Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


The epics of Homer, the wars of Caesar, and temples and palaces characterize the image of classic antiquity and the cultures of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. They are the sources from which the Western world draws the foundations of its philosophy, literature, and, not least of all, its state organization. The Greek city-states, above all Athens, were the birthplace of democracy. The regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and great parts of Northwest Europe were forged together into the Roman Empire, which survived until the time of the Great Migration of Peoples. Mighty empires also existed beyond the ancient Mediterranean world, however, such as those of the Mauryas in India and the Han in China.


Alexander the Great



China's First Emperors of the
Qin and Han Dynasties

221 B.C.-220 A.D.


In the "Period of the Warring States," China was split into seven individual states that were eventually conquered by the Qin Empire. The "first sovereign emperor" of China, Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di, brought about the political and cultural unification of the country. The succeeding Han dynasty built upon this unification, expanded the area of Chinese rule, and successfully defended itself against the nomadic tribes in the north. In addition, Confucianism became the state ideology during the Han period. Under these first two imperial dynasties, developments that would characterize the history of China for more than 2,000 years were initiated.

The Qin Dynasty
221-206 ‚.Ů.

China's first emperor created a unified state within a few years and began outwardly fortifying his empire. He ruled the land with an iron fist and in accordance with the state philosophy of Legalism.

3 Qin Shi Huangdi, former Zheng,
king of Qin, wood carving, ca. 1640

The unification of China into a state in the third century B.C. was accomplished by the western state of Qin, which gave the country its name. Its frontier position opposite Tibet and the territories of the mounted nomads required it to have a powerful army and a tight administration. Its newly-conquered territories were not given over to nobles as fiefs but were directly administrated by the ruler, which impeded the development of an aristocratic opposition.

From this power base, King 3 Zheng of Qin was able to conquer the other seven Chinese feudal states by 221 ‚.Ů.

This ended the "Period of the Warring States" and a unified state with a divine emperor (Shi Huang Di: first august emperor) at its head was created.
The emperor then extended Qin's centralized administrative system overall of China. Disregarding old boundaries, the empire was reapportioned into provinces and districts that were run by imperial administrators. The government was based on the philosophy of the Legalists, who declared that the central laws should supersede all
else and instituted the regulation of all areas of life by strict laws and taxes. Within a few years, language, measurements, weights, and coinage had been standardized in the empire. Even the gauge and length of wagons were standardized to accommodate uniform road networks.

The people were forced to extend the walls against mounted nomads, which is the first section of the 5 Great Wall.

5 The Great Wall of China in the hills near Beijing

After his death in 210 B.C., China's first emperor was laid to rest in an enormous burial monument with thousands of individually crafted 1, 2 terra-cotta figures.

Its 4 discovery in 1974 was an archaeological sensation.

The Qin dynasty ended shortly thereafter in 206 B.C. with an uprising of the people that brought the Hans to power.

1 Armor protection,
shown in a third
century B.C.

2 The grave of Qin Shi Huangdi,
with 6,000 life-size men and horses,
third century ‚.Ů

4 Archaeologists at the
excavation of Qin dynasty,
clay figures


The Great Wall of China


The Great Wall of China


The Great Wall of China


The Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huangdi


The grave of Qin Shi Huangdi


The grave of Qin Shi Huangdi


The grave of Qin Shi Huangdi


The grave of Qin Shi Huangdi


The Han Dynasty 206 ‚.Ů-220 a.d.

In the power struggle at the end of the Qin era, a peasant rebel leader, Liu Bang, triumphed and took the emperor's throne in 206 B.C. as Emperor Gaozu.

The most important task of the first Han emperor, Kao Ti (206 B.C.), was defending against the 6 mounted nomads, above all the Xiongnu.

6 Horses and riders, terra-cotta figures,
second-first century B.C.


Bronze horse with lead saddle, Han Dynasty

Emperor 9 Han Wu Ti, the most illustrious of the Han emperors, took the offensive, and his search for allies led the Chinese to their first contact with the West.

9 Burial mound of emperor Han Wu Ti first century B.C.

The Xiongnu were finally defeated and forced westward, displacing Eurasian steppe peoples and ultimately triggering the Great Migration of Peoples in Europe of the fourth and fifth centuries.

China conquered eastern Turkistan to the borders of today's Afghanistan, where a trade link to the westó the 10 Silk Roadódeveloped.

10 A Buddhist shrine on the Silk Road in western China

Domestically, Han Wu Ti carried out several reforms that were to have a long-lasting effect. He tried to repair the educational vandalism of Shi-Hwang-ti. He divided the central administration into departmental ministries for the first time.

The system of training of 12 officials through schooling and examinations was perfected and remained in effect until the 20th century.

12 Court official, clay,
2nd Ů. ‚.Ů.

Sculptures of maids and servants,
2nd century BC


The basis of this training was a synthesis of Legalism, Confucianism, which stressed the relationship between father and 11 son, and the yin-yang nature philosophy.

11 Depiction of model sons, varnish painting on a woven basket,
Han period

The veneration of Confucius in a state cult began under the Hans. In 174 ‚.c., Emperor Han Wu Ti made a sacrifice on the philosopher's grave in 8 Chu Fu, which survives to this day.

8 Statue of Confucius in his commemoration
temple in Chu Fu

The Han period was one of the greatest epochs of Chinese prosperity. Han Wu Di's successor increasingly came under the influence of the tamilvoi the empress. In 9 a.d., the Hans were even temporarily deposed by the nephew of an empress until in 25 a.d. a distant relative of the Hans, Liu Hsiu, restored the dynasty as Emperor Guang Wu Di. He moved his capital from Xi'an to Luoyang in the east, and his dynasty is therefore called the "Eastern Han" in contrast to the former "Western Han." The empire was stabilizedóand even grewó into the first century. However the empress clan began to regain its influence, while palace intrigues were aggravated by the intervention of the eunuchs.

The 7 generals formed a third power factor so that the epoch became known as that of the Three Kingdoms.

7 Generals in their armor, clay figures,
Han period

In 184, the religiously motivated revolt of the Yellow Turbans erupted. The generals involved in crushing the revolt gained a level of autonomy, but then grew in their ambitions and ended up fighting each other in a civil war. In 220, the last Han emperor was forced to abdicate. From that time until the end of the sixth century, China remained divided into many competing kingdoms.



The Invention of Paper

One of the most important developments of mankindóthe invention of paperówas made in China during the Han period.
Plant fibers were worked into a mash through soaking in water, boiling, and pulping. The mash was spread into flat forms, and it settled as a thin, cohesive layer.
In the 13th century, paper came to Europe by way of Arabia.


Paper manufacture in China, ink drawing, 18th century



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