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Chinese Dominance and Dynasties: Analytical Essay

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Throughout the history of the world, powerful kingdoms have existed. These kingdoms included the Chinese dynasties. Within the history of the Chinese dynasties, including the Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Tang, and Song, many created significant cultural markers such as calligraphy and oracle bones under the direction of ruling families, both good and bad. Together, the emperors, inventions, and conflicts are the basic structure of China’s dynasties. The Chinese dynasties are some of the most influential dynasties through their inventions, religion, contributions, and power of their emperors.

Within the history of China, the dynasties mark separate time periods. The first dynasty, the Xia, lasted from 2205 to 1575 BC, and the last dynasty, the Qing, remained from 1644 to 1911. The Xia dynasty is one of the longest lasting and can be considered the basis of Chinese culture. Unfortunately, “The existence of Xia has never been fully proven” (Stentiford). The Shang Dynasty overthrew the Xia empire and were driven to rid all existence of the Xia, if it had existed. With the new dynasty formed, population began to expand in greatly. “Late texts say that at the time of the annihilation of the Shang dynasty, some 3.2 million free men and 1.1 million serfs were captured by the conquerors; this would indicate a population of at least some 4-5 millions” (Eberhard 28). This commodious population resulted from and allowed for success in agricultural techniques and the creation of one of the first recorded writing systems. (cite) The Shang Dynasty prospered with the invention of ink, being the first to do so.

With the development of ink, some of the earliest documents were created and later found. “As early as the Shang period, a water-based soot and gum ink was used across Asia. Also in the Shang period, official seals and stamps used to authenticate documents were made by carving bronze, jade, ivory, gold, and stone in a reverse direction” ( Kagan 252). To the Shang dynasty, texts were considered sacred. At the time, paper had yet to be invented and instead, people wrote on turtle shells, oracle bones, and flat cattle bones. Ancestors were also considered in high regard, so much of the ink created was used by the royals for tablets for their graves. “Tablets bearing the ancestors’ names were kept in front of temples, and every royal event was announced aloud in the temples to inform the ancestors. These tablets were thought to contain the souls of the ancestors” (Xiao). The honoring of these ancestors was an important component of their religion.

The belief in polytheism characterized the main religion of the time period. The Shang dynasty existed in a time prior to the development of Buddhism and Hinduism or were not popular enough to have been spread. Instead, the Shang celebrated many deities, mainly in connection to nature. “The Chinese had spirit gods that represented things found in nature, from specific mountains and streams to stars in the sky. There were also two gods of the earth, “the God of Soil,” and “Sovereign Earth”…who served under Ti. Ti was in charge of all gods and spirits…” (McGill). With these deities came sacrifices. The Shang made both human and food sacrifices, which sometime depended on the god being celebrated. Most human sacrifices were not people living within the Shang Dynasty; instead they were often enemies from other lands. “Consequently, in the Shang realm and the regions surrounding it, there were many sorts of human sacrifices; often the victims were prisoners of war” (Eberhard 30).

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War was a constant fixture in ancient time periods, even for China, which had a time period of constant battles dubbed “The Warring States Era.” Throughout the Shang Dynasty, thirty emperors reigned until the end of the dynasty in 1050 B.C., and each were able to win most of the wars. Though many of the emperors brought great achievements to the military, the first emperor, Cheng Tang, did the most during his reign. Not only was he the first emperor of Shang, he also was the conqueror of the last emperor of the Xia dynasty and created the basis of Chinese civilization. “The Shang people built China’s first cities. Among their many accomplishments was the production of some of the finest bronze work of ancient China”(Jacobs et. al 141). As a result of Cheng Tang’s firm foundation, his successors made the Shang dynasty prosper until their fall to the Zhou, six hundred years later. Around 1,369 years after the Shang dynasty’s fall, the Han dynasty began in 206 B.C.

The Han dynasty is one of the most well-known and contributional of the all dynasties. “In fact, the Han dynasty’s influence on Chinese civilization was so great, to this day, the main population of China still calls itself the Han people” (Ramírez et. al 224). During this time period, China’s trade with other countries prospered as silk became more in demand and ultimately prompted the Silk Road. The Silk Road introduced foreign products which would assist in China’s new inventions. “The Han Chinese are also credited with many inventions , including paper, the sundial, the ship’s rudder, and the seismograph to measure earthquake tremors” (M.P.). Another Han creation was the wheelbarrow, and with the majority of China’s trade relying on silk, this invention helped immensely. Unlike the Shang dynasty, the Han dynasty no longer followed a simple animistic religion of celebrating that all things in nature had souls. Instead, the Han, having acquired power after the rise of Confucianism. focused not on the souls of beings but on teachings regarding society and the proper treatment of others. “In many of his teachings he [Confucius] tried to persuade rulers to reform. He also hoped to bring peace, stability, and prosperity to China’s kingdoms” (Jacobs et. al 148). This could be one reason why the Han dynasty had many great rulers. Under Confucius’ teachings, the Han people prospered in social structure especially, as stated before, in trade. Other than trade, the Mandate of Heaven was at its peak of use throughout the dynasty. “The Mandate of Heaven supported a leader’s right to rule his people.” (Jacobs et. al 141).

The Mandate of Heaven was the belief that fate decided who the emperor was and determined the level of greatness. At the time, priests were mediators between sacred beings and humans, and the Han believed in the priests to reveal the choice of the sacred beings.Under the belief of Confucianism, many prominent emperors rose into power in the Han dynasty. The most notable Han emperor, Wudi ruled from 141 to 87 BC and made the dynasty reach its height of success. “To strengthen China, Wudi promoted economic growth. . . to raise money, Wudi set up monopolies on salt, iron, and alcohol” (Ramírez et. al 226). Wudi also improved the state of towns and cities by creating better roads and bridges. Along with government based advancements, he also expanded the Chinese empire. “Wudi expanded the Chinese empire through warfare. As a result, he became known as the Martial Emperor”(Ramírez et. al 226). As a result of his successful reign, Wudi set the precedent for the other emperors who followed. The dynastic era sparked numerous advancements by the Chinese. Even though these developments occurred in various dynasties, they are a source of pride for the Chinese overall.

The Han Dynasty had many achievements in art, science, and technology. “One of the most important Han inventions was an item still used every day-paper” (Ramírez et. al 232). Other than the Han or Shang dynasties, the Qin dynasty started the creation of the Great Wall under the ruler, Shi Huangdi. Though the wall was unable to prevent the invasion of the Mongols, it is known as one of the most iconic landmarks today. Also under Shi Huangdi’s command, the Terracotta soldiers were formed to protect him in the afterlife. “With his underground army, Shi Huangdi had planned to rule a second empire in the afterlife” (Jacobs et. al 151). Huangdi’s grave had many other items from his era which helped archaeologists to understand more about ancient China’s developments. Overall, China’s vast dynastic periods are arguably among the most influential and prosperous. Chinese inventions, military strength, and territorial expansions were some of the the most dominant in the world prior to the mid-1800s A.D., especially in the Eastern hemisphere. Over the course of time, many emperors have risen and fallen during their reigns, yet many of their contributions have been timeless, laying the foundation for today’s Chinese communist government. Each emperor and family may have had a specific, personal agenda; however, their collective accomplishments left a legacy of pride and accomplishments for all Chinese people.

Works Cited

  1. Eberhard, Wolfram. A History of China. Project Gutenberg E-book #11367. 28 Feb. 2004. Accessed 29 April 2019.
  2. Jacobs, Heidi H, et al. World Studies: The Ancient World . Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. Accessed 2 May 2019.
  3. Kagan, Donald, et al. The Western Heritage. Tenth ed., vol. 1, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010.
  4. M. P. “The Han Dynasty.” Dig, vol. 13, no. 9, Nov. 2011, p. 14. EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 April 2019.
  5. McGill, Sara Ann. “Ancient Chinese Religion.” Ancient Chinese Religion, Aug. 2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 April 2019.
  6. Ramírez Susan E., et al. World History: Human Legacy. Holt, Rinehart, & Winston,2008. Accessed 2 May 2019.
  7. Stentiford, Barry M. “Xia Dynasty.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2018. EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 April 2019.
  8. Xiao, Hong. “Shang Dynasty.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2016. EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 April 2019.

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Chinese Dominance and Dynasties: Analytical Essay. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
“Chinese Dominance and Dynasties: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
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