country, but neither of the two blocs could do one.

As a result of these battles, the power of the military commanders rose steadily. In the south, four dynasties succeeded each other within almost 150 years. All changes followed the same pattern: the military commander deposed the respective ruling emperor and replaced him. In the north, however, the Northern Wei were able to hold their own for a long time, but their empire finally split into two parts.

During this period of unrest, a foreign religion experienced its first heyday: Buddhism spread throughout China. In the north, some kingdoms had even adopted it as the state religion. Many monasteries also date from this period.

China and the West

In the period between 500 and 1500 AD, China was superior to the West in almost all areas. This lead was most evident in science and technology. This is how the Chinese made discoveries that the West did not reach until centuries later. As early as the 4th century, the Chinese reached such high temperatures in furnaces that they could produce cast iron . In the 6th century they developed a process for steel production that was only achieved in the West in 1846 with the Siemens-Martin process . The Chinese also invented paper manufacture , porcelain , the magnetic compass , letterpress printing and black powder before the Europeans. The Chinese were particularly good at astronomy , mathematics , physics , chemistry , meteorology, and seismology . Their techniques in agricultural engineering , which are superior to the Europeans (for example the development of the reversible plow with iron plow caps, or harness and collar for the use of the horse as a draft animal, or the targeted, state-initiated further development of useful plants, or the introduction of more robust and more productive plants such as B. the Champa rice from Vietnam) and the construction of canal systems enabled them to have more efficient and more productive agriculture than the Europeans.

Sui Dynasty (581-618)

The Sui Dynasty

The short-lived Sui dynasty represented a unification of the country after nearly 300 years of division. However, high taxes and heavy labor that the Sui emperor imposed on the peasants quickly led to uprisings that paved the way for the Tang dynasty. This benefited from reforms and building projects by the Sui. The best example of this is the Imperial Canal , which was started under the Sui Emperor Sui Wendi (581–604) and still connects the Yangtze River Delta with northern China today .

Tang Dynasty (618-907)

Painting of the Tang period

Like the Han Dynasty , the Tang Dynasty represents a high point of the Chinese Imperial Era. The Chinatowns in American cities are called Tang-Ren-Jie (streets of the Tang people) in Chinese . Nevertheless, the glorification through later historiography does not always apply - for example, the marriage of Tang princess Wen Cheng to the ruler of Tibet was by no means an act of sovereignty, but rather a policy of appeasement. In the first 150 years of the Tang Empire China repeatedly undertook aggressive campaigns of conquest to Central Asia and the Korean Peninsula .

One of the weaknesses of the Tang Dynasty was its internal power struggles. The only empress in Chinese history, Empress Wu Zetian (reign 690–705), was able to come to power with intrigue and very brutal methods. The rebellion of An Lushan (756–763) threw Tang China into chaos and weakened the dynasty for the long term.

The classic five-syllable and seven-syllable poems reached their heyday (poet Li Bai ), and trade with the West via the Silk Road flourished. The Christianity reached for the first time China. Intensive relations were also maintained with Japan and Korea . Zen Buddhism reached Japan by sea .

The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960)

China in 923

From 907 and 960, for more than half a century, the country was politically torn. During this short period of time China was a real multi-state system, five short-lived governments took turns in quick succession to control the old imperial core area in northern China, hence the name Wudai (Five Dynasties). At the same time, ten relatively stable, independent states were formed in parts of eastern and southern China, which is why this period is also known as Shiguo (Ten Kingdoms).

Most of the great developments of this period began in the late Tang period, and many were not completed until after the Song Dynasty was established. So began z. For example, the political collapse long before Zhu Wen brought the Tang dynasty to a formal end in 907. The developments that led to reunification, the rapid economic upswing and the decline of the aristocratic families were initiated long before the first Song ruler Taizu , who recaptured a large part of the empire, and reached far into the Song Time in.

Liao dynasty (916–1125), Song dynasty (960–1279), Jin dynasty (1125–1234)

Northern song
Emperor Huizong

The Song Dynasty (960-1279) initially succeeded in reuniting central and southern China after a 53-year period of internal struggles ( Five Dynasties ), while the north of the country was first from the Qidan Liao dynasty and then from the Jurchen Jin dynasty was mastered. As a lesson from the fall of the Tang Dynasty , the Song Dynasty placed the army under civilian command. The whole empire, which included the Chinese core provinces, was covered with police stations and offices that ensured the central power of the emperor. It was paper money issued and the sea trade grew in importance. The Song dynasty was a time of cultural prosperity and invention (around 1100 there were large iron foundries producing around 150,000 tons of iron and steel ). During the Song era, the steel industry was very important to the economy and society. As much steel was being produced by 1078 as England at the beginning of industrialization in the 18th century. This was supported by the state's remuneration for the inventors.

Another important innovation in the Song Dynasty was the introduction of wet rice cultivation and early ripening rice varieties. The South now became the granary of China, since there the climatic conditions are optimal. Associated with this was a shift of the economic centers to the south. The river as a trade route was used even more intensively and large trading cities emerged on the banks. They also formed the basis for the flourishing export of silk and china . The enormous economic growth of this time, around 1100, resulted in a doubling of the population from 50 to approx. 100 million and the standard of living had also improved enormously.

The poem form Ci, which was developed in its heyday during the Song era, broke through the uniform number of syllables in Tang poems, introduced rhythm into the lecture and appeared much more lively and intense.

A radical and progressive attempt at reform by Wang Anshi to alleviate the unjust distribution of land and the corrupt civil service system failed due to resistance from local officials, who saw themselves at a disadvantage (1069-1085).

The Song Dynasty was constantly threatened from outside, making the Song Empire a militarily armed state that was constantly embroiled in border conflicts. The Song faced the state foundations on their west and south-west borders ( Western Xia dynasty of the Tanguts , Nanzhao ) rather defensively. Due to the civil high command, the Northern Song Dynasty was only able to achieve partial successes against the Liao and later the Jin Dynasties in northern China. At the beginning of 1127 the capital Kaifeng , which had been surrounded by the Jurchen since the beginning of 1126, fell, and the Emperor Huizong was captured. The Southern Song Dynasty , founded by Gaozong, a son of Emperor Huizong, was able to hold out for almost another 150 years thanks to the Yangtze River as a natural border and a policy of appeasement.

Although China was ruled by northern peoples more often in the past, the Han Chinese developed an ethnic consciousness for the first time in the Song period . The reason for this was probably the discrimination policies of the Liao and Jin rulers, who degraded the Han Chinese in northern China to second-class people. Later Han Chinese “national consciousness” finds its earliest historical references and “national heroes” such as Yue Fei here .

Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)

Yuan Dynasty Territory

The Mongolian army that overran the Eurasian continent first fell victim to the Jin Dynasty, a little later the Western Xia Dynasty and finally the Southern Song. Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty in China. The Yuan rulers continued the policies of ethnic discrimination, which resulted in their being never properly accepted by the majority of the population. Traditional historiography generally judged the Yuan dynasty and its rulers very disparagingly. Nonetheless, trade with Central Asia and beyond flourished. Marco Polo came to China via the Silk Road . The plan to conquer Japan was thwarted by a typhoon .

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Territory of the Ming Dynasty under Emperor Yongle (excluding protectorates and vassals)
Candidates await the results of the Imperial Official Examination , painting by Qiu Ying, circa 1540.

The majority of the people of China were dissatisfied with the rule of the Mongols. This eventually led to a peasant revolt ( Red Turbans ), which pushed the Mongols back. The Ming Dynasty took over in 1368. China flourished again. Arts and crafts, especially porcelain production ( Ming vases ), reached new heights.

The founder of the dynasty was Zhu Yuanzhang (Hongwu). He placed special emphasis on agriculture - not least because of his rural origins. Large latifundia were confiscated by the state, divided up and leased to smallholders . Private slavery was banned. The role of the emperor became even more autocratic and the centralization of the imperial bureaucracy advanced, which is why one sees the beginning of so-called Chinese absolutism in the Ming period . Foreign merchants were subject to the same restrictions as local ones.

During the Mongol rule, the population had decreased by 40 percent to around 60 million. Two centuries later it had doubled under the Ming emperors due to the economic boom. Urbanization increased. Large cities such as Nanjing and Beijing contributed to the growth of handicrafts.

The beginning of the Ming Dynasty was an epoch of special seafaring achievements under Emperor Yongle and his Admiral Zheng He , who made China the technologically ( treasure ships ) and nautical leading maritime nation of the world at that time. In addition, the early Ming period was characterized by a strongly expansive foreign policy.

The later Ming emperors adopted a more defensive strategy due to the Mongol invasions . To protect themselves against the Mongols , they had the Great Wall rebuilt and brought up to date. Against the rising piracy of the Wokou on the coast, Emperor Jiajing decreed a sea ban ( Hai jin ) in 1551 , ships were only allowed to have one mast. Nonetheless, Zheng He's travels laid the foundation for the subsequent colonization of Southeast Asia by the Chinese and for further trade across the sea. In 1567 the shipping ban was lifted again because its implementation was unsuccessful.

During the Ming period, the first western trading post was opened by the Portuguese in Macau .

Inwardly, the Ming emperors established a network of secret services unprecedented in Chinese history , soon led by powerful eunuchs . When the last Ming Emperor Chongzhen came to power, he tried to curtail the power of the eunuchs and to alleviate the plight of the rural population through land reform . Nevertheless, the measures came too late. When the peasants rebelled in Shaanxi Province , the situation could no longer be brought under control. The emperor hanged himself when the insurgents marched into Beijing.

General Wu Sangui , who was supposed to guard the Great Wall of China northeast of Beijing, called on the Manchus for help and opened the gates of the wall to the Qing armies.

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

China Administrative Map, 1855
Emperor Qianlong in the middle of his art collection, paintings around 1750

The Manchu founded the last Chinese dynasty after the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644. By the end of the century, they had consolidated their power over the entire territory that the Ming had ruled and, at considerable expense, expanded it to include Xinjiang , Tibet and Mongolia . The key to success was the combination of the Manchu martial talent and the Chinese administration.

Some outstanding cultural achievements were made under the Qing . Under Emperor Kangxi the largest dictionary was compiled and under Emperor Qianlong a lexicon of all important cultural works was written. The famous book “ The Dream of the Red Chamber ” also dates from this period. Advances in agriculture and an enormous peak in the economy enabled the population to double from 160 million to 300 million between 1700 and 1800 . As the most important political and economic power in Asia, China provided around 50% of world production. In 1759 the Chinese Empire reached the maximum extent in its entire history with 11.5 million km² and was thus significantly larger than today.

Although the Qing dynasty turned out to be the last, it is still considered one of the most successful, in which China reached an impressive cultural and political climax. The sinocentric worldview also flourished. In order to consolidate their rule, the early Qing emperors targeted intellectuals and sought their cooperation in the state. But cruel punishments such as the destruction of the entire house have already been imposed for using certain anti-Manchu words.

In the 19th century, China experienced massive social tensions. A consequence of natural disasters in connection with increased pressure from the Europeans (especially England) to integrate the economy into the emerging world market (see China trade ). Until around 1820, China had a trade surplus. Great Britain in particular had a massive trade deficit with China due to excessive tea imports, losing £ 20 million annually. From around 1820 the British East India Company systematically increased the export of opium to China, although the import of opium was prohibited. Between 1821 and 1837 the amount handled increased fivefold. This led to a trade deficit on the Chinese side. The attempt by China to defend itself against the (as a result of Western industrialization ) increasingly overpowering foreign countries and its free trade policy failed. Great Britain used military force in the First Opium War (1839 to 1842) and the Second Opium War (1856-1860) to import opium into China. In pursuing its economic interests, the UK government accepted that millions of Chinese would become addicted to opium, which led to social and economic problems in China.

China had to give up its economic protectionism . After the first opium war, China had to cede Hong Kong to Great Britain in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 and open further treaty ports . After the second opium war, China had to open more ports and make extensive concessions not only to Great Britain, but also to France, Russia and the USA. As a result, there was an open door policy in China. The damage to the Chinese economy was irreversible. Large parts of the economy collapsed, and mass poverty was the immediate result.

The Taiping uprising with 20 million victims, the Nian uprising and Islamic and separatist efforts in Mongolia and Xinjiang supported by Russia brought the Qing dynasty into distress and could in some cases only be put down with foreign military aid. With that, China came more and more to the level of a colony. The empire, which lasted for more than two millennia, was in a serious crisis: Confucian rule relies primarily on the emperor's reputation - the last emperors of the Qing dynasty suffered too many losses of face and lost considerable prestige.

First Chinese national flag, since 1889

Especially in the last years of the late 19th century there was one humiliation of China after another: the defeat by Japan in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895 , the Boxer Rebellion that got out of hand in 1900 and the Boxer Protocol of 1901 connected with it. The Qing -Dynasty came to an end at the beginning of the 20th century and had to give in to calls for reforms.

The Qing emperors initially tried to counteract this with efforts to modernize, for example with the so-called self - empowerment campaign . Conservative forces, above all the Dowager Empress Cixi, thwarted this by instigating a military coup in 1898 and removing the reformers from their offices (for example the Emperor Guangxu, see also: Hundred-day reform ). Corruption crippled the army; so the modernized troops were defeated in several wars.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Qing dynasty was in ruins. Two opposition movements had formed in the country: on the one hand, the moderates, who wanted to reform the empire towards a constitutional monarchy, and, on the other, the revolutionaries, who wanted to finally abolish the empire and make China a republic.

Republic of China (1912-1949)

The Republic of China on a Chinese map from 1926. All areas to which the Republic of China claimed claims are shown, including those that were not under Chinese control at the time of going to press (Outer Mongolia , Tannu Tuwa , Tibet , Xinjiang ). Remarkably, the island of Taiwan (Formosa), which was then under Japanese rule, is not included.

The monarchy is coming to an end

1911 saw the end of the Qing Dynasty and the last emperor, Puyi , who was only five years old. General Yuan Shikai negotiated on the one hand with the revolutionaries under Sun Yat-sen , who proclaimed the Republic of China on January 1, 1912 , on the other hand he put pressure on the imperial family. In order to prevent a civil war and unnecessary bloodshed, Sun renounced the presidency in favor of Yuan, if he could persuade the dynasty to renounce without a fight.

Yuan Shikai was a man of tradition. When it became known that he wanted to ascend the imperial throne himself in 1915, not only the provinces rebelled, even his own generals refused to support him. Yuan died shortly afterwards on June 6, 1916, deeply disappointed and offended. In 1917, Puyi was restituted again for two weeks.

In the period that followed, there were various uprisings. The powerful Beiyang Army (Beiyang = Northern China, more precisely: Liaoning, Hebei and Shandong) of Yuan Shikai divided into several factions that fought each other ( Northern militarists ). Many southern provinces declared themselves independent. From 1921 Sun Yat-sen tried to build up his own power base in Guangdong in order to restore his ideals of a republic.

In 1927 the decade-long Chinese civil war began .

First World War

In 1917, after the German Reich declared submarine warfare , China was drawn into the First World War by declaring war on the Central Powers Germany and Austria-Hungary . Although China did not send troops to the European, Asian Minor or African theater of war, it did support the French armaments industry, agriculture and mining with around 140,000 Chinese contract workers for the staging area of ​​the British troops in France. The internal turmoil prevented China from directly participating in the war. China's most important motive for even entering the war was fear of Japan's tough imperialist interest politics . In November 1914, shortly after entering the World War, the Japanese took the German colony of Kiautschou / Tsingtau on China's coast. Japan now had an appetite for new conquests. China wanted the assistance of the European and American allies of World War I to secure its territory against Japan - and that assistance it should get by declaring war on the Allied enemies.

Japanese expansion and World War II

Japanese conquests by 1940:
  • Under Japanese rule in 1930
  • Formerly Chinese territory under Japanese rule in 1940
  • Japan conquered Manchuria in 1931 and established the puppet state of Manchukuo there in 1932 with Puyi as emperor. In July 1937 the Japanese started the Second Sino-Japanese War and continued the conquests. On March 30, 1940, the Japanese installed Wang Jingwei († 1944) as head of government of the reorganized Republic of China under the Japanese control in Nanjing . The war ended in 1945 with the end of World War II . In the Second World War, China had the second largest number of victims of all participating nations after the Soviet Union (see also: Nanking Massacre , unit 731 ). At least ten million Chinese civilians and three and a half million soldiers lost their lives. More recent research is even assuming that over twenty million fatalities and destroyed agriculture are the worst consequences of the war. The conflict between communists and nationalists in the fight against Japan flared up again. In 1949 the teams of Mao Zedong finally defeated the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek . The nationalists fled to Taiwan , which was recently reclaimed from Japan, and where the Republic of China continues to this day. The People's Republic of China was founded on the mainland .

    People's Republic of China and Republic of China on Taiwan

    People's Republic of China (since 1949)

    Republic of China (since 1949 in Taiwan)

    After its defeat in the Chinese Civil War , the Kuomintang withdrew to the island of Taiwan . In the United Nations Security Council , the Chinese seat was first held by the Republic of China (on Taiwan). In 1971, however, the Republic of China was "excluded" from the UN, and the People's Republic of China also took over as successor to the Security Council.

    Out of consideration for Beijing's one-China policy , the USA broke off its official diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1978, and many other states did the same. Many countries are now represented in Taiwan through “ cultural institutes ”.

    On July 15, 1987, the Kuomintang government repealed martial law that had been in force since May 19, 1949. Since then, democratization has taken place. Free parliamentary elections were held for the first time in 1992 and direct presidential elections in 1996.

    In March 2000, Chen Shui-bian won the presidential election; he is the first president not to be appointed by the Kuomintang. The Kuomintang lost the 2001 parliamentary elections and went into opposition. President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became the strongest party. A coalition government was formed.

    In 2005, for the first time since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, direct flights from mainland China to Taiwan and vice versa took place over the Chinese New Year . The Chinese People's Congress passed a law granting China the right to take military action against Taiwan should it declare formal independence. (Taiwan also has a law that gives the island the right to declare formal independence should it ever be threatened or attacked by the People's Republic.) Opposition leader Lien Chan (Kuomintang) visited the People's Republic for the first time in May . The media event was celebrated by the mass media of the People's Republic.


    Timeline of Chinese Dynasties and Republics; Qin but not yet more correctly than from 221-207 BC. Chr. Indicated

    See also



    • Wolfram Eberhard : China and its western neighbors. Contributions to the medieval and modern history of Central Asia. Darmstadt 1978
    • Wolfram Eberhard: China's history. Bern 1948 (Bibliotheca Sinica, vol. 1; several new editions and translations).
    • John K. Fairbank : History of Modern China. Munich 1989.
    • Doris Fischer, Michael Lackner (Ed.): Country Report China. History, politics, economy, society . Bonn 2007.
    • C. P. Fitzgerald: China. From prehistory to the 19th century . Zurich 1967.
    • Herbert Franke , Rolf Wedding slip : The Chinese Empire (= Fischer World History . Volume 19). Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1968 (partly outdated, but easily legible introduction).
    • Otto Franke : History of the Chinese Empire . 5 volumes. De Gruyter, Berlin / Leipzig 1930–1952 (at the time of publication pioneering work in Western language and detailed, but partly outdated, account of political history; several reprints).
    • Jacques Gernet : The Chinese World. The history of China from the beginning to the present day. Suhrkamp Taschenbuch, Vol. 1505. Suhrkamp , Frankfurt 1997, ISBN 3-518-38005-2 .
    • Rainer Hoffmann, Qiuhua Hu: China. Its history from the beginning to the end of the imperial era. Freiburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-7930-9499-9
    • Dieter Kuhn : East Asia until 1800. Frankfurt am Main 2014.
    • Dieter Kuhn: The Republic of China from 1912 to 1939 - Draft for a political history of events . 3rd revised and expanded edition, edition forum, Heidelberg 2007 (Würzburger Sinologische Schriften), ISBN 3-927943-25-8 . ( Online ).
    • Tobias Loitsch (Ed.): China in the focus of the 21st century. Springer Gabler. 2019. ISBN 978-3-662-59671-5
    • Klaus Mäding: China. "Empire and Modernity" . Cornelsen Verlag, 2 vols. Berlin 2002/2003.
    • Charles Reeve, Xi-Xuanwou: Hell on Earth. Bureaucracy, Forced Labor, and Business in China. Hamburg 2001. ISBN 3-89401-368-0 .
    • Konrad Seitz: China. A world power is returning. Berliner Taschenbuch-Verl. Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-8333-0165-1 (well-founded overview of Chinese history with a focus on current economic development).
    • Jonathan D. Spence: China's Path to Modernity. Frankfurt am Main 1995. ISBN 3-7632-4562-6 .
    • Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer : History of China up to the Mongolian conquest. Munich 1999 (concise presentation with research section and comprehensive bibliography).
    • Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer: Small history of China. Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-57066-7 (concise, illustrated popular science presentation).
    • Kai Vogelsang : History of China. Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-15-010857-4 ; 3rd reviewed and updated edition, Stuttgart 2013 (a new standard work that focuses on the tension-filled relationship between unity and diversity and follows the attempts of Chinese culture to tame the rampant diversity).
    • Thomas Weyrauch : China's neglected republic. 100 years in the shadow of world history. Volume 1 (1911-1949) . Longtai 2009. ISBN 978-3-938946-14-5 .


    • The Cambridge History of China . Edited by Denis Twitchett , John Fairbank, and others. 15 vols. (Partly in double volumes). Cambridge 1978ff.
      (Basic work; extensive and detailed presentation. Not yet completed.)
    • Timothy Brook (Ed.): History of Imperial China. 6 vols.Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.)
      • Mark Lewis: The Early Chinese Empires. 2007.
      • Mark Lewis: China between Empires. The Northern and Southern Dynasties. 2009.
      • Mark Lewis: China's Cosmopolitan Empire. The Tang Dynasty. 2009.
      • Dieter Kuhn: The Age of Confucian Rule. The Song Transformation of China. 2009.
      • Timothy Brook: The Troubled Empire. China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. 2010.
      • William T. Rowe: China's Last Empire. The Great Qing. 2012.
    • Charles Hucker: Official Titles in Imperial China. Stanford 1985.
    • Michael Loewe, Edward L. Shaughnessy (Eds.): The Cambridge History of Ancient China. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1999.
    • Frederick W. Mote: Imperial China 900–1800. HUP, Cambridge (Mass.) 1999 (several NDe).
    • Michael Schaller: Crusade in China. 1938-1945 . Columbia University Press, New York City 1979, ISBN 0-231-04454-2 .
    • Endymion Porter Wilkinson: Chinese history. A manual. Revised and enlarged. Harvard Univ., Asia Center for the Harvard-Yenching Institute [u. a.], Cambridge (Mass.) 2000, ISBN 0-674-00247-4 ; ISBN 0-674-00249-0 .


    • Marie-Catherine Rey: Les trés riches heures de la Cour de Chine - chefs-d'oeuvre de la peinture impériale des Qing 1662–1796 . Ed. de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux [u. a.], Paris 2006.
    • David A. Palmer: La fièvre du Qigong - guérison, religion et politique en Chine, 1949–1999. Ed. de l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-7132-2010-6
    • Jean-Christophe Romer: Face aux barbaren, marches et confins d'empires de la Grande Muraille [de Chine] au Rideau de Fer . Tallandier, Paris 2004, ISBN 2-84734-075-0
    • Corinne Debaine-Francfort: La redécouverte de la Chine ancienne . Découvertes Gallimard, 1998

    Web links

    Commons : History of China  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
    Wikisource: China  - Sources and Full Texts

    Individual evidence

    1. Zhaoyu Zhu, Robin Dennell , Weiwen Huang et al .: Hominin occupation of the Chinese Loess Plateau since about 2.1 million years ago. In: Nature. Online pre-publication July 11, 2018, doi: 10.1038 / s41586-018-0299-4
      Our ancestors may have left Africa hundreds of thousands of years earlier than thought. On: sciencemag.org from July 11, 2018
      An early hominin arrival in Asia. On: nature.com from July 11, 2018
    2. Dieter Kuhn: New Fischer World History: East Asia to 1800 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014, ISBN 978-3-10-010843-2 , pp. 67 f .
    3. Dieter Kuhn: New Fischer World History: East Asia to 1800 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 70 ff .
    4. ^ A b c Dieter Kuhn: New Fischer World History: East Asia until 1800 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 74 ff .
    5. a b c d Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer : Small history of China . Munich 2008, p. 24ff.
    6. Spencer PM Harrington: " Earliest Rice ". In: Archeology.org
    7. Dieter Kuhn: New Fischer World History: East Asia to 1800 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 78 .
    8. ^ A b Dieter Kuhn: New Fischer World History: East Asia until 1800 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 91 .
    9. ^ Watson, Burton Watson: Complete Works of Chuang Tzu , New York 1968, p. 408.
    10. ^ Bronze Age China at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC
    11. Scripts found on Erlitou pottery ( Memento from February 13, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) (written in abbreviations )
    12. ^ A b c Dieter Kuhn: New Fischer World History: East Asia until 1800 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 92 f .
    13. ^ A b Dieter Kuhn: New Fischer World History: East Asia until 1800 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 119 .
    14. ^ Scott DeLancey: Zhuo Jing-Schmidt (Ed.): Increased Empiricism: Recent advances in Chinese Linguistics . John Benjamin, Amsterdam 2013, ISBN 978-90-272-0181-2 , p. 88 (accessed October 12, 2014).
    15. William Boltz: The origin and early development of the Chinese writing system, American Oriental Society , New Haven 1994, pp. 52-57; Endymion Wilkinson: Chinese history: a manual. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass. 2000, pp. 411f.
    16. Dieter Kuhn: New Fischer World History: East Asia to 1800 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 93 .
    17. ^ Rafe de Crespigny : Fire over Luoyang. A History of the Later Han Dynasty 23-220 AD. Leiden / Boston 2016.
    18. Wolfgang Hirn: Challenge China. How the Chinese rise changed our lives. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2005, pp. 17-18.
    19. Michael Mitterauer : Why Europe? Medieval basics of a special path. 4th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2003, p. 33 ( side view in the Google book search).
    20. ^ A b James TC Liu, Brian E. McKnight: The Five Dynasties and the Ten Kingdoms. In: Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved on August 2, 2017 .
    21. ^ Dieter Kuhn: The Age of Confucian Rule. The Song Transformation of China. Cambridge (Mass.) 2009, pp. 67-70; Frederick W. Mote: Imperial China 900-1800. Cambridge (Mass.) 1999, pp. 290f.
    22. A detailed description of foreign trade relations and the history of European interventions can be found in The Prussian Expedition to East Asia. According to official sources. By A. Berg. 3. Bandm Berlin 1873. ( digitized version http: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3Dhttps%3A%2F%2Fbooks.google.de%2Fbooks%3Fid%3DZv9cAAAAcAAJ%26printsec%3Dfrontcover~GB%3D~IA%3D~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3D~ double-sided% 3D ~ LT% 3D ~ PUR% 3D)
    23. Nora Wang: Chinese contract workers in France during the First World War. In: Klaus J. Bade, Corrie van Eijl, Marlou Schrover (eds.): Encyclopedia Migration in Europe. From the 17th century to the present. Schöningh, Paderborn 2007, ISBN 978-3-506-75632-9 , p. 440.
    24. Rolf-Dieter Müller (Ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War Volume 10: The collapse of the German Reich 1945. Half volume 2: The consequences of the Second World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-421-04338-2 , The human losses in the Second World War (map with graphic / table), without page number, back cover sheet (= last double page before the back of the book).
    25. Antony Beevor: The Second World War. From the English by Helmut Ettinger . Bertelsmann, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-570-10065-3 , p. 887.