This week I will be talking a lot about China. If all you know about China is that they make everything in the store except food, take a minute to catch up on the history of this fascinating country. If you have time read the full article from Wikipedia. If not, at least read the excerpts and summary below:
China is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, consisting of states and cultures dating back more than 6000 years. It has the world’s longest continuously used written language system, and is the source of such major inventions as paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.
Ancient China was one of the earliest centers of human civilization. Chinese civilization was also one of the few to invent writing independently, the others being Mesopotamia, Indus Valley Civilization, Maya Civilization, Ancient Greece (Minoan Civilization), and Ancient Egypt.
The first unified Chinese state was established by the Qin Dynasty in 221 BCE, when the office of the Emperor was set up and the Chinese language was forcibly standardized. This state did not last long, as its legalist policies soon led to widespread rebellion.
Note: The pronunciation of “Qin” is similar to “Chin”, which is considered the possible root of the word “China”. English and many other languages use various forms of the name “China” and the prefix “Sino-” or “Sin-“. These forms are thought to derive from the name of the Qin Dynasty.
The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BCE and 220 CE, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace that would last to the present day. The Han Dynasty expanded China’s territory considerably with military campaigns reaching Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Central Asia, and also helped establish the Silk Road in Central Asia.
During the next 1700 years China developed a fascinating and technologically advanced culture. They were hundreds of years ahead of the West in technology, art, and science. During this time, Europe benefited greatly by adopting many of these technologies, and China suffered greatly from western influence. The Opium Wars and subsequent civil wars and rebellions tore China apart.
On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China was established, heralding the end of the Qing Dynasty. Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party), was proclaimed provisional president of the republic. However, the presidency was latter given to Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general, who had ensured the defection of the entire Beiyang Army from the Qing Empire to the revolution.
After Yuan Shikai’s death in 1916, China was politically fragmented, with an internationally recognized, but virtually powerless, national government seated in Peking (modern day Beijing). Warlords in various regions exercised actual control over their respective territories. In the late 1920s, the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, was able to reunify the country under its own control, moving the nation’s capital to Nanking (modern day Nanjing) and implementing one-party rule by the Kuomintang.
The Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945 (part of World War II) forced an uneasy alliance between the Nationalists and the Communists. With the surrender of Japan in 1945, China emerged victorious but financially drained. The continued distrust between the Nationalists and the Communists led to the resumption of the Chinese Civil War. In 1947, constitutional rule was established, but because of the ongoing Civil War many provisions of the ROC constitution were never implemented on the mainland.
After its victory in the Chinese Civil War, the Communist Party of China, led by Mao Zedong, gained control of most of the Mainland China. On October 1, 1949, they established the People’s Republic of China, laying claim as the successor state of the ROC. The central government of the Chinese Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek was forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan that it had occupied at the end of World War II and moved the ROC government there. Major armed hostilities ceased in 1950 but no peace treaty has been signed.
I feel like I just summarized the history of western culture without mentioning Rome, but this is already longer than most people will read. If you made it this far, Thank you! You now know more about China than most Westerners.
Later this week I will cover modern events, culture and geography, and languages. If you have any questions about China this week, leave a comment here or contact me directly.