Life in Ancient China

copyright Denton Emperor cartoonChina's history stretches back 5,000 years. Wicked Warriors and Evil Emperors is the story of how the First Emperor took control of China in 221 BC. He started the Qin Dynasty of rulers (221-206 BC). Year of the Tiger takes place nearly 400 years later. China was then ruled by the Han family of emperors, so that period is called the Han Dynasty (207 BC-220 AD).

Horse and groom, Han or Sui dynastyDuring Qin and Han times, China was an empire of 50-60 million people. We can find out what life was like then from books that have survived the centuries. Many objects and pictures of everyday life have also been found inside Ancient Chinese tombs. 

On the right is a picture of a servant minding a horse. It seems simple, but it suggests a lot. What do you think the groom is feeling? (Notice that the horse has no stirrups - they weren't invented yet.)

Ancient China was a different world to ours. But if you want to take a look at it, follow the links below... 


Armies were extremely important to the emperors of Ancient China. They helped protect China against attacks by other people, including the northern nomads and the Tibetans. They also protected trade routes, such as the road that Chinese silk travelled on for sale to Ancient Rome. Quite often, armies controlled by local officials fought for the control of China itself.

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Most towns and cities in ancient China had a wall around them. Rich people's homes also had walls around them, and even towers to keep watch. People did not feel safe, clearly, and they wanted to protect themselves - from bandits, barbarians and even Chinese armies. Part of the Chinese word for 'city' means 'wall'.

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In the Han Dynasty, and for many centuries after that, China had large stretches of wild forest. China was rich in wildlife: deer, monkeys, pandas, wolves and - most feared of all - tigers.

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Man vs Beast

Here's a famous, but grisly, story from one of the world's first novels a Chinese classic called Shui Hu Zhuan. It's about 800 years old. 

Wu Song is a burly adventurer with a big appetite and a hot temper. He often acts before he thinks and that lands him in trouble. As this story opens, he thinks he has killed someone and so he is on the run.

(Be warned: this story contains violence and alcoholism, neither of which I agree with.)  

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