China from 1200-present

Song Dynasty: 960 - 1279

Key Features:

  • Used Confucianism in government, appointed officials through Confucianism-based civil service exam

  • Only Southern Song Dynasty survived from 1127-1279 as Jin empire conquered northern capital of Kaifeng

    • Southern capital was Hangzhou

  • Developed gunpowder, initially used it for fireworks

  • China's economy flourished

    • More foreigners came to China → More exotic goods

    • Naval technology allowed Song merchants to reach Southeast Asia, India, and East Africa

    • Iron industry flourished

    • Paper money was introduced due to scarce supply of copper coins

  • Spread its influence to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam

    • Those nations adopted similar administrative structures and some used Confucianism


Religions that spread to Song China

Mahayana Buddhism

A sect of Buddhism that allows for the veneration of multiple deities as opposed to one god. Very common in Vietnam and came to China via Vietnamese merchants. 

Pure Land School

Places more emphasis on devotion to the Buddha to reach personal salvation as opposed to personal intuition and meditation. Practiced by Empress Wu Zhao. This is a part of Mahayana Buddhism. 

Zen (Chan) Buddhism

Common in Japan. Emphasized intuition and meditation as opposed to religious texts. Zen meditation is a very famous practice. 


New ideas in Confucianism after exposure to Buddhism.  Studied the soul and its relation to the cosmos as opposed to solely original Confucian ideas of morality and politics. 

Key Features:

  • Ruled by Mongols, founded by Khubilai Khan

  • Originally conquered northern China, had capital in Khanbaliq (modern-day Beijing)

  • Later led conquests to Southern China

    • Conquered Hangzhou in 1276

  • Allowed Chinese to practice their cultural traditions

  • Prevented Chinese from marrying Mongols or learning Mongol customs

  • Largely governed by foreign governors, including Marco Polo, as Mongols did not trust Chinese to govern

  • Fell in 1368 by Emperor Hongwu's army

Yuan Dynasty: 1279 - 1368

Ming Dynasty: 1368 - 1644

Key Features:

  • Founded by Emperor Hongwu in 1368

  • Revived Chinese traditions lost during Yuan Dynasty

  • Used mandarins & eunuchs to govern

  • Built irrigation systems, promoted trade

  • 2nd emperor, Emperor Yongle, supported economic expansion

  • Yongle sent Zheng He on 7 overseas trading expeditions to portray Chinese dominance

    • Later stopped his journeys due to high cost

  • After Zheng He's voyages, it sought isolationism

    • Wanted to protect its culture from foreign influences

  • Had failing economy

    • Attempted to restore it by ​changing paper money into silver bullion

    • Acquired silver bullion from trade with Spain via Manila galleons

  • Many pirates raided the cities, causing the Ming state to decline

  • Portuguese established a trading post at Macau


Qing Dynasty

  • Founded by Manchus (natives of Manchuria, north of China) in 1644
    • Went to China to aid Ming court in a peasant rebellion
    • After they crushed the rebellion, the Manchus themselves just took control of the government
  • Manchus weren't ethnically Chinese & not enough Manchus came to China, so they hired Chinese in the government
    • Reinstated civil service exam
  • Manchus forbade cultural connections between Chinese & Manchus
    • Forbade Chinese from traveling to Manchuria & learning Manchu language
  • Conquered lots of territory

    • Emperor Kangxi conquered Mongolia, Taiwan, Central Asia, Tibet

    • Emperor Qianlong made Nepal, Vietnam, Burma as vassal states (tributary states)

  • Sought isolationism

    • Wanted to preserve Chinese culture

    • Banned Christianity in 1724

    • Restricted trade to just Canton (Guangzhou) in 1757

    • Gave some trading concessions to Portuguese, Dutch, & British

British Dominance of China & Disintegration of Qing State

Opium Wars

British grew opium in India since 1773. Traded it with China in exchange for silver bullion

Opium was addictive, causing social problems for addicts & the Qing state

China banned opium trade & dumped a British opium cargo in 1839

Qing people were embroiled in internal conflicts & rebellions, & still restricted some trade to British.

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Signed Treaty of Nanjing (1842) (unequal treaty). British won rights to Hong Kong & other trading cities. Opium trade was legalized. British annexed Hong Kong in 1843.

British mounted First Opium War (1839-1842) to regain trading rights. British navy used muskets & attacked coastal cities & the Grand Canal

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British took advantage of internal turmoil to gain more trading rights & launched Second Opium War (1856-1860)

British easily won, opening up all of China to European trade

Problems with State & Taiping Rebellion

Hong Xiuquan created opposition movement to Qing Dynasty. Known as Taiping "great peace"

Wanted equality between sexes, abolition of private property, free education for all, etc.

Captured Nanjing in 1853, made it his capital, failed to capture Shanghai & Beijing. Millions of people supported him

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Cixi crushed the rebellion, & there were many economic problems resulting from the conflict. 20-30 million people died in total

In 1864, Xiuquan died of illness. Cixi's armies killed 100k Taiping rebels & retook Nanjing, ending the rebellion

Empress Dowager Cixi assumed emperor role, formed armies to attack Taiping rebels

Reform Movements & Boxer Rebellion

Chinese people hated foreign involvement in China as Europeans carved spheres of influence in China

Local leaders launched self-strengthening movement to keep Chinese traditions at the base and  Western traditions for use. Built scientific schools, factories, railroads, etc.

Qing government hated this. Did not bring real strength to China. Failed because western traditions often contradict Chinese traditions

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Dowager Cixi created Society of Righteous & Harmonious Fists (Boxers). Led anti-foreign rebellion, attacked foreigners & embassies

This failed as Dowager Cixi imprisoned Guangxu & executed other reform leaders (1898)

Emperor Guangxu launched 100 Days' Reform. Added constitutional monarchy, civil liberties, education, more foreign influence, less corruption (1898)

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Foreign armies ended Boxer Rebellion in 1901. Chinese had to pay lots of reparations to foreigners for the rebellion's damages

In 1908, Emperor Guangxu died. Cixi died in 1909. 2-year-old Puyi took throne in 1909, but Qing state collapsed in 1912

Japanese Defeat of China

  • After Meiji Restoration in Japan (1868), Japan started colonizing nearby lands

    • Japan wanted to get rid of the unequal treaties it was forced to sign by foreigners​

  • Japan conquered Korea in 1894

    • Qing authorities wanted to protect the Korea there, so they attacked Japanese​

    • This sparked Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), which Japanese won

      • Japanese thus won rights to Korea​

Civil War in China

Problems with Qing State

  • In 1911, a revolution forced two-year-old Puyi to abdicate the throne as China was deteriorating
  • Opium trade was harming China
  • Many local provinces emerged, ruled by Qing warlords
  • Foreigners forced China to sign unequal treaties, leading to deterioration of society

Creation of a Communist Party & Republic

  • In 1912, Sun Yatsen created a Chinese Republic
    • Didn't believe in rule of proletariat, but wanted Chinese nationalism
    • Created Guomindang, or Nationalist People's Party
    • Believed in a democratic republican government, national unification, no foreigner rights
    • Jiang Jeishi took over after Sun Yatsen died
  • Mao Zedong led the Chinese Communist Party (founded in 1921)
    • Formed after May Fourth protests of 1919 where students protested foreign involvement
    • Inspired by Lenin & Marxist thought
    • Wanted more rights for women: End of divorce, foot binding, & arranged marriages

Chinese Civil War (1927-1949)

Jiang Jeishi (Guomindang) led campaign called Northern Expedition (1927), brought all of China under his rule, made Nanjing his capital

Communists retreated to Southeast China to reorganize troops & resources

Communists led Long March to Yan'an in Northwest China. Inspired many people to join CCP

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retreated to Taiwan

Communists took over all of China by 1949. Mao Zedong emerged as leader, combined Marxist & Leninist thought into Marxist-Leninism or Maoism

China in World War 2

  • In 1930s, Japan conquered many regions

    • Fascist government took over Japan, wanted to enhance its importance

  • Japan bombed Shanghai & led Rape of Nanjing in 1937

    • Raped thousands of civilians in Nanjing, killed hundreds of thousands of others

Communist China & Its Soviet Alliance

Chinese Communist Party (led by Mao Zedong) defeated Guomindang in 1945


moved to Taiwan in exile

China & Soviets (USSR) had a close alliance. USSR would provide military aid to China. Had common enemy (US)

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China-USSR alliance started falling apart. China accused USSR of not providing enough economic aid. Also competed for influence in newly independent African & Asian states

Post-Independence Struggles in China:

Mao Zedong's China

  • Promoted industry, nationalized all industry
    • Collectivized agriculture, abolished private property
    • Redistributed land so each peasant had a small plot of land
    • Forbade farmers from marketing crops on market
  • Used First Five-Year Plan to boost industry
  • Removed social inequality
    • Abolished foot binding, child/forced marriage
    • Gave free healthcare & primary education
  • Led Great Leap Forward (economic policy)
    • Meant to boost agricultural & industrial production
    • Failed as people didn't meet production quotas
    • Blamed it on sparrows, ordered peasants. to kill them all

Great Cultural Revolution & Tiananmen Square Protests (1989)

Mao Zedong launched Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Persecuted all foreigners & elites, forced them into labor camps

Movement ended after Mao Zedong's death in 1976

Deng Xiaopeng took over in 1981 due to factions at court. Sent thousands of students to foreign nations to study to help modernize China

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Hong Kong's entry into China worsened the situation as Hong Kong was democratic

Deng Xiaopeng crushed the rebellion

The students learned about democratic ideals abroad & came back to mount the pro-democratic Tiananmen Square protests (1989). They sought democratic ideals instead of communist ones