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China's Timeline

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about 1766 BC

The Shang dynasty ruled a kingdom centered in the Huang He valley.

about 1027 BC

The Zhou (Chou) people overthrew the Shang dynasty and set up their own dynasty. The weak central government was supported by semi-independent eastern warlords.

about 500 BC

Confucius advanced a revolutionary new system of ideas and values. His philosophy guided China for over 2000 years and remains influential today.

221-206 BC

The Qin (Ch’in) dynasty founded a tradition of a strong central government. The Great Wall of China was begun.


The Sui dynasty completed a canal between the Yangtze valley and northern China, which later became part of the Grand Canal. The canal helped unify the country after several centuries of disorder and upheaval.


Chinese culture enjoyed another renaissance under the Tang (T’ang) dynasty. Xi’an, the Tang capital, was the largest city in the world, with over one million residents.


After a struggle for power, the Song (Sung) dynasty reunified China. The Song rulers institutionalized neo-Confucianism and implemented civil service examinations.


Mongols conquered all of China. Kublai Kahn established the Yuan dynasty.


The Venetian trader Marco Polo visited China.


The Mongols were driven from China. Following Mongol rule, the Ming dynasty developed a distaste for all foreign cultures.


The Manchus founded the Qing (Ch’ing) dynasty, but retained the Ming system of government.


Chinese attempts to halt illegal opium smuggling by Europeans led to China’s defeat in the Opium War. Great Britain gained Hong Kong and increased trading rights in China.


Millions of Chinese died during the Taiping Rebellion.


Secret societies and nationalist groups attacked Westerners during the Boxer Rebellion. Western armies crushed the rebellion.


The last Qing emperor was removed from the throne, and the Republic of China was established.


Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists defeated Communists and northern warlords to reunite China.


Mao Zedong led Chinese Communists on the Long March to northern China, where they regrouped from a series of defeats to Nationalist forces.


The Japanese army attacked China. Japan controlled most of eastern China by the next year.


Following a united effort to defeat Japan, the Communists and Nationalists renewed their civil war.


The People’s Republic of China was established. The Nationalist government withdrew to the island of Taiwan.


The Cultural Revolution caused widespread economic and social upheaval in China.


Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai both died. Deng Xiaoping began his rise to power the following year.


China and Great Britain signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration outlining the terms by which the British territory of Hong Kong, located on China’s southern border, will be returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.


Portugal agreed to return its territory of Macau, located near Hong Kong, to China in 1999.


Hundreds of students protesting for greater democracy were massacred in and around Tian’an Men (Tiananmen) Square in Beijing.


China conducted military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, increasing tensions with Taiwan.