Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


Capital : Peking (Beijing)

Size: 3 705 000 sq m Popn: 1 187 997 000


Anhui (Anhwei), Beijing, Chekiang (Zhejiang), Fujian (Fukien), Gansu (Kansu), Guangdong (Kwangtung), Guangxi-Zhangzu-Zizhiqu, Hainan, Hunan, Henan (Honan), Hopei (Hebei), Hupeh (Hubei), Jiangsu (Kiangsu), Jiangxi (Kiangsi), Kirin (Jilin), Qinghai (Tsinhai), Sichuan (Szechuan), Kwangi-Chuang (Guangxi-Zhuangzu-Zizhiqu), Kweichow (Guizhou), Liaoning, Zhejiang, Ningxia-Huizu-Zizhiqu, Shanxi (Shansi), Shaanxi (Shensi), Shandong (Shantung), Xinjiang-Uygur-Zizhiqu, Yunnan, Inner Mongolia (Nei Monggol Zizhiqu), Tibet (Xizang)


One of the earliest inhabitants of China was the hominid 'Sinanthropus pekinensis' or Beijing man, in the Lower Palaeolithic period. Remains of 'pre-Chinese' or 'unspecialised' Mongoloids dating from the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic have also been found and there is now evidence for Neolithic culture in Northern China.

The first recorded rulers were mythological figures were described as half human, half animal, and credited with domesticating animals and inventing farming. The last of them, Shun, is traditionally believed to have appointed as his successor a man called Yu who was the founder of the Xia dynasty for which there is some archaeological evidence. In legend, the Xia dynasty was overthrown by the Shang but there are no confirmed dates although a site which may be the royal cemetery of the Shang Emperors has been found near Anyang in the Xiaotun enclave.

During this period, the Zhou people lived north of the Wei river at the edge of Shang authority. They were later to produce a series of emperors traditionally ruling from 1122-256 BC after King Wu, the son of Wen, the Earl of the west, was given a heavenly mandate to save the people from the last, wicked, Shang ruler and overthrew the Shang dynasty. The dynasty began with the Western Zhou rulers who expanded their land rapidly by conquest and enfeoffment to gain influence over much of Northern China and made expeditions against non-Chinese peoples outside their territory. In 771 BC, the capital, Hao, was overrun by northern tribes in alliance with rebel Chinese and the last of the Western Zhou, King You, was defeated. The capital moved east to Luoyang under the Eastern Zhou dynasty. At this stage China consisted of about fifteen important feudal states such as Qi and Jin and many smaller fiefdoms.

The state of Qin rose to provide the first national dynasty and the feudal states were replaced by a non-hereditary, bureaucratic administration. The First Emperor, Cheng, inherited the Qin throne in 246 BC aged about 13 and did not gain full power until the fall of chief minister and regent Lu Buwei in 237 BC. Cheng is associated with the building of the Great Wall of China and his splendid tomb was guarded by an army of terracotta warriors. His son was dominated by his tutor, the eunuch Zhao Gao and forced to commit suicide. His successor, Cheng's grandson Ziying, had Zhao Gao killed but was captured by rebels and executed.

The Han Dynasty ruled for four centuries and established the pattern of politics, religion, economics and social life in China but lost power to a triumvirate of generals in 189 AD. Their Three Kingdoms were followed by three hundred years during which China was never under the total of one dynasty until it was reunited under the Sui dynasty in 589. This period saw the beginnings of Buddhism in China. The first Sui emperor was deposed by his son, who attempted to regain the control of Korea and Manchuria which had been established by the Han.

The failure of this campaign and internal rebellion contributed to the end of the dynasty but the empire was recreated under the Tang dynasty established by the military leader Li Yuan. He was forced to abdicate in favour of his younger son, Li Shimin, who claimed that his brother, the heir apparent, Li Jiancheng, was plotting against him. As Emperor Taizong, Li Shimin consolidated the rule of dynasty and established state schools and the examination system. His two elder sons, Li Chengqian and Li Tai, proved unsatisfactory as heirs and he was succeeded by Li Zhi as the Emperor Gaozong.

During Gaozong's reign, the Chinese state expanded even further, including the capture of Koguryo (north Korea) which became a Chinese protectorate. As he was only twenty years old on his succession, Gaozeng was heavily influenced by officials of the previous reign and the sudden rise to power of his father's concubine Wu Zhao, who bore him several children, led to her becoming virtually sole ruler when his health deteriorated after 660. She retained power during the reigns of two of Gaozong's sons and in 690 usurped the throne which she kept until her death and the restoration of former Emperor Zhongzong in 705.

Her grandson, the Xuanzong emperor, came to power in 712 and changed most court officials for men of his own choice, many of whom had served under Empress Wu. He attempted governmental, military and financial reform but increasing tensions at court made this difficult and by the 740s Li Linfu, a member of the imperial clan, gained influence to the extent of being virtually a dictator. The emperor increasingly withdrew from politics to pursue Buddhist enlightenment and the family of his favourite concubine, Yang Guifei, was given important positions at court. The rebellion of general An Lushan led to the establishment of a court in exile in Chengdu where the Emperor fled and his son, rallying opposition to the rebels in the north-west, usurped the throne.

The late Tang period never regained the glory of the earlier reigns although some financial improvements were made. The emperors were unable to gain real authority over their ministers and when Xuanzong died in 888, neither of his successors could take power and Zhu Wen, a former lieutenant, declared an independent state under the Liang Dynasty in the north.

The period from 907-60 is known as that of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. The country was divided in two with the north coming under the rule of five dynasties and the south being divided into ten regions. In 960, a general from the fifth northern dynasty established the Song or Northern Song empire which ruled most of China. The capital moved to Kaifeng on the Grand Canal and although many of the Tang dynasty's practices continued, the military came under governmental control and the system of bureaucratic examination and recruitment was improved.

After years of unrest, the Tungusic Jurchen people who were ancestors of the Manchus invaded China in 1125, deposing the last Song Emperor, Huizong and ruling as the Jin Dynasty until falling to the Mongols in 1234. In the south, the resistance movement focused on a son of Huizong who became the Gaozong emperor. He established his capital at Hangzhou and gained control of the whole of southern China. The Southern Song Dynasty was conquered by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in 1279 and the country was reunified. Opinion is divided over whether the Mongol period was a disaster or a blessing for the native Han Chinese but there was certainly enough resentment to expel them in favour of the Ming dynasty under Zhu Yuanzhang, the Hongwu emperor, in 1368.

The reigns of Hongwu and his grandson saw increased maritime exploration and administrative reform. Technology began to develop and there was a trend towards urban living. The dynasty failed to cope with internal challenges and a peasant rebellion of 1644 brought the Manchu Qing Dynasty to power. Although recent interpretations have concentrated more on the similarities between the Ming and Qing and the collaboration of the Chinese aristocracy with the Manchu who were considered to be barbarians, the Chinese were a conquered and subjugated people during this period. After 1645, Chinese men were forced to adopt the Manchu hairstyle, a pigtail at the back and a shaved forehead, an order which was strongly resisted.

Trade and culture flourished but by the C19th, all trade went through treaty ports under the control of the America and Europe. The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 protested against Western influence and was put down by European troops. Full-scale revolution broke out in 1911 and the last emperor, Xuantong, whose personal name was Pu'yi, was deposed in 1912, returning to power briefly in 1917. China became a republic with General Yuan Shih-Ka'i as president. Sun Yat-sen founded the Guomindang (National People's Party). A second revolution in Nanjing was suppressed but the republic was divided by warlords. In 1917, Sun Yat-sen became supreme commander of forces in the south and China entered World War I to try to regain German treaty ports and have treaties with Japan annulled but with little success.

In 1921, a rump parliament abolished the military government and Sun Yat-sen, who had resigned his army command in 1921, became president. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), founded in Shanghai in 1921, and the Guomindang began to make compromises to try to reunite China but Sun Yat-sen died in 1925 and Chiang Kai-shek's Revolutionary Army attacked warlords in the north and set up the National Government in Hengzhou in November 1926. Chiang Kai-Shek left the Communist Party and suppressed communists and peasant rebellions and by 1928 his forces had taken Beijing to reunify China, with the Guomindang as the basis for a one-party state. The 1930s saw a series of campaigns against the communists and the Mukden incident of 1931 was used as an excuse for the Japanese to invade and capture Manchuria. The puppet state of Manchukuo was set up with former Emperor Pu'yi as head of state and Japan occupied Shanghai before the armistice in 1933.

In 1934, the Red Army, founded by the CCP in Hunan in 1928, began the Long March from the Jiangzi and Fujian in the south to Yanan in the north, where Mao Zedong became the effective leader of the CCP. Japan attacked again in 1937 and during the Sino-Japanese War, Beijing fell and the capital was moved to Chungking. When Britain and the US entered the war against Japan, Chiang Kai-shek received help from the West and the Guomindang maintained an uneasy truce with the Communists which collapsed into open warfare after the Japanese surrender in 1945. Communist advances forced him to resign in 1949 and the People's Republic was proclaimed in September with the Guomindang fleeing to the island of Formosa (Taiwan).

A Soviet-style centralized constitution was adopted, industry was nationalized and the government concentrated mainly on economic regeneration. China intervened in the Korean was and the USSR provided economic aid. In 1958, state president and CCP chairman, Mao Zedong, inaugurated the Great Leap Forward, creating large self-sufficient communes which were to achieve classless 'true communism' but co-ordination was impossible and over 20 million people died during the floods and famines of 1959-61 and reduced Mao's influence. President Liu Shao-qi began a successful recovery programme, reducing commune size and reintroducing private plots, markets, income differentials and material incentives. Mao saw this as a return to capitalism and launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966. Supported by the People's Liberation Army, Mao and the Gang of Four led by his wife, Jiang Qing, encouraged student Red Guard demonstrations against party and government leaders such as Liu Shao-qi, CCP secretariat head Deng Xiao-ping and Peng Zhen, mayor of Beijing, who were forced out of office. Government institutions were no longer used and administration was taken over by Maoist officials, PLA leaders and the trade unions.

Relations with the USSR under Krushchev deteriorated when it supported India in a short border war in 1962 and worsened in 1969 after clashes over the disputed Ussuri River region. China followed a strategy of non-alignment but achieved nuclear capability by 1964. Soviet expansionism led to a renewal of relations with the USA and in 1971, China joined the United Nations.

In the early 1970s, Mao took the side of prime minister Zhou Enlai and began to restore order by introducing a more balanced system. Officials, including Deng Xiao-ping and finance minister Li Xiannian, were rehabilitated and a Chinese/US détente began. In 1975, the NCP was summoned for the first time since 1963 to ratify a new constitution and approve the 'Four Movements' an economic plan intended to bring agriculture, industry, technology and the armed forces up to Western standards by the year 2000. Zhou and Mao died in 1976 and there was a violent struggle for succession between the Jiang Qing's Gang of Four and Deng Xiao-ping's moderate 'rightists'. Deng went into hiding and Mao's protégé Hua Guofeng became CCP chairman and head of government. He arrested the Gang for treason and continued Zhou Enlai's modernization programme but was challenged increasingly strongly by Deng who returned to office in 1977 and by 1979 was effectively in charge of government with a Politburo majority. Economic reforms led to the dismantling of the commune system, direct farm incentives were introduced and foreign investment was encouraged. Deng's protégés, Hu Yao-bang and Zhao Zi-yang, became party chair and prime minister and the Gang of Four were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981. The NPC adopted a constitution, restored the post of state president which had been abolished in 1975 and established a new code of civil rights.

The party bureaucracy was streamlined and young, better-educated technocrats were employed. PLA influence was lessened by a reduction in personnel and the retirements of senior commanders and the economy was modernized with further market incentives, local autonomy and foreign investment. Greater contact with the West led to calls for more democracy and widespread student demonstrations led to Hu Yao-bang's dismissal in 1986 for failing to control them. Deng and other leaders retired from the Politburo in October 1987 and Li Peng took over as prime minister with Zhao Ziyang as CCP chairman. Increasing inflation led to the introduction of austerity measures which sparked off urban unrest and a student-led pro-democracy movement spread quickly, with mass demonstrations during the visit of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in May 1989. A brutal crackdown began, supported by Deng, martial law was proclaimed and unarmed student protestors who had occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing were dispersed by the army with possibly as many as 2000 being killed. The crackdown on dissidents continued and the government turned to conservatism rather than reform.

Relations with the West, which had been improving during Deng's administration, were considerably cooled by the international outrage after the Tiananmen Square massacre and sanctions were imposed. Chinese backing of the UN in the Persian Gulf crisis improved matters, and in 1991 the EC and Japan had ended most of the sanctions. Jiang Zemin visited the USSR for talks with Gorbachev in May, the first Chinese leader to do so since 1957, and in September, John Major, the British prime minister, was the first Western leader to visit China after the massacre. In 1992, Beijing had its first state visit by a Japanese Emperor but relations with the USA were still strained. The economy, which had stalled in 1989-90 began to expand rapidly as a new phase of reform began. (There are about 13 million Catholics in China.)

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Capital: Taipei

Size: 13900 sq m Popn: 20 659 000

This island off the coast of China was once known as Formosa 'the beautiful'. It was settled by China from the C15th and briefly occupied by the Dutch during the C17th before being annexed by China under the Manchu Dynasty in 1683. After the Sino-Japanese war of 1985, it was ceded to Japan under the treaty of Shimonoseki but China regained it at the end of the Second World War when the Japanese surrendered in August 1945.

In December 1949, Chiang Kai Shek's Chinese nationalist government forces evacuated the mainland after their defeat by the Communists under Mao Zedong. They took refuge on Taiwan and dominated the island, maintaining an army of 600 000 in the hope of regaining control of mainland China, over which they still claimed sovereignty. The USA continued to recognise them as the legitimate government of China and they occupied China's UN and Security Council seats until they were expelled by the People's Republic of China in October 1971.

During the Korean War of 1950-3, the island was protected by US naval forces and signed a mutual defence treaty with the USA in 1954. This security allowed rapid economic growth during the 50s and 60s and Taiwan emerged as an export-oriented industrialized country. President Chiang's Kuomintang (Guomindang) government retained political power, imposing martial law and outlawing opposition activity. The USA became friendlier with Communist China during the 1970s, culminating in the normalization of Sino-US relations in 1979, and Taiwanese-US diplomatic contacts were severed and the 1954 security plan annulled. Other Western nations ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan during the 70s and early 80s, and this, and the internal changes within the Kuomintang, led to a slow review of Taiwanese policies.

Chiang died in April 1975 and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, became party chair and, in 1988, state president. His government adopted a gradual programme of democratization and 'Taiwanization' with elections held for vacated national assembly seats and the Legislative Yuan and native Taiwanese becoming part of the Kuomintang. A formal opposition party, the Democratic People's Party (DPP), led by Chiang Peng-chien, was allowed to stand in the elections of 1986, gaining 22% of the vote to the Kuomintang's 69%. Martial law was lifted in July 1987 in favour of a national security law which lifted press restrictions and allowed demonstrations and the formation of opposition parties on condition that they were not communist.

The second President Chiang died in 1988 and was succeeded by the Taiwanese-born Lee Teng-hui who had been vice-president since 1984. He speeded up reform, retiring many of the 'old guard' in 1988-9 and his plan to phase out, through voluntary retirement, up to 200 mainland constituencies and to replace them with Taiwanese deputies, was approved. In the Legislative Yuan elections of December 1989, the Kuomintang vote fell to 59% and from September 1990, Chinese-born Kuomintang members were in the minority in parliament. On May 1st 1991, President Lee officially declared an end to the civil war ('Period of Communist Rebellion') with the People's Republic of China. The existence of the Communist government was officially acknowledged and the first formal Taiwanese delegation visited Beijing.

In October 1991, the DPP introduced a new clause to its charter, advocating Taiwanese independence (still a seditious offence) and calling for a plebiscite. The last 566 'life members' resigned from their legislative posts at the end of 1991 and the new national assembly of December 1991 was the first to be controlled by Taiwan-elected members. The KMT won a landslide victory, gaining 71% of the vote and 254 of the 325 seats which achieved the majority required to push through fundamental constitutional reform. The DPP was damaged by its technically illegal pro-independence position and the Taiwanese remained worried that a declaration of independence might lead to invasion by mainland China or internal factional divisions. Taiwan severed relations with South Korea after it signed a diplomatic pact with China in August 1992 and South Africa remained the only country with full diplomatic links to Taiwan.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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