History of China (Preface)
One of the earliest civilizations in the world, China is the only ancient civilization in world history with no interruption. Th e Chinese people have inherited a common culture and history longer than have any other people on earth.
Separated from the western civilization by mountains, deserts, and oceans, China is geographically independent. Fertile farmlands, prairies, and coastal areas for fi shing and trading are spread over a vast space.
China’s territory is the third largest in the world today, and up until the modern age, it had always been the largest. Its population was one-third of the global total over a fairly long time in history.
Living in East Asia’s northern temperate zone, China’s ancestors nurtured an agrarian economy. They stepped into the threshold of civilization from a stable agricultural community, and their clan chiefs grew into a new ruling class. Th us, kindred ties and a state administrative system fused into an underlying social structure, resulting in a tradition that emphasizes inwardness, community, human relations, and centralized power.
Intensive cultivation marked with the use of iron tools developed in the Yellow and Yangtze river basins in ancient China, forging an individual farming economy, private land ownership, and tenant contractual relationships.
The natural economy-based centralism, boasting a highly centralized state power and a well-organized hierarchy, competently exercised jurisdiction over a large population across a vast territory via professional offi cials selected through imperial examinations, and created smooth and efficient road and communication networks.
The application of a single writing system via characters and the prevalence of Confucian philosophy and culture have exerted a profound infl uence on the homogeneity and cohesion of the Chinese civilization.
The world experienced significant changes during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1911). Major European countries entered into the industrial age. The rise of capitalism threw the whole world into a vast maelstrom of commodity circulation. Western powers swarmed into other continents across the oceans and established colonies. China reached a new peak in its course of farming civilization and showed some signs of modernization. However, the emperors of the early Qing Dynasty (1644–1991) turned a blind eye to the historical trend and kept China from the outside world. They stubbornly promoted the farming system while discouraging the budding industrial civilization. Hence, the positions of China and the West were overwhelmingly reversed, leading to a meteoric decline of China in the midst of industrial civilization.
The First Opium War broke out from 1840 to 1842. Th ree score years from then on, China, invaded and insulted by western powers, was forced to ink a series of unequal treaties to cede territory and pay indemnities, and fell into a colonial and semi-colonial abyss.
The invasion brought severe tribulations to the Chinese people and accelerated the disintegration of the restrictive traditional natural economy, giving rise to national capitalists and working classes and reducing the bankrupted peasantry to semi-proletariats.
During the century-long modernization dating from the Opium War, the Chinese people constantly promoted the development of national industry through struggles against imperialism, feudalism, and capitalism. Th e Revolution of 1911 led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty, and helped the spread of concepts such as democracy and republic. Next, the revolution guided by the Communist Party of China won the great victory of national independence and people’s liberation.
October 1, 1949 witnessed the founding of the People’s Republic of China, inaugurating a new era toward socialist modernization. The reform and opening-up policy with Chinese characteristics was implemented after 30 years of zigzagging exploration. Th e policy galvanized China’s eff orts to practice democracy and rule of law in the political fi eld and established a socialist market-oriented economy, enabling the country to actively participate in international competition and cooperation in economy. All these are done to work toward an affl uent, democratic, cultural, sustainable, and harmonious society.
Ancient China’s Silk Road played an important role in promoting China’s relations with the outside world. Th e introduction of China’s three great inventions—paper, gunpowder, and compass—to the western world expedited the formation of the bourgeois society. Meanwhile, western culture’s eastward penetration and the promotion of Marxism signifi cantly infl uenced the course of Chinese history. Today, the Chinese nation, with its brand-new forwardlooking philosophy of pursuing modernization and opening up to the outside world, has integrated itself into the global community and will contribute signifi cantly to safeguarding world peace and stability.
This book traces the unique trajectory and sums up the distinct features of the Chinese civilization and attempts to unlock the secret behind the continuity of the Chinese nation over thousands of years.
作为世界上最早的文明之一，中国是世界历史上唯一一个没有中断的文明古国。中国人民继承的共同文化和历史比地球上任何其他民族都要长。 中国与西方文明被山、沙漠和海洋隔开，在地理上是独立的。肥沃的农田，草原和沿海地区，用于金融和贸易，分布在广阔的空间内。 中国的领土是当今世界第三大领土，直到现代，它一直是最大的领土。在相当长的一段时间内，其人口占全球总人口的三分之一。 生活在东亚北温带地区的中国的祖先培育了农业经济。他们从一个稳定的农业社区踏入文明的门槛，他们的氏族首领成长为一个新的统治阶级。因此，我们，相互联系和国家行政系统融合成一个潜在的社会结构，产生了一个强调内在性，社区，人际关系和集中权力的传统。 集约化种植的标志是使用中国古代黄河流域和长江流域开发的铁工具，形成了个体农业经济，私人土地所有权和佃户合同关系。 以自然经济为基础的集中制，拥有高度集中的国家权力和组织良好的等级制度，通过科举选出的专业官员，对广袤领土上的大量人口行使了管辖权，并创造了顺畅高效的道路和通信网络。 通过字符应用单一的书写系统以及儒家哲学和文化的盛行，对中华文明的同质性和凝聚力产生了深远的影响。
世界在明清时期（1368-1911）经历了重大变化。欧洲主要国家进入了工业时代。资本主义的兴起使整个世界陷入了商品流通的巨大漩涡。西方列强跨越大洋涌入其他大陆，并建立了殖民地。中国在农业文明的进程中达到了一个新的高峰，并显示出一些现代化的迹象。然而，清初（1644-1991）的皇帝对历史潮流视而不见，将中国与外界隔绝开来。他们顽固地推广农业系统，同时阻止新兴的工业文明。因此，中国和西方的立场发生了压倒性的逆转，导致中国在工业文明中迅速衰落。 第一次鸦片战争从1840年到1842年爆发。从此开始的几年里，中国在西方列强的侵略和侮辱下，被迫签署了一系列不平等的条约，放弃领土和支付赔偿金，并陷入了殖民地和半殖民地的深渊。 这次入侵给中国人民带来了严重的苦难，加速了限制性传统自然经济的瓦解，产生了民族资本家和工人阶级，使破产的农民沦为半无产阶级。 在鸦片战争的长达一个世纪的现代化建设中，中国人民通过反对帝国主义、封建主义和资本主义的斗争，不断推动民族工业的发展。孙中山领导的1911年革命推翻了清朝，帮助了民主、共和等观念的传播。接下来，中国共产党领导的革命赢得了民族独立和人民解放的伟大胜利。 1949年10月1日，中华人民共和国成立，开启了社会主义现代化建设的新纪元。中国特色改革开放政策，是经过30年曲折的探索后实施的。这一政策激励了中国政界在政治上实行民主法治，建立了社会主义市场经济，使国家能够积极参与国际竞争与经济合作。所有这一切都是为了努力建立一个富裕的、民主的、文化的、可持续的、和谐的社会。