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Ancient Chinese Dynasties

China has been ruled by dynasties for thousands of years. A dynasty is a family in power that passes on control of the country from one generation to the next. Studying the dynasties of ancient and early imperial China is a great place to start to understand the history of this ancient civilization.

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XIA DYNASTY (c. 2205 to 1766 B.C.) The Xia dynasty was believed to have been a mythological dynasty for many years. Some historians still debate whether the dynasty did exist. In 1959, archaeologists located a city thought to be the capital of the Xia Dynasty. There is much to be learned about this early Chinese civilization.

SHANG DYNASTY (c. 1766 to 1122 B.C.) The Shang united a large part of China under one king and left a written history. The twelve month calendar with thirty days in each month was developed by the Shang.

ZHOU DYNASTY (1122 to 256 B.C.) The Zhou dynasty gained power from the Shang and ruled China for almost a thousand years. They developed powerful weapons by smelting iron from rocks and learning how to process it into a strong metal. A feudal system was established in China by the Zhou. Large walls were built around their cities for defense. The nobles became more powerful, the Zhou dynasty ended, and China entered the Age of Warring States.

QIN DYNASTY (221 to 206 B.C.) The Qin dynasty unified China in 221 B.C. (under the leadership of Qin Shi Huangdi). Under the Qin dynasty, the Legalists strengthened power of the state with laws that were clearly explained and strictly enforced. Feudalism was abolished. Weights, measures, currency, and the legal system were standardized.

HAN DYNASTY (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) The Han continued to unify and expand China. In the beginning, most of the laws and regulations established during the Qin dynasty were kept but the principles of Confucius became the foundation of the government until 1911 (when the monarchy was overthrown). During the reign of Emperor Wu, the Chinese territory became larger than the Roman Empire. He also pioneered the trade route known as the Silk Road from Xi’an, Shaanzi Province, through Central Asia and on to the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Cathy Diez-Luckie, Figures In Motion – Publisher of Captivating Activity Books for Children

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Learn about a new hands-on teaching resource for ancient history (children ages 6 to 12) at Make your own action figures from ancient history!

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