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The question of the origin of the Chinese has been discussed by several foreign savants: J. Edkins (China's Place in Philology) seeks in Armenia or Mesopotamia a common origin of European and Asiatic languages. Gust. Schlegel (Sinico-Aryaca) made a comparison between the primitive roots of the Chinese and Aryan languages; the theory of an Egyptian origin has found favor with Kircher, Mairan, De Guignes, and Pauthier. Terrien de Lacouperie has pushed to the limit the theory of so-called Bak tribes migrating from Elam to the banks of the Hwang-ho, 2500 B.C., and taking with them the civilization of what was later China. The foundations of these clever and lightly-built theories are slight; the only alternative is to follow Chinese tradition with its legends.
The first man was P'an-ku, the Chinese Adam, followed by the thirteen celestial kings, T'ien-wang, the eleven terrestrial kings, Ti-wang, and the nine human kings, Jen-wang. These ages comprise the first eight of the ten periods, or K'i into which Chinese historians divide the early history of their country. Next come the Five Sovereigns: Fu-hi, inventor of the art of writing; Shin-nung, who invented the plough and taught the art of husbandry; Wang-ti, inventor of the fine arts, of ships, etc., whose wife taught men to raise silk worms and to weave silk; Shao-hao, who established the different classes of civil and military officials; Chuen-hiu, author of the calendar. These were followed by the two great emperors, the sages of China, Yao (2357-2257, B.C.), during whose reign occurred the great flood, and Shun. Yu, chosen by Shun as his successor, founded the first Hia dynasty (2205 B.C.), which comprised seventeen sovereigns, and under whom the monarchy became hereditary. The last emperor, Ti-kwei, fled to Nan-chou. The second dynasty, known first as the Shang (1766 B.C.) and after 1400 B.C. as the Yin, comprised twenty-eight sovereigns and was founded by Ch'eng-t'ang. The last prince, Chou, was burnt to death (1122). The third or Chou dynasty which began in 1122 B.C., and comprised thirty-eight sovereigns, was founded by Wu-wang, son of Wen-wang, and brother of Chou-kung. Under this dynasty appeared Confucius, Mencius, and Lao-tze. At the end of this dynasty China was divided into nine small states. Of these states only Han and T'sin lasted for any length of time. The dynasty of Ts'in prevailed over the other states. The fourth or T'sin dynasty, dating from 249 B.C., and comprising four sovereigns was founded by Chwan Siang-wang, who reigned but three years. His son, Prince Cheng (246), in the twenty-sixth year of his reign assumed the title of Shi Hwang-ti (first universal emperor), the sovereign having been hitherto styled Wang. Shi Hwang-ti may be considered to have consolidated China, doing away with the old feudal states, and dividing the empire into thirty-six kiun. To stop the incursions of the Hiung-nu he built the great wall of China (Wan-li-ch'ang-ch'eng, or wall ten thousand lis long), which extends from Chi-li to Kan-su. The three principal passes through the Great Wall are the Shan-hai-kwan Pass, at the eastern extremity, the Chang-kia-k'ou (Kalgan) Pass, and the Kia-yu Pass at the extreme west. Shi-Hwang-ti ordered all books to be burnt, to suppress all traces of former dynasties. His house was short-lived, and Liu Pang, Prince of Han, under the dynastic title of Kao-ti or Kao Tsu, founded the fifth or Han dynasty (206 B.C.), which comprised twenty-five sovereigns. This was a period of reconstruction. The classics were collected again; Buddhist works were introduced into the empire; relations were begun with the Roman empire; the penal code was compiled; and examinations established. In A.D. 25 25 Kwang Wu-ti (Kien-wu) transferred the capital from Ch'ang-ngan to Lo-yang, and the dynasty called the Former Han (Ts'ien Han) or Si Han (Western Han) became the Hou Han (After Han) or Tung Han (Eastern Han). Sixth dynasty: In 220, under the reign of Chao Lich-ti, the empire was divided into three kingdoms (San-kwo-chi). The three dynasties include: (1) the minor Han in Shu (Sze-ch'wan); (2) the Wei, at Lo-yang; and (3) the Wu at Kien-kang (Nan-king). General Se Ma-shao having subjugated china, his son under the title of Wu-ti founded at Lo-yang the Western Tsin (265). The eighth dynasty, which became the eastern Tsin (317), or ninth dynasty, when the capital was removed to nan-king. These Tsin dynasties comprised fifteen sovereigns. Emperor Kung Ti having been killed by Liu Yu, the murderer established at Nan-king the Sung dynasty.
This is the "period of division between North and South" (Nan Pe Ch'ao), and there were various dynasties: the Sung (420) at Hang-chou; the Ts'i, at Nan-king, the Liang, the Ch'én, the Northern Wei (House of Toba, 386-532 at Ta-tung and later at Lo-Yang), the Western Wei, Eastern Wei (end of dynasty 550), the Northern Ts'i, and Northern Chou. Finally the minister Yang-kien restored order, destroyed the Ch'én (583), and under the name of Wen-ti founded at Ch'ang-ngan the Sui dynasty (590), which comprised three kings. In 618 Kung Ti T'ung was deposed by Li Yuan, who established at Ch'an-ngan (Shensi) the great dynasty of T'ang (620-907), comprising twenty sovereigns, restored order, and gave to the empire a period of unrivalled prosperity. The Empress Wu-hou (684-705) who usurped the government, under Jui Tsung, was followed by a long series of weak princes, which lead to the fall of this once brilliant dynasty. Then came the period of anarchy and civil wars called Wu-tai (five generations) or Ten States: Posterior Liang (907-21) at Lo yang; Posterior T'ang (23-34), at Lo-yang; Posterior Tsin (936-44), at Pien-liang (K'ai-feng); Posterior Han (947-48), at Pien-liang; Posterior Chou (951-60). at Pai-ling. Finally after the death of Kung-ti, Chao Kwang-in was proclaimed emperor, and founded the Sung dynasty (960-1280), which comprised eighteen sovereigns. The Sung were attacked by the Eastern Tatars or K'itans of Tungusic (Tatar) origin, who founded in Northern China a dynasty, under Ye-liu A-pao-ki (907), which assumed in 937 the dynastic title of Liao. The capital of the Liao was at first Liao-yang, in Liao-tung, and was transferred by A-pao-ki to Yen-king (Peking). They were expelled by another Tungusic tribe, the Ju-chen or Niu-chen (1125), and retired to Kasgaria, where they created the empire of Kara-k'itai or Si-liao from the territory of the Kara-khanides; the Niu-chen, at first vassals of Korea, became independent under Hien-phu. Their chief, Aguda (O-ko-ta), founded the Kin dynasty (1113). His successor compelled the Sung to leave their capital K'ai-feng, and their emperor Kao Tsung retired to Hang-chou, called Lin-ngan. China was then divided into two empires. The northern, or Kin, with the capital at Yen-king (Peking) was Cathay; the southern was the Nan-sung. The latter was also known as Manzi (Man-tze). The Mongols destroyed both empires, the Kin in 1234, and the Sung in 1280.
The Mongol or Yuen dynasty (1280-1368) comprised ten sovereigns. Jenghiz, the first great Khan, established his capital at Karakorum (Ho-lin); he died 18 August 1227. His successors were Ogotai, Cuyuk (1246), Mangku (1251), Kublai (1260). The first real Chinese emperor of the dynasty (1280) was Kublai, known also under the names of Chung T'ung and Che-yuan. He transferred his capital to Cambalue (Peking) and undertook an unsuccessful war against Japan, but was more fortunate against Mien (Burma). This is the period of successful Catholic missionaries, such as John of Montecorvino, and of great travellers like Marco Polo. In 1356, Chu, a Buddhist monk, rebelled, took Nan-king (1356), and under the title of Hung-wo founded the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), which included sixteen sovereigns. The third emperor, Yung-lo, transferred the capital from Nan-king to Peking. In 1514 the Portuguese arrived in China. The weakness of the last Ming emperors caused rebellions. One of the rebel chiefs, Li Tze-ch'ing, who had subjugated Ho-nan and Shen-si, captured Peking, and Emperor Ts'ung Chéng hanged himself in despair (1643). But the faithful general, Wu San-kwei, who was at the head of the imperial troops at Liao-tung, called the Manchus to the rescue. For many years, the Tatars had threatened the empire. Their chief, Ts'ung Teh, son of T'ien Ming, defeated Li. Shun Che, the son of Ts'ung Teh, entered Peking and founded the Ts'ing dynasty, the dynasty now reigning over China. Shun Che, the first emperor, was succeed in 1662 by his son, the illustrious K'ang-hi, who after a short minority took charge of the empire. He had many struggles to maintain in Fu-kien and Formosa against Koxinga, the rebellious Wu San-kwei, and the Kalmuks (Eleuths). Arts and letters were prosperous during this reign. In 1716 K'ang-hi published the celebrated dictionary, "K'ang-hi Tze-tien", including 44,449 characters, classed under 214 radicals. K'ang-hi died 20 Dec., 1722, and was succeeded by his fourth son, Yung Cheng (1723-36), were persecuted the Christians. The fourth emperor, K'ien Lung (1736-96), son of Yung Chéng, annexed Tien shan (1759), carried on an unsuccessful war against the Burmese, subjugated the Miao-tze (1775), and established Chinese power in Tibet. He abdicated on 8 Feb., 1796, in favour of his son, Kia K'ing, and died, 7 Feb., 1799. Kia K'ing's reign (1796-1820) was marked by internal troubles; the members of the secret society of Pei Lien-kiao seized the imperial palace at Peking, 18 July, 1813. Kia K'ing died 2 Sept., 1820, and was succeeded by Tao Kwang (1821-51), during whose reign began the T'ai Ping rebellion. This reign and the following, those of Hien Fung (1851-671), T'ung Che (1861-75), and Kwang Siu (b. 15 Aug., 1871), will be treated in the section of the foreign relations of China.
Tschepe, Hist du royaume de Tch'ou (Ch'u State, B.C. 1122-223) (Shanghai, 1903); Idem, Hist du royaume de Ts'in (Ts'in State, B.C. 909-206) in Rev de l'Extréme-Orient (1900-02), and Echo de Chine (1904-05); Terrien de la Couperie, Western Origins of Early Chinese Civilization (London, 1894); Hawks-Pott, A Sketch of Chinese History (Shanghai, 1903); Cordier, L'expedition de Chine de 1857-58 (Paris, 1905); Idem, L'expedition de Chine de 1860 (Paris, 1906); Burger, The Life of Gordon (London, 1896); D'Anthard, Les Boxeurs (Paris, 1902); Mobier, Le drame chinois (Julliet-Août, 1900) (Paris, 1900); Colqubon China in Transformation (London, 1898).
APA citation. (1908). History of China. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03681a.htm
MLA citation. "History of China." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03681a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by M. Donahue.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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