China – Brief History

With more than 1 billion people, China is the world’s most populous nation.  In fact, one out of every five people on Earth lives in China.  It is also the world’s third largest country after Russia and Canada.  Some of the world’s highest mountains, driest deserts, and longest rivers make China a land of great contrasts.  China has one of the world’s oldest cultures.  For centuries, Chinese art, architecture, science and philosophy, flourished when most other nations had not yet formed.  Today China is a land of rapid change.  Although it remains a Communist nation, the country is opening its doors to some free enterprise and foreign trade.

Questions to Consider:

  • How did internal problems weaken China?
  • What were the goals of the Chinese reformers?
  • What problems did the new republic of China face?
  • How did the Communists revolutionize China?

Historic China: A Time Line

Click on each time period to view the information.

5000 BC

First rice farmers cultivate the area near the Chang River


3rd Century B.C.

Qin ruler constructs the Great Wall


206 B.C.-A.D. 220

Han dynasty dominates China


Mongols conquer China


Rise of the Ming Dynasty


Portuguese establish the trading colony of Macao


Rise of the Manchu Dynasty


Opium War begins


Republic established with the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty


China resists Japanese expansion


Communists win Chinese civil war


Cultural Revolution


Government troops crush protesters in Tiananmen Square

Review Questions

How and when did the last dynasty end?

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In 1912 when rebels led by Sun Yat-sen overthrew it.


What enabled Japan to take control of parts of China in the 1930s?

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China was weak and divided.


What goals did Mao Xedong have for China?

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Mao wanted to feed the country’s people and to improve the economy.


What was the Great Leap Forward?

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An economic plan for development


What was the Cultural Revolution?

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The attempt to have everyone follow the peasant way of life


How has China changed since Mao’s death?

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China has allowed more economic freedom since Mao’s death.


How has China remained the same since Mao’s death?

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Political freedoms are still limited.