Ancient Chinese Warfare


In ancient China warfare was a means for one region to gain ascendancy over another, for the state to expand and protect its frontiers, and for usurpers to replace an existing dynasty of rulers. With armies consisting of tens of thousands of soldiers in the first millennium BCE and then hundreds of thousands in the first millennium CE, warfare became more technologically advanced and ever more destructive. Chariots gave way to cavalry, bows to crossbows and, eventually, artillery stones to gunpowder bombs. The Chinese intelligentsia may have frowned upon warfare and those who engaged in it and there were notable periods of relative peace but, as in most other ancient societies, for ordinary people it was difficult to escape the insatiable demands of war: either fight or die, be conscripted or enslaved, win somebody else's possessions or lose all of one's own.

More about: Ancient Chinese Warfare


  • 771 BCE
    Following nomadic attacks in the west, the Chinese Zhou dynasty moves its capital east to Luoyang. Beginning of Eastern Zhou Period.
  • c. 481 BCE - 221 BCE
    Warring States Period in China.
  • 278 BCE
    The Qin state captures Ying, the capital of the Chu state.
  • 262 BCE - 260 BCE
    The Battle of Changping, one of the most important battles in the Warring States Period in China between Zhao and Qin.
  • 256 BCE
    The army of the state of Qin captures the city of Chengzhou and the last Zhou ruler, King Nan, is killed. End of the Zhou Dynasty.
  • 230 BCE - 221 BCE
    King Ying Zheng of Qin defeats the other warring states, claims Mandate of Heaven to rule China.
  • c. 221 BCE
    Construction of Northern Frontier wall by Shi Huangdi, First Emperor of China, precursor to Great Wall.
  • c. 218 BCE
    Construction of the Great Wall of China is initiated.
  • 210 BCE
    First Emperor of China Shi Huangdi dies, buried with army of 8,000 terracotta warriors in palace tomb.
  • 202 BCE
    The Battle of Gaixia, Chu forces defeated by the Han.
  • 117 BCE - 100 BCE
    Han emperors extend the western part of the Great Wall of China.
  • 109 BCE
    Chinese Han Empire conquers the kingdom of Tien.
  • 108 BCE
    Wiman Joseon is conquered by the Han dynasty.
  • 104 BCE - 101 BCE
    The War of the Heavenly Horses, general Li Guangli forces the city of Da Yuan (Alexandria Eschate) into tributary status.
  • 23 CE
    The sack of Chang'an, imperial capital of China.
  • 189 CE
    Luoyang, the Han capital, is sacked by the Chinese warlord Dong Zhuo.
  • 304 CE
    The nomadic Xiongu break through the Great Wall of China.
  • 612 CE
    Goguryeo general Eulji Mundeok wins a great victory against the Chinese Sui at the battle of the Salsu River.
  • 640 CE - 649 CE
    Taizong's military campaigns in the Tarim Basin which is annexed to China.
  • 644 CE
    A Goguryeo army defeats a combined Silla and Tang army.
  • 660 CE
    The Baekje kingdom in Korea falls to a joint Silla and Chinese Tang Dynasty army and naval attack.
  • 661 CE
    A Tang Dynasty army unsuccessfully besieges the Goguryeo capital of Pyongyang.
  • 668 CE
    The Goguryeo kingdom of northern Korea collapses following an attack by the Tang Dynasty of China.
  • 675 CE
    A Silla army defeats a Tang force at the battles of Maesosong.
  • 676 CE
    A Silla army defeats a Tang force at the battle of Kibolpo, thus gaining control of the whole Korean peninsula.
  • 732 CE
    Balhae attacks by sea the Chinese port of Dengzhou.
  • 843 CE
    The Tang empire attacks and kills 10,000 Uyghur tribespeople in Inner Mongolia.
  • 1004 CE
    Treaty of Shanyuan which brings peace between the Liao dynasty and Song dynasty of China with the latter compelled to pay annual tribute.
  • 1044 CE
    Defeat to the Xia state results in China's Song dynasty paying tribute.
  • 1125 CE
    The Jin state attacks Song China.
  • 1125 CE
    The Jurchen Jin state invades Song China necessitating the latter to move south and form the Southern Song dynasty.
  • 1141 CE
    A peace treaty is signed betwwen the (southern) Song Dynasty and Jin state.
  • 1273 CE
    Xiangyang falls into Mongol hands.
  • 1275 CE - 1279 CE
    The Mongols led by Kublai Khan attack and conquer the last remnants of Song China.