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Chinese Dynasty Guide

Dynasty Timeline Ching Dynasty Ming Dynasty Yuan Dynasty Sung Dynasty Sung Dynasty Five Dynasties Tang Dynasty Sui Dynasty Six Dynasties Han Dynasty Chin Dynasty Chou Dynasty Shang Dynasty Neolithic Era

Chinese history, which dates back more than 5,000 years, is extraordinarily rich, complex-and potentially confusing. Understanding at least its basic chronology and some of its most notable events and developments is made somewhat easier by virtue of its ancient system of dynasties.

The word dynasty means, quite simply, a succession of rulers from the same family. Beginning with the Bronze Age Shang dynasty, historical eras in China have borne the name of the family or clan that dominated during that period.

Some dynasties, such as the Chou and the Ming, lasted for centuries. Others, such as the Ch'in and the Sui, ended after a few decades. Some have been relatively tranquil; others have been turbulent.

Over the lengthy span of Chinese history, each dynasty is distinguished both by its name and by the impact of individuals, outside influences, and technological advances on all aspects of its culture-economic, political, artistic, and religious.

To use this guide, select from the dynasties at right or click on the timeline above. Use the timeline or the arrows at the top of the pages to move through time, dynasty by dynasty; or return to the list by selecting Chinese Dynasty Guide from the navigation at left.

Neolithic Era: 3000 B.C. - 1500 B.C.
Shang: 1523 B.C. - 1028 B.C.
Chou: 1027 B.C. - 256 B.C.
Ch'in: 221 B.C. - 206 B.C.
Han: 206 B.C. - 220 A.D.
Six Dynasties: 220- 586
Sui: 581 - 618
T'ang: 618 - 906
Five Dynasties: 907 - 960
Sung: 960 - 1279
Yuan: 1280 - 1365
Ming: 1368 - 1644
Ch'ing: 1644 - 1912