World History: Journey Across Time

Chapter 7: Early China

Chapter Overviews

China's first civilization developed in the Huang He valley. The Shang and Zhou dynasties ruled China from about 1750 B.C. to 221 B.C. Chinese rulers claimed they had the Mandate of Heaven. Ancient Chinese society was divided into three distinct social classes: landowning aristocrats, farmers, and merchants. The family was the building block of China's society. The Chinese practiced filial piety, which required that children respect their parents and older relatives. After violence weakened the Zhou kingdom, the three Chinese philosophies of Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism grew out of a need for order.

The Qin dynasty was ruled by a harsh leader who practiced Legalism. Qin Shihuangdi used force to unify China. Accomplishments of the Qin dynasty include a strong central government, creation of a single form of currency, and the construction of roads and a canal. Despite these advancements, the people of China hated Qin Shihuangdi, and four years after his death, they overthrew the dynasty.

The Han dynasty was founded by Liu Bang. Under the Han dynasty, China's empire grew in size and population. Han inventions included the waterwheel, paper, acupuncture, and the rudder. The invention of the rudder allowed the Chinese to travel to the islands of Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean. Chinese merchants also used the Silk Road to transport goods as far as Greece and Rome. After the fall of the Han dynasty, many Chinese began to practice Buddhism to cope with stress and fear.

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