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Chinese History
Independent Kingdoms
The aim of this section is to introduce the reader to other Kingdoms that are now a part of Greater China. This work is quite difficult, as nobody appears to have attempted to do this before. Essentially all modern history books simply pick up the story from when the Kingdom became a part of whichever Chinese (Han) Dynasty or Empire, but leave you guessing as to what happened prior when they were autonomous.

Our aim is to provide a contemporary view of what was happening in the rest of what is now China, as China grew over 20 millennia into what it is today. To put this together coherently is awkward, as timelines shift, and so does geographical location, whilst the demographics are also in flux. Sometimes pressure from external groups that do not directly invade China itself, have a profound impact in shaping Chinese history. Other powerful tribes may become lost or displaced + renamed over time; and it is hard to track their exact ancestry.

We feel visual representation is vital to aid explanation, so have referenced a superb set of maps produced by our friend Thomas Lessman:

The Eastern World 550 BC
Image: China circa 550bc
Courtesy Thomas Lessman - Click to Enlarge:


Certainly the Bon Culture of modern Tibet, that previously came from perhaps Tajikistan and the Northern Kashmir region was immensely important. However, The Bon Culture gives rise in later years to a religious divide that crosses ethnic boundaries. The Ba Kingdoms of Chongqing remained outside of mainline Chinese history for millennia. Both Bon Culture and Ba Kingdom trace their ancestry back to around 20, 000 BC; and to West and East of the Tibetan plateau and Taklamakan dessert respectively. Millennia later, as these two Kingdoms move and consolidate, so we evidence the rise of contemporary human development such as the Xinglongwa (8500-7000 BC on the Liaodong Peninsular); and later (7000 to 5400 bc) in Inner Mongolia and the northern reaches of the Yellow River.

Look at the map below and see how perhaps the Xinle culture pushed the Xinglongwa westwards, and they displaced the established Hongshan culture; that in turn moved eastwards and displaced the Xinle.

Image: China circa 5000bc
Courtesy Thomas Lessman and produced by + invented by Jonno Morris of China Expats - Click to Enlarge:

The borders north of China have been host to swathes of invaders from time immemorial, most notable in their absence are the Xiongnu on the Northern steppes of China, who many consider to be the forefathers of the Hun. These tribes were stopped by the early Chinese from heading south, so they ventured West instead and over the centuries came to ravage eastern and central Europe; in their turn pushing the incumbents further westwards. This explains a lot of European and British history.

The map (Top) above is excellent in showing China during the decline of the Zhou Dynasty and Warring States period. To the centre of the map you will find the two main protagonists for millennia side by side - The Qin and The Jin. The cradle of modern Chinese (Han) culture lies in the southwest corner of Jin territory next to where number 12 territory (Zhou) points west. This is the verdant valley where the Yellow and Yangtze rivers come very close together. All Chinese history normally begins in this small area.

Circa 220 BC The first Chinese Emperor of the Qin began construction of the Great Wall of China in order to keep the constant threat from the north in check. By this time the Xiongnu had moved west, but many nomadic tribes persisted to view China's vast riches and resources over millennia. The ebb and flow of humanity in this region would demand an entire book to itself, so forgive us for featuring only those of modern importance, and in particular Han Chinese long time adversary the Jin. This name appears many times over the course of several thousand years, and they are also known more recently as 'Jurchen' and 'Manchu'. The Qing Empire, which was to be the last great empire of China, was in fact of direct Jin descent.

The other major Northern force was of course the Mongols, who ruled China in two distinct parts, which are known as the Yuan Empire. Much of China was subjugated by the infamous Genghis Khan, and then there is a time of turmoil and restructuring. His son Ogedei is important for continuity, but it is his nephew the Kublai Khan who came to dominate and shape the map of what is now China. He was the only relative interested to any great degree in China after the passing of Genghis Khan, and other pretenders to his throne sought to reap riches elsewhere in the world.

Central and Western China is nowadays dominated by the Urgars, who have a long association with main Chinese empirical growth. Beginning as a small and independent kingdom located around modern day Gansu Province, their might and importance grew through treaties of war and intermarriage. Today their power is shifted Westwards and they are mainly of Moslem persuasion, occupying Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang Provinces.

The other major group located mainly in the south of this vast territory are Tibetans who have left the high plateau centuries behind, and adapted to life on the escarpment slopes and dessert fringes of Taklamakan These people trace their ancestry back more to the Zhang Zhang, who once held a large empire in Southwestern Tibet and bordering Sichuan and Qinghai Provinces.

Another great empire was that of Dali in Yunnan Province, which flourished during the Tang Empire.

My homeland in neighbouring Guangdong Province was given to several versions of Yue Empires, whose influence focused mainly south, and west as far as Sichuan, Yunnan, whilst controlling for long periods northern Vietnam, who's Lac Viet Empire warred with over millennia. These overlap and are sometimes contemporaneous with the great Khmer Empire of the Siamese Peninsula. In fact modern Thai and Cantonese languages still share 30% of common basic words.


In order to put this contemporary history of China together we are decided to first divide it into three time zones: Ancient Cultures from 20, 000 BC to 8, 500 BC; Early Civilizations from 8, 500 BC to 3, 000 BC; and Emerging Kingdoms from 3, 000 BC to 1, 000 AD.

We then found a need to break down the latter two above for simplicity. Early Civilisations require the making of new maps, and whilst mainly researched already, these take time to produce and document. To this end we are working with Thomas Lessman to offer you a graphical representation that is easy to follow.

There is far more documentation concerning Emerging Kingdoms, so as well as inventing dedicated maps, we are also looking at dividing this section into manageable regional chunks, related to their interactivity. Some of the protagonists are non-Chinese peoples who have profoundly influenced Chinese development - so we have decided to include them also. Our interim plan is as follows:
* Sichuan and geographically central China.
* Emerging China = slightly north and east a bit, the Han Chinese development
* Northern Tribes
* Western Plains and passage to the West
* Tibet and Southern Mountains
* Southeast China, Yue States and Khmer Peninsula
* Catch-all for anything important that doesn't quite fit into the above


As author, I feel a little bit like a puppy with a hedgehog - this thing is immense, prickly, and unknown! Much is already researched, documented, and is ready for publication; but maps take a lot of time to produce. Without maps and a coherent structure, this will not be informative or make much sense - so please bear with us whilst we assemble and edit.

Meanwhile we never seem to escape the pronunciation of Chinese words in English, especially when this passes into ancient history. For instance, the words 'Qiang' and 'Zhang' when spoken in Chinese are extremely similar - to the point where you as a reader may not be able to differentiate them; even if spoken in Cantonese by myself. On the map at top of page you will see reference to a kingdom called 'Qiang' just east of the Tibetan plateau. We already know this area was where the 'Zhang-Zhang' held power during a contemporary period. Now we need to document that these are the same people, anglicised in a different way, at a different time, by ancient writers of perhaps differing ethnicity. And this is one simple example of hundreds!


This work in progress will develop over the coming months from June 2010. However I do need to clear my head of it all for a few days (I admit to being human), get working on the maps, update China Expats Home Page (New residency visa regs), and write a couple of missives - before I forget what happened hehe!

Meanwhile more pages will continue to become available online. For instance, I plan to publish the first draft of Sichuan and Central China today - but already know there are more kingdoms to add, especially concerning The Warring States period.

I thank you for your tolerance, and hope to have this new section finished in a few weeks.

This information is as supplied by Wikipedia, as dated March 2009 or later, and/or other reliable sources.

Maps (Unless stated otherwise) are provided in association with Thomas Lessman

Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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