Portal:History of Imperial China

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History of Imperial China

The history of Imperial China spans from the beginning of the Qin dynasty in 221 BC to the end of the Qing dynasty and the formation of the Republic of China in 1912 AD.

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Jiaozi, the world's first paper-printed currency, an innovation of the Song dynasty.

The Song dynasty (Chinese: 宋朝; 960–1279 CE) provided some of the most significant technological advances in Chinese history, many of which came from talented statesmen drafted by the government through imperial examinations.

The ingenuity of advanced mechanical engineering had a long tradition in China. The Song dynasty engineer Su Song admitted that he and his contemporaries were building upon the achievements of the ancients such as Zhang Heng (78–139), an astronomer, inventor, and early master of mechanical gears.[1] The application of movable type printing advanced the already widespread use of woodblock printing to educate and amuse Confucian students and the masses. The application of new weapons employing the use of gunpowder enabled the Song dynasty to ward off its militant enemies—the Liao, Western Xia, and Jin with weapons such as cannons—until its collapse to the Mongol forces of Kublai Khan in the late 13th century. (read more...)

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Zhang Heng.jpg
Zhang Heng (Chinese: 張衡; pinyin: Zhāng Héng; Wade–Giles: Chang Heng) (AD 78139) was an astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar of the Eastern Han Dynasty in ancient China. He had extensive knowledge of mechanics and gears, applying this knowledge to several of his known inventions. He is best known for inventing the world's first water-powered armillary sphere to represent astronomical observation, improving the inflow clepsydra clock with an additional tank, and inventing the world's first seismometer device, which discerned the cardinal direction of earthquakes from incredibly far distances. In addition to writing an extensive star catalogue, Zhang also posited theories about the moon and its relationship to the sun, specifically the moon's sphericity, its illumination by reflecting sunlight, and solar and lunar eclipses. (read more...)

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Panorama of Along the River During Qingming Festival, an 18th century remake of the 12th century original


A 1736 remake of Zhang Zeduan's twelfth century cityscape scroll "Along the River During Qingming Festival" in ink and colors on silk. Created by five Qing dynasty court painters, this is one of many versions of the original scroll. It depicts over 4000 people from all levels of society and as an artistic piece has been revered throughout history. The painting is famous because of its geometrically accurate images of boats, bridges, shops, and scenery which provide much insight into the daily lives of people in the city and its rural outskirts.

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  1. ^ Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 466.