Ancient China Lesson for Kids: History & Timeline

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

The history of China dates back longer than any other country, spanning thousands of years. Learn about the events in ancient Chinese history in this lesson.

Who's In Charge?

Have you ever had to memorize a list of presidents or kings for your history classes? You probably had to remember a bunch of names. If you wanted to learn Chinese history, however, you'd need to learn way more names, because Chinese history began some five thousand years ago. In fact, their history began so long ago that it's hard to be certain what is fact and what is legend.

Famous Firsts: 4,000-3,000 years ago

People have been living in China for thousands of years, but they finally organized under a single leader about 4,000 years ago. This began the Xia (pronounced zee-ah) dynasty; a dynasty is period of rule where one family remains in charge. There are no written records from this period, although we have records from later that talk about it, telling the legend of a king named Yu the Great who fought a battle with the Yellow River to keep it from flooding.

Image of Yu the Great
Yu the Great

After the Xia came a new dynasty called the Shang. Much of ancient Chinese civilization developed during this time, including writing, cities with walls to prevent attacks, and bronze metal, which makes tools and weapons stronger. The first Chinese writing wasn't on paper, but on the bones of cows or the shells of turtles!

Golden Age: 3,000-2,200 years ago

Chinese history between two and three thousand years ago is often remembered as the Golden Age due to the peace and stability of China during that period. The philosopher Confucius (pronounced con-fyew-shus), perhaps the most famous person in all of Chinese history, developed a system of thinking and beliefs named after him that's still practiced in China today. One of his central ideas was ancestor worship - respect and prayer for those who came before and had died.

Picture of philosopher Confucius

The Golden Age came to a halt about 2,200 years ago due to a period of conflict called the Warring States. China split between three different rulers and kingdoms until the Qin (pronounced chin) emperor united the country and began his own dynasty. During this time, the Chinese began building the Great Wall, and also began to adopt the religion of Buddhism.

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