The Chinese Civilization developed alongside the riverside, just like most settlements across the world. It originated from Huang He or Yellow River, which is the second-largest river in the world.
What makes the 3000-year-old civilization stand out was that it was free from influence from other cultures of that time. As a result, the Chinese culture stems from an indigenous background that is unique to its roots.
Historical Timeline of Chinese Civilization
The Chinese Civilisation broadly classifies into five eras: Prehistoric, Ancient, Imperial, Dark Ages, Medieval and Final Dynasties.
The Prehistoric period marks the settlement development in China before 1600BC. This period subdivides further into Palaeolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age, where its obtained evidence comes mainly from unearthed relics and mythology relating to the same. Example: Xia Dynasty that developed along Yellow River.
Architectural development and the foundations for the earliest settlement pattern are apparent during the Ancient Period. However, there were four different kinds of settlements based on geographical features. It started developing along the Yellow River, where the main occupation was crop cultivation. Then it slowly spread towards the Yangtze Valley, where the warm-wet climate was suitable for rice cultivation. Once half of China was under empires, it developed towards the mountain regions in Southern China. Finally, it spread across the Steppe plains of Central Asia, occupied by nomads and herders.
The Shang Dynasty (1600 BCE – 1046 BCE) was one of the earliest empires, with their victory over the tribal chief of the Xia Dynasty in the Battle of Mingtiao. Moreover, it excelled in fields, mainly arts, mathematics, astronomy, and the military. Finally, the Zhou Dynasty (1045BCE – 221 BCE) overthrew the Shang Dynasty in the Battle of Muye. This period comprised of Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou. Moreover, it flourished in terms of philosophies, mainly Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism, and transitioned from a tribal to feudal administration.
The rise of Imperial China initiated the Qin Dynasty (221 BCE – 206BCE) was the first empire to centralize power. Qin Shi Huang conquered China and unified the Qin state and others nearby, thus becoming the first emperor of China. The period marked a significant growth in infrastructural development. For instance, Qin Shi laid the foundations for the Great Wall of China, which took about twenty years to complete. The Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 AD) is the longest known imperial empire in China, whose rule was bureaucratic and believed in Confucianism. As a result, trade and commerce strengthened with the coming of the Silk Route. The people lived in peace and harmony under the then Emperor Wudi, making it one of the most prosperous periods.
The Dark Period in China was a tenuous regime under the Jin Dynasty, resulting in a split of unified China into Northern and Southern portions. Although one of the worst periods, Buddhism popularised in several parts of Northern China. The Sui Dynasty conquered and unified China after about 400 years of unrest.
Although for a brief period, the Sui Dynasty brought China out of the Dark phase and catalyzed progress, leading to the Medieval Period (581-1368), Final Dynasties (1368-1912), Republic of China (1912-1949), and Modern Period (1949 – Present).
Architecture and Town Planning of Chinese Civilization
Chinese architecture took inspiration from nearby North-Eastern countries along with elements from Indian and Buddhist architecture. From the beginning, they remained consistent in the use of materials. For instance, they preferred wood structures over stone compared to other major civilizations, especially for temples, halls, and gate towers. As a result, very few still stand, which are in perpetual conservation using scriptures and paintings. Furthermore, the buildings were made earthquake resistant through the interlocking of joints and minimal nails that provide more flexibility to the structure. The roofs witnessed a slow transition from thatched roof to gabled roof with a slight curve upwards. Moreover, they used glazed ceramic tiles for roofing.
Planning of the cities was of great importance since its unification. Luoyang and Chang’an were well-planned capitals, with wide avenues intersecting perpendicularly and tower gates guarding the entrance. Walled compounds, multiple courtyards, and landscaped gardens were features associated with Chinese architecture. The arrangement of buildings depended on the geographical characteristics of the city. Moreover, the main buildings aligned to the north-south while the lesser important ones to the west-east to the entrance.
Culture And Lifestyle of Chinese Civilization
During the ancient period, the Chinese culture had a vague background without any foreign influence. As a result of trade, the existing culture was an amalgamation of cultures accumulated during the Imperial period. Many elements of Ancient China are still relevant, which includes:
- Philosophy such as Daoism and Folk Religion
- Pictographs, writing, and literature
- The Tea Culture
- Use of Jade and Silk
- Large scale projects
In the current scenario, the following ancient cultures are most evident during festivals such as the Chinese New Year.
Also, Read The History of Indus Valley Civilization