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Timeline of Events in Classical China


This page is still under construction! The following timeline is a compilation from several sources: the first two are D. C. Lau's notes to The Tao Te Ching and his notes to The Analects, both in the Penguin Classics series; the second is History's Timeline: a 40,000 Year Chronology of Civilization by Cooke, Kramer, and Rowland-Entwistle. The third is Edward H. Schafer's Ancient China from Time Life Books (1967).

HSIA DYNASTY (LEGENDARY) (2000-1500 BCE, Bronze Age)

Legendary philosopher-king Fu Hsi is reputed to have inventd the eight symbols used in divination.

otter's Wheel introduced.

Pigs, dogs, oxen, goats, sheep domesticated.


Shang Dynasty establishes and maintains a loosely organized authority over small settlements in the Yellow River valley.

The Shang capitol Anyang established. Many palaces, irrigation projects, warehouses, and granaries built.

Logocentric writing system invented. (Each written word is a stylized picture).

Flourishing of art, including bronzework, ritual vessles, stone carvings, and jade carvings.

Composite bow invented. Chariot in widespread use.

Water buffalo and several species of bird domesticated.

The Book of Changes (I Ching) written.

The Book of History (Shu Ching) written.


The Spring and Autumn Period (722-481 BCE)

Spring and Autumn Annals written.

Li Erh (Lao-Tzu) born c. 560 BC. He writes the Tao-te Ching and founds the Taoist school of thought.

Confucius born (551 or 552 BCE)

Confucius presents himself to the Viscount of T'an, then on a visit to Lu (525 BCE)

Confucius comments on a gamekeeper who would rather die than answer the wrong form of summons (522 BCE)

Confucius comments on the number of wan dancers taking part in a performance in the courtyard of the Chi Family; Confucius first visits Ch'i on a brief trip (517 BCE)

Sometime after 502 BCE, Confucius becomes ssu k'ou in Lu.

On diplomatic errands, Confucius assists at ceremony during meeting between Duke Ting of Lu and Duke Ching of Ch'i in Chia Ku (500 BCE)

Unsuccessful attempt to demolish strongholds of the Three Families in Lu (498 BCE)

Confucius leaves Lu and starts on his travels across China; First visit to Wei (497 BCE)

Confucius passes throug Sung on way to Ch'en when Huan T'ui was said to have attempted to assassinate him (c.496-493?)

While in Ch'en, Confucius comments on fire in the temples of Duke Huan and Duke Hsi in Lu (492 BCE)

It is likely Confucius travelled in the region of Ch'en and Tsai during the invasion of Ch'en by Wu. Confucius visits Ts'ai and met the Governor of She in Fu Han (489 BCE)

Confucius returns to Wei (c. 488 BCE?)

Confucius travels to Lu from Wei (484 BCE)

The Warring States Period (480-222 BCE)

Confucius requests Duke Ai to send expedition against Ch'en Heng, who had assassinated Duke Chien of Ch'i.

Traditional date of Confucius' death (479 BCE)

Mo Tzu (? c. 400s BCE)

Yang Chu (300s BCE)

Heyday of the Legalist philosophical movement in China.

Meng-tzu (Mencius) (372-289 BCE)

Sung K'eng [and Yin Wen] (c. 375-300 BCE)

Shen Tao [and T'ien P'ien] (c. 325-275 BCE)

Chuang Tzu (c. 350-299 BCE) lives. He is the second greatest Taoist writer after Lao-Tzu.

Hsün Tzu (c. 350-250 BCE)

The Lü shih ch'un ch'iu postface dated 240 BCE

Han Fei Tzu (d. 233 BCE)



Fu Poetry at its height.

The Huai nan tzu compiled (c. 140 BCE)

Szu-ma Hsiang-Ju (179-117 BCE)

Szu-ma Ch'ien (145-86 BCE), writes the Shih Chi (The Records of the Historian)

The Li Chi compiled by Tai Sheng (c. 90 BCE)

Liu Hsiang, the Hsin hsu and the Shuo yüan presented to the Emperor (c. 16 BCE)

Yang Hsiung (53 BCE-18 CE)



Wang Ch'ung experimentswith Lun Heng Poetry (27-97 CE)

Pan Ku (32-92 CE), writes The History of the Former Han (Han shu)

Chang Heng (78-139 CE)

THREE KINGDOMS (220-265 CE, an age of political division)

Shih Poetry popular


Shih Poetry popular

Emergence of Wen Hsüan literature.

T'ao Ch'ien (365-427 CE)

Hsiao T'ung (501-531 CE)



T'ANG DYNASTY (618-907 CE, early medieval period)

Resurgence of Shih Poetry, which had fallen out of use during the Six Kingdom Period.

Wang Wei (699-759 CE)

Li Po (701-762 CE)

Tu Fu (712-770 CE)

Po Chü (772-846 CE)

Li Ho (790-816 CE)

Li Shang-Yin (812-858 CE)

Emergence of "Neoclassical" Chinese Prose, increase in buddhist Tles and Tz'u Poetry.

Han Yü (768-824 CE)

Liu Tsung-Yüan (773-819 CE)

Po Hsing-Chien (d. 826 CE)

Shen Tsung, Emperor of China takes the Imperial Dragon Throne. Radical reforms are carried through by his minister Wan An-Shih.

Temujin (Ghengis Khan) leads Mongolian tribes to unification (1190s CE)

Kublai Khan, Ghengis Khan's grandson, completes conquest of China and founds the Yuan dynasty.


Batu Khan sweeps into Eastern Europe (1237) and establishes the Kingdom of the Golden Horde on the lower reaches of the Volga river.

Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) sets up Islamic kingdoms in western and central Asia (1390s CE)

Babar Khan sets up Mughal (Mongol) Islamic kingdom in India (1526 CE). It lasts until the 1700s.

MING DYNASTY (1368-1644 CE)




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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2018. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated April 24, 2018. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.