#8 – Chinese History

So how can we (我们 wŏmeń) find out about Chinese (中 国 的zhōng gúo de) history (历 史 lì shǐ)? As it happens, Chinese history中国的历史 is better documented than the history 历史 of any other country (国 家 guó jīa). From the time of the Han Dynasty (汉 hàn 朝chaó) 2200 years (年 niάn) ago, each court historian kept a diary of current events. These diaries were compiled into a national history, which was kept secret.

A dynasty (朝chaó 代 dài) is a period of time when members of the same family (jiā 家) ruled China中国. The emperor of each new dynasty 朝代 would appoint his (tā de 他的) own historians to write (xǐe 写) an account of the preceding dynasty 朝代. This standard history 历史 was made available to the public. Today (jīn 今tīan 天) there are 3600 volumes of China’s 中国的 Standard History 历史. The last of the series was published in 1986 in Taiwan (Tάi 台Wān 湾).

During the last 2200 years 年, there have been only six major dynasties 朝代 in China 中国。Those dynasties 朝代, and the Communist (gòng 共 chάn产 dăng 党) rulers of the twentieth century, are the subjects of this book (shū 书). It is well known that Chinese 中国 history 历史 goes back much further, to at least 5000 years 年 ago. The early period is summarized in a chart on pages 231-4.


  1. We = wŏ 我 meń 们

    我 is pronounced wŏ in the third tone. 我 means I or me.
    When the word meń 们 is added after a pronoun such as 我, that pronoun becomes plural. Thus 我们 means we.
    The word 们 is pronounced in the second tone.

  2. Chinese = zhōng中gúo国 de 的

    中 is pronounced Zhōng (Joan) in the first tone. 中 means middle or center.
    国 is pronounced Gúo in the second tone. 国means country or kingdom.
    中国 means middle kingdom or central kingdom

    When the word 的 is added after 中国(China), the three words 中国的 means (belonging to China) or Chinese.

    However, 中国新年 also means Chinese New Year. Chinese grammar is flexible.

  3. History = lì历 shǐ史

    历 is pronounced lì in the fourth tone. 历 means all that came previously. It also means calendar.

    史 is pronounced shǐ in the third tone. 史 means history.

    历 史 means history or previous records.

  4. Country = Guó国 jiā 家

    国 is pronounced guó in the second tone. It means country, state or nation.

    家 is pronounced jiā in the first tone. It means family, home or household.

    The two words 国 家 mean country, state or nation. This reinforces the Chinese belief that a nation is one big family.

  5. Han Dynasty = Hàn汉 chάo朝

    汉 is pronounced Hάn in the fourth tone. 汉 means Chinese nationality, Chinese language, man or hero.

    朝 is pronounced chάo in the second tone. 朝 means dynasty or court.

    The two words汉 朝 mean Han Dynasty which lasted for 426 years from 206 BC to 220 AD. From then on, the word 汉 became synonymous with anything to do with China.

  6. Dynasty = Chάo朝 dài 代

    朝 is pronounced chάo in the second tone. 朝 means dynasty or court.

    代 is pronounced dài in the fourth tone. It means historical period, generation, or `to take the place of.’.

    The two words 朝代 means dynasty.

  7. Write = Xǐe 写

    写 is pronounced xǐe in the third tone. (the letter X is pronounced SH in Chinese pinyin). It means write.

  8. Today = Jīn 今 Tiān 天

    今 is pronounced Jīn in the first tone. It means modern, present day, contemporary, of our era, today, now.

    天 is pronounced tiān in the first tone. It means day, sky, heaven, god, a period of time, season, weather, nature.

  9. Taiwan = Tάi 台 Wān 湾

    台 is pronounced tάi in the second tone. It means platform, stage, terrace.

    湾 is pronounced wān in the first tone. It means bay, gulf, a bend in a stream. Note the water radical (three dots) on the left side of the character 湾 which denotes that the word has something to do with water.

    台湾 is an island-state situated 99 miles off the south-eastern coast of Mainland China in the Pacific Ocean. Majority of the population came from the neighboring province of Fujian in China and speak Chinese.

  10. Communist Party = Gòng共 Chăn产 Dăng党

    共 is pronounced Gòng in the fourth tone. It means share, common, general, together.

    产 is pronounced Chăn in the third tone. It means to produce, yield, give birth to.

    党 is pronounced Dăng in the third tone. It means political party, gang, faction. clique, follower.

  11. Book = Shū 书

    书 is pronounced Shū in the first tone. It means book, letter, document or to write.