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Transcript of Chinese Dynasties
Not all visitors to China though were quite so peaceful. The Chinese were constantly under assault by barbarians from the North and just could not hold things together. After a few hundred years of Han rule China fell back into a period of disunion just like before the Q'in dynasty. The Ming responded to the years under the Yuan by shutting China down once again. They cut off almost all foreign contact and returned China to heavy isolation.
This was reflected in their architecture. The Ming built the Forbidden City, a city-like palace for the emperor to keep him away from commoners. The Ming also built the Great Wall to the size and condition that it is in now. They connected all parts of it to create a wall that completely sealed off China's Northern border from all foreigners. The Song Dynasty followed many of the same paths laid out by the Tang. They continued and, in fact, put even greater emphasis on the civil service exams. They expanded the use of irrigation ditches to improve farming throughout China. However, they are most remember for their incredible inventions.
Over the course of their dynasty the Song saw the creation of the some of the medieval world's most important and lasting inventions. First among those of course is gunpowder. Though originally used only for fireworks it wasn't long before Song engineers were making simple rifles out of bamboo and then later out of cast iron. One could argue that no other invention has changed history more in the last 1500 years. They also invented the needle compass which proved more accurate and easy to use than the south pointer. This allowed even greater Chinese exploration of the sea.
The Song were also the first to use paper money and even invented a method of printing using movable type. Instead of carving out huge blocks for every print they found that they could make blocks for each character and replace them as needed. The Yuan Dynstasy is unique in that it was ruled not by a Chinese family but a Mongolian one. Though the Mongols kept most things in China the same there were some significant changes. Most importantly, the Mongols did not share Chinese isolationist feelings. They were more than happy to welcome in visitors and traders. As a result, the Silk Road was reopened and trade rekindled with Europe. Marco Polo came to China at this time and told many stories about the leadership of the Khan. Before China united under dynastic rule they went through a long period of division. During the so-called Warring States period China was divided into multiple kingdoms. They constantly struggled for power. Sometimes one would conquer another for awhile or two might join up against another but there was never a single dominant kingdom. Ultimately 7 main kingdoms came to rule. They were united in spoken language but little else. Even the way they wrote their words was different despite speaking the same words.
Even with the chaos, or maybe because of it, incredible things were happening in the region. For example, the world's first crossbow was invented. Also, the great philosopher Confucius was born. (221 - 207 BC) The Q'in (pronounced "chin") dynasty was China's first real controlling power. The first Q'in emperor, Shi Huangdi, was able to unite the people of China by conquering the other warring states. Once in control he imposed a uniform written language across all of China. He also standardized measurements, laws and currency values. Under his rule China took on incredible architectural challenges. He ordered the construction of what would later become The Great Wall. The wall was much different then. It was built largely out of dirt and was not connected. Instead of going over mountains if often just stopped leaving large areas open to attack. He also had built for him a massive army of stone statues that guard his tomb even today. There should be no surprise that China gets its very name from this powerful, unifying dynasty. Early section of the Great Wall Some of the Terra Cotta Warriors (618 - 906 AD) Following the break up of the Han dynasty China suffered through another long period of disunity. It would take centuries before the Sui dynasty reunited China. They, however, lasted only 29 years. It was the Tang dynasty that rebuilt China into a power.
Under the Tang, specifically under Empress Wu, Buddhism expanded greatly. While it had already gained some popularity during the Period of Disunion as people sought as way out of their suffering it wasn't until Empress Wu that Buddhism truly became a dominant force in China. In order to solve some of the problems of earlier dynasties the Tang implemented civil service exams that people had to pass to work for the government.
This emphasis on education and effective service led to some amazing inventions such as woodblock printing and playing cards. Most importantly it led to new farming techniques such as irrigation ditches that took advantage of the Sui-built Grand Canal to bring water out to the farms throughout China. Students taking the civil service exams A statue of the Buddha Early playing cards A chinese woodblock used for printing Genghis Kahn Kublai Kahn South Pointer Compass Early Paper The Silk Road Gun Powder Early Chinese Fire Lance Paper Money Soldier Firing 3 Barreled Gun