Ancient China Timeline

China has one of the longest recorded histories in the world, going right back to ancient times. The timeline below shows key events in China’s history. Ancient China went through different periods of rule called dynasties. The timeline also shows you when each dynasty ended and when a new emperor took over.

5000 BC-3750 BC

Villages emerge in China. Rice is cultivated. A culture called Yangshao flourishes near the Yellow River. The earliest depiction of a dragon is from the date of 4500 BC. It was made at this time in a precious stone called jade. People begin to live in a village called Banpo. This village is abandoned in 3750 BC.

Yangshao Culture

3600-2700 BC

Silk is first made in China. The earliest pieces of silk we know about are from a region called Qianshanyang and they date from 2700 BC.

2700 -1675 BC

The Xia Dynasty begins. Between 1789 and 1758 Kong Jia rules. A ruler called Jie is the last ruler of the Xia Dynasty.

1570-1045 BC

The Shang Dynasty. This is when writing is invented in China. The Jiaguwen Script is created. Stories are written, especially Chinese ghost stories.

Shang Dynasty

Emperor Wu Ding rules between 1250 and 1192.

1045-256 BC

The Zhou Dynasty begins.

771 BC-256 BC

The Eastern Zhou Dynasty begins. The Spring and Autumn Period begins. The Spring and Autumn Period was when a famous philosopher and thinker, Confucius, wrote some famous history books called the Spring and Autumn Annals. Annals is another word for a long factual book. The capital was moved to the Yellow River Valley in this time.

A new script is invented called the Xiaozhuan Script in 700 BC.

512 BC-506 BC

The states of Wu and Chu go to war. This war was called the Wu Chu War.

481 BC-221 BC

The Warring States Period. The Changping Battle is in 262-260 BC.

478 BC

The Temple of Confucius is constructed at Qufu.

221-206 BC

The Qin Dynasty begins. Qin Shi Huangdi became emperor of the whole of China by defeating all the warring states. The Great Wall of China is started in 218 BC. It was built by extending and connecting existing walls to protect people from Mongol invasion. ‘Qin’ is pronounced ‘chin’. This is where China gets its name.

220 BC

The government makes the Chinese writing system standard (the same).

210 BC

The Qin Dynasty ends after a rebellion against them. Emperor Qin dies. He is buried with the Terracotta Army. The Terracotta Army was made up of 13,000 terracotta statues of warriors and horses.

206 BC- 9 AD

Lui-Bang of Han begins the Han Dynasty. Their capital is in Chang’an. The Han Dynasty is thought to be the golden age in Chinese history.

207 BC

The Chinese civil service is started by the first Han Emperor, Gaozu. They help the government run the country.

104 BC

The Taichu Calendar is established by Emperor Wu. Chinese people use this calendar from this date onwards.

208 AD

The Battle of the Red Cliffs, also known as the battle of Chibi. It was the end of the Han Dynasty.

220-589 AD

Six Dynasties Period.

250 AD

The religion, Buddhism, is introduced to China. It becomes one of the most popular religions in China.

589-618 AD

The Sui Dynasty.

618-907 AD

The Tang Dynasty.

907-960 AD

Five Dynasties. 

960-1279

The Song Dynasty.

1044

The first recorded use of Gunpowder (for explosives and fireworks).

1200

Genghis Khan unites the Mongol tribes under his leadership.

1271

The Italian trader, Marco Polo, begins his travels to China.

1279

Conquest of North and South China by Mongol armies. They establish the Yuan. Their capital is now in Beijing.

1279-1368

The Yuan Dynasty.

The Mongols under Kublai Khan defeat the Song Dynasty. Kublai Khan establishes the Yuan Dynasty.

1368-1644

The Ming Dynasty

Ming Dynasty

1405

Chinese explorer, Zheng, travels to India and Africa. These places begin trading and Zheng shares news of the outside world.

The Chinese begin the construction of the Forbidden City (a big complex of palaces in Beijing).

1420

Beijing becomes the new capital of the Chinese Empire and replaces Nanjing.

1517

Portuguese traders arrive in the country. These are the first Europeans to come to China since Zheng.

1644-1912

The Qing Dynasty rules.
Ancient China