The Dynastic System

Qianlong.jpgThe world under heaven, after a long period of division, will be united; after a long period of union, will be divided. 話說天下大勢,分久必合,合久必分
(Source: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th c., a novel based on the end of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms Era)

Key questions:

  • What was the role of religion and beliefs in ancient China (Mandate of Heaven, Confucius, Taoism, etc?)
  • What is the dynastic cycle, and the similarities and differences in the reasons dynasties rose and fell?
  • What were the reasons the dynastic system endured (lasted so long)?

Dynasties covered in Ancient China:

Shang 1650 BCE -1050 BCE: China's first great dynasty. This Bronze Age civilization is known for its skillfull metalwork and for the emergence of the first Chinese writing. The Shang Kings and their nobles ruled the mainly rural population from walled towns and cities. Horse-drawn chariots were the chief means of transportation.

Zhou (or 'Chou') 1050 BCE to 250 BCE : The longest dynasty, lasting 800 years. Confucius looked back on the early years of the Zhou dynasty as a Golden Age. The Zhou kings maintained Shang practice of ancestor worship, and society was organized on a feudal system; great lords ruled the peasant farmers from large estates.

(Warring States Period 400 BCE to 221 BCE)

Qin (or 'Chin') 221- 207 BCE: China's shortest dynasty lasted less than 20 years, but China's 'First Emperor' Shi Huangdi united China. He expanded and linked the Great Wall to protect from northern nomads, standardized Chinese writing, coins, and weights and measures. He also had built the great Terra Cotta tomb at Xi'an. Shi Huangdi united China so firmly that afterwards the Chinese people regarded imperial rule as the only logical form of government.

Han 207 BCE to 220 CE: Han Emperors consolidated the imperial system by establishing a national civil service. It was to run China for the next 2,000 years. Educated officials studied the teachings of Confucius and were selected by a rigorous examination system. Factories manufactured all kinds of goods, from iron plowshares to silk cloth.

Warm-Up: People in Ancient China Believed

Unit Questions: Ancient China Questions

Exercise 1: G-GREASES

Click here for a review of what G-GREASES covers
Click here for a G-GREASES chart you can use for this unit.

TO DO: Use the below resources to read about the Shang and Zhou dynasties. Analyze the information and write it down in the appropriate place in the G-GREASES chart


  1. Timeline of Chinese History. Don't forget about the Qin (squeezed between the Warring States Period and the Han Dynasty); you may need to reload the timeline or try it on a different browser. An alternative timeline can be found here.
  2. Map of Shang, Zhou, Qin and Han Dynasties
  3. Shang and Zhou powerpoint
  4. Website on Ancient Dynasties (read specifically about the Shang and Zhou- spelled Chou on this page)
  5. In-class powerpoint on Ancient China
  6. More advanced powerpoint (detailed, thematic) on Shang & Zhou

Writing Assignment:

1 paragraph using PEEC format (Point-Evidence-Explanation-Conclusion):
Describe 1 similarity or 1 difference between the Shang and Zhou Dynasties

Note: You can also modify this topic if you want. The following are examples of modifying:
1 similarity AND 1 difference between Shang and Zhou
2 similarities between Shang and Zhou
2 differences between Shang and Zhou

Use the above resources (I have also added two additional powerpoint I showed you in class to the above list)

Responsibilities/ Areas of Focus for Students

Areas of Focus (you will be responsible for understanding, explaining and demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of the below questions/concepts)

Now look at this passage of text and break it down using the G-GREASES format.

Exercise 2: What Do You Know?

Think of 1-2 words that relate to China's dynastic era. Think of 1-2 questions you'd reaslly like to find out/ know about this this time. Write them on an index card.

Exercise 3: Movie Clip

Watch the movie and take notes. Be sure to note specifically what the narrator says about the relationship between ancient China in the ancient world and today, and the factors he cites that helped the dynastic system last so long.

Shang and Zhou Dynasty Homework:

Using the below powerpoint and website fill in the G-GREASES chart for the Shang and Zhou dynasties


EXER: People in Ancient China Believed....



Due Date: Tuesday October 23rd (for 1B/4B) and Wednesday October 24th (1A)
You must EVALUATE the reign of Shi Huangdi. Was he a hero or a villain? Was his rule good or bad for China?
You can do this in one of the following ways (pick one):
  • a 1-2 page paper where you evaluate the Qin Emperor
  • a 2 minute speech- you can be Shi Huangdi justifying your rule, or someone criticizing his rule
  • a newspaper editorial either calling for revolution against Shi Huangdi or in support of his rule
  • 2 posters: one a 'Hero' poster, the other a 'Villain' poster
  • a letter written by Shi Huangdi to future histrians explaining what he did and why
  • an illustrated children's book

We will discuss the assignment further in class.

Resources for the assignment (choose at least two or three):

Use these readings and websites to fill-in your G-GREASES chart on the Qin Dynasty.
Click for Reading #1: You should read this
Listen to a podcast or read the corresponding article on the First Emperor
Click for Reading #2 Good short overview. There's information on the top and on the right-hand column you can ignore
Click for Reading #3 Another good overview
Click for Reading #4 Brief powerpoint with main accomplishments
Click for Reading #5 Some of the stories from the Qin Dynasty (OPTIONAL)
Websites for Qin Information:
Website #1 (scroll down for Qing Dynasty)

Analytical Chart for Shi Huangdi assignment