Chinese people are rightfully proud of their long and intriguing history. Full of power struggles, revolutions, warlords and emperors, it’s a vast and often intimidating topic to even begin to grasp. That’s why we’ve picked out five of the most important and interesting events, so you’ll be able to contribute to the discussion (or just nod sagely) when your Chinese friends start waxing lyrical about those 5,000 years of history.
1) Birth of an Empire
Before 221 BC, China was ruled by seven enemy tribes – the Han, Zhao, Wei, Qi, Yan, Chu and Qin of the Warring States period. Based out of Shaanxi, the Qin kingdom was the strongest, so the leader Ying Zheng decided to wage war on the others with the aim of controlling them all. Starting with the overthrow of the weak Han state in 230 BC, Zheng masterminded a campaign of invasions and takeovers resulting in eventual leadership of the unified nation in 221 BC. He renamed himself Qin Shi Huang (the first emperor) and set up his capital in Xianyang. The Qin Dynasty only lasted for 16 years, but was the start of two millennia of imperial rule in China.
2) A New Messiah
Like many expats, you’ve probably heard of the Taiping Rebellion. But not everyone knows exactly what went down. Between 1850 and 1864, a civil war was waged in the south of China led by Hong Qiuquan, a man who believed he was the brother of Jesus. He set up the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, and attempted to overthrow the Qing government from his capital in Nanjing. Far from being a mere folly, the incident was one of the biggest military campaigns in Chinese history, with over 30 million soldiers marching for Jesus (and his brother…). The Qing eventually saw the Taipings off with help from British and French forces, but Hong was lauded by Sun Yat-sen and Chairman Mao for his revolutionary chutzpah.
3) The Gloves are on
The Boxer Rebellion is another one that most people have heard of, but few actually know much about. Simply put, it was a pro-Nationalist, anti-foreign campaign running from 1899 to 1901. A group of peasant rebels known as the Boxers (or the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists) decided to rise up against the colonial powers than had much of coastal China in their grip after the Opium Wars. They also objected to the spread of Christian missionaries and evangelists from the West. The rebellion came at a time when the Qing government was crumbling under the Dowager Empress Cixi, and contributed to the eventual overthrow of the empire.
By the start of the 1900s, the Qing Dynasty had descended into corruption. China’s Han majority were growing tired of being ruled by the Manchu minority, revolutionary fervor began to brew and the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance rose up under Sun Yat-sen. In 1912, the last Emperor Puyi was forced to abdicate, and the Republic of China was established. Things took a turn for the worse when newly appointed president Yuan Shikai tried to reinstate the empire with himself at the helm, leading to several decades of unrest until the civil war forced the Republic to relocate to Taiwan while the Communists took over Mainland China.
5) Red China
Modern China as we know it today was formed on October 1st 1949 when Chairman Mao declared the birth of the People’s Republic from Tian’anmen Square. Four decades later, the square would witness another nation-changing event, and the years in between saw ill-thought schemes like the Great Leap Forward industrialisation attempt and the anti-Rightist Cultural Revolution. The People’s Republic was established after a long and bloody civil war that began in 1927 with the Guomindang’s Northern Expedition to unify China. The struggle was halted during the Sino-Japanese War, and culminated in the three-year War of Liberation between 1947 and 1949 when the Communist Party overthrew the Nationalists.
So now you ought to have a few tricks up your sleeve for next time you’re out with your Chinese friends and the conversation turns to history. Instead of looking at them blankly and mentioning Mike Tyson when they talk about the Boxer Rebellion, you’ll be able to hold your own.
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Keywords: 5 biggest events Chinese history top events in Chinese history most important events in Chinese history
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48 Comments Add your comment
Hey, actually the Taiping rebellion is not like what is said in this article, I don't think these soldiers marched for Jesus, they just marched for their own lives. Hong claimed that he is Jesus's brother, and he made use of the western religious thoughts. That's it.
Sep 18, 2011 22:55 Report Abuse
I think that the boxer rebellion, even if it's an important event, can not be consider an event of which Chinese nation can be that proud. Boxers (these rebels that used to believe that they could fight against bulled with their martial arts thinking that their body was bulletproof) merely killed a lot of unarmed citizens, especially christian, then tried to siege a small group of german soldiers in Beijing, armed with one only cannon, but this small group resisted for weeks until the rest of the army from europe arrived and made boxers and cixi shut up and surrender. Maybe there are other events thana Chinese should be proud of, but not this one
Sep 17, 2011 18:41 Report Abuse
Arnold Judas Rimmer
For a short time I also thought that "Laowai" was a derogatory term but I was later corrected by some chinese friends. Although I can get sick of hearing it, and some of the younger generation do try and use it as derogatory, but in those rare situations I simply state that they are correct and add that I'm IMMENSELY thankful that I am. During my time here I've come to realize the many negatives of living here, and I've never been more thankful and proud of being a westerner! I'll return here only to visit, never to live, no matter how much money is offered to me. I'd rather quit than be transferred here again. Although learning another language is pretty cool.. yet...One year left and I'm counting the days!
Nov 25, 2012 02:50 Report Abuse
Yawnnn....yawns are so yesterday. In fact, anyone who uses the word 'yesterday' derogatorily is so yesterday. Or were you just born yesterday? Or are you the vanguard of the truly hip and now? Or will you one day become that which you now loathe? Yawn...
Nov 29, 2012 19:56 Report Abuse
Why don't you answer my question instead of being a "headly" like most of you young wise guys?? What the hell does the words they use in Japan have to with my question? does it prove how smart and educated you are? Answer my question, don't put words into my mouth!
Sep 18, 2011 00:52 Report Abuse
Alex, you obviously don't speak Chinese and have no knowledge of the culture. Laowai is more likely to be a term of respect, although it can be used in a neutral sense and derogatory.
Its like Laoshi, meaning teacher, and many other titles beginning with lao. It literally means 'old' but age in China is meant to carry respect, so its really a term of respect, (even though the times are changing for the younger generation)
Sep 18, 2011 16:13 Report Abuse
Laowai is endearing to them and to most of us headly and non headly wise guys. It is not condescending. "Wise guys" and "headly" is condescending. Expat is a person not living in their homeland for a certain time. Laowai can be a visitor, a resident or someone not of Chinese extraction.
Saying Laowai projects the speaker is Chinese? nothing of the sort!, Just like calling you a stupid laowai does not mean I am nothing of the sort.
Oh, yeah, you should call people you don't know offensive names, should you?
Sep 18, 2011 18:58 Report Abuse
bingo Da Wei i guess the same like you too Alex certainly not very familiar with the chinese customs and culture! nevertheless we should give him more time to cope with these 5000 years history ok hehehe..
btw I am also a laowai.
good day n god bless
Sep 24, 2011 11:26 Report Abuse
Da Wei, in general your "culture" is very boring and illogical. You Chinese are brainwashed and can't think for yourselves. Chinese men are generally very dull and uninteresting. Basically they care only about work and family ( a joke, as Chinese men constantly cheat )
Do not try to educate us laowai about the ways of the Chinese. We had you lot worked out long ago!
Sep 26, 2011 20:05 Report Abuse
it is boring and illogical for many of the uncivilized people of the world with a history and culture that does not even span a quarter china's history. America is what only 225 years? the entire western institutions, even if we take for a stretch that they were a continuation of Charlemagne's empire (which they are not obviously as people do not speak its language, recognise its history closely with its own, or share its culture and traditions and identity) only is what 1200 years max? You are definitely forgiven for thinking that Chinese culture is "very boring and illogical" as it must be mindboggling for someone whose culture cannot compare in its complexity or longevity (though this culture is still respected and worth cherishing definitely as should all cultures).
Perhaps the proper way for a civilized person to act is to respect other cultures and not resort to racism (another very illogical thing coming from someone who accuses others of being illogical). you bring shame to your culture/country.
Dec 04, 2011 23:17 Report Abuse
You should read more Chinese history, These are so humdrum topics your audience will be either bored by some or embarrassed at you raising others they would prefer not to be mentioned. Try topics you yourself are interested in and which may intrigue them such as (from my experience) Ridgeway's success in dealing with the Chinese army in Korea, how the art of northern and southern Song dynasties respectively reflect confidence and instability, the Jews of Kaifeng, the life and poems of Li Bai, the epic voyages of Zheng He.....
Sep 18, 2011 01:00 Report Abuse
Yellow - The color of royalty in China, but NOT the color of anyone's skin! At least to date, I have never seen a yellow man or woman. Is this a rotten British trick, or is it the wish of some former Royal mandate? Now that I find interesting... it seems, without exception, all Chinese people consider themselves "yellow". . . while in the western cultures it infers cowardice, puck, and all manner of lowly things!!!! Come on people, can we pick another color for Asian people? One that embodies an improved self-esteem....
Sep 18, 2011 03:59 Report Abuse
Why is it that some of you attack like dogs to the lamb? All I did was make a comment, which may I say a lot of forum replies question " Laowai" being used. So you go out and dig it into me, and try to justify your answers by saying I am an idiot and a child. Man you foreign people in China are so stupid, it beggars belief. Go munch on a banana!!
Sep 19, 2011 02:23 Report Abuse
Lamb AND banana? Ummm...Now that's a new twist! Laowai? It's like someone saying 'foreigner'. If you take it offensively, then you don't have a clue. Go to the states and walk around just about anywhere, you'll hear enough derogatory terms to fill a dictionary of derogatory slang.
Nov 29, 2012 20:01 Report Abuse
And for a 6th event in Chinese history, could be added the successful stopping of opium imports from India, but only for a few months. This prohibition was by Lin Ze Xu (Canton Trade Commissioner in 1838-39). His anti-corruption stance, and prohibition of this dirty trade should be a role model for present Chinese authorities.
Sep 22, 2011 16:32 Report Abuse
Someone wrote: "yawn, countries and nationalism are so yesterday."
Don't look back, yesterday is gaining. Ethnicity, nations [another term for ethnicities in contrast to "states" like the U.S and the USSR and France which are modern "states" and China which isn't so much a "state" as a culture dominated by one ethnicity] and religious identities [Islamists and Right wing Christianists] are sweeping the floor with the soft "oh so moderns".
Consider the recent scores: Vietnamese Nationalists 1, France 0, US 0; Iraqi nationalists 1, U.S. 0; Afghan nationals 3, UK 1; Afghan nationals 1; USSR 0; Afghan nationals 1; US 0; Algerian Nationals 1, France 0. Tomorrow is beginning to look like yesterday all over again.
Sep 26, 2011 00:11 Report Abuse
Actually, as a historian, I can mention that it is slightly more complicated than that. While some version of all of these were invented by the Egyptians, Arabs, and Greeks respectively, these were then developed by western European peoples during the Industrial Revolutions. Meaning that the credit really goes to both sides - both to the ancient peoples that invented it, and to the modern people that developed it.
Nov 25, 2012 04:42 Report Abuse
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