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Istoria temprana de Xina
Dr. C. George Boeree


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Around 1500 bc, we see the rise of the semi-mythological Shang dynasty. This was a feudal kingdom that dominated the Yellow River basin, and established a number of small cities, most of which were in what is now Henan province. It is during the Shang dynasty that Chinese symbolic writing was developed by the dynasty priests.

In about 1000 bc, we see a new dynasty - called the western Chou - centered in Loyang, also in what is now the Henan province. It consisted of many smaller feudal kingdoms with allegiance to a "head king" or emperor. Much of their cohesiveness was due to the constant need to defend themselves against the surrounding barbarians.

The eastern Chou dynasty began in 770 bc. This period was marked not only by constant warfare with the barbarians, but considerable warfare amongst the various parts of China as well. Culturally, peasants became more valued in this period (due to their importance in warfare), and the merchant class became more important. It is this period that saw the introduction of money.

During this dynasty, some of the most significant philosophers made their appearance. Confucius (551 to 479 bc) introduced a philosophy that combined ethics with religious traditions, a philosophy that would dominate Chinese political structure until the 20th century.

At about the same time, we also see Laotze introducing a more sophisticated version of traditional nature worship called Taoism, in one of the greatest books ever written, the Tao te Ching. While Confucianism would be the formal philosophy of the high court, Taoism would eventually profoundly influence the Buddhism introduced later.

From 403 to 221 bc, China was split into a number of warring states. In 221 bc, the Ch'in dynasty established its rule. Ch'in was a border state to the west of the previous centers of Chinese civilization, and we get the name China from their dynasty. The Ch'in established a highly centralized state, along the same lines as the Roman Empire, and standardized measurements, weights, and money. It was also during this time that construction of the Great Wall began, in an effort to keep out the Huns -- the same people that would threaten Rome not too much later.

From 206 bc to 9 ad, we see the western Han dynasty. Han was a kingdom just south of the Chou kingdom, again in what is now Henan. The Han dynasty defeated the Huns in approximately 100 bc (sending them on their way towards Europe) and expanded their territory to the west. They also established the famous Silk Roads - routes to the Middle East used for trade with Persia, Rome, and India.

From 25 to 220 ad, the eastern Han dynasty took over, and oversaw a great flowering of their civilization. Trade with Rome and others in silk and porcelain was booming. Paper was invented about 100 ad, and Buddhism began to make inroads from northwestern India and Greek kingdom of Bactria (part of what is now Afghanistan), on the Silk Roads.

From 220, we have the period of three kingdoms, followed by a period where China was divided into seperate northern and southern empires. The north was invaded by a combination of Huns and Turkish tribes, while the south went through a series of dynastic changes. In 379 ad Mahayana Buddhism became the official religion (living in harmony with Confucianism and blending with Taoism),

China was reunified in 581 under the Sui dynasty, whose policies were taken over in 617 by the T'ang dynasty. Notable during this period, the written exam system of civil service became established in 606 ad. This system would continue until the communists took over in 1951. The T'ang dynasty lasted until 907.

The 900's was a period of rapid dynastic turnover, and we see a reversal of the fortunes of the Buddhists, who were actively persecuted. In 960, the northern Sung dynasty provided stability, although only by paying tribute to the Mongols. The southern Sung took over from 1127 until 1279, still paying tribute to the Mongols, but overseeing a second renaissance of culture and economics. During this period, the Chinese language was codified by Chu Hsi (1131 - 1200), literature, painting, and porcelain flourished, and both printing and gunpowder were invented.

In 1196, Genghis Khan became the supreme ruler of the Mongols and their Turkish and Tartar allies, and proceeded to lead them into China, taking Beijing in 1215. At the same time, he sent his troops west as far as Poland and Hungary. When he died in 1227, his empire was split into several smaller units ruled by his various sons. The Mongols would continue to rule the steppes well into the 1400's, Ivan III finally liberating Moscow in 1480!

Marco Polo, a Venetian adventurer, visited China during this period, and brought back stories of wealth that would make Chinese goods nearly as sought after as they had been during the Roman Empire. Sadly, in 1325, China suffered from one of it's greatest famines, which killed 8 million out of its 45 million population.

In 1368, the Mongols were driven out of China, and the Ming dynasty begins. It had a strong contralized government founded on solid Confucian principles. The capital was moved to Beijing in 1421, where it would remain until the present day. The Great Wall was extended to 2450 km (about 1500 miles).

The Ming dynasty oversaw another renaissance, with novels, maps, great architecture, porcelain, and a new medical technique we call acupuncture. On the other hand, they didn't want too much to do with the world beyond the empire: European trade was limited to the Portuguese colony of Macao.

From 1644 all the way to 1911, China was again ruled by "barbarians," this time the Manchu from the northeast of China. The Manchus, being of limited numbers, were anxious to use the existing structures of Chinese bureaucracy and blended themselves with the native population as much as possible. In fact, they saw the greatest population growth in history and expanded the empire to its present extent. At first, they encouraged trade with the Europeans, but later would close the empire to foreign trade. As we know, the Europeans are rarely detered when such a vast market looms on the horizon, and the colonial empires - especially the British - would chip away at the glory that had been China.

© Direto de autor, C. George Boeree, 2001

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