The Echoes of the Mind (158-1) China


Early in its history, China went through a long series of dynasties, beginning with the Xia dynasty (~ 2100–1600 bce) during its Bronze Age. Each dynasty dissolved in political turmoil, usually ending in war.

The inequity of feudal structures ensured a continuing degree of internal instability which was corrosive. Even so, early dynastic turnover was typically through territorial conquest by neighboring tribes.

The Shang tribe defeated the Xia clan at the legendary Battle of Mingtiao, thus succeeding to dynastic reign (1600–1046 bce). The prelude was a corrupt Xia regime that engendered internal dissent, thus weakening the dynasty.

The Zhou tribe, which lived to the west of the Shang, wrested power at the Battle of Muye in 1046. Thus began the longest-lasting dynasty in Chinese history: 1046–~256 bce, though it was a legacy of fractured reigns from internal frictions.

Internal tribal conflicts and incursion from neighboring territories eventuated in the Warring States period (476–221 bce). Then, a strongman from the state of Qin managed to gain power militarily; thus began the short-lived Qin dynasty (221 to 206 bce). The 1st Qin emperor, Qin Shi Huang, managed to create an imperial state, with centralized political power and a stable economy able to support a large military. Currency, measures, and weights were standardized, and a uniform writing system introduced. In an attempt to quell criticism and purge the history of old dynasties, most historical books were burned, as were historians. 460 Confucian scholars were buried alive in 210 bce.

While Qin Shi Huang got off to a strong start, his succession did not succeed. Internal squabbles led to the deaths of the 2nd Qin emperor and his key advisors. Popular revolt a few years later left a severely weakened empire, whereupon another strongman, Liu Bang, emerged from within and founded the Han dynasty (206 bce–220 ce). And so on, through 20 some odd dynasties, to the one that rules today in dynastic style: the so-called “Communists” (1949–).