Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 250,000 and 2.24 million years ago. A cave in Zhoukoudian exhibits hominid fossils dated at between 680,000 and 780,000 BCE. The fossils are of Peking Man, an example of Homo erectus who used fire. The Peking Man site has also yielded remains of Homo sapiens dating back to 18,000–11,000 BCE. Some scholars assert that a form of proto-writing existed in China as early as 3000 BCE.
According to Chinese tradition, the first imperial dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2070 BCE. However, the dynasty was considered mythical by historians until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou, Henan in 1959. It remains unclear whether these sites are the remains of the Xia Dynasty or of another culture from the same period.
Early dynastic rule
The first Chinese dynasty that left historical records, the loosely feudal Shang, settled along the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BCE. The oracle bone script of the Shang Dynasty represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found, and is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters. The Shang were conquered by the Zhou, who ruled between the 12th and 5th centuries BCE, until its centralized authority was slowly eroded by feudal warlords. Many independent states eventually emerged from the weakened Zhou state and continually waged war with each other in the 300-year Spring and Autumn Period, only occasionally deferring to the Zhou king. By the time of the Warring States period of the 5th–3rd centuries BCE, there were seven powerful sovereign states in what is now China, each with its own king, ministry and army.
Early Imperial China
The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BCE and 220 CE, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace that has endured to the present day. The Han Dynasty expanded the empire's territory considerably with military campaigns reaching Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Central Asia, and also helped establish the Silk Road in Central Asia. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. The Han Dynasty adopted Confucianism, a philosophy developed in the Spring and Autumn period, as its official state ideology. Despite the Han's official abandonment of Legalism, the official ideology of the Qin, Legalist institutions and policies remained and formed the basis of the Han government.The Warring States period ended in 221 BCE, after the state of Qin conquered the other six kingdoms and established the first unified Chinese state. Qin Shi Huang, the emperor of Qin, proclaimed himself the "First Emperor" (始皇帝) and imposed reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of the Chinese language, measurements, length of cart axles, and currency. The Qin Dynasty lasted only fifteen years, falling soon after Qin Shi Huang's death, as its harsh legalist and authoritarian policies led to widespread rebellion.
Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese technology and culture entered a golden age. The An Shi Rebellion in the 8th century devastated the country and weakened the dynasty. The Song Dynasty was the first government in world history to issue paper money and the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy. Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the population of China doubled in size to around 100 million people, mostly due to the expansion of rice cultivation in central and southern China, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Song Dynasty also saw a flourishing of philosophy and the arts, as landscape art and portrait painting were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity, and social elites gathered to view art, share their own and trade precious artworks. The Song Dynasty saw a revival of Confucianism, in response to the growth of Buddhism during the Tang.In the 13th century, China was gradually conquered by the Mongol empire. In 1271, the Mongol leader Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty; the Yuan conquered the last remnant of the Song Dynasty in 1279. Before the Mongol invasion, the population of Song China was 120 million citizens; this was reduced to 60 million by the time of the census in 1300. A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 and founded the Ming Dynasty. After the collapse of Han, a period of disunion known as the period of the Three Kingdoms followed. In 581 CE, China was reunited under the Sui. However, the Sui Dynasty declined following its defeat in the Goguryeo–Sui War (598–614).
The Chinese Empire is, like most monarchies, a constitutional monarchy, where the Emperor is the Head of State. Below the Emperor, are the Council of Ministers, consisting of heads of the separate provinces of the Empire. Much of its constitution is based on the Egyptian Constitution of Karnak, with similar divisions of power amongst the government officials.
The Emperor is the commander in chief of the military, and the head of foreign affairs. He also manages the economics of the nation, though the Council must give their approval before the bills are passed. The Emperor is also the head of religion, and the chief justice of the Empire.
The Council of Ministers generally consists of a group of officials, who are elected by the people of the province. Each province has one Minister. The Ministers vote on major issues, which are then submitted to the Emperor, for his approval. Likewise, usage of budget, or declarations of war are submitted to the Council for their approval.
Judicial and Law Systems
The Chinese Imperial Forces, are considered to be the most powerful of the Asian nations, and are believed to be lesser only to those of the Roman Republic, and the Egyptian Empire. All enlisting soldiers take an oath of loyalty to the Emperor, the commander in chief. They possess bases in foreign territories, most of them Egyptian.
The Chinese Empire possesses relations with most countries, and is a major player in world affairs. Its closest ties are with the Egyptians. Relations are peaceful with most nations, with the three notable exceptions of Azteca, United Islamic Republic, and Japan.