Ancient China Empire 2200 B.C.E. - 220 C.E.

Zhou Dynasty

The Shang Emperors from the Shang Dynasty (1750 – 1122 B.C.E) had become overpowering, and unethical rulers, which led to and insurrection against their rule. The champion was King Wu, the emperor of Zhou, a territory located to the west of Shang Dynasty. The Shang Dynasty was overthrown in 1122 B.C.E. and the Zhou Dynasty ruled for over 800 years. There are two intervals for the Zhou Dynasty, the Western Zhou Dynasty, 1122 – 771 B.C.E and upon the shift of their territory to the east, at the city of Luoyang, Zhou was then named the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, 770 – 256 B.C.E. (Judge,69)(Youtube)(Recordings)

Zhou Dynasty (Judge,70)

Mandate of Heaven

When the Shang Dynasty was overthrown the new Zhou Dynasty condemned the old rule and sought to extol the Zhou leadership, and the infamous Duke of Zhou, which was the brother of King Wu. With the early demise of King Wu, the Duke of Zhou acted in King Wu’s absence over Wu’s son due to his young age. The Duke of Zhou is known for implementing the conceptual framework for “the Mandate of Heaven”. This framework established that in order for one to lawfully rule over China, the ruler must gain approval from “Heaven” which was viewed as a god ruling over the skies and a descendant of the emperors of China. The current ruler of China was expected to lead ethically, and tolerantly, and was empowered as the “Son of Heaven”. If the emperor became villainous or dispiriting the people would be affected negatively and “Heaven” would remove the mandate and give the power to worthy ruler who would be expected to rule ethically, and tolerantly. The Mandate encompassed what was the demise of the Shang Dynasty. By nature of the Mandate over history, the current leadership was always challenged by opposing anarchists. This constant cycle of opposition to the current leadership was called the dynastic cycle.

Mandate from Heaven (web, Google Images)


Kongfuzi (Confucius 551 – 479 B.C.E.) was a well known philosopher that was known for footing for China’s premier system of ethical principles called Confucianism which governed China for greater than 2000 years. Confucius’s concepts were collated in a assembly of his statements called the Analects. The Analects would often begin with “The Master said…” and they were meant to bring about peace, and social stability in an age that was depicted at excessively violent. Confucianism embraces five relationships between people that were based on a shared respect between subordinates and rulers, children and parents, siblings, married couples, and cohorts. This assertion was the basis for maintaining order. There were also several virtues which were, Ren (altruism, or compassion in ones conduct), li (sacrament, or the practice of treating each other with good manners), and Xiao (allegiance that a child owes his parent, and others). Confucianism fostered high ethical standards in particular of leadership, and disfavored violence and hardship upon its people. (Judge, 72-73)(recordings)(YouTube)

Confucius (Judge,73)


500 B.C.E. (approximately)

Daoism was an alternative school of thought which was thought to be the remedy, and tribute to Confucianism. Daoism was unique in that it steered away from politics, and intellectual thoughts and zoned in on meditation, stillness, and passiveness. Daoism asked for all people to exist in tranquility with nature. Daoism had a primary reference called the Daodejing, or “Classic of the Way and Its Power” which was authored by a character named Laozi, during the sixth century B.C.E. A large number of Chinese people felt that Confucianism and Daoism were like Yin and Yang balancing one another in their reconciliation with daily life.

Yin and Yang (Linblad, 101)

Qin Dynasty

221 – 206 B.C.E.

The Qin Dynasty is the first commonwealth that was governed by China’s first Emperor called Qin Shihuangdi. Qin Shinhuangdi brutally defeated many of China’s southern and northern states in an effort to produce a powerful empire. Qin Shihuangdi was aided in his efforts by Li Si and was known not only for his mass destruction, but he divided the Dynasty into districts governed by officials whom were considered loyal to him. He was also known for his massive palace fit over 10,000 people, and the building of roads, and intricate irrigation network. Qin Shihuangdi, was also credited with unifying territories in North China in an effort to stop invasions by creating the “Great Wall of China”. During the later part of his rule he became scared of death and sought to find a way to infinite life sending a fleet to look for “islands of mortality” only to become ill himself and pass away in 210 B.C.E. After the first emperors passing, China fell into opposition killing Li Si and the preceding emperor ending the Qin Dynasty in 206 B.C.E. (Judge, 75-77)

Qin Dynasty (Judge, 76)

Li Si

231 – 221 B.C.E.

Li Si was considered to be a heartless politician who promoted and defined the theory of Legalism in order to promote the control and order of China, which led to the violent wars of Chinese states. Li Si aided the first emperor in his rule, and the building of the “Great Wall of China” helping to prevent nomadic invasion. Li Si was also responsible for the attempt to stop historical education and organized the “burning of the books”. Once the first emperor died from illness, Li Si was executed in conjunction with the execution of the second emperor ending the Qin Dynasty. (Judge, 76-77)(recordings)

Li Si (web, Google Images)


Legalism began to emerge from the ideas of a scholar in Confucianism named Xunzi, who flourished approximately 300 – 230 B.C.E. during the brutal time of the Warring States who derived that human nature is to be self absorbed, and barbarous. His concepts further evolved from his followers Li Si, and Hanfeizi who created Legalism. Legalism is a belief that reinforced rigid laws backed up by strong authoritarian rule. Legalism was designed to impregnate compliance and reverence that was necessary to maintain command and alliance and squash resistance.

Legalism (Web, Google images)

Qin Dynasty Achievements

The achievements of the Qin Dynasty are that China was divided into districts, and provinces governed by officials selected by the emperor. Another dynasty accolade was the construct of the “Great Wall of China” which helped to protect China from invasion. Also notable was the construction of the vast irrigation network, and thousands of miles of roads helping to conjoin the canals over China’s rivers. (Judge, 76-77)

Great Wall of China (Judge, 77)

Han Dynasty

202 B.C.E. – 220 C.E.

The Han Dynasty was ruled by emperor Liu Bang, who was born from commoners and had only worked in a small governing capacity. The emperor of the Han Dynasty dominated over one of the greatest, and affluent empires. The emperor Liu Bang was renamed emperor Gaozu. Emperor Gaozu regulated punishments, reduced taxes, and welcomed Confucianism by insuring that it became sanctioned thereby making way for a blend of Confucianism, and Legalism. Later the emperor wanted to improve the quality of his governing officials by having candidates attend his imperial university located in the capital Chang’an. The candidates for government positions were expected to master the curriculum of ethics, and civil conduct, along with combative training. The development of the educational requirements was termed Confucian civil service. Trade became big with western civilization coining the new route for trade as the Silk Road which extended from the Mediterranean Sea to China with its main market being silk which was derived from silk worms. The Han Dynasty was also known for continuing to strengthen the “Great Wall”. The Han Dynasty was so vast that it encompassed nearly 60 Million people. The continual conflicts, civil war, and rulers that did not survive rule for an extended period of time, and disease led to the decline of the Han Dynasty. (Judge, 79-81)(Youtube)(Recordings)

Han Empire (Judge, 79)

Achievements of The Han Dynasty

The Han Dynasty had many achievements to include the trade route Silk Road. The expansion of territory and expansion of vast infrastructure in particular the irrigation project, and strengthening of the “Great Wall” helped the survival of the Han Dynasty. Confucianism also became prominent during the Han Dynasty. Also the mandated education for government officials helped to insure that government positions were held with people who would follow through on the ideology.

Model of Han House (Judge,81)
Created By
Penny Lefert

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