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China: Chronology of Major Events
From A Traveller's History of China, fourth edition p257-262

BC
c. 1.5-0.5 millionHomo erectus living in China near Beijing, Lantian, Yuanmou and other sites
c. 80000Appearance of modern man, Homo sapiens, in China
c. 7000Beginnings of agriculture and of the Neolithic period
c. 2550Reign of the Yellow Emperor (legendary)
c. 2300Reign of Yao (legendary)
c. 2200Reign of Shun (legendary)
c. 2140Yu the Great controls the great flood (legendary)
c. 2100Beginning of the Xia dynasty (history uncertain)
c. 2100Beginning of the Chinese Bronze Age
c. 1600Tang the Accomplished overthrows the last Xia king and establishes the Shang dynasty
c. 1300Earliest Shang inscriptions on oracle bones
c. 1100Reign of King Wen of Zhou
c. 1050The forces of King Wu of Zhou defeat those of the last Shang king in the Battle of Muye: end of the Shang dynasty
c. 900Emergence of horse nomadism in the steppes north of China
841Earliest certain date in Chinese history
c. 820Zhou China attacked by the Xianyun (probably mounted warriors from the north)
771King You of Zhou killed in attack on the royal capital by rebellious vassals and barbarians
770First year of the reign of King Ping of Zhou, enthroned in the eastern Zhou capital near modern Luoyang; beginning of Spring and Autumn period
c. 650Chinese begin to cast iron
552 or 551Birth of Confucius
479Death of Confucius
463Beginning of Warring States period
c. 450Long defensive wall built on the borders of the state of Qi
256Zhou kingdom finally annihilated by the state of Qin
221King Zheng of Qin completes the conquest of all the Chinese states and declares himself First Emperor of the Qin dynasty
214Completion of the first Great Wall of China
210Death of the First Emperor of Qin
209Outbreak of uprisings against the Qin dynasty
206Han dynasty established
c. 140Confucianism becomes the dominant state philosophy
138-126Zhang Qian travels from China to Bactria and Sogdiana
c. 90Sima Qian finishes the first complete history of China
AD
9-23Reign of Wang Mang, only emperor of the Xin dynasty; all land declared state property
c. 65Buddhism reaches China
105Cai Lun brings paper to the attention of the emperor
184Rebellion of the Yellow Turbans begins
220Final collapse of the Han dynasty; China splits into three states
c. 250Tea-drinking begins to spread through China
c. 399-414Fa Xian travels from China to India
589Sui dynasty reunites China
605Completion of the first Grand Canal, linking the Yangtze with the Yellow River
610Grand Canal extended south to the Qiantang River
c. 629-45Xuan Zhuang's journey from China to India
641A Chinese princess marries the King of Tibet
668Chinese subjugate Korea
690-701Reign of the Empress Wu
694Buddhism ceases to be treated as a foreign religion
751Battle of the Talas River; Chinese power in Central Asia
755-7Rebellion of An Lushan
758Muslims from Arabia and the Persian Gulf burn and loot Guangzhou
763Tibetans invade China and briefly occupy Chang'an
843Large quantities of Buddhist church property seized by the government
868Earliest surviving dated printed book produced in China
875Outbreak of rebellion of Huang Chao
906Tang dynasty collapses; China again divided
c. 901Paper money first used in China
919Gunpowder begins to be used in China
932-53Printing of the complete texts of the Confucian Classics
975China reunited during the reign of the first emperor of the Song dynasty
1044Description of the magnetic compass in a Chinese text
1069Reforms of Wang Anshi
1126The Song capital, Kaifeng, falls to Jurched invaders, who establish the Jin dynasty in north China
1161-5Song armed forces repulse Jin attacks
1194Major flood and change of course of the Yellow River
1234The Mongols complete the conquest of north China and destroy the Jin Dynasty
1271-97Marco Polo in China
1279Khubilai Khan completes the conquest of south China
c. 1290The Grand Canal is rebuilt and extended
1294John of Montecorvino establishes a permanent Christian mission in Beijing
1368The Ming dynasty is founded with its capital at Nanjing
1403-33Voyages by large Chinese junks to India and East Africa
c. 1412Rebuilding of the Great Wall
1421The Ming court moves to Beijing
1449The Mongols invade China and seize the sixth Ming emperor
1514Portuguese ships reach the China coast
1535The Portuguese first begin to use Macao
1581Tax reform: the land tax and poll tax are combined under the 'single whip system.'
1592The Japanese invade Korea
1598Chinese forces push the Japanese out of Korea
1601Matteo Ricci, Jesuit missionary, establishes himself in Beijing
1629Manchus loot Beijing
1629-45Rebellion of Li Zicheng
c. 1640The first tea is brought to Europe
1644Li Zicheng seizes Beijing and overthrows the Ming dynasty; Wu Sangui invites the Manchus through the Great Wall to help drive Li Zicheng out of Beijing; the Manchus establish themselves in China, moving their capital to Beijing
1683The Manchus take Taiwan, completing their conquest of China
1689The Treaty of Nerchinsk partially settles the border between Russia and Manchuria
1720The Manchus incorporate Tibet into the Qing empire
1729An imperial edict forbids the selling and use of opium
1790-1Qing forces subjugate Nepal
1793-4First British embassy to China, led by Lord Macartney
1793-1804White Lotus rebellion
1816Second British embassy to China, led by Lord Amherst
1834The British East India Company's monopoly of the China trade is abolished
1836-9The opium trade at Guangzhou is suppressed by the Chinese
1839-42First Opium War
1842Treaty of Nanjing: Hong Kong Island ceded to Britain, Shanghai opened as a 'treaty port'
1851-64Taiping rebellion
1853Taiping rebels take Nanjing
1853-68Nian rebellion
1855The Yellow River floods and changes its course; the northern section of the Grand Canal loses its water and falls into disuse
1855-73Muslim rebellion in Yunnan
1857-60Arrow War or Second Opium War
1860British and French forces enter Beijing and destroy the Yuan Ming Yuan summer palace
c. 1862The Empress Dowager Ci Xi becomes the dominant force at the Qing court
1862-78Muslim rebellion in north-west China
1863Robert Hart becomes inspector-general of the Chinese Customs service
1879Japan annexes the Ryukyu Islands
1894-5Sino-Japanese War
1895Treaty of Shimonoseki: Taiwan is ceded to Japan
1897The Germans seize Jiaozhou Bay and Qingdao and force the Chinese to grant a lease
1898Russia obtains a lease on Port Arthur and Dalian
1898Britain obtains leases on Weihaiwei and the New Territories of Hong Kong
1898The 'Hundred Days of Reform'
1898-1900The Boxer uprising
1900Siege of the Foreign Legations; Western troops occupy Beijing
1904-5Russo-Japanese War; Japan takes over Russian interests in Manchuria
1908Death of the Empress Dowager Ci Xi; accession of the last emperor, Pu Yi
1911The Nationalist Revolution overthrows the Qing dynasty
1912Yuan Shikai becomes first president of the Chinese Republic
1914Outbreak of First World War; Japan attacks German concessions in the Far East and takes Qingdao
1915Yuan Shikai accepts Japan's 'Twenty-one Demands'
1916Yuan Shikai abandons plans to become emperor and dies soon afterwards
1917Brief restoration of the last Qing emperor; China enters the First World War against Germany
1919The May Fourth Movement: Chinese students demonstrate against the Versailles settlement
1921First general meeting of the Chinese Communist Party
1922Japan returns Qingdao to Chinese control
1925Sun Yat-sen dies; Chiang Kai-shek becomes leader of the Chinese Nationalists
1926-8The Northern Expedition succeeds in establishing Nationalist control over much of China
1930Britain returns Weihaiwei to China
1931Japan seizes much of Manchuria
1933The League of Nations condemns Japanese aggression in China: Japan walks out of the League
1934Pu Yi becomes emperor of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo
1934-5The Long March
1936The Xi'an Incident; the Chinese Nationalists and Communists form a united front against Japan
1937Outbreak of war between China and Japan
1941US volunteer fliers form the 'Flying Tigers' in Kunming
1945The USSR attacks the Japanese in Manchuria; Japan surrenders
1946Resumption of civil war between the Nationalists and Communists
1949Foundation of the People's Republic of China
1950US Seventh Fleet sent to the Taiwan Straits to prevent a Communist invasion of the island; China sends troops into Korea
1951The People's Liberation Army takes control of Tibet
1953End of the Korean War
1957'Hundred Flowers' campaign
1957-9Anti-rightist campaign
1958The Great Leap Forward; People's Communes established
1960Split between China and the Soviet Union
1962China defeats India in a war over the border of Tibet
1964China explodes its first atomic bomb
1966Outbreak of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
1971Death of Lin Biao; the People's Republic of China replaces Taiwan at the United Nations
1972President Nixon visits China
1975Zhou Enlai announces the 'Four Modernizations'
1976Death of Zhou Enlai; death of Mao Zedong
1977The 'Gang of Four' are arrested
1979The USA recognizes the People's Republic of China
1981First Special Economic Zones established
1989Suppression of the democracy movement in Beijing
1993Exchange rate of the Chinese yuan allowed to float
1995Chen Yun, last of Deng Xiaoping's major Maoist opponents, dies
1996US President Clinton, after his election for a second term, agrees to exchange state visits with Jiang Zemin
1997Deng Xiaoping dies on 19 February aged ninety-two; Hong Kong is handed back to the People's Republic of China by Britain; Jiang Zemin pays an official visit to the USA, during which he obliquely admits that the use of military force to suppress demonstrations in 1989 wasa an error
1998Li Peng retires as Premier at the end of his term of office and is replaced by Zhu Rongji; US President Clinton visits China
1999Almost 2,500 people are killed by an earthquake in Taiwan; Jiang Zemin visits the UK and other Western countries; Portugal returns Macao to China
2000Chen Shuibian is elected the first non-Guomindang President of Taiwan; elections to the Legislative Council in Hong Kong attract only a 43.6% turn-out, with the Democratic Party receiving only 34.7% of the vote; Cheng Kejie, a vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, is executed for corruption; the USA grants China permanent normal trade relations, opening the way for China to become a full member of the World Trade Organization
2001A US Navy EP-3 'spy-plane' collides with a Chinese fighter and lands on Hainan Island, triggering a crisis in China/US relations; Beijing is selected as the venue for the 2008 Olympic Games; China finally becomes a full member of the World Trade Organization
2002Tung Chee-hwa is re-elected Chief Executive of the Hong Kong government unopposed

(p 131) Chinese Philosophy: Confucius, Laozi, Zhuxi, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Xunzi, Wang Yangming, Mozi, Dong Zhongshu, Cheng Hao, Chengi, Feng Yulan, Zhou Duni, Kang Yuwei, Daizhen, Hanfei, Zou Yan, Lu Xiangshan, Zhangzai, Huineng.

It may come as a surprise to some that Zhu Xi outranked Mencius, who is better known to the Western public, but this ordering is consistent across all the philosophy sources, both those written by Chinese and those written by foreigners. Mencius played a crucial role in making Confucianism the state philosophy in -4C, but Zhu Xi receives still more attention, by substantial margins, for his reinvigoration of Confucianism in 12C. For that matter, it was Zhu Xi who was responsible for making Mencius as well known as he is today, by including Mencius' work as part of "The Four Books" that became the central texts for both primary education and the civil service examinations.

(p 139) Chinese Literature: Du Fu, Li Bo, Bo Juyi, Su Dungpo, Han Yu, Qu Yuan, Sima Qian, Tao Cian, Ouyang Xiu, Yuan Zhen, Guan Hanqing, Sima Xiangru, Liu Zongyuan, Ban Gu, Wang Wei, Luo Guanzhong, Ma Zhiyuan, Wang Shifu, Song Yu, Cao Xueqin. Li Qingzhao - most important Chinese female in literature (p269).

Du Fu is barely known in the West. He is not only ranked first here but, according to those who are in a position to evaluate such things, was one of the greatest poets ever, anywhere. The problem for Western readers is that the aesthetic nuances and layers of meaning in great Chinese poetry cannot be retained in even the best translations.

Philosophy/Literature rankings from Human Accomplishment by Charles Murray.