Madison's World History Project

The Chinese Dynasties:

The Sui Dynasty

           The Sui Dynasty started in 589 with the emperor Yang Jian or otherwise known as emperor Wendi. Wendi reunified China. He set up a centralized government and a legal code. Also, he set up a bureaucracy and created policies that give all adult males land and a supply of grain. Wendi got these ideas from previous dynasties. During his rule, he started the construction of the Grand Canal which was a waterway that was around one thousand miles long. This was a major achievement at the time, because it help connect northern and southern China. Although, Wendi died before he could finish it. After he died, his son, Yang Di, took over power. Yang Di took the up the responsibility of finishing the Grand Canal. He forced thousands of peasants to work on it. Because of this,  the peasants rebelled and Yang Di was assassinated. This was the end of the Sui dynasty.

In the going to the link, it explains in further detail about the Grand Canal. Look at the section that starts with, "On paper the Grand Canal..." In this section it takes about what things the canal was used for, how long it took to build it, and other information about it today.

The first emperor of the Sui Dynasty, Emperor Wendi.

The Tang Dynasty

During the rule of Emperor Taizong, the Empire expanded tremendously. He hired ministers to help him govern, because of its large size.

               After the assassination of Emperor Yang Di, a new emperor gained power in China. The Tang dynasty started under the rule of Emperor Taizong. He was considered one of China's most admired emperors. Much like Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty, Emperor Taizong set up a centralized government and reformed the bureaucracy. Also, he expanded the civil service examination system. This system had people take written exams in order to work for the government. Schools were built in order to prepare kids for these exams. He also set up a flexible code of law. The Tang dynasty had a large influence over other countries like Japan and Korea. These countries adopted these ideas of government.

        After Taizong's death, his sickly son, Emperor Kao Tsung, became emperor. His son's wife, Wu Zhao, took over power in place of Taizong's son. She was a strong leader and ruled in place of her sons. She became the first and only women to become empress in China.

            Buddhism started to spread through China at the time. It spread from India to China. Many people adopted this religion, because it promised escape from suffering and to obtain peace.

             The Tang Dynasty eventually reached its highest point under the rule of Xuanzong. They made many achievements in literature and art. Famous poets Du Fu and Li Bo wrote beautiful poetry about good and bad things such as war and friendships. The Tang dynasty also innovated printing by creating woodblock printing. They also made paper money, gunpowder, and the magnetic compass. Although, this did not last long the empire came to an end. Peasants rebelled and the government became weak. These things led to the overall downfall of the dynasty.

Click the link and read the fourth to last paragraph to find out more about how Wu Zhao came to power and the type of ruler she was.

Emperor Kao Tsung (left), son of Emperor Taizong, and wife, Empress Wu Zhao.

The Song Dynasty

              The Song dynasty, a lot like the other Chinese dynasties developed a centralized government, developed a bureaucracy and reformed the civil service examination system.  They made the exams more difficult to pass and those that did were scholar-officials.

              After the end of the Tang dynasty, the empire split. It split into northern and southern Song. The Song dynasty lost most of the land gained by the Tang dynasty and they were unable to regain it, because of the Nomads that threatened them with war.

               Despite this, the Song dynasty had many achievements. They made many advancements in literature and art. Song artisans created porcelain. The also innovated the process of printing by creating the movable type printing. This made it so they could print more and faster.

              They also made advancements in farming. With the advancements and expansion in farming, trade grew as well. The people of the empire were able to have other jobs and their cities became packed with all sorts of different shops.

            Social classes were made that separate the rich from the poor. Mostly the people of China at the time were fairly poor. Also, women in society declined in stature. Rich women stayed at home and as a sign of beauty participated in foot binding.

In the first link it gives more information as to why the empire split in two.

The second link gives information about foot binding; how it was done, who did it and why, and the side effects of it.

The Mongolian Dynasties

The Mongols

             The Song dynasty was attacked multiple times by nomads. One of these groups were the Mongols. The Mongol empire was made up of several clans which were led by one overall leader known as the khan. A khan by the name of Temujin united the Mongols and helped conquered most of the empire's land. He was named the Genghis Khan, or universal leader, because of these efforts. In addition to leading a clan the khans had to pay tributes in order to remain in power.

             The people of the Mongol empire were masters of war. They were known to be great horsemen and archers. Also, the Mongols used cutting edge weapons. They were able to move a large army quickly and were masters of psychological warfare. Most armies were too scared to fight them.

           Although they were skilled fighters, the Mongols made no technological breakthroughs, founded no new religions, and wrote little books. Their biggest accomplishment was that they were able to conquer so much land. Also, despite the fact that people were fearful of them, the Mongols were very tolerant. The Mongols tolerated the people of the land they conquered's beliefs and way of life.  

The link will lead you to a website that gives extra information about the battle techniques the Mongols and Genghis Khan used.

Mongols soldiers were very skilled archers on horseback.

The Yuan Dynasty

               The Yuan dynasty was under the rule of Kublai Khan. He wanted to have the Chinese be loyal to him so he made many laws that went against the Mongols. He did this because the Chinese people thought the Mongols were uncivilized. Because of these beliefs, Kublai Khan did everything he could to gain their loyalty. He even decided to make the dynasty of a Chinese name. Kublai Khan also, as said before, made harsh rules against the Mongols. The Mongols were not allowed to marry Chinese people and had them live apart from the Chinese. The Mongols then made laws and taxes against the Chinese.

             During the Yuan dynasty, the amount of trade increased in China. People from European countries came over to trade with the Chinese. Under Kublai Khan's rule, he encouraged trade with these countries. This lead to the spread of many new ideas throughout China.

The link goes to a website that explains in greater detail about Kublai Khan's life and how he rose to power.

Khublia Khan, the ruler of the Yuan dynasty.

The Japanese Dynaties

The Yamato Clan

            The first emperor of the Yamato clan was the said-to-be grandson of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. The Yamato clan was on the island of Honshu. The Yamato clan ended up conquering most of this area. The area was great for farming and most likely was a great part of their lives. The Yamato clan much like other Japanese dynasties was heavily influenced by the Chinese and Koreans. This is one of the reasons why the Yamato clan chiefs called themselves emperors. Although, they had no real power because other clans took them over.

The link gives a little more information about the sun goddess and about how her grandson came to power.

Amaterasu, the beloved sun goddess of the Yamato tribe

The Heian Period

              The Heian Period was a time in Japan when culture flourished. During this period, life was very nice for the nobles. They lived in palaces and enjoyed poetry and art. Also, during this time the common person could not participate in court life. Women in society dressed in expensive clothing and jewelry.

           During this time, achievments in poetry and Japanese literature were made. Every noble wrote poetry at the time and wrote about things like love. The most popular female writer during this period was Lady Murasaki Shikibu. She wrote the first novel and wrote about finding love.

The link gives more information about her novel and a little of what the book was about.

Lady Murasaki Shikibu, whom wrote the first novel called The Tale of Genji.

The Korean Dynasties

The Koryo Dynasty

               The Koryo dynasty adopted many of the ideas of the Chinese. The Chinese had a great influence of the Korean dynasties at the time. The Koryo dynasty took in the Chinese ideas of religion such as Confucianism. They also adopted the Chinese way of writing and government. The Koryo dynasty set up a civil service examination system where only nobles could take the tests. They also made it so that government positions were inherited. Because of this, their society was divided in terms of the powerful nobility and others.

               The Koryo dynasty made many advancements in arts and their culture flourished. Artisans invented a new form of pottery. This new form was celadon. Celadon pottery had a blue-green glaze. They also made advancements in printing. They invented the metal movable type of printing.  

After clicking the link, read the sections, "Celadon" and "Korean Potters". These sections will give background information on how the pottery was made and when this form of pottery came about.

Korean celadon pottery

The Southeast Asian Civilizations

The Pagan Kingdom

                   The Pagan kingdom was established in the Irrawaddy River Valley. The first ruler was Anawrahta. As king, he conquered the surrounding areas and unified Myanmar. Anawrahta agreed with the ideas of Theravada Buddhism and during his rule built many Buddhist temples. The government of the Pagan kingdom was a blend of the China's and India's. Although, the kingdom fell when they refused to pay a tribute to the Mongols. The Mongols then waged war and killed the Pagan kingdom's king.

The link gives more background information about the Pagan kingdom and adds a bit more information to what is said in the paragraph.

Ancient Buddhist temple in what is now Myanmar which used to be the Pagan Empire.

The Khmer Empire

             The Khmer empire was greatly influenced by India. They adopted the Buddhist and Hindu ideas of India. They also based their government around Hindu beliefs. The rulers of the Khmer empire had large temples built, one of which was the Angkor Wat. These temples had Hindu beliefs and myths written on them. The tempels also had places where they learned about astronomy.

            The Khmer empire made most of its money from agriculture. The empire was on land that was perfect for rice farming. The made advancements in this agriculture by setting up irrigation systems that stretched several acres.

The link above goes into greater detail about how the Khmer empire started and the overall fall of the empire.

The Angkor Wat temple today in Southeast Asia.

Trading Kingdoms

            The trading kingdoms were Sailendra and Srivijaya. Sailendra is not shown on the map but would have been on the Java island. The Sailendra kingdom relied on trade and agriculture. Their leaders took in the ideas of Mahayan Buddhism. They made many Buddhist monuments. One of their major achievements was the construction of the monument in Borobudur, which to them represented the Buddhism spiritual journey.

           The kingdom of Srivijaya, like Sailendra, gained most of its wealth from trade that pasted through the kingdom. They also took in the ideas of Buddhism and Hinduism. Like the Sailendra kingdom, they blended these beliefs into their government.

The website gives more information about the two kingdoms and goes over what is said in the paragraphs.

The Sailendra Buddhist temple in Borobudur


             Vietnam, a lot like other Southeast Asian civilizations, was greatly influenced by India and China. They adopted Chinese language, clothing, and religious beliefs like Daoism and Confucianism. Also, they adopted the Chinese form of government. Vietnam set up a bureaucracy and a civil service examination system. Also like the Sailendra kindgom, they took in the ideas of Mahayana Buddhism. Vietnam was influenced by Buddhism in terms of arts and architecture.

Go to the link and read sections titled, "Brief History of Vietnam" and "Chinese Influence". These sections provide additional information about the beginnings of Vietnam and other ways the Chinese influenced their culture.

Ancient Buddhist temple in Vietnam.

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