Early Asian Empires

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Time Line

322-232 BC Mauryan Empire
298 BC Death of Chandragupta Maurya
250 BC Emergence of Buddhism
221 BC Zheng establishes Qin dynasty; rules as Qin Shi Huang Di, or “First Emperor”
212 BC Great Wall of China is completed
206 BC Liu Bang establishes Han dynasty


184-205 Revolt of the Yellow Turbans in China
208-265 Three Kingdoms period
320-550 Gupta Empire in India
589 Sui Yang Jian establishes Sui dynasty


Early Asian Empires

During the Qin and Han dynasties, the Chinese emperors established many major precedents that would become constants in Chinese culture. These included a law code, a merit-based civil service, and strong central control of the state. This was interrupted briefly during the Three Kingdoms period, but from AD 589 until the present, China has existed as a unified state.

International trade became a major factor during this era. China, India, Central Asia, and Rome all bought and sold goods from one another. Some merchants traveled along the Silk Road, others sailed across the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea. Trade even went as far as the east coast of Africa.

The Indian civilization continued to take shape under the first two Indian empires. Both comprised all of northern India; southern India was still more or less independent, both politically and culturally different from the north. The era began with religious plurality in India but ended with Hinduism having been firmly established as the chief religion in the region. Buddhism had by no means disappeared, however; it was taking firm hold in China and elsewhere in Asia.

The warrior tribes of Central Asia played a significant role in all the ancient civilizations, both eastern and western. Their method can be summed up in one word—invasion. Once these fierce, iron-clad warriors invaded any culture, they were very difficult to push back. Eventually, various Central Asian tribes would contribute their part to the stories of China and India and would settle permanently in Europe.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at: 

Early Asian Empires Practice Test

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