Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Mr. Dowling's Electronic Passport
Chinese History

Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion
From at least 1766BC to this century, China was ruled by dynasties. A dynasty is a ruling family that passes control from one generation to the next. One dynasty lasted more than 800 years, while another lasted only fifteen years. The Chinese people supported their rulers because of what they called the Mandate of Heaven. The ancient Chinese believed their ancestors in heaven had chosen their leaders. The people would rebel against a weak leader because they believed he had lost the Mandate of Heaven.
The Shang was the first dynasty to leave written records. The Shang rulers expanded the borders of their kingdom to include all of the land between Mongolia and the Pacific Ocean. The Shang practiced human sacrifice. If a king died, many of his slaves would join him in the grave. Some were beheaded first, others were buried alive. The Shang also developed a lunar calendar consisting of twelve months of 30 days each. When a Shang king died, his next oldest brother replaced him. When there were no brothers, the oldest maternal nephew became king.
The Chou were nomads who lived west of the Shang. They overthrew the Shang and ruled China from 1122BC to 253BC. The Chou learned how to extract iron from rocks and they used the metal to create powerful weapons.
The Chou developed a feudal system in China. The rulers appointed nobles to divide land into smaller units for families. The families were loyal to the nobles and the nobles were loyal to the Chou rulers. The Chou rulers taxed their subjects, but they used the money well. They built huge walls around their cities to defend them from nomadic warriors. They also built roads, irrigation systems, and dams.
The Chou dynasty ended slowly as nobles became more powerful. The period that followed became known as the Age of Warring States. It was during this period that a great teacher named Confucius tried to develop good government. Eventually, the Ch'in state managed to unify China by 221BC. A group known as the Legalists influenced the Ch'in Dynasty. The Ch'in rulers clearly explained and strictly enforced laws. They standardized weights and measures and carried out irrigation projects. They also gave peasant farmers the land they lived on. The West first learned of China during the Chi'in dynasty. It is from Ch'in that we get the word China.

China grew into a powerful empire during the Han Dynasty, between 202BC and AD220. Scholars trained in the teachings of Confucius ran the government with great skill. During the Han Dynasty, the Chinese invented paper, writers recorded the history of their land, and the Chinese first learned of Buddhism.
The last Chinese dynasty to rule came from Manchuria, in northeast China. The Manchus were unable to stop other nations from interfering with China. The British defeated China in the Opium Wars. They seized Hong Kong, but more importantly, the British forced the government to allow them to sell a dangerous drug called opium to the Chinese people. Japan seized the island of Formosa, which later became known as Taiwan. By the turn of the century, foreigners had overrun China. Parts of China were ruled by the British, French, American, German, Russian, and Japanese forces. The Chinese people believed that the Manchus had lost the Mandate of Heaven. They began to support a group known as the Nationalists, who pledged to free China from foreign rule. The Nationalists had driven out the last of the Manchu rulers, a six year old boy, by 1911.
c. 2200-1766BC Most historians believed the Hsia to be a mythical dynasty, but recent archaeological findings have verified their existence.
1766- c.1040BC Excavations have confirmed descriptions in ancient Chinese literature of a highly developed culture. The Shang Dynasty was distinguished by an aristocratic government, great artistry in bronze, a writing system still in use today, an agricultural economy, and armies of thousands whose commanders rode in chariots.
c.1040BC- 256BC The semi-nomadic Chou people from northwestern China overthrew the Shang king. The Chou court developed a feudal society in China.
221BC-206BC The Legalists strengthened state power and control over the people. Weights and measures, and the Chinese writing system were unified. Chinese defenses were strengthened by creating the Great Wall.
206BC-AD220 The Han Dynasty is often compared to the Roman Empire. It is considered the "Golden Age of Chinese History." Today the Chinese word for Chinese person means "a man of Han."
589-618 The Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties were quite similar. The short-lived Sui dynasty reunified China after four hundred years of fragmentation.
960-1279 Li Yuan was a Sui general who founded the Tang Dynasty, the largest, wealthiest, and most populous in the world at that time. The Tang based their laws on based on Confucian thought.
1279-1368 The Song Dynasty continued the flowering of Chinese culture.
Yuan (Mongol)
1279-1368 Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty after his Mongol tribes defeated China. The Yuan encouraged Europeans to travel overland to China; Marco Polo was the most famous of the early Europeans to make the journey.
1368-1644 Founded by a Buddhist monk who led a peasant army to victory over the Mongols.
Qing (Manchu)
1644-1911 Founded by conquerors from Manchuria in 1644, the Qing was the last imperial dynasty of China. When it was overthrown in 1911, China became a republic.

Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

Confucius was a sage, or a very wise man. He was not well known when he was alive, but today he is the most remembered person from ancient China. Confucius was born in 551BC, in a period of Chinese history known as the Age of Warring States. China was divided into many small kingdoms. The kings fought each other and were often cruel to the people they ruled. Confucius understood that there could be peace and justice under a good government. But he knew that good government was only possible when there were good leaders.
Confucius was concerned with how people treat one another. Confucius said, "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others." He stressed that any person, rich or poor, could become superior. The Chinese word jen refers to the kindness and love each person should have for all others and for nature. Confucius taught that the person who develops jen becomes superior. Confucius taught that government officials should earn their jobs through education and talent. They should not use family connections to get their positions, as many Chinese people of his time did. Many years after Confucius died, China set up an examination system. Students had to show they read and wrote well. They also had to know about Confucius and his philosophy.
Confucius believed that society functioned best if everyone respected laws and behaved according to their positions. He taught that parents were superior to children, men superior to women, and rulers superior to subjects. He believed that society functioned best if every person respected laws and behaved according to his or her position. Confucius said, "Let the ruler rule as he should and the minister be a minister as he should. Let the father act as the father should and the son act as the son should."
Despite his obscure life, Confucius left an amazing legacy. A legacy is something handed down from the past. Confucius never wrote down his philosophy, but he made an enormous impact on many people. His students compiled a book known as the Analects after Confucius died. The Analects became the model for official and personal behavior for many Chinese people. The teachings of Confucius remained an important part of Chinese education until the Communist Revolution in 1945.

Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion
http://www.mrdowling.com/613 confucius.html http://www.mrdowling.com/613
The Legalists
Confucius believed that people are good, but a group of scholars known as the Legalists had a different view. The Legalists believed that man would look out for himself first and was therefore evil. Like Confucius, the Legalists wanted to unify China, but they wanted to do it very differently. They believed that society functioned best through strong state control and absolute obedience to authority. They created laws that ordered strict punishments and rewards for behavior. The Legalists believed that all human activity should be directed toward increasing the power of the ruler and the government. Confucius believed in virtue and natural order; the Legalists held power by suppressing anyone who disagreed with them.
The Legalists ruled China for about fifteen years. The ruler of the Ch’in state embraced the Legalist philosophy and united all of China about 214BC. He took the title Hwang-ti, which means August Lord or First Emperor, and began the Ch’in Dynasty. To stop any criticism, Shih Huang-ti and the Legalists banned all books on history and of classics glorifying past rulers. The First Emperor ordered all "non-essential" books collected and burned, and hundreds of scholars put to death. He allowed only books on agriculture, medicine and pharmacy. Books written about Confucius and his philosophy were destroyed. The Legalists lost power shortly after the death of the First Emperor, and the succeeding rulers ended laws against books. Confucius’ teaching managed to survive the Burning of the Books because his philosophy was often handed down orally from master to student; thus it was possible to reconstruct the texts from memory and preserved manuscripts.
Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

Chinese History



Mr. Dowling's Electronic Passport
Chinese History

Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

The Great Wall
The nomadic people to the north of China were known as Mongols. Their raids into China caused a great deal of destruction. In 214BC, Shih Haung-ti connected a number of existing defensive walls into a single system fortified by watchtowers in order to keep out the Mongols. Gates through the wall became centers of trade and contact with the northern nomads. Ironically, the Ming Dynasty fell to Manchu invaders from northeast China when a traitor opened a gate in the wall.
Later rulers made the wall stronger and longer. Today the Great Wall of China stretches more than 1,500 miles. The wall is generally twenty-five feet high with forty-foot towers. It is wide enough for wagons to pass each other in opposite directions. If the wall began in Miami, Florida, it might end in Boston, Massachusetts, Des Moines, Iowa, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, or San Antonio, Texas. Many people believe that the Great Wall of China can be seen from the moon without a telescope, in fact, a question in the game Trivial Pursuit says as much. Astronaut Alan Bean has been on the moon. He said:
"The only thing you can see from the moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white (clouds), some blue (ocean), patches of yellow (deserts), and every once in a while some green vegetation. No man-made object is visible on this scale. In fact, when first leaving earth's orbit and only a few thousand miles away, no man-made object is visible at that point either."
Quoted in More Misinformation (1980)
Malcolm Yapp (Greenhaven Press, Inc.).

The Great Wall is very long, it is no wider than a highway. It can been seen from high in the air, even from orbit, but not from the moon.
Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

Chinese History

To cite this page:
Dowling, Mike., "The Electronic Passport to the Great Wall of China," available from http://www.mrdowling.com/613-greatwall.html; Internet; updated Tuesday, April 30, 2002 11:57 PM
©2008, Mike Dowling. All rights reserved.

The Mongols
The ancient Chinese called their land Chung-Kuo, which means "Middle Kingdom." The believed they were at the center of the world, and that the people who lived north of Chung-Kuo were uncivilized. This is not hard to understand when you compared the advanced civilization of ancient China to the nomadic Mongols who lived on the dry land north of the Great Wall.
Much of the land north of the Great Wall is steppe. Steppe is mostly treeless flat grassland that is unsuitable for agriculture. The tribes who lived on the steppe eventually became known as the Mongols. They maintained herds of sheep, goats, and cattle.
The Mongols believed that water was a live spirit and that it would be sinful to pollute it. They did not wash their clothes or bodies because they believed it would anger their gods. They were terrified of rain and thunder. A Russian solder who traveled to Mongolia in the nineteenth century described the Mongols this way:
"The first things that strikes the traveler in the life of the Mongol is his excessive dirtiness: He never washes his body and very seldom his face and hands. Owing to his constant dirt, his clothing swarms with parasites, which he amuses himself by killing in the most unceremonious way. It is a common sight to see a Mongol open his sheepskin or kaftan to catch an offending insect and to execute him on the spot between his front teeth. The uncleanness and dirt amidst which they live is partly attributable to their dislike, almost amounting to dread, of water…"
Quoted in Chingis Khan and the Mongol Empire, by Malcolm Yapp (Greenhaven Press, Inc.).

Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

Chinese History

Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan
Genghis Khan was one of the world’s greatest conquerors. He was born in AD1167, the son of a minor chief in what is now eastern Mongolia, and was originally given the name Temujin. Temujin united the nomadic tribes of Mongolia in a disciplined military state. He became known as Genghis Khan, or "Universal Ruler."
In 1207, Genghis Khan led the Mongols on the first of many destructive, bloody invasions. Nobody knows exactly how many people were slaughtered by his destructive raids, by even the most conservative estimates suggest several million people died. Ganghis Khan never learned how to read, but his success as a ruler resulted from his superior military organization, strategy and mobility.
Genghis Kahn’s grandson, Kublai Khan, conquered China. Kublai Khan moved his capital to the city now known as Beijing in 1271. He probably did not know how to speak Chinese, but he took the Chinese name Yuan for his dynasty. The Yuan was the only foreign dynasty to rule all of China. At its height, the Mongol empire stretched from Korea to Hungary and as far south as Vietnam. It was the largest empire the world has ever known. The Mongols are remembered mostly for their ferocious military force, but they improved the road system linking China with Russia and promoted trade throughout the empire and with Europe.
After Kublai Khan died in 1294, the Mongols became less warlike. They were resented as an elite, privileged class exempt from taxation. Several natural disasters and a peasant rebellion caused the Mandate of Heaven to shift to a Buddhist peasant, Hung-wu. Hung-wu expelled over 60,000 Mongols and began the Ming Dynasty.

The Land of Genghis Khan -- National Geographic profiled the Universal Leader of the Mongols in December, 1996 and February, 1997. The Internet version of the article is fascinating! Note that National geographic refers to the tents the Mongols live in as gers. I used the term yerts. They are the same word. Yert is the more common spelling, but either is acceptable.
Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion
The Silk Road
China and the west first became aware of one another in the second century BC. Chinese traders exchanged silks, tea, furs, and spices for gold, silver, precious stones, glass, ivory, horses, and wool. The primary trade route between China and the west was the Silk Road, a 4,000-mile caravan route through South Asia and the Middle East. The Silk Road was also a route for the exchange of information and ideas. Buddhism traveled from the Indian subcontinent to China by the Silk Road.
Very few people traveled the entire legnth of the Silk Road. Goods passed from one trader to another in short segments. Trade resembled a chain, with each trader and segment of the trade route representing a link in the trade. The Silk Road was often very dangerous to travel. Muslim Turks seized much of the land along the Silk Road in the tenth century. Mongol armies used the Silk Road in the thirteenth century to expand their empire. The Silk Road lost its importance after Vaco daGama circumnavigated Africa to find a water route to India. It then became easier to travel between Europe and China by sea.

Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

Chinese History

Marco Polo
China and Europe were strangers in AD1265. The Himalaya Mountains and the Gobi Desert were natural boundaries that were difficult to cross. Niccolo and Maffeo Polo were two Italian merchants from Venice. They made the five year journey along the Silk Road to China. The Polos met emperor Kublai Khan, who was fascinated by their stories of their homeland.
The brothers returned to Venice and set out on a second journey to China in 1271. They were accompanied by Marco Polo, Nicolo's seventeen year old son. They encountered Persians, Turks, Mongols, and many other cultures before reaching China in 1274.
Kublai Khan was delighted by the return of the Polos and employed them for the next seventeen years. Kublai Khan was a Mongol. He mistrusted the Chinese people and was more comfortable with the Polos, who, like himself, were foreigners.
The Polos worked for Kublai Kahn for seventeen years, but wanted to return home. Kublai Khan was nearing eighty years old and his death might have been dangerous for a small group of isolated foreigners. A Mongol princess was about to be sent by sea to become the bride of Arghum Khan, a Persian prince who lived in the modern nation of Iran. The Polos offered to accompany the princess, and Kublai Khan Khan granted his permission for the Italians to accompany her on their way home to Venice.
The Polos sailed south aboard fourteen ships with six hundred people aboard. The fleet stopped on the island of Sumatra for five months to avoid monsoon storms. Marco noticed that on Sumatra, the North Star seemed to have dipped below the horizon. We now know that this is because they were in the Southern Hemisphere. When they reached their destination, they learned that Arghum Khan has died, so they gave the princess to his son. The Polos finally returned to Venice in 1295, but not before they were robbed of most of their possessions while in Turkey.

Soon after the Polos returned home, Venice went to war with the rival city-state of Genoa. Genoa captured Marco Polo and sent him to prison. There he met Rustichello, a popular writer of romance stories. Marco reported his twenty-five year Asian adventure to his fellow prisoner. Their combined work became one of the most influential books in history, the Description of the World, now known more commonly as the Adventures of Marco Polo.
The Description of the World was written before the invention of the printing press, so copies were made by hand. The book delighted its readers and stimulated interest in China. Christopher Columbus owned a copy and studied it closely before beginning his journey in 1492 to what he thought would be China. Some observers saw Marco Polo as an astute observer with a keen memory. Others argue that Marco Polo made up his stories based on gossip and stories he heard. Marco failed to mention the Great Wall of China, tea, or the Chinese practice of binding the feet of women. Kublai Khan's records make no mention of the Polos. As an old man, Marco was asked if he invented the stories in his book. His answer was that he barely told half of what he actually knew.
Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

Chinese History

The Opium Wars
From 1839 to 1842, China fought what we now call the "Opium Wars" with Britain. There are many ways to look at a problem. Here are two views of the situation from the perspective of the Chinese and the British:
China is a very old country with ideals that have lasted more than two thousand years. The Chinese people were satisfied with their way of life and had little interest in the nations of the Western Hemisphere.
Tea, grown in China, had become a very popular drink in Great Britain. China would have rather not traded with the British at all, but they were willing to sell the British tea only if they used the port in Canton. They were willing not allow western ideas in their society.
The British decided they needed to "balance their trade." That means that they must buy and sell to China, not just buy. They decided to sell Opium.
Opium is a drug grown in India. Opium is used to make morphine and heroin. The Chinese government outlawed the import of Opium because of the debilitating effects of the drug and because of the silver leaving China to pay for it.
In 1838, China ruled that anyone dealing in Opium would be put to death. Shortly after that, government official began to destroy any opium coming into their land. Western Civilization has grown and prospered in the past millennium because of trade.
The Chinese government attempted to keep their people from finding out how advanced the rest of the world was. They allowed the British access only to the port in Canton. That made it impossible for their people experience new ideas.
Tea from China had become the national drink of Britain. The Chinese rulers were making a great profit by selling tea, but they were unwilling to allow the Chinese people to buy products they wanted from the British.
Opium is a medicine grown in India. It is used to relieve pain, help with sleeplessness, and reduce hunger and thirst. It is true that opium can be dangerous, but the British felt the rulers in China had no right to keep opium from their people.
In 1838, Chinese officials confiscated and destroyed the opium held by foreign firms and refused to pay compensation.
The Opium War lasted from 1839 to 1842. The British firepower was far and China faced a humiliating defeat. The governments signed a peace treaty that allowed the British to use five ports instead of one. The Chinese also lost control of the important island of Hong Kong. Eventually, China was also forced to legalize the selling of opium.
The treaty that ended the Opium War was the first of many "unequal treaties" with the west. It began a century of invasion and humiliation for a very proud nation.
Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

The Taiping Rebellion
The Qing Dynasty ruled China for over 250 years, but they were not always strong leaders. The Qing were unable to stop foreigners from taking over parts of the empire. They also had to withstand the Taiping Rebellion, a civil war that cost over twenty million lives and permanently weakened the dynasty.
The rebellion began in southeast China, a region that never fully accepted the Qing, who came from Manchuria in northeast China. Hong Xiuquan had learned of Christianity from missionaries. In 1843, when he failed his examination for a government job for the fourth time, Hong exploded in rage at the Manchu domination of China. He read a translated version of the Christian Bible, which told the story of how a chosen group of people rebelled against their rulers with God's help. The stories seemed to explain visions Hong had during an earlier mental illness. Hong came to believe that he was the Son of God and the younger brother of Jesus. His mission on earth was to rid China of evil influences. They included Manchus, Taoists, Buddhists, and Confucians. Hong's religion combined traditional Chinese ideas with half-understood Christianity.
Many famine-stricken peasants, workers, and miners were attracted to the new faith. The converts believed that God ordered them to destroy Manchu rule and set up a new Christian brotherhood. A small group of believers grew to more than one million disciplined, zealous soldiers. In 1851, Hong proclaimed a new dynasty, the Taiping, which means "Great Peace," and assumed the title "Heavenly King." Two years later, the Taiping army captured Nanking, a large city in central China.
Leadership rivalries weakened the rebellion. Hong's top general, an illiterate former coal burner named Yang, plotted to overthrow him. Hong ordered the general of his northern army, Wei, to assassinate Yang. When Hong decided that Wei had become too powerful, he ordered his assassination as well. The soldiers who killed Wei feared for their own lives, so they abandoned the rebellion and escaped to western China.
Local warlords led by Tseng Kuo-fan and adventurers from America and Britain combined to surround Nanking in 1862. When they defeated the city two years later, more than 100,000 rebels, including Hong, committed suicide rather than face capture.
The Qing Dynasty was so weakened by the rebellion that they lost control of many parts of China to local warlords. Both the Chinese Nationalists and the Communists, two groups that later ruled the nation, claimed to have been inspired by the Taiping Rebellion.
Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion

The Boxer Rebellion
Throughout the nineteenth century, foreigners took control of China and forced the people to make humiliating concessions. Italy, Japan, and Russia all claimed exclusive trading rights to certain parts of China. They divided the nation into "spheres of influence" where they had exclusive trading rights. The United States proposed an "Open Door Policy" where all nations would share China.
A secret society in northern China began a campaign of terror against Christian missionaries and Chinese converts. Foreigners called them "Boxers" because they practiced martial arts and calisthenic rituals. The Boxers believed they had magical powers and that the bullets could not harm them. The society wanted to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and expel all foreigners and foreign influences.
The empress dowager publicly opposed the Boxers, but her ministers quietly convinced them to join forces in order to drive foreigners from China. In the early months of 1900, thousands of Boxers roamed the countryside, attacking Christians. When an international force of 2,100 soldiers attempted to land in China, the empress dowager ordered her imperial army to stop the foreign troops. Throughout the summer of 1900 the Boxers burned churches and foreign residences and killed Chinese Christians on sight.
The allied foreigners sent in 19,000 more troops and captured Beijing on August 14. Beijing was looted, many Chinese people were tortured, raped, killed. The foreign powers forced China to agree to a treaty that allowed foreign nations to station troops in Beijing.
Dynasty | Confucius | The Legalists | The Great Wall | The Mongols
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan | The Silk Road | Marco Polo
The Opium Wars | The Taipang Rebellion | The Boxer Rebellion



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