Ancient Chinese Dynasties: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

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

Kings and emperors ruled over China for four thousand years. Learn about the great dynasties and royal families of Chinese history in this lesson, from the Xia dynasty to the Qing dynasty.

List of Rulers

It can be hard enough to remember each of the 44 presidents in US history -- what did Chester A. Arthur do again? Now imagine that instead of learning 44 presidents, you have to learn over twenty different dynasties, which are royal families of rulers, and each dynasty could be hundreds of years long! China has a very long record of kings and rulers. Some are particularly famous, while others have been forgotten.

In The Beginnings

The first dynasty in all of Chinese history, the ''Xia dynasty,'' has become a legend rather than a historical fact. While it's not clear exactly what happened, legend holds that Yu the Great became the first emperor of China about 4000 years ago. Under Yu's rule, China invented bronze metal tools and began to use jade, a green gemstone, in art and decoration.

The Xia dynasty gave way to the ''Shang dynasty,'' which began with growth and prosperity. During the Shang dynasty the Chinese invented writing and began worshiping their ancestors, developing a religious practice that continues to this day. However, the Shang dynasty ran out of gas and fell apart when commoners began to revolt, or fight in protest, against the wealthy emperor. The ''Zhou dynasty'' came next, ruling for 800 years, the longest dynasty of Chinese history.

Building Halls and Walls

The end of the Zhou dynasty led to the ''Warring States period'' of China. For two hundred years, different armies and leaders fought for control. The next dynasty was the ''Qin dynasty,'' and then eventually the Han king won and began his own ''Han dynasty.'' This period gave China peace and made it one of the powers of the ancient world. Chinese culture grew during this time, creating art, literature, and music. This dynasty also saw major growth of the Great Wall of China, building it up along the northern region to keep away unwanted guests.

Photo of Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China

When the Han dynasty got too big for their britches, they too were kicked out. This began the ''Three Kingdoms era,'' because nobody could control the entire country. Some kings ruled for a brief period of time in the ''Jin dynasty,'' ''Northern and Southern dynasties,'' and ''Sui dynasty.''

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