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Chinese Dynasties:

Note: Some of these dates are approximate.




Three Kingdoms 

Six Dynasties 




Yuan (Mongol)


Qing (Manchu)



Beijing: (bay jing) Literally, "northern capital." First used by the Mongols as their capital, the Ming also used Beijing as their administrative center. Beijing was the Qing capital, and is the capital of the People's Republic of China (PRC).


Daodejing: (dow duh jing) Also known as Tao-te Ching. Literally, "Classic of the Way and its Virtue." Traditionally ascribed to Laozi, this brief work ranges from poetry to philosophy to mysticism and has inspired more commentaries and translations than any other classical Chinese work.


De; (duh) "Virtue." That which an emperor possessed when he also had the Mandate of Heaven.Eunuch: A castrated man. Eunuchs, who served as guards, were the only men other than the Emperor allowed to reside in the imperial palace.


Han Chinese: (hahn) A term of ethnicity used for the "Chinese" people of China, as opposed to any of the non-Chinese peoples (e.g., Mongols, Manchus). Identity as "Han Chinese" came from the Han dynasty. Han Dynasty; 206 BCE-221 CE. The second dynasty of unified China and the first great Chinese empire. The Han continued what the Qin had started, in that the Han brought more area under imperial rule, further consolidated the pattern of central power, and set precedents that were followed for 2000 years.


Jurchen: The name of a tribe of the Manchurian plain. In 1115, the Jurchen founded the Jin dynasty in northern China. The Jurchen defeated the Northern Song in 1127. The Jin dynasty, also called the Ruzhen (roo juhn) dynasty, lasted until 1234, when the Mongols conquered it.


Laozi: (lao tsuh) Traditionally considered to be the author of the Daodejing, and to be the founder of Daoism. There is no consensus as to when he lived or even if he lived, but he is placed anywhere from 600 to 200 BCE. Laozi may be no more than a legendary figure drawn from the lives of several early philosophers.


Legalism: A Chinese school of thought which assumed human nature to be basically evil; humans had no inborn moral goodness. Reward and fear of punishment were central to governance. Legalist government was based on impartial law, rather than moral virtue.  Qin Shihuangdi and Li Si were two prominent Legalists.


Loess: A fine grained, silt-like material, generally thought to have been deposited by wind. Concentrated in northwest China, particularly Shaanxi province. Where vegetation has been removed, loesslands can be severely eroded into a highly dissected landscape resembling badlands. Loess soils are also found in America and Europe. The Yellow River gets its name from the great amount of loess it carries.


Middle Kingdom: Traditional literal translation of the Chinese term for China (Zhongguo). It implies that China is central to the world order, existing between heaven and the rest of the world.


Nanyang: (nahn yahng) Literally "south seas," it refers to areas south of China. Nanyang also refers to overseas Chinese.


Qin Shihuangdi: (chin sure hwong dee) 258 BCE-210 BCE. Given name Zheng (juhng). After ascending to the Qin throne. King Zheng extended his rule to include the other kingdoms of China, and proclaimed himself emperor over all. His dynasty did not last long after his death, but his influence on China is felt to this day.


Song Dynasty: (soong) 960-1279. The Song dynasty reached great artistic and intellectual heights. (Neo-Confucianism was developed during Song times.) Domestic trade also advanced under the Song.


Tang Dynasty: (tahng) 618-907. The second great Chinese empire. Tang China was the most civilized and developed country on earth at its height. Tang China reached pinnacles in art, literature, and music; the Tang capital, Chang'an, was a cosmopolitan city with traders from faraway lands, all of whom brought their own religions, customs, and food. Tang China reached its peak in size in the 660s, when it spread from the East China Sea to Persia. Internal dissent in the eighth century led to the eventual fall of the empire. 


Xi'atu.  City in western China, on the site of the capital of the Qin, Han,and Tang dynasties. Its old name was Chang'an"everlasting peace."Yellow River. Mandarin,


Huang He. A river that flows through northcentral China; it is the traditional cradle of Chinese civilization.Known as "China's Sorrow," because of its frequent and devastatingfloods. Called the Yellow River because it carries the infamous yellowloess soils of northern China.


Yuan Dynasty: (you ahn) 1280-1368. The dynasty founded by theMongols.


Zhang Ke: (Jong kuh) Would-be assassin of King Zheng of Qin (Qin Shihuangdi).



221 BCE - 206 BCE

206 BCE - 220 CE




618 - 907

960 - 1279

1280 - 1368

1368 - 1644

1644 -1912

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