Lesson 1-The Birth of Chinese Civilization
• People in China first settled along the Huang He, or Yellow
River. The Huang He provided early China with rich soil, but
it also often flooded and has cost millions of lives.
• The Chang Jiang, or Yangtze, is another river in China and
the longest river in Asia. Early farmers grew rice along its
• Mountains and deserts cover much of China. The mountains
and deserts limited contact between China and other
• China’s first dynasty was the Shang. Shang kings ruled
China from 1750 b.c. to 1045 b.c. The Shang king was the
political, religious, and military leader.
• Warlords, who ruled territories, and other royal officials
formed an upper class of aristocrats. Most Shang people,
however, were farmers.
• The Shang worshiped many gods. They honored their
ancestors and used oracle bones to seek guidance.
• Early Chinese writing used pictographs and ideographs.
Chinese artists of the time made beautiful objects of bronze.
They made vases and dishes from clay and carved statues
from ivory and jade.
• Wu Wang led a rebellion against the Shang government because the last ruler was a cruel tyrant. The Zhou dynasty followed the Shang. The Zhou ruled for more than 800 years. Zhou kings had strong armies and soon ruled over a larger territory than the Shang.
• Zhou kings claimed that the Mandate of Heaven gave them
the right to rule China. The Mandate of Heaven is the belief
that the Chinese king’s right to rule comes from the gods.
• The period from 400 b.c. to 200 b.c. is known as the “Period
of the Warring States.” This period of time made people look for ways to restore order in China. During this time, aristocrats ignored
the king’s commands and fought with each other.
Lesson 2-Society and Culture in Ancient China
• Between 500 b.c. and 200 b.c., three major philosophies
developed in China: Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism. They all had the same goal: the creation of a well-run and peaceful society.
• Confucius urged people to follow the ways of their
ancestors. He believed people should place the needs of
others above their own needs. According to Confucianism, Husbands and wives should be supportive of eachother.
• Laozi introduced Daoism. Daoism instructs people to free
themselves from worldly desires and live simply. One aim of
Daoism is for people to live in harmony with nature.
• Legalism stressed the importance of laws. Aristocrats
supported Legalism because it emphasized force and did not
require rulers to consider the needs or wishes of their people.
• Early Chinese society was made up of four social classes:
aristocrats, farmers, artisans, and merchants.
• Chinese aristocrats were wealthy. They lived comfortably
and owned large plots of land.
• Most Chinese people were farmers who rented fields from
aristocrats. Farmers had to pay taxes and work one month a
year on government projects. In wartime, they were forced
to serve as soldiers.
• Chinese families practiced filial piety. This means that
children obeyed and respected their parents and took care
of them when they got old. The work done by Chinese
men—farming, fighting wars, and running the government—
was considered more important than the work done by
women. Women’s major responsibility was raising children
and seeing to their education. Women also managed
household affairs and family finances.
Lesson 3-The Qin and the Han Dynasties
• The Qin dynasty came to power in 221 b.c. Qin Shihuangdi,
the founder of the Qin dynasty, ruled China with absolute
power and harsh punishments.
• Shihuangdi Qin sought to unify the country. To accomplish
this, he established a currency that everyone had to use. He
undertook huge building projects, including a canal that
connected central and southern China.
• Qin planned to join and strengthen walls built by earlier
rulers to create a barrier across all of northern China to
keep out invaders.
• The Qin dynasty ended in 206 b.c.
• In 202 b.c. the Han dynasty came to power. The first strong
Han ruler was Han Wudi. In an effort to improve the
government, he instituted an examination system for civil
service workers that in essence favored the rich. The founder of the Han dynasty was a farmer turned soldier. Und the emperor, Han Wudi the practice of the emperor choosing a family member and loyal aristocrats was abolished by the creation of civil service. The Han government created schools for the civil service. The Han empire conquered new territories and peace, literature and the arts grew and flourished. New technology developed which made farming, milling and mining more productive. China’s trade increased largely due to exploration and the creation of the Silk Road.
Han Wudi sent out a general named Zhang Qian to explore areas west of China and as a result China’s trade increased.
• China’s population grew during the Han dynasty. New
technology helped farmers grow more food. During this
time, the arts flourished and the ideas of Confucius gained
• During the Han dynasty, trade expanded. The Silk Road
linked China with its western trading partners. Buddhism
also made its way to China along the Silk Road.
• Many of the emperors who followed Han Wudi were weak
and dishonest. People eventually rebelled against the Han
rulers. By a.d. 220, civil war divided China.
VOCAB. CH 10
Zhou- ruled China longer than any other dynasty
Shang- China’s first dynasty
Han- Dynasty under which culture flourished
Dao-Chinese system of beliefs that describes the way a king must rule
Buddhism- a religion that spread from India to China