Why no Chinese Dark Age?

Why no Chinese ‘Dark Age’?

Why is there no Chinese ’Dark Age’? This is an aspect of Chinese history that is very different to the history we study in the West. In Western Europe, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was followed by a prolonged dark age, which was followed by the Middle Ages and it was only with the Renaissance, a thousand years after the fall of Rome, that Europe began to move ahead.

Admittedly the term ‘Dark Age’ is controversial – some historians see it as being demeaning and disparaging: but surely one of the themes of history is to point out the highs and lows and attempt to assign causes. And, as Bryan Ward Perkins demonstrates in his book on The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation, it is incontestable that population fell dramatically, towns were abandoned and, from the archaeological point of view,  in everyday life the quality of pottery declined dramatically and no longer provided a suitable drinking vessel.

The pattern of Chinese history is very different. There are indeed a number of periods of chaos, – are often called periods of disunity but after the period of disunity, a new and powerful unifying Emperor came along and established his family as a new dynasty and Chinese civilisation continued as before

In these pages we will be looking in particular at the periods of disunity and see what happens in each, and how the next dynasty established itself. We also ask the important question why it was that each dynasty seemed to want to revert to the image of Chinese civilisation and the study of Confucius that went before. And finally, we ask the question how it was that eventually the West sprang ahead in the Industrial Revolution


Let’s start by looking at the history of early China

Or jump to my conclusions as to the reasons for the remarkable continuity



13th October 2015