Five Events in Chinese History (That Every Laowai Should Know About)

Five Events in Chinese History (That Every Laowai Should Know About)
Jan 05, 2017 By Susie Gordon , eChinacities.com

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.

Five Events in Chinese History (That Every Laowai Should Know About)
Photo: history-of-china.com

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.

4) Revolution!
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

16 Comments

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1

ANTO1
comment|73650|297819

Good to finally know all the major events! :)

Feb 18, 2017 03:17 Report Abuse

2

victorale
comment|73544|305373

cool, you forgot 1990

Jan 23, 2017 14:51 Report Abuse

3

Anton1991
comment|73507|1656160

Chinese history is exciting!

Jan 19, 2017 20:21 Report Abuse

4

Spiderboenz
comment|73452|98319

Also, the 100 Flowers Campaign, where people were encouraged to criticize the Communist party, then were summarily persecuted and purged as "counter-revolutionaries". The Great Leap Forward, which brought about a massive famine, killing millions of Chinese. The Karamay Fire, which killed 288 schoolchildren, because "let the leaders go first."

Jan 06, 2017 12:41 Report Abuse

5

Trebor
comment|49695|78589

5000 years of history and 'supposed' advancement, yet they still shit in the street!!

Aug 16, 2014 16:58 Report Abuse

6

bill8899
comment|43336|81937

No mention of the Sino-Japanese wars? Because China lost?

Jan 25, 2014 13:16 Report Abuse

7

ritchy555
comment|43057|277292

The claim by the Chinese to be the oldest civilization because they can track back five thousand years is pure nonsense. Archeology has revealed and continues to reveal the existence of civilizations much older than China. India for one easily equals China, the real source of so called Kung Fu, brought back to China and not created in China. Previous civilizations fell due to catastrophes as archeology now is clearly proving, China or this part of Asia escaped the impact of many of these semi global catastrophes. Despite escaping such catastrophes which devastated older civilizations far more advanced than China, one really has to ask what the Chinese have contributed to the world in five thousand years apart from fire works? Somebody here commented that modern America is only hundreds of years old, created by immigrants from Europe but look at what they achieved in those few hundreds of years in terms of science, technology, "real" medicine, education standards, the arts, creativity. Now this technology, science, "real" medicine etc is being shared with China, thirty years of massive global investment impoverishing our own countries in the process but do we hear any appreciation? I think it is time our generosity ceased. I think the Chinese should start reading more about what archeology is actually proving on a daily basis, it will give them food for thought while they throw their fire crackers around the streets. Reading the five points covering history in China I am aware that events between these moments were equally about internal war, bloodshed. History always repeats itself and will continue to do so.

Jan 15, 2014 23:50 Report Abuse

8

Sokie
comment|34001|104478

It's Hong Xiuquan, not Hong Qiuquan. It happened in the place where I come from.

Nov 25, 2012 01:19 Report Abuse

9

B4IGO
comment|33992|110773

Thank you 0 I appreciate the crash course very much. Too bad history books were not written in the same concise format!

Nov 24, 2012 22:04 Report Abuse

10

SwedKiwi
comment|34009|78691

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

11

SwedKiwi
comment|34010|78691

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

12

Alex
comment|19776|49793

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

13

Alex
comment|19737|49793

Why do foreign people who write stories (and replies), have to use the word "Laowai"? Why can't they use Expat?
It is a very condescending word to use.
It also projects that the writer is actually a Chinese person.

Sep 17, 2011 21:03 Report Abuse

14

Alex
comment|19744|49793

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

15

crimochina
comment|19756|40616

when an invader is occupying your country kill whoever whenever you can no matter what. make the price of occupation a high one , i know that's what i would do if anyone occupied my country

Sep 18, 2011 17:40 Report Abuse

16

george82
comment|19732|58916

Well this is first time i hear about the "Taiping Rebellion". Thanks for the info!

Sep 17, 2011 18:23 Report Abuse