China has an extremely rich and long history, but it can be difficult to sift through so many centuries of knowledge and culture. This page presents an introduction to some of the major aspects of Chinese life in both ancient and modern times. The informative, trustworthy links throughout offer a place to get started exploring Chinese history, geography, science, and traditions.
General Chinese History
China has the longest unbroken record of civilization anywhere in the world, with a history going back over five thousand years. China is known for the vast profusion of emperors and dynasties of ancient times, but the long chronicle of life in China also includes intense feudal and revolutionary eras with many interesting characters. Ancient China gave birth to enduring ideas that spread around the world, and modern China is one of the most important aspects of today’s geopolitical landscape.
Exploring Chinese History: Resource page offering links to websites in seventeen topics of Chinese history and culture, including five distinct historical eras and a variety of cultural topics.
The Bronze Age of China: Overview of the Shang and Zhou dynasties with particular attention to the artistic products of the age. Includes illustrations of items and exhibits, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Chinese Dynasty Guide: Information in brief on twelve dynastic periods of China and the Neolithic age. Includes maps showing the extent of each dynasty and photographs of artifacts from the period.
Summary of the History of China: Timeline, overview, and information on five historical eras in China, from ancient times to the present day. Emphasis on modern period. Includes illustrations.
Chinese History Index: Snapshots of Chinese history including historical events and a variety of cultural and scientific topics.
Chinese History: A Universal Guide: Great site offers geography, rulers, events, literature, and religion information for almost two dozen periods of Chinese history, plus Taiwan.
A Concise Political History of China: Thorough, but extremely accessible e-text covering political regimes and movements in China from the most ancient dynasties to the 20th century.
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States: Offers a variety of content on history and culture.
Science and Mathematics
In ancient times, China was pre-eminent in the arts and sciences and developed many inventions crucial to the development of society elsewhere. Its most famous contributions are the “Four Great Inventions” – gunpowder, the compass, papermaking, and printing. However, Chinese scholars also made important strides in such diverse fields as botany, astronomy, philosophy, mathematics, and many more.
Chinese Mathematics: An overview of Chinese mathematics with excerpts from classical Chinese mathematics texts, and information on numerals and problems.
China: Gunpowder: Illustrated article about the invention of gunpowder by ancient Chinese alchemists.
The Invention of Papermaking: About the invention of papermaking in China and its spread through Asia. From the Robert C. Williams Papermaking Museum.
Ancient China and the First Copiers: Scholarly article discussing the development of rubbings in China, predating the development of paper which Chinese inventors are also given credit for.
The Impact of China on the History of Technology: Information and further reading on the Four Great Inventions and Chinese technological innovation, with plenty of information on papermaking and printing.
Smith College Museum of Ancient Inventions: Compass: History of the development of the ancient compass in China.
Chinese Inventions and Discoveries: Overview of a large variety of Chinese inventions.
China’s Age of Invention: In-depth information and photographs from the PBS NOVA Online website.
Chinese Astronomy: Details on the history of astronomy in China.
History and Geography
China is the world’s fourth-largest country by land area, behind Russia, Canada, and the United States. It is also the world’s largest country by population. China’s geography has played an important role in its development throughout the centuries. China’s proximity to various “barbarian” nomadic tribes was a motivating factor in the construction of the Great Wall, which the Imperial Chinese hoped would prevent raids on their territory. China was also a major hub of the Silk Road, a trade route that connected it with the rest of Asia as well as the Mediterranean, Africa, and Europe. This allowed its great inventions and ideas to spread to other cultures.
Chinese Geography: An introduction with timeline and maps.
Geography and Maps: Information on resources for Chinese historical geography on the Internet.
China’s Geography: Educational activity outline with information in brief on various subjects pertaining to Chinese geography.
Chinese Geographical Science: Online archive of a scholarly journal focused on geographical topics in China.
Chinese Geography: Readings and Maps: Detailed information with a variety of maps and illustrations, discussing the relationship of the Chinese people to their geographical environment over time.
Great Wall of China: All about this spectacular man-made geographical feature.
The Silk Road: Large variety of searchable informational articles about the Silk Road trade network and its impact on Asia and other countries. Substantial information about China.
Chinese Culture and Society
China was once regarded by historians as an “empire of uniformity.” We now know that it is anything but. A vibrant and diverse array of philosophies have left their mark on customs both ancient and modern. China has a great variety of styles in painting and musical arts, and a rich literary tradition that offers mythology, folklore, court intrigue, great primers on war, and sublime spiritual texts.
Chinese Dance History: Informational overview from the New York Chinese Cultural Center.
Fine Arts of China: Huge compendium of links to museums and educational institutions offering collections and exhibits pertaining to the arts of China.
Postal History Society of China: Nonprofit organization that collects and documents artifacts of Chinese postal history throughout the ages.
China the Beautiful: Informational site with detailed pages on art, science, astronomy, poetry, and other cultural topics, also including some history and geography.
Classical Chinese Thought and Culture: An essay providing an accessible but thorough overview of ancient Chinese intellectual history.
Taoism Virtual Library: Offering online resources for Chinese philosophy. Includes information on pre-Confucian philosophy, Confucianism, discussions of essential Chinese philosophy texts, and more.
A Legal History of China: Three-part history of the development of law and legal theory in China.
The Male Bond in Chinese History and Culture: A scholarly article exploring depictions and understanding of the bond between men in Chinese history, prompted by the vibrant feminist intellectual current in China studies. Illustrated.
Chinese Myths: Resource page of links to information on various Chinese myths and legends.
Chinese Culture: Selection of over a dozen Internet resources including information on etiquette, holidays, the zodiac, traditional costume, and more. Other topics such as business and art are also covered.