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The Great Chinese Empire: A Documentary

The Great Chinese Empire: A Documentary



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This documentary illuminates the history of the Chinese Empire including the extent of territory, burial practices and warfare tactics of the age.

2014 2015
Learning and Education are fundamental and important in today's society and becoming increasingly more accessible and convenient online. The availability of important information which is also entertaining helps everyone grow mentally and emotionally as people both individually and as a whole. Documentaries are the resource of choice of the information and internet generations of students around the world. The documentary here along with the other documentaries on this channel relate to important times and people in history, historic places, archaeology, society, world culture, science, conspiracy theories, and education.
The topics covered in these video documentaries vary and cover about everything you could possibly want to know including ancient history, Maya, Rome, Greece, The New World, Egypt, World wars, combat, battles, military and combat technology, current affairs and events, important news, education, biographies, famous people and celerities, politicians, news and current events, Illuminati, Area 51, crime, mafia, serial killers, paranormal, supernatural, cults, government cover-ups, the law and legal matters, corruption, martial arts, sports figures, space, aliens, ufos, conspiracy theories, Annunaki, Nibiru, Nephilim, satanic rituals, religion, christianty, judaism, islam, strange phenomenon, origins of Mankind, monsters, mobsters, time travel, planet earth, the Sun, Missions to Mars, The planets, the solar system, the universe, modern physics, String Theory, the Big Bang Theory, Quantum Mechanics, television, archaeology, science, technology, nature, plants, animals, endangered species, wildlife, animal abuse, environmental concerns and issues, global warming, natural disasters, racism, sexism, gay and lesbian issues, and many other educational and controversial topics. Please enjoy and Learn Responsibly!


Michael Wood goes back to the beginnings of Chinese history to find clues to today's China. Starting with a family reunion, when 300 relatives gather to worship their ancestors on 'Tomb Sweeping Day,' Michael explores ancient myths and archaeological sites to uncover the origins of the Chinese state he examines the first Chinese writing, and tells the dramatic tale of the bloodthirsty First Emperor, before an amazing climax with a million pilgrims at a festival on the Yellow River.

In a tale of fantastic geographical sweep, Michael Wood conjures up China's first great international age, the Tang Dynasty. From picturesque old cities on the Yellow River he travels to the bazaars of the Silk Road in Central Asia, and on to India in the footsteps of the Chinese monk who brought Buddhist texts to China. He uncovers the coming of Christianity, sails the Grand Canal, and tracks the spread of Chinese culture across East Asia, an influence 'as profound as Rome on the Latin West'.


Highlights

  1. According to Chinese media, the six Uyghur officials in 2017 were charged with attempting "to split the country"
  2. Sattar Sawut, the former director-general of the Xinjiang Education Department, was reportedly given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve

Beijing: Families of former Uyghur textbook editors, who have been accused of incorporating ethnically charged and separatist views into classroom literature, say that a pro-Beijing media outlet`s recent documentary grossly misrepresents them.

The Chinese state media last month aired a 10-minute documentary, accusing former Uyghur publishing officials and senior editors of incorporating extremist "separatist thoughts" into children`s educational materials as early as 2003, wrote Asim Kashgarian for Voice of America.

Kamalturk Yalqun, son of the now-imprisoned editor Yalqun Rozi, said that reading the books was "purely a happy literary adventure" for him and there was nothing to incite hatred or radicalism.

He also described the documentary as more evidence of Beijing`s efforts to mask its brutal campaign against the Uyghurs. He further said that he has not met his father since October 2016 when he was arrested.

"I almost failed to recognise when I first saw his photo displayed in the film. Clearly, there had been physical torture," Kamalturk told Voice of America.

According to Chinese media, the six Uyghur officials in 2017 were charged with attempting "to split the country".

Sattar Sawut, the former director-general of Xinjiang Education Department, was reportedly given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, while three other officials received life sentences, and the two editors received 15 years each.

"Some senior Chinese officials who worked on reviewing the textbooks were never mentioned in the documentary while their six Uyghur counterparts were singled out as separatist criminals are evidence that this is a sham trial," said Abduweli Ayup, a Norway-based Uyghur linguist and rights activist.

The textbooks introduce China as "the motherland" of all "56 ethnic groups," including both Uyghurs and Chinese. They also highlight essays of leading modern Chinese writers such as Lu Xun and include hagiographies of prominent Chinese figures, writes Kashgarian.

Aykanat Wahitjan, the daughter of Wahitjan Osman, a former senior editor accused in the film, highlighted that the same government had once broadcast her father`s award ceremony for his "extraordinary literary work".

"In 2012, China awarded my father with its 10th Junma Award, a national literary award for his outstanding literary work. years later, the same [government] broadcasts that my father committed a crime because his literary work `provoked ethnic hatred," she told Voice of America.

Beijing`s documentary highlights the legendary story of seven Uyghur girls who resisted Manchu soldiers during the Qing empire conquest of the region in the 18th century.

This has been referred to as a "clear lie" by James Millward, a professor of Chinese history at Georgetown University.

According to him, outlawing the textbooks is a part of China`s recent effort to alter the historical narrative of key events and actions by Uyghur leaders.

This comes amid China facing global rebuke for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in its International Religious Freedom Annual Report issued on April 28, 2020, that "individuals have been sent to the camps for wearing long beards, refusing alcohol, or other behaviours authorities deem to be signs of `religious extremism."


World Events:

  • ca. 3000–1700 BCE: Indus Valley civilization
  • ca. 5000–300 BCE: Mesopotamian civilization
  • ca. 3000–30 BCE: Ancient Egyptian civilization
  • ca. 563–483 BCE: Buddha
  • ca. 500–300 BCE: Classical Greek Civilization
  • 27 BCE–475 CE: Roman Empire
  • 0–33: Jesus of Nazareth
  • ca 250–900: Classical Mayan civilization
  • 330–1453: Byzantine Empire
  • 570–632: Prophet Muhammad
  • ca. 630–1258: Arab Caliphate
  • ca. 800–1050: Viking Age
  • 1066: Norman Conquest of England
  • 1346–1353: Black Death
  • 1492: Columbus lands in the New World
  • 1517–1648: Reformation in Europe
  • 1620: Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock
  • 1757–1997: British Empire
  • 1775–1783: American War of Independence
  • 1789: French Revolution
  • 1861–1865: American Civil War
  • 1914–1918: World War I
  • 1939–1945: World War II
  • 1955–1975: Vietnam War
  • 1969: Apollo 11 lands first man on the Moon
  • 1990: World Wide Web invented
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Tangut people

The Tangut language, otherwise known as Fan, belongs to the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Like other Sino-Tibetan languages, it is a tonal language with predominantly mono-syllabic roots, but it shares certain grammatical traits central to the Tibeto-Burman branch. It is still debated as to whether Tangut belongs to the Yi or Qiangic subdivision of Tibeto-Burman. [5] The Tanguts, called the Dangxiang ( 党項 Dǎngxiàng) in Chinese, are typically regarded by Chinese scholars to be synonymous with or at least related to the Qiang people. Historically, "Qiang" was a collective term for the multiple ethnic groups who lived on the western borderlands of China, including the modern Qiang people (Rma). The name Tangut first appears in the Orkhon inscriptions of 735. In their own Tangut language, the Tanguts called themselves Mi-niah (Miñak). Until the 19th century, the term Minjak was still used to refer to the area inhabited by Qiang people in today's Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. Speakers of the Qiangic Muya language in western Kangding calls themselves Minyak. Geographic names such as Min river and Min county (Gansu) are pointed to this root.

According to William of Rubruck, who travelled to various parts of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the Tanguts were valiant and had big swarthy men among them, in contrast to the Uyghurs who were "of medium size, like us." [6]

The early Tanguts inhabited the steppes and mountains of southeast Qinghai and northwest Sichuan. At some point their leader Tuoba Chici submitted to Tang rule and was bestowed the title of Captain General of Western-Rong and the surname "Li". In the early 8th century, increasing pressure from the Tibetan Empire had forced the Tanguts to migrate north from their homelands in northeastern Tibet to the eastern Ordos region. By the time of the An Lushan Rebellion (755-763), the Tanguts were the predominant local power in what is now eastern Gansu, Ningxia, and northern Shaanxi. [7]

Since the Tangut's founder, Li Deming, was not a particularly conservative ruler, the Tangut people began to absorb the Chinese culture that surrounded them, but never lost their actual identity, as is proven by the vast amount of literature which survived the Tangut state itself.

In the thirteenth century, Genghis Khan unified the northern grasslands of Mongolia and led his troops in six rounds of attacks against the Western Xia over a period of twenty-two years (1205, 1207, 1209–10, 1211–13, 1214–19, 1225–27). During the last spate of the Mongol attacks, Genghis died in Western Xia territory. The official Mongol history attributes his death to illness, whereas legends claim that he died from a wound inflicted in these battles.

In 1227, the capital of Western Xia was overrun by the Mongols, who devastated its buildings and written records: all was burnt to the ground except its monastery. The last emperor was killed and tens of thousands of civilians massacred. However, many Tangut families joined the Mongol Empire. Some of them led Mongol armies, e.g. Cha'an, into the conquest of China. After the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) was established, the Tangut troops were incorporated into the Mongol army in their subsequent military conquests in central and southern China. The Tangut were considered Semu under the Yuan class system, thus separating them from the North Chinese. As late as the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), there was evidence of small Tangut communities in Anhui and Henan provinces. The people including members of the royal clan emigrated to western Sichuan, northern Tibet, even possibly northeast India, in some instances becoming local rulers. [11] [12] [13] [14] The Tangut people living in Central China preserved their language until at least the 16th century.

Tangut society was divided into two classes: the "Red Faced" and the "Black Headed". The Red Faced Tanguts were seen as commoners while the Black Headed Tanguts made up the elite priestly caste. Although Buddhism was extremely popular among the Tangut people, many Tangut herdsmen continued to practice a kind of shamanism known as Root West (Melie). The black caps worn by Root West shamans give the Black Headed caste its name. According to Tangut myth, the ancestor of the Black Headed Tanguts was a heavenly white crane, while the ancestor of the Red Faced Tanguts was a monkey. [15] Tangut kings went by the title of Wuzu.

The Tanguts were primarily Buddhists. Tangut Buddhism was influenced by external elements. The entire Chinese Buddhist canon was translated into the Tangut language over a span of 50 years and published around 1090 in about 3700 fascicles. Buddhism in the Tangut state is believed to be an amalgamation of Tibetan and Chinese traditions, among which the Huayan-Chan tradition of Guifeng Zongmi (Chinese: 圭峰宗密, 780–841) and his master Huayan Chengguan was the most influential. A number of texts previously believed to be of native Tangut origin turned out to be translations of Khitan source texts. The degree of Tibetan impact on the formation of Tangut Buddhism still remains unexplored, especially in the light of new discoveries showing that Tangut Buddhism owed more to the local culture in North China than to pure Tibetan or Chinese influences. Texts belonging to the Tibetan Mahamudra tradition demonstrate that Tangut Buddhism initially evolved along the Karma Kagyu rather than Sakya lines of Buddhist transmission.

A number of Tangut Buddhist institutions, such as "Imperial Preceptor" survived the Tangut State itself and could be found during the Yuan dynasty. One of the more definite sources of Tangut Buddhism was Mount Wutai, where both Huayan and Chinese Esoteric Buddhism flourished from the late Tang dynasty up to the time of the Mongol conquest.

Solonin (2005: unpaginated) links the Tanguts, the Helan Mountains and the Chan teachings of both Kim Hwasang and Baotang Wuzhu:

The origins of the Tangut Chan can also be traced deeper than previously believed: information on Bao-tang Wu-zhu (保唐无住720~794) travels in North-Western China from the Notes on Transmitting the Dharma Treasure through Generations implies that at the period of 760's some sort of Buddhism was spread in the region of Helanshan, where the Tangut were already residing. Concerning the late 8th century Helanshan Buddhism, little can be said: the doctrines of the lu (律) school and the teaching of Sichuan Chan of Rev. Kim (金和尚) seem to be known there. [19]

Worship of Confucianism also existed in the Western Xia, which has led to some [ who? ] claims that the Tangut religion was rooted in Confucianism, but this was incomparable with the degree of popularity of Buddhism. Tangut literature is dominated by Buddhist scriptures while secular teachings including the Chinese classics were rarely available in the Tangut language.

The Tangut state enforced strict laws pertaining to the teaching of religious beliefs and rigorously screened potential teachers. Before he was allowed to teach, a newcomer entering the state from Tibet or India first had to seek the approval of local authorities. Doctrines taught and methods used were carefully supervised to ensure there was no possibility that the Tangut people might misunderstand the teachings. Anyone found to be a fortune-teller or charlatan faced immediate persecution. Deeming it contrary to Buddhist ethical beliefs, the Tangut state strictly forbade religious teachers from accepting compensation or reward for their teaching services.

Although the state did not support an official school of Buddhism, it did protect all religious sites and objects within the country's boundaries.

As in China, becoming a Buddhist monk required government approval and anyone found to have taken the vows of a monk without such government oversight faced severe punishment. Remarkably for the time, women played a role in Tangut religious practices by serving as nuns, a position that could only be held by a woman who had been widowed or who was an unmarried virgin. [ citation needed ]

Suchan (1998) traces the influence of the first several Karmapas upon the Yuan and Ming courts as well as the Western Xia, and mentions Düsum Khyenpa, 1st Karmapa Lama:

The first several Karmapas are distinguished by their important status at the Yuan and Ming courts of China where they served as the spiritual guides to princes and emperors. Their influence also extended to the court of the Tangut Xia Kingdom where a disciple of Dusum Khyenpa was given the title "Supreme Teacher" by a Tangut Xixia King[.] [20] [21]

After the fall of the Western Xia, the influx of refugees into Tibet led to the adoption of the Pehar deity into Tibetan Buddhism, eventually in the important role as the state oracle, the Nechung Oracle. [22]


Videos

Michael Wood tells the dramatic tale of China's last empire, the Qing.

Episode 6: The Age of Revolution (full length)

The great Taiping Rebellion, the fall of the Empire and the rise of Mao.

The Story of China Preview

Travelling from the Silk Road to the Yellow Sea, Michael Wood explores the history of the world&rsquos newest superpower. A thrilling and moving epic of the world&rsquos oldest continuous state with the landscapes, peoples, and stories that made today&rsquos China.

Preview: Ancestors (Episode 1)

Searching for the roots of today&rsquos China, Michael Wood joins a family reunion on &lsquoTomb Sweeping Day&rsquo sees the first Chinese writing and the first city meets the bloodthirsty First Emperor and travels with a million pilgrims to a country festival.

Preview: Silk Roads and China Ships (Episode 2)

Exploring China&rsquos first international age under the Tang Dynasty, Michael Wood travels Silk Road deserts sails the Grand Canal describes the coming of Christianity in the streets of old Xi&rsquoan -and goes back to school in a dusty Chinese town!

Preview: Golden Age (Episode 3)

Learn about China&rsquos Renaissance under the Song Dynasty. In Kaifeng, Michael Wood hears the story of the boys who became emperors tries a 1,000-year-old recipe works a giant astronomical clock and dances with the locals by Hangzhou&rsquos West Lake.

Preview: The Ming (Episode 4)

Hear the story of China&rsquos most famous dynasty. Michael Wood visits the Great Wall and the Forbidden City sails the South China Sea on a junk visits a fabulous Chinese garden and travels to Macao with the first Jesuit missionary to China.

Preview: The Last Empire (Episode 5)

Discover the splendors of China&rsquos last empire, the Qing. From China&rsquos favorite novel to story-telling houses and all-female mosques, it&rsquos an age full of surprises. Then came the fateful clash with the British in the First Opium War.

Preview: The Age of Revolution (Episode 6)

Survey the three great revolutions that gave birth to today&rsquos China. Wood visits wild mountain villages describes the fall of the empire visits Jazz Age Shanghai and stays in the last communist commune&mdashbefore a celebration on Chinese New Year.

The Myth of the Origins of the Chinese People

Michael Wood joins a million pilgrims at a temple festival in the Chinese countryside to celebrate the myth of the mother-goddess Nüwa and her brother Fuxi, which has been handed down from prehistory. The people tell how the ancestors of the Chinese people Nüwa and Fuxi created humanity- by mixing their own blood with the yellow mud of the Yellow River!

The Family: The Basis of Chinese Civilization

At the town of Wuxi in the lower Yangtze valley, Michael Wood joins the Qin family as they celebrate the annual festival for the ancestors, a ritual that goes back thousands of years. Banned under the communists such rituals are coming back everywhere in today&rsquos China, as once more the family regains its central place in Chinese culture.

Confucius: China's Guide to a Moral Life

Michael Wood visits the tomb of Confucius in Qufu. There he meets a visiting group of Korean scholars who perform rituals at the grave and tell us why Confucius is still one of the most important figures in the history of civilization. Then a party of school children say goodbye to Michael with a famous line from Confucius&rsquo book of sayings, one of the best selling books in history.

The Discovery of the First Chinese Writing

Michael Wood tells how China&rsquos greatest archaeological discovery started with a packet of over the counter medicine in a traditional Chinese drug store! In 1899, a Chinese scholar called Wang fell ill with malaria but he got more than he bargained for with his prescription! On the &lsquodragon bones&rsquo, which he had to grind up and drink for his fever, he recognised the earliest Chinese writing!

Du Fu – China's Most Loved Poet

A group of enthusiastic high school kids give Michael a guided tour around their school grounds where incredibly they show him the grave of China's greatest poet, Du Fu. The Chinese have loved Du Fu since he died in 770 - they call him their Shakespeare. Then, in the classroom, the kids take Michael through one of one of Du's most famous poems - and even manage to teach him a line or two!

Tang Xi'an: The Greatest City in the World

Tang Dynasty Xi'an was an incredible 25 square miles in size, roughly the size of Manhattan! Michael Wood sets off on foot, along the giant medieval walls to explore one of the old districts of the city with its fast food joints, fortune tellers and funeral parlors ending deep in the alleys at a temple dedicated to 'The Eight Immortals.'

The Magic of the Silk Road

Michael takes a stroll through the fabulous markets of Kashgar in Chinese Central Asia, still today full of different people, religions, cultures and cuisines. More than 1300 years ago, during China&rsquos brilliant Tang dynasty, this was a crossroads of the world: "East and West first start to get to know each other then," Michael says: "You might say it's the beginning of universal history."

The World's First Great Cuisine

Think Chinese take out is a modern idea? A thousand years ago in Kaifeng, the world's biggest city, China produced the world's first great cuisine with fancy diners and fast food joints. In a restaurant in today&rsquos Kaifeng, Michael orders lunch from a 1000 year old cookbook, and the chef brings a special dish for Michael and the team to try: Oranges stuffed with mushrooms and lotus seeds.

Did the Chinese Invent Soccer?

The rules of the "World's Game," modern soccer, were fixed in England in the 1860's but 1000 years ago in Song dynasty China, there were soccer clubs, rules, fans and even music and fast food at half-time! In Beijing, Michael gets up close for a crunch match in today's Chinese Premier League and compares the modern game to Song dynasty "Kickball."

The Tale of the Chinese Leonardo

A thousand years ago, China was a world leader in science and civilization. Michael Wood explores a 45 ft-high working replica of an astronomical clock made by China's Leonardo da Vinci -- Su Song. It's a water clock driven by an endless chain drive, with small painted wooden figures marking the time &ndash all steered with a ship's wheel!

Get a Taste of the Good Life under the Ming Dynasty

Michael Wood visits Suzhou, "the Venice of China." Five hundred years ago during the Ming dynasty Suzhou was the symbol of China&rsquos "Embarrassment of Riches." Staying in the house of a Ming merchant family, Michael explores China's new world of private wealth and fashion, when porcelain, lacquer making and silk weaving reached new heights to meet consumer demand.

The Chinese Voyages of Exploration

We all know about Columbus, but what about the great Chinese ocean voyages that took place before his time? Michael Wood tells the story of the Chinese Admiral Zheng He and his voyages to the west. He asks too, why were they stopped? "Some say it would be like stopping moon exploration after Apollo 8," says Michael. "But the Chinese had a different view."

Christian Missionary Matteo Ricci Journeys to China

Michael Wood arrives in the old Portuguese colony of Macao, the Europeans' first foothold in China. The Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci came here 1582, with the aim of converting the emperor and his people to Christianity. In today's cathedral in Beijing, Michael hears why Ricci is still so important to the 70 million Chinese Christians today.

Power Politics in the Ming Dynasty

Harvard University's Dr. Lik Hang Tsui tells the tale of the third emperor of the Ming dynasty, the ruthless Yongle who kills his nephew to take power. In a purge of his enemies, a loyal minister speaks out and receives the cruelest punishment: Death by ten degrees.

The Show Must Go On!

Michael joins a traditional acting troupe on their bus to a tiny village near Yangzhou. They are going there to perform a traditional drama for a local woman's 90th birthday - in the icy outdoors! We watch the actors and musicians prepare the set, put on their makeup, and get into costume as the whole village turns out despite the freezing cold and snow &ndashwith Granny in the front row!

China's Last Empire: A Rich Age for Muslim Culture

In the Great Mosque in Xi'an, Michael Wood shows us inscriptions in Chinese, Arabic and Farsi, which reveal the multi-cultural world of China 300 years ago under the Qing Dynasty. In Kaifeng, he is welcomed into a women-only mosque with a female imam &ndash a Chinese tradition that originated in the Qing dynasty. After the ceremony, it's time for laughter and 'selfies!'

The Opium Trade in China

Michael Wood talks to Prof. Zheng Yangwen about the crippling social effects on China of the opium trade run by the British. "Where is your conscience?" the emperor asked Queen Victoria. In the late 1830's, the Chinese decided to do something about it and ordered the destruction of all the opium held in British workhouses. There would be tragic consequences for China in the First Opium War.

The First Meeting of the Chinese Communist Party

Michael Wood visits the room in Shanghai where the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party took place in 1921. Among the twelve delegates (from only fifty-seven members!) was the young Mao Zedong, the future Chairman Mao. Meanwhile, outside in Shanghai. the Jazz Age was in full swing. Michael takes tea in the fabulous Peninsula Hotel, one of the centers of Westernization in 1920's China.

The Last Communist Collective in China

The age of communism is over now in today's free market China, even though the Communist Party still runs the country as a one party state. Now there's just one place which is still communist in a sea of capitalism. Michael visits this strange throwback in rural Henan, where they still sing, "The East is Red" before work, and where pictures of Mao, Stalin, and Lenin still adorn the town square!

"Why Can't Women Be Heroes too?"

Michael Wood visits the monument to Qiu Jin in Shaoxing. This feminist poet and political activist founded a radical journal for women's voices and campaigned for the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the founding of a republic. She was executed in the middle of her home town. Local women in the street enthusiastically and movingly explain to Michael why she is still a hero today.

Nanjing Sea Goddess Temple

Our Chinese crew have been fantastic but manipulating a 20ft crane into this temple was a challenge. As we&rsquod come to expect, they managed it with skill and a smile.

Coffee Making

Any filmmaker will tell you that crews run on coffee. Sometimes it&rsquos hard to find, so ingenious methods have to be employed to maintain blood caffeine levels!


The Life Cycles of Empires

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The German philosopher Hegel (1770-1831) knew that just because men and women learned about the past, that didn't mean they'd make better decisions about the future. He once cynically commented, "What experience and history teach us is this—that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."

For years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, America seemingly towered over the world as a great giant—economically, culturally and militarily. But now for nearly a decade since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, its armed services have clashed with the forces of Islamic extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the world.

If that weren't bad enough, the worldwide economic crisis has laid the country low with high unemployment, an immense federal government deficit, rising inflation and depressed home values. Other challenges loom ahead, flowing from the European Union's growing political and economic integration, Russia's increased strength and assertiveness, and China's rapid economic, industrial and military growth.

Will America follow the path of past empires?

Clearly America's present lone-superpower status is being increasingly challenged. Could it be lost completely? While it clings to a general preeminence right now, could America still decline and fall?

Didn't that happen to other great empires in the past, such as those of Britain, Spain, Rome, Persia, Babylon and Egypt? Is America' s future more secure than theirs was?

Sir John Bagot Glubb (1897-1987), a highly honored British general and historian better known as Glubb Pasha, wrote about the collapsed empires of the past. In his 1978 book The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival, he described a common pattern fitting the history of some fallen empires. They went through a cycle of stages as they started, expanded, matured, declined and collapsed.

Does the pattern apply to America today? Has the United States entered this cycle's ending stages? If so, shouldn't Americans critically examine the current state of their culture to see what could be done to prevent the same grim fate?

By knowing history better, we can better project our likely national futures. As the great British Prime Minister and noted historian Winston Churchill observed, "The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."

Seven steps in the life cycles of great powers

Glubb Pasha learned that different empires had similar cultural changes while experiencing a life cycle in a series of stages that could overlap. He generalized about empires having seven stages of development, identifying these successive ages as follows:

1. The age of outburst (or pioneers).
2. The age of conquests.
3. The age of commerce.
4. The age of affluence.
5. The age of intellect.
6. The age of decadence.
7. The age of decline and collapse.

Each stage helps progression to the next as the values of the people change over time. Military, political, economic and religious developments all influence an empire's people to act and believe differently over time.

Let's look at these stages in more detail.

The rise of empires

In the first two stages or ages, the warrior's adventuresome and manly values drive an empire to gain power as it conquers land from others.

Later on, during the following ages of commerce and affluence, businessmen and merchants—who normally value material success and dislike taking unnecessary risks—take over at the highest levels of society. Their societies downplay the values of the soldier.

According to Glubb, they normally do this not "from motives of conscience, but rather because of the weakening of a sense of duty in citizens, and the increase in selfishness, manifested in the desire for wealth and ease."

During these middle stages, empires stop taking more land and start building walls instead. They switch from the offensive to the defensive. Historical examples include the wall built near the Scottish border by the Roman emperor Hadrian, the Great Wall of China constructed to keep out intrusion by certain nomadic groups, and even 20th-century France's Maginot Line, placed along the German border.

Conquest and (later) business investment promoted by the empire's unity builds the wealth that leads to the age of intellect. Even the brutal Mongol Empire, by bringing most of Asia under its rule, encouraged the caravan trade along Eurasia's famed Silk Road. During this fifth stage, the empire's leaders spent lots of money to establish educational institutions resembling modern universities and high schools.

Sowing the seeds of decline

During the age of intellect, schools may produce skeptical intellectuals who oppose the values and religious beliefs of their empires' early leaders. For example, the medieval Muslim philosophers Avicenna and Averroes, by accepting much of ancient Greek philosophy, weren't orthodox in belief.

Scholars also might manage schools that teach the ruling class and/or some of the average people subjects that are either mainly oriented towards financial success or are simply impractical. For example, in the early Roman Republic, students received a basic education that stressed character development and virtue. But in the later Roman Empire, teachers taught rhetoric (the art of speaking) when emotionally persuading assemblies was no longer of political or practical value.

The corrosive effects of material success encourage the upper class and the common people to discard the self-confident, self-disciplined values that helped to create the empire. Then the empire eventually collapses. Perhaps an outside power, such as the so-called barbarians in Rome's case, wipes it out. Or maybe an energetic internal force, such as the pro-capitalist reformers in the Soviet Union, finishes the job instead.

The growth of wealth and comfort clearly can undermine the values of character, such as self-sacrifice and discipline, that led to a given empire's creation. Then the empire so affected by moral decline grows weaker and more vulnerable to destruction by forces arising inside or outside of it.

Not surprisingly, God in the Bible specifically warned the ancient Israelites against departing from worshipping Him once they became materially satisfied after entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:11-20 Deuteronomy 8:11-20 [11] Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command you this day: [12] Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelled therein [13] And when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied [14] Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage [15] Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water who brought you forth water out of the rock of flint [16] Who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers knew not, that he might humble you, and that he might prove you, to do you good at your latter end [17] And you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth. [18] But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. [19] And it shall be, if you do at all forget the LORD your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. [20] As the nations which the LORD destroys before your face, so shall you perish because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
American King James Version× 31:20). He understood this human tendency.

A society is known by its heroes

Has the United States entered the latter phases of the empire life cycle? True, it's only been independent from Britain for somewhat over two centuries. It's a young country compared to those of Europe or Asia. But does America today have the same values or cultural developments that past empires such as Rome had before they fell?

For example, who are the nation's heroes? What does a people's choice of heroes tell us about the people themselves? Today in America the people generally admired above all (and perpetually gossiped about) are celebrities such as sports stars, singers, actors and musicians.

As Glubb explains, the heroes of an empire's people change over time as their values do. Soldiers, builders, pioneers and explorers are admired in the initial stages of the empire life cycle. Then successful businessmen and entrepreneurs are esteemed during the ages of commerce and affluence.

For example, late 19th-century middle-class Americans wanted their children to learn the values of prudence, saving and foresight as found in the stories of author Horatio Alger, whose heroes lead exemplary lives striving to succeed in the face of adversity and poverty. Intellectuals are also increasingly respected during the age of intellect.

During the last stages of decadence and decline, an empire's people often think most highly of and imitate athletes, musicians and actors—despite how corrupt these celebrities' private lives are.

Remarkably, according to Glubb Pasha, in 10th-century Baghdad during the Muslim Abbasid Empire's decline, its writers complained about the singers of love songs having a bad influence on the young people! It seems the old adage is true: The more things change, the more they stay the same (or, perhaps, become the same again).

Because people grow emotionally attached to the music they love, they have a high regard for its singers and want to emulate them. Inevitably, popular music's often spiritually rotten lyrical content—such as foul language, blunt sexual references, glorifying immorality, and even Satanic allusions at times—influences fans. Furthermore, the immoral lifestyles of many musicians, often including drug abuse and promiscuous sex, also have an impact on society.

What are some key signs of decline?

What are some common features of an empire's culture in its declining period? Glubb describes developments like these:

1. Rampant sexual immorality, an aversion to marriage in favor of "living together" and an increased divorce rate all combine to undermine family stability. This happened among the upper class in the late Roman Republic and early Empire. The first-century writer Seneca once complained about Roman upper-class women: "They divorce in order to re-marry. They marry in order to divorce."

The birthrate declines, and abortion and infanticide both increase as family size is deliberately limited. The historian W.H. McNeill has referred to the "biological suicide of the Roman upper classes" as one reason for Rome's decline. Homosexuality becomes publicly acceptable and spreads, as was the case among the ancient Greeks before Rome conquered them.

2. Many foreign immigrants settle in the empire's capital and major cities. The mixture of ethnic groups in close proximity in these cosmopolitan places inevitably produces conflicts.

Because of their prominent locations within the empire, their influence greatly exceeds their percentage of the population. Here diversity plainly leads to divisiveness.

We see this today in the growing conflict in European countries such as France and the Netherlands, where large numbers of immigrants are stoking violent cultural clashes. German chancellor Angela Merkel recently made headlines when she stated that attempts to create a multicultural society had "utterly failed" and immigrants must do more to integrate into society.

3. Both irresponsible pleasure-seeking and pessimism increase among the people and their leaders. The spirit described in 1 Corinthians 15:32 1 Corinthians 15:32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantages it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink for to morrow we die.
American King James Version× spreads throughout society: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"

As people cynically give up looking for solutions to the problems of life and society, they drop out of the system. They then turn to mindless entertainment, to luxuries and sexual activity, and to drugs or alcohol.

The astonishingly corrupt and lavish parties of the Roman Empire's elite are a case in point. The Emperor Nero, for instance, would spend the modern equivalent of $500,000 for just the flowers at some banquets.

4. The government provides extensive welfare for the poor. In the case of the city of Rome, which had perhaps 1.2 million people around A.D. 170, government-provided "bread and circuses" (food and entertainment) helped to keep the masses content. About one half of its non-slave population was on the dole at least part of the year.

True, helping the poor shows Christian compassion (Mark 14:7 Mark 14:7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you will you may do them good: but me you have not always.
American King James Version× ). But such help also can lead to laziness and dependency (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 [10] For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. [11] For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. [12] Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
American King James Version× ). Such problems are especially likely when the poor believe state-provided charity is a permanent right or entitlement.

Is America on a downward cultural and spiritual spiral?

Considering this list of indicators of an empire's cultural and moral decline, is it reasonable to deny that the United States has entered the stages of decadence and decline?

True, the tidal wave of social and cultural decay unleashed by the 1960s in America has ebbed some in recent years. The rates of abortion, divorce, illegitimate births, drug abuse, welfare dependency and violent crime have either declined or gone up much more slowly.

Furthermore, some indicators of decline have good, not just bad, results. For instance, some immigration is helpful. As skilled, educated immigrants arrive, they normally benefit America economically while being a "brain drain" from Third World countries. And, indeed, the United States has historically embraced vast numbers of immigrants.

Nevertheless, the present flood of immigrants, legal or illegal, equals in impact the wave that arrived at America's shores around 1900. Today, they are far more apt to be a divisive force. Why? Unlike a hundred years ago, America's intellectual elite overall has adopted multiculturalism (the promotion of immigrants maintaining their prior distinct cultures) and has rejected assimilation (adopting the existing national culture) as its ideal.

Today multiculturalism is the ideology underlying a potentially ultimate political Balkanization, wherein society is fragmented along ethnic and cultural lines. (For evidence, see the liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger's 1991 book The Disuniting of America). A lack of cultural unity inevitably leads to conflict in a free society such as in the United States.

Are we paying attention?

How should we react to the historical insights of Sir John Glubb Pasha's The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival as they relate to America, Britain and other related English-speaking nations?

As he notes in his examination of a number of previous empires, the processes of history often repeat themselves. We shouldn't believe that America will automatically avoid the fate of other great empires that declined and fell in the past.

God is ever so merciful, but His patience in the face of our national sins is wearing thin. He has given His true servants a mission to warn the nations of what is coming (Ezekiel 33:1-9 Ezekiel 33:1-9 [1] Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, [2] Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them, When I bring the sword on a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: [3] If when he sees the sword come on the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people [4] Then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet, and takes not warning if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be on his own head. [5] He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning his blood shall be on him. But he that takes warning shall deliver his soul. [6] But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand. [7] So you, O son of man, I have set you a watchman to the house of Israel therefore you shall hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. [8] When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity but his blood will I require at your hand. [9] Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity but you have delivered your soul.
American King James Version× ), and that is one of the purposes of this magazine. We want to help you see how prophecies given long ago are now shaping up before our eyes!

If modern nations repent, as the people of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh did after the prophet Jonah delivered God's warning to them (as described in the book of Jonah), they can avoid the dreadful punishments prophesied to come. But even if only the few of us reading this article repent before the time of tribulation arrives, God will keep us in His care.

Many of God's faithful followers will be protected from the tribulation (Revelation 3:10 Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth.
American King James Version× ). And, most importantly, Jesus promises eternal life to all who truly believe, turn from sin and persevere in their faithful obedience: "He who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13 Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version× ).

Since we know that the handwriting is on the wall, what will we now choose to do?


Xia(c. 2200 – 1766 BCE )

Chinese oral tradition describes Yu the Great, who organized the people to build canals that stopped flooding and created great prosperity. Most historians once believed the Xia to be a mythical dynasty, but recent archaeological findings seem to verify their existence.

Shang (1766 – c.1040 BCE )

Excavations have confirmed descriptions in ancient Chinese literature of a highly developed culture. In addition to developing a writing system still in use today, the Shang created a lunar calendar consisting of twelve months of 30 days each. The Shang were distinguished by an aristocratic government, great artistry in bronze, an agricultural economy, and armies of thousands whose commanders rode in chariots.

Zhou (c.1040 – 256 BCE )

The nomadic Zhou people from northwestern China overthrew the Shang kings. The Zhou developed a feudal society in China, but slowly lost power to local warlords.

The Age of Warring States (c.481- 221 BCE )

Many regional states formed as the Zhou Dynasty the Mandate of Heaven. This is why the Zhou Dynasty overlaps the Age of Warring States for more than two centuries.

Qin (221-206 BCE )

Weights and measures and the Chinese writing system were unified under the Qin. Chinese defenses against nomadic warriors were strengthened by creating the Great Wall.

Han (206 BCE – 220 CE )

During the Han Dynasty, the Chinese invented paper, recorded the history of their land, and first learned of Buddhism. The Han is often compared to the Roman Empire of the same age. Today the Chinese word for Chinese person means “a man of Han."

Sui (581-618)

The short-lived Sui dynasty reunified China after four hundred years of fragmentation. During Sui rule, a Grand Canal links northern and southern China.

Tang (618-907)

Considered the “Golden Age of China," the Tang Dynasty made China the largest, wealthiest, and the most populous nation of their time. Tang rulers based their laws on based on Confucian thought.

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960)

Several rival states vied for control of China during a brief period of disunity.

Song (907-1279)

The Song Dynasty reunified China and ruled for 300 years. Paper money was introduced during the Song dynasty.

Yuan (The Mongols) (1279-1368)

Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty after his Mongol tribes defeated China. The Yuan encouraged Europeans to travel overland to China Marco Polo was the most famous of the early Europeans to make the journey.

Ming (1368-1644)

– As famine and plague swept China, the Mandate of Heaven passed to Zhu Yuanzhang, who led a peasant army to victory over the Mongols. The Ming were known for orderly government and control over Chinese peasants.

Qing (Manchus) (1644-1911)

Founded by conquerors from Manchuria in 1644, the Qing was the last imperial dynasty of China. Decades of upheaval led to the fall of the Qing.

The Republic of China (1912-1949)

A series of weak governments followed the fall of the Qing. In 1931, Japan seized Manchuria in northeast China and formed the puppet state of Manchukuo.

The People’s Republic of China (1949-present)

A Communist revolution led by Mao Zedong captured control of China in 1949. The communists continued to rule long after Mao’s death in 1976.


What Happens When China Leads the World

The policies and practices of the country’s dynasties offer insights into how modern Chinese leaders may wield their strength.

What kind of superpower will China be? That’s the question of the 21st century. According to American leaders such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, China will be a rapacious authoritarian nightmare, intent on destroying democracy itself. Beijing, needless to say, doesn’t quite agree.

Fortunately for those of us seeking answers to this question, China was a major power for long stretches of history, and the foreign policies and practices of its great dynasties can offer us insights into how modern Chinese leaders may wield their widening power now and in the future.

Of course, Chinese society today is not the same as it was 100 years ago—let alone 1,000 years. But I’ve long been studying imperial China’s foreign relations, and clear patterns of a consistent worldview emerge that are likely to shape Beijing’s perceptions and projection of power in the modern world.

China will not be a pacifist power

In an address to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping repeated Beijing’s oft-stated claim that it was committed to peaceful development, and there is a widely held view that Chinese emperors of the past generally eschewed the use of force. It is certainly true that the country’s dynasties enjoyed stable relations with some of their East Asian neighbors for extended periods of time—unlike in Europe, where competing monarchies were almost constantly at each other’s throats. Modern Chinese like to contrast brutal European colonial adventures with the 15th-century voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He and his treasure fleets, which sailed across the Indian Ocean but conquered no one.

But this quaint picture of Chinese pacifism ignores that the country’s dynasties were almost constantly at war. Sure, many of these wars were defensive, mainly against a panoply of invading northern tribesmen. But at the height of their power, the emperors were quite aggressive expansionists, too. The Han dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) and the Tang dynasty (618–907) had armies marching from Central Asia to the Korean peninsula. The Song dynasty (960–1279) fought wars with and sought territory from rival states it just wasn’t very good at it. The most acquisitive of the dynasties was the Qing (1644–1912), which carved up and controlled Tibet and conquered today’s Xinjiang. The Qing emperors were Manchu, a northern people, but lands they acquired are now considered indisputable parts of the motherland. (Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army had to reclaim Tibet, which had drifted away from China amid the chaos of the Qing collapse, while the Xinjiang region, which had attained a high degree of autonomy, had to be reintegrated as well.)

China will insist on its own world order

The states China didn’t or couldn’t overrun were absorbed into the Chinese world through a system of diplomacy and trade that the emperors controlled. Other governments were expected to pay tribute to the Chinese court as an acknowledgment of Chinese superiority, at least ceremonially, and the emperors then considered them vassals. Whether such a tribute system really existed as a hard-and-fast or consistently applied foreign policy is debated among historians. But it is clear that the Chinese usually tried to foist their diplomatic norms and practices onto those who desired formal relations with China. Think of it as the rules of the game of foreign affairs in East Asia, dictated by China.

This order was rarely challenged, at least by the more established East Asian states. Unlike Europe, where states of roughly similar muscle contended for territory, trade, and influence, China had no real rivals. Generally speaking, its neighbors accepted Chinese dominance and followed its rules of engagement.

When China faced a challenge, however, it could resort to force. The short-lived Sui dynasty (581–618) and the Tang spent decades, for example, trying to destroy the strong Koguryo kingdom in Korea. Zheng He, the supposedly peaceful admiral, launched a military expedition on the island of Sumatra (now part of Indonesia) against a rival to the local king and Chinese vassal. When the Japanese invaded the Korean peninsula in 1592, the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) sent troops to help the Koreans expel them. As late as the 1880s, the Qing dynasty went to war to aid its Vietnamese tributaries against the French. The Chinese would also police their system in other, coercive ways—by, for instance, denying proper trading rights to unruly foreigners.

So while Xi told the UN in September that Beijing “will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence,” history suggests that China will use force or coercion against other countries when they contest Chinese power. This has implications for Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries that dispute China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, and for Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a renegade province.

There are also signs that the Chinese will restore aspects of the old imperial order as their power expands. On two occasions, Xi has summoned high-level delegations from countries participating in his infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative to pomp-heavy Beijing forums—tribute missions in all but name. Conversely, when countries defy Beijing’s edicts, they are denied access to its bounty. China blocked imports from Canada and Australia amid recent diplomatic tussles, and Beijing targeted South Korean businesses in China three years ago after Seoul agreed to deploy a U.S. missile defense system that the Chinese saw as a security threat.

Chinese police officers watch a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province. (AFP / Getty)

China will export its values

One reason supporting the notion that China will be a benign superpower is the amorality of its current foreign policy. Unlike the U.S., with its missionary zeal to bring its form of liberty to all, China doesn’t seem as interested in changing the world, this argument goes, just making money from it. There is some truth to this. The Chinese are equally happy to sell Huawei 5G networks to autocratic Russia and democratic Germany without a fuss.

Historically, though, the Chinese believed that their culture had a transformative power—it could change barbarism into civilization. Confucius himself thought so. In the Analects, China’s greatest sage expressed a desire to live among barbarian tribes. A startled listener asked how he could tolerate their uncouth habits. Not to worry, Confucius answered. “If a superior man dwelt among them, what rudeness would there be?”

Practically speaking, China’s historic statesmen didn’t really expect the world to “go Chinese,” but they did promote their civilization. Ceremonies for visiting ambassadors at the imperial court were designed to awe. Tang officials built dormitories for foreign students who wanted to study Chinese literature at the country’s famous academies. The voyages of Zheng He were meant most of all to display Chinese greatness: The Ming emperor who launched them, Yongle, imagined that the people of Cochin in southern India “went down on their hands and knees,” and, “looking to Heaven, they bowed and all said: ‘How fortunate we are that the civilizing influences of the Chinese sages should reach us.’”

The Chinese also understood the link between culture and power. Other peoples naturally looked to China, the most advanced society in East Asia, when building their own kingdoms, and they liberally borrowed legal codes and governing institutions, artistic and literary styles, and, most famously, Chinese written characters. This common cultural bond sustained Chinese influence in the region even when the country itself was politically weakened.

Xi knows this full well, and he intends to build up China’s soft power by pushing Chinese values, both old and new. “Facts prove that our path and system … are successful,” he once said. “We should popularize our cultural spirit across countries as well as across time and space, with contemporary values and the eternal charm of Chinese culture.” This is the purpose of Confucius Institutes, a state-run program aimed at promoting Chinese language and culture. In the wake of Beijing’s (supposedly) superior coronavirus-busting effort, Chinese officials and state media outlets have been relentlessly marketing their (authoritarian) governance system as superior, while denigrating the (democratic) U.S. by mocking its pandemic response.

The implication of this is that modern China will prefer other countries to be more like them, not unlike the emperors of old. In imperial times, China’s rulers tended to favor foreigners who were “more Chinese.” In the first century A.D., the Chinese historian Ban Gu developed the concept of an “inner” world—comprised of societies touched by Chinese civilization—and an “outer,” of incorrigible barbarians who remained blind to China’s light. The inner crowd was treated more benignly and participated more closely in Chinese affairs. This suggests that ultimately China will support like-minded (read: authoritarian) regimes. Indeed, it already does: It befriends illiberal governments shunned by most other countries, such as North Korea, Iran, Belarus, and Venezuela.

China only tolerates relationships it can dominate

Even in deep antiquity, the Chinese considered themselves better than other peoples because they believed that their civilization was civilization. This formed the basis of a worldview in which the Chinese sat atop the hierarchy. They did not believe in equal relationships, at least in official or ideological terms. Their world order, with its rules and norms, was based on the principle of Chinese superiority, and the acceptance of that superiority by all others. Traditionally, when the Chinese were forced into a subordinate or even an equal position with another power, usually due to military weakness, they resented it and tried to reassert their usual dominance when they were strong enough to turn the tables.

And it is happening again today. Seething at what they consider humiliations inflicted by Western powers—from the Opium War to what the Chinese call “unequal” treaties that sapped their sovereignty—China is on a mission to regain the upper hand. As Xi put it, the country “will never again tolerate being bullied by any nation.” That’s the goal behind much of his current policies, from a significant buildup of military capabilities to state-funded programs aimed at helping China overtake the West in technology. More and more, China’s diplomacy turns threatening when faced with challenges from other countries, whether the U.S., India, or Australia.

What becomes clear from an examination of China’s history is that the Chinese don’t just want to be a great power—they believe they deserve to be. In centuries past, the Chinese thought their sovereign had a right to rule “all under Heaven.” Due to the realities of technology and distance, China’s reach usually remained regional. But now, in the age of globalization, Beijing’s influence may achieve that lofty goal.


The Great Chinese Empire: A Documentary - History

China was ruled by an emperor for over 2000 years. The first emperor was Qin Shi Huang who took the title in 221BC after he united all of China under one rule. The last emperor was Puyi of the Qing Dynasty who was overthrown in 1912 by the Republic of China.

How was the emperor chosen?

When the current emperor died, typically his oldest son became emperor. It didn't always happen this way, however. Sometimes there were disputes over who should become emperor and rivals were killed or wars began.

The Chinese word for "Emperor" is "Huangdi". There were a number of titles that people used to refer to the emperor including "Son of Heaven", "Lord of Ten Thousand Years", and "Holy Highness."

Many emperors also had a name that referred to their reign or era. For example, the Kangxi Emperor or the Hongwu Emperor.

Here are some of the most famous emperors of China.


Emperor Wu of Han by Unknown
[Public Domain]

Qin Shi Huang (221 BC to 210 BC) - Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of China and founder of the Qin Dynasty. He united China under one rule for the first time in 221 BC. He began many economic and political reforms throughout China. He also built up the Great Wall of China and was buried with the Terracotta Army.

Emperor Gaozu of Han (202 BC to 195 BC) - Emperor Gaozu started life as a peasant, but helped to lead a revolt that overthrew the Qin Dynasty. He emerged as the leader and established the Han Dynasty. He reduced taxes on the common people and made Confucianism an integral part of the Chinese government.

Emperor Wu of Han (141 BC to 87 BC) - Emperor Wu ruled China for 57 years. During that time he greatly expanded China's borders through a number of military campaigns. He also established a strong central government and promoted the arts including poetry and music.

Emperor Taizong (626 AD to 649 AD) - Emperor Taizong helped his father to establish the Tang Dynasty. Once emperor, Taizong implemented many changes in the economy and government that helped to usher China into a golden age of peace and prosperity. His reign was considered one of the best in Chinese history and was studied by future emperors.

Empress Wu Zetian (690 AD to 705 AD) - Empress Wu was the only woman to rule China and take the title of emperor. She promoted officials based on talent, not on family ties. She helped to expand the empire and reformed areas of the economy and government that caused China to flourish in the future.

Kublai Khan (1260 AD to 1294 AD) - Kublai Khan was the ruler of the Mongolians who conquered China. He established the Yuan Dynasty in 1271 and took the title of Emperor of China. Kublai built up the infrastructure of China and established trade with outside countries. He brought different cultures and peoples into China.

Hongwu Emperor (1368 AD to 1398 AD) - The Hongwu Emperor founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368 AD when he forced the Mongols from China and ended the Yuan Dynasty. He established a powerful Chinese army and distributed land to the peasants. He also established a new code of laws.

Kangxi Emperor (1661 AD to 1722 AD) - The Kangxi Emperor was the longest ruling emperor of China at 61 years. His reign was a time of prosperity for China. He expanded the borders of China and had a dictionary of Chinese characters compiled that later became known as the Kangxi Dictionary.


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