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Chinese Emperor With Bird

Chinese Emperor With Bird


Kings and Emperors of the Chinese Dynasties > Chinese Dynasties

Dynasties ruled China until 1911. Chinese dynasties aren't inherently different from dynasties elsewhere -- a series of rulers who passed the kingship to their heirs until a contender (usually forcibly) removed the last king in the dynasty from power. However, unusually, ancient Chinese historians were acutely aware of dynastic series, helped by administrators responsible for keeping Chinese dynastic records for the ruling family. Chinese historians looked on the dynasties as a series of repetitions, with a rise in virtue followed later by a fall and certain other predictable elements. The idea of a "mandate of heaven" justified dynastic military conquest to put down a corrupt government and replace it with a better one, probably since the 11th century B.C. Chou dynasty.


The Chinese Dynasties are divided in various ways by modern historians. Some divide them according to western typologies into ancient, medieval, and modern. Another tripartite division lumps the dynasties into the feudal, monarchical, and republican. One theory divides Chinese history into Classical before 383 and a Tartar Buddhist Cycle after.


  • "The Periodization of Chinese History," by Meribeth E. Cameron. The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Jun., 1946), pp. 171-177.
  • "Archaeology and Chinese Historiography," by K. C. Chang. World Archaeology, Vol. 13, No. 2, Regional Traditions of Archaeological Research I (Oct., 1981), pp. 156-169.

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