The Chinese people represent a civilization in Civilization VI. They are led by Qin Shi Huang, under whom their default colors are dark green and white; and (with New Frontier Pass) by Kublai Khan, under whom their default colors are light yellow and dark red.
The Chinese civilization ability is Dynastic Cycle, which allows Eurekas and Inspirations to provide an extra 10% of the cost of technologies and civics, and grants them a free Eureka and Inspiration whenever they complete a wonder. Their unique unit is the Crouching Tiger, and their unique tile improvement is the Great Wall.
Starting bias: None
China is a strong, versatile civilization, yet quite complex to master in terms of its gameplay. It has arguably the strongest timing push in terms of rush-building wonders in the Ancient and Classical Era. This will set the pace for the rest of the game in terms of which direction it wants to go and how fast it gets there.
The Chinese civilization ability increases the Science and Culture bonuses from Eurekas and Inspirations (respectively) by 10%, allowing them to discover key technologies and civics more quickly once they trigger these. The key is to decide which victory condition to pursue early on, and then beeline techs and civics that will unlock units, policy cards, and wonders which will help achieve it. This ability will also help the Chinese avoid falling too far behind in their civic development if they choose to focus on technological development, or vice versa. It proves particularly strong in the late game (when both technologies and civics are far more expensive), when using Spies to perform Steal Tech Boost missions (especially in single-player games on higher difficulty levels, during which the AI will eclipse human players' Science output throughout most of the game), and when pursuing a Domination Victory (since capturing a city from a civilization that is ahead in technological or civic progress potentially awards a Eureka or Inspiration).
The other effect of this ability, which grants the Chinese a free Eureka and Inspiration from the era of each wonder they construct, encourages them to build wonders as soon as they unlock them. This maximizes the number of boosts they receive, and comes in especially handy for those boosts whose requirements are otherwise hard to meet.
The First Emperor
Arguably the most powerful leader ability in the game, its inherent complexity allows for a lot of game-breaking situations where the outcome of the game can be easily decided within the first two eras if done properly. While others will struggle to build early game Wonders due to their enormous opportunity costs, China will prosper in simultaneously erecting a large number of Wonders, setting the stage for future eras to come.
Very straightforward, under Qin, each Chinese Builder will have 4 build charges, raised to 5 if they are trained in a city with Liang, making them extra cost effective. City planning and development with China, therefore, will always be a step ahead of other civilizations, where China will end up with more flexibility on how to use their Builders, ranging from building improvements, chopping features and, of course, rushing wonders.
Considering how powerful the wonder rushing ability is, and how crucial the first two eras are to China, Liang is always the recommended opening Governor.
This is undoubtedly the signature ability of Qin Shi Huang that elevates China as a dominant and flexible civilization. Every other aspect of China is quite underwhelming, but this one alone is more than enough to make up for it, if you can pull it off properly. Under Qin, China can use its Builders' charges to expedite the construction of wonders from the Ancient and Classical Eras. Each charge so expended provides 15% of the wonder's Production cost, so a Builder with 6 charges will be able to cover 90% of the Production needed for a wonder in 6 turns.
At first, this may sound similar to the Wonder-constructing bonus of Egypt or France, but this ability is decidedly the most powerful one by far. The best part about this ability is that its efficacy is totally independent from the city that hosts the Wonder, and that effect is magnified so much more in the early game. 15% or 20% extra Production towards Wonders isn't that meaningful if the city itself has very low Production, which is most likely the case in the first two eras. Being able to complete a fraction of the Wonders' cost by expending Builder charges mean you can simultaneously construct multiple Wonders, as long as you have enough Builders to boost them all, regardless of how productive the cities are. A good trick to keep in mind is that when using Builders to build improvements, you can leave them at 1 charge left. Multiple Builders with 1 charge left make it possible to use multiple Builders' charges to expedite the same Wonder in the same turn.
Another sequence of events that you should remember when playing as China to maximize efficiency:
- Set the city production queue to the Wonder you want.
- Use the Builder to rush that Wonder.
- Switch the production queue to something else.
- End turn and repeat from step 1 until the Wonder is complete.
Remember that in the first two era, your Production output will contribute minimally to the progress of building Wonders. By switching production back and forth, you guarantee your Wonders will be built in time without setting other priorities back, including churning out more Builders, building Districts, or expansion. This method of switching production even allows you to build multiple Wonders at once in the same city, by having multiple Builders ready in position once you switch production to the Wonders they are standing on.
- Monument to the Gods pantheon adds 15% extra Production towards Wonders, making each Builder charge worth 2.25% extra Wonder cost.
- Autocracy government adds 10% extra Production towards Wonders, making each Builder charge worth 1.5% extra Wonder cost.
- Corvée policy card adds 15% extra Production towards Wonders, making each Builder charge worth 2.25% extra Wonder cost.
- Brussels city-state adds 15% extra Production towards Wonders, making each Builder charge worth 2.25% extra Wonder cost.
- Ik-Kil natural wonder adds 50% extra Production towards Wonders if the Wonders are built in an adjacent tile, making each Builder charge worth 7.5% extra Wonder cost.
The first 3 of 5 in the list above are something you can get (or attempt to get) every game, raising the value of each Builder charge to 21% Wonder cost. A standard Chinese builder trained in a city with Liang will come with 5 charges, meaning each one of them will complete any Wonder by itself.
List of Ancient and Classical Era Wonders
This section is dedicated to discussing the eligible Wonders, including how much of a priority certain Wonders are, and in which situation which Wonders should be built. This section is written under the assumption that resources, time and opportunities are limited, by the virtue of picking a Wonder you will have to de-prioritize another, which is the case in most of your games. If you are playing on a low difficulty level, or have a good start that can guarantee more Wonders than normal, there is no stopping you from attempting for Wonders that are classified here as "situational" or "not a high priority." China is most likely going for a Cultural Victory, so all of these Wonders, good or bad, will be good sources of late game Tourism. Note that Machu Picchu will not be discussed here, since it is ineligible to be rushed.
- Great Bath: As discussed in great detail on its page, the Great Bath's extremely early arrival is associated with the highest opportunity cost in the game, as well as high level of competitiveness. This is undoubtedly a strong Wonder with great benefits, but rushing this Wonder means you will need to start your game researching Pottery while training a Builder. Excluding Astrology, Pottery is often the worst of the three starting technologies to research first, and starting with a Builder means you forgo exploration. Not to mention, unless you are playing on Hyperreal setting, you cannot control how many Floods you will get, so generally you have other Wonders of higher priorities than this.
- Stonehenge: During the course of the development of Civilization VI, players tend to shy away more and more from this Wonder, as it is consistently ranked really low by the community while at the same time really prioritized by the AIs. China, despite having little to no religious tendency, can benefit from an early one, since you are guaranteed access to the Divine Inspiration belief, which can grant a huge amount of Faith that can be used to purchase Builders and Settlers with the Monumentality Dedication. This is a decent choice, but it isn't really a top priority. Maybe consider this Wonder if you bump into a natural wonder early, which lowers the research cost of Astrology. Otherwise, the AIs will most likely unlock that tech first and beat you to the Wonder.
- Etemenanki: This is a pretty good Wonder if you can find a city spot with a lot of Floodplains. Since your early exploration will most likely be lacking due to other investments into infrastructure and Wonders, it is difficult to find out whether you spawn in a Marsh-heavy area to be able to truly activate the empire-wide bonus towards Marsh. It is a nice Wonder on Wetlands maps or maps with Rainfall setting as Wet, but not always the most reliable one on other maps.
- Hanging Gardens: An underwhelming Wonder all around, 15% bonus (excess) Food is a terrible bonus for a civilization without any bonus that guarantees excess Food in the first place. This Wonder should be really low on your build list.
- Temple of Artemis: An amazing Wonder dedicated to growth, Amenities, and developing strong early cities. High growth and Amenities means churning out Settlers is an easy task, allowing China to expand rapidly in the early game. The tech that unlocks is Wonder is Archery, something you would need early anyway to defend yourself against people who try to stop you from building Wonders. Prioritize it if you have a resource in your territory that can be improved with a Camp.
- Pyramids: Undoubtedly one of the best Wonders in the game, and even more so when playing as Qin Shi Huang. The free Builder granted will help you almost complete another Wonder, while the extra builder charge can never be highlighted enough on how strong that is for China. This is an absolute must-have, so always be on the lookout for a flat Desert tile in the early game and beeline for Masonry (which happens to unlock the Great Wall as well).
- Oracle: A very powerful Wonder if built in a large city, or a city with high growth potential to host a lot of specialty Districts and should be used in combination with Pingala's Grants. The fact that China is most likely going for a Cultural Victory under Qin means they will be reliant on getting Great People, so this one should be high up on the priority list every game, maybe only behind Pyramids.
- Great Lighthouse: A terribly weak Wonder, even on a water map. The selling point of 1 extra Movement for naval units barely makes any difference in naval warfare, and there is almost no reason why China would want to participate in naval warfare in the first place. Build it for the Tourism only if you have extra resources.
- Colossus: Mediocre at best. This is a Wonder that does not give you anything exclusive. An extra Trade Route and a free Trader are nice, but can be achieved by simply settling another city. Not to mention, the level of competitiveness for this Wonder is low - the AIs don't like it too much, so its construction can be delayed even if you are a big fan of the Colossus.
- Jebel Barkal: Faith is an important currency, especially for a cultural civilization, and with proper city placement, this Wonder can give you a lot of Faith. In all fairness, it is quite useful for China, since you will need Faith but don't want to go overboard with building Holy Sites. It also goes well with the Monumentality Golden Age Dedication. It is also great in conjunction with the Oracle, since the Oracle gives you a discount in Great People patronage using Faith. In practice, to find a Desert Hills tile in the middle of your empire to maximize the Faith output is quite a challenge while playing China. If you have an area with a lot of Desert and Desert Hills tiles, Petra is the better and more obvious choice.
- Colosseum: Easily one of the best Wonders in the game, since it can keep all cities inside its radius Ecstatic, or least Happy, for a long period of time. The biggest downside of this Wonder is its placement requirement: it needs an Entertainment Complex with an Arena inside, neither of those things you want to expend early Production on, and it is unlocked with Games and Recreation, an awkward civic that is hard to boost. The good thing is the level of competitiveness for this Wonder is medium, so its construction can be slightly delayed without repercussions, if you are lucky.
- Apadana: Undoubtedly a great Wonder, but hard to pull off in practice. It is unlocked with the all-important Political Philosophy civic, and you can rest assured that on high difficulty, the AIs are always there before you, and they definitely love this Wonder. Also, you can only build this Wonder in 1 of the 6 tiles next to your Capital, which is quite a restrictive placement rule. Remember, this Wonder also grants Envoys whenever a Wonder (including itself) is completed in the same city as it is, so you will have fewer choices in choosing which city should host which Wonders. However, if pulled off, this Wonder can give a lot of Envoys, establishing a strong diplomatic foothold in city-states.
- Petra: Very strong, especially when built in an area with a lot of Desert Hills. Flat Desert tiles are fine for China as well, since you can improve them with Great Walls. China is so much better at building Petra than other civilizations that if you want it, you most likely will get it without question. This Wonder turns one of your cities into a well-oiled machine all the way into the late game. Always try to build this if you have enough Desert tiles in a city to justify it.
- Terracotta Army: Not that useful for China. You are a defensive cultural civilization, most likely you want to be left alone, and of course it is ever so rarely you would want to declare wars on your neighbors. Your army will be kept to the minimum since you have to dedicate resources to train Builders and build Wonders, so the free Promotions will go to waste. As long as you are on friendly terms with other leaders (i.e. don't declare war on them), asking for Open Borders shouldn't be too difficult. Not a priority.
- Statue of Zeus: An extremely situational Wonder. On one hand, it helps you raise an army that you probably lack due to all the Wonder building. On the other hand, the civic that unlocks it is a detour from Feudalism, and it forces you to build an Encampment and a Barracks - not exactly what you want. If you want a defensive army, you may as well build separate units rather than wasting a District slot on an Encampment. Remember, the Colosseum also has strict requirements, but Entertainment Complex + Arena + Colosseum, without any doubt, is a way better investment for China than Encampment + Barracks + Statue of Zeus. This isn't a very competitive Wonder, so maybe after unlocking Serfdom with Feudalism, you may want to take a look back at it if the opportunity is still there. Otherwise, there are always better things to do.
- Mausoleum at Halicarnassus: An awesome Wonder because its bonus is not only powerful but exclusive. An extra charge for every Great Engineer is massive, regardless of the direction your empire is going. If you want to change your direction to a Scientific Victory, this Wonder is your friend. If you want to stay cultural, Wonder-building Great Engineers are enhanced tremendously by this Wonder. The extra yields for Coast are like a cherry on top of such a unique bonus. Try your best to get this Wonder.
- Great Library: This is a great Wonder all around for China. Although it is said that China can attempt a Scientific Victory, it is much better at a cultural one. Dynastic Cycle is a weak civilization ability and cannot carry you to a Scientific Victory just by itself. Just like every other cultural civilizations, you will be less competitive at earning Great Scientists since Campus is not your main District. This Wonder gives you a free Eureka every time another empire recruit a Great Scientist, which plays into your strength and your civilization ability incredibly well. Try to get it if you can.
- Mahabodhi Temple: A decent religious Wonder, but as noted above, China has little interest in religious pursuits. It can combine well if you manage to build Stonehenge, since it lets you evangelize your religion completely without expending any Faith, but most of the time, ignore this Wonder.
Researching Masonry and building the Pyramids should always be at the top of China's agenda, as this will help optimize the effectiveness of their Builders. Ilkum, Serfdom, and Public Works should be slotted as soon as they are unlocked - the latter two, in conjunction with Qin Shi Huang's leader ability and the Pyramids, will give Chinese Builders an unparalleled 7 build charges. In Rise and Fall, their Builders can have up to 8 charges if trained in a city to which Liang has been assigned as a Governor, and these can be put to particularly good use in pursuit of a Science Victory by building the Royal Society and sending Builders to every city that has a Spaceport. Each fully-charged Builder China expends will provide 16% of the Production needed for the requisite projects, allowing them to reach Mars or an exoplanet in record time.
When selecting governments, Autocracy plays well to a wonder-focused approach in the early game (as outlined above), and Communism (or, in Gathering Storm, Synthetic Technocracy) will be very helpful if China is aiming for a Science Victory. Religion does not necessarily have to be part of the Chinese strategy, but if it is, they benefit from choosing beliefs that provide additional Production and either Science or Culture (depending on what their victory of choice is).
Early Canal construction
In Gathering Storm, The First Emperor has the added benefit of allowing Qin Shi Huang's China to build Canals after researching Masonry. Apart from offering an even better incentive to beeline Masonry, however, its usefulness is limited. Canals are expensive, and they don't give any yields apart from the situational Gold when a Trader passes through one. If you want to boost Production from Industrial Zones, both Aqueducts and Dams are much better options in terms of placement rules and yields. Overall, it is useful to know you have this extra tool at your fingertips, but how often you can make use of it is an entirely different story. You will never feel the need to build Canals immediately after they're unlocked, considering how full your plate is at this time.
Kublai Khan is the second leader in Civilization VI that can lead two civilizations; however, there are quite a few distinctions that can be drawn between him and Eleanor of Aquitaine. While Eleanor is a cultural leader through and through no matter the civilization she leads, Kublai's ability offers a higher level of utility and versatility. While Eleanor is highly synergistic with France but not so much so with England, Kublai works well with both toolkits of China and Mongolia. Nevertheless, the most glaring issue with Kublai Khan is the civilizations he leads are unidimensional: China is overwhelmingly a cultural civilization while Mongolia always aims for a Domination Victory, while Kublai seems to be worse than both pre-existing leaders to lead the civilizations to their preferred victories. He cannot match Qin Shi Huang on the cultural path and pales in comparison to Genghis Khan in terms of conquest. However, choosing Kublai Khan to lead either China or Mongolia means a higher degree of flexibility, and also, in the case of Kublai versus Qin, reliability. China under Kublai Khan is very straightforward thanks to his risk-free and omnipresent bonus from Turn 1.
One extra Economic policy card slot in all governments
This is what defines Kublai Khan, a powerful bonus that starts being effective right after researching the first civic, Code of Laws. The two Economic cards unlocked by this civic are Urban Planning and God King. While Urban Planning is so much stronger than God-King, most civilizations with no innate bonus toward early game Faith generation are forced to run God King instead to found a pantheon in a reasonable amount of time. This extra Economic slot allows you to run both cards concurrently: you have an extra valuable Production toward all cities while still be able to generate Faith.
Later into the game, cards that boost District yields (like Natural Philosophy), city development (like Serfdom), wonder construction (like Skyscrapers), or late-game Tourism output (like Satellite Broadcasts) are all Economic cards. Also, an extra Economic slot allows you to pick governments without many inherent Economic slots, such as Autocracy, to make use of its wonder-building effect.
Overall, this is a strong ability that starts to have an impact from the very first few turns to the end of the game. The best part is that this ability requires no planning at all, so it is more suitable to new players than what Qin Shi Huang has to offer.
Gain one random Eureka and Inspiration when establishing a Trading Post in a given civilization for the first time
This bonus is the less impactful of the two but not totally useless. Every time you establish the first Trading Post in a major civilization, you gain a random Eureka and Inspiration, which goes well with the civilization ability of China. What it means by "random" is that the game will look at the earliest era where you still have techs and civics whose boosts haven't been triggered yet and then give you one Eureka and one Inspiration. For example, if you have researched or triggered the boosts for all techs and civics of the Ancient Era, the game will give you a random Eureka and Inspiration of the Classical Era, and though some techs/civics are more expensive than the others of the same era, this will not affect how the game will pick which boosts to give you. However, that also means the boosts you receive are totally random and there won't be a chance where you receive a boost in the Atomic Era when the world is still in Classical.
A trick with this ability is to avoid trading with any major civilizations until very late in the game, instead relying on Trade Routes to city-states for Gold output, since late game boosts are a lot harder to trigger manually. For that reason, Kumasi is an incredible city-state for Kublai Khan to be the Suzerain of. Nevertheless, there is a catch to this. The later the game goes, the longer it takes to finish a Trade Route. In the Ancient and Classical Era, the Trader takes a minimum of 21 turns to complete a round trip, plus 1 turn to return to the origin city, making it 22 turns. This minimum gets bumped up to 32 turns in the Medieval/Renaissance Era, 42 turns in the Industrial/Modern/Atomic Era, and a whopping 52 turns in the Information/Future Era, making the job of establishing a Trading Post a laborious and somewhat unrealistic task. Therefore, a good compromising point is to send out your Trade Routes to major civilizations around the Medieval and Renaissance Eras, where boosts are getting harder to trigger, but the amount of time required for one round trip is still reasonable. Overall, as long as you remember to send out your Trade Routes at some points, you're good to go, but don't expect this ability to carry you through the game.
The Crouching Tiger can never fully replace the Crossbowman, which is also unlocked by Machinery. Compared to its contemporary, it has the same Combat Strength, 10 more Ranged Strength, and 1 less Range, but is 40 Production cheaper. While the Crossbowman's greater Range gives it a huge advantage on offense, the Crouching Tiger is better suited for defense, especially when used in conjunction with the Great Wall.
Like all units with 1 Range, the Crouching Tiger exposes itself to retaliation each time it gets close enough to fire at an enemy, but placing it on a Great Wall segment gives it a +10 Defense Strength bonus. The Garrison Promotion works especially well with a Crouching Tiger placed on a Great Wall segment, since it will gain 10 Combat Strength on both offense and defense. Another use for this unit is to put it in an Encampment, so you can enjoy its high Ranged Strength without fear of retaliation. Nevertheless, if you time your attacks right, it's possible to move Crouching Tigers within range of enemy units and fire before they can react! 50 Ranged Strength will do decent damage to all Medieval Era units except Knights, especially if you've managed to accumulate some Promotions beforehand.
Since the Crouching Tiger is a standalone unit, you cannot pre-build other units to upgrade into them, but its low Production cost allows you to quickly train some of them if you're targeted for declarations of war, especially with Feudal Contract (which is unlocked with Feudalism, a civic China will always want to beeline). In the expansions, there shouldn't be any repercussions if you train one Crouching Tiger just for the Era Score, since it isn't vital to any Chinese strategies.
The Great Wall is a mediocre tile improvement in vanilla Civilization VI and Rise and Fall because it requires the highest level of commitment among all improvements, yet its yields are not always worth the investment. However, it puts on a completely different face in Gathering Storm, playing a key role in propelling China toward a fast Cultural Victory.
The Great Wall initially provides the same defensive bonus as a Fort, though it becomes available earlier and has more placement restrictions. As with all Fort-like improvements, it provides any unit on its tile with a +10 Combat Strength bonus on defense. This aspect is available a whole era earlier than the regular Fort, and since it is built by a Builder rather than a Military Engineer, it is quite a lot cheaper. Great Wall segments can't be built in neutral territory like Forts and other defensive improvements can, but building them at choke points can help China repel invaders with a smaller army than normal. The Chinese unique unit, the Crouching Tiger, complements the Great Wall quite nicely because of its defensive nature.
The Great Wall's initial yield is 2 Gold, plus an additional 2 Gold for each adjacent Great Wall segment. Since a Great Wall cannot be next to more than two other segments, this maxes out at +6 Gold, which is rather strong if you have suitable open land to put multiple segments in a line. You can even start putting down Great Wall segments right after unlocking it to boost your economy; however, you shouldn't go overboard because it doesn't provide the Food, Production, or Housing that cities need early on. The fun truly starts after you unlock Castles, as every Great Wall will provide 2 Culture for every adjacent Great Wall, which means as long as you can clear land and line up your Great Walls, each segment (except for the ones at the two ends) will provide 6 Gold and 4 Culture as early as the Medieval Era. Therefore, Castles is a crucial checkpoint that China has to reach on the tech tree; meanwhile, on the civic tree, Feudalism needs to be beelined to unlock Serfdom. Depending on how long you can chain your Wall segments, you can unlock civics from this point onward at an incredible speed that can be matched by very few other civilizations. And of course, after researching Flight, Great Walls will start generating Tourism. An optimally placed Great Wall segment can generate 4 Tourism, which is as much as a Great Work of Music. Before the release of Gathering Storm, a Great Wall segment has no base yield and receives only +1 Gold and +1 Culture from adjacent segments, meaning each one can only reach 2 Gold and 2 Culture at most.
Considering how important this improvement is to China, especially when you are aiming for a Cultural Victory, there are a few quirks with its placement rule that you should know. As with most other improvements, (all three types of) Floodplains block the placement of Great Wall segments, so Chinese cities should be founded along rivers that won't flood. Unlike other Fort-like improvements, however, the Great Wall can be placed on Volcanic Soil and cannot be removed by natural disasters, so areas near Volcanoes are very attractive for China. Also, since you can only place Great Walls along your borders, beware of the situation where you place a few segments of Great Walls, leave them for a while, and then cannot continue extending them since the borders have since expanded outward. This situation is especially pronounced with coastal cities, since their borders will always expand outward towards the oceans where you cannot place your Walls.
As explained above, Science and Cultural Victories are the easiest paths for the Chinese to follow. A Cultural Victory may be easier under Qin Shi Huang since building wonders also has direct ties with Tourism (especially considering how much better early wonders scale in Tourism), whereas a Science Victory may be easier under Kublai Khan thanks to the Eurekas from his Trading Posts (especially on larger maps with more players). They have no abilities that directly aid with the other victory conditions, though they can pursue them easily enough with the proper setup and the right kinds of wonders (as detailed in the in-depth guide).
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang has a rather obvious timing push outlined by his ability within the first two eras of the game, as he will most likely dedicate all of their Production into building wonders that help shape his victory path and the remaining course of their game. It is also worth noting that the Chinese unique unit (which is also of a defensive nature) is not unlocked until Machinery and they will most likely not be building a lot of Great Wall segments, since Builder charges are incredibly valuable to China in the early part of the game. If the civilization you are playing has a military advantage in the Ancient and Classical Era (unique unit, leader or civilization ability, etc.), it is even easier for you to strategize a military conquest over China. If you are a late game oriented civilization, rush them with Warriors, Archers and early cavalry units; your job is not to take their cities (it is good if you can though), but to harass and force them to build an army to defend themselves, thus hampering their progress in laying a sound foundation. Once the Classical Era is over, so is their timing wonder rush.
Kublai Khan can afford to play a little bit more defensively. Due to the Chinese civilization ability, they will still likely focus on building wonders, but they will also be able to dedicate Production toward units and Builder charges toward the Great Wall. Similarly to the approach against Qin Shi Huang, invade them before they can prepare their military. In the late game, by declaring war on them every so often, you prevent them from establishing a Trading Post in your nation and getting the free boosts.
China has contributed much to civilization: paper, the bell, the fishing reel, gunpowder, the compass, the bulkhead, playing cards, the oil well, woodblock printing, silk, the list of Chinese inventions goes on endlessly. China has also given civilization great religions (Confucianism, Taoism, Faism, Yi Bimoism, and others) and great philosophies (mohism, legalism, naturalism, neo-taoism and so forth). Chinese authors such as Shi Nai’an and Wu Cheng’an, artists such as Han Gan and Ma Yuan, composers such as Wei Liangfu and Cai Yan enriched civilization beyond measure. Moreover, China introduced the concepts of slavery, monogamy, espionage, subversion, propaganda, urbanization, lingchi (“death by a thousand cuts”), and more.
The so-called Warring States period (c. 475 BC to 221 BC) saw ancient China composed of seven kingdoms – Qi, Qin, Zhao, Yan, Han, Chu and Wei – at odds with each other … seriously at odds as they fought incessantly. Eventually, the king of the Qin, Ying Zheng, managed the task of unifying China, conquering the last enemy (Qi) and thus proclaiming himself Qin Shi Huang (loosely, “first emperor of Qin”). During his glorious reign, besides burning books and burying alive scholars who disagreed with him – for the Warring States period had given rise to the Hundred Schools of Thought, a distressing collection of liberal philosophies and free thinking – the Qin undertook an extensive road- and canal-building program and even began construction of the Great Wall of China to keep the barbarians out (as it turned out, a futile effort). Although he sought mightily for the fabled elixir of immortality, Ying Zheng didn’t find it – obviously – and he died in 210 BC. He was interred in a massive mausoleum near Chang’an, built by 700 thousand “unpaid laborers” and guarded by the famed Terracotta Army. The Qin Empire lasted only a few years longer.
In 207 BC Liu Bang, a peasant rebel and born troublemaker, aided by the ambitious Chu warlord Xiang Yu, toppled Qin Shi Huang’s inept successor from the throne and established – after doing away with his ally – the Han dynasty. Interrupted only briefly by the Xin dynasty, the Han ruled over an age of linguistic consolidation, cultural experimentation, political expression, economic prosperity, exploration and expansion, and technological innovation. It was a good time, made even better when Emperor Wu shattered the Xiongnu Federation in the steppes and redefined China’s traditional borders. Han traders ventured as far afield as the Parthian Empire and India; Roman manufactured glassware has been found in Han ruins. The Han emperors also scattered agricultural communes of ex-soldiers across the western expanses, so anchoring their end of the Silk Road.
The rise of the commander Cao Cao meant the decline of the Han emperor. In 208 AD Cao Cao abolished the Three Excellencies, the emperor’s top advisors, and took for himself the post of Chancellor. In 215, Cao Cao forced the emperor Xian to divorce his empress and take Cao’s daughter as wife. With prognostications and heavenly signs indicating that the Han had lost the tianming (“Mandate of Heaven”), Xian abdicated his throne in December 220 in favor of Cao Cao’s son, Cao Pi. Pi proclaimed the Wei dynasty … and unified China promptly fell apart.
For 60 years following the Yellow Turban Rebellion – imaginatively labelled the “Three Kingdoms Period” by sinologists – three kingdoms were contenders to rebuild the centralized empire of the Qin and the Han. The three – the states of Wei, Shu and Wu – never quite managed the task; it was left to the Jin to accomplish. Sima Yan forced Cao Huan to cede him the throne of Wei. Following brilliant campaigns, the Wei overran Shu (263 AD) and Wu (279 AD). But the Jin dynasty was seriously weakened by the family squabbles of the imperial princes, and soon enough lost control of the northern and western provinces (henceforth the empire was known simply known as the Eastern Jin), leading to the period labelled the Sixteen Kingdoms (again named by those clever sinologists), which lasted until 439.
Despite some consolidation – brought about by rivers of blood – it was not until 589 that the whole of China was together again under one ruler, the short-lived Sui dynasty. It was followed by the Tang dynasty, which managed to stay on the throne of a unified (more-or-less) China until 907 AD. The Tang was much like the Han administration, emphasizing trade and diplomacy, bringing stability and prosperity. Thus it was that religion and culture flourished. The Grand Canal project begun by the Sui was completed, the Silk Road reopened, and the legal code revised; among other steps, the latter effort expanded the property rights of women and instituted competitive imperial examinations for bureaucrats, along several other innovations. Taxes were standardized based on rank, and the first Chinese census undertaken so everyone paid. Brilliant poets such as Li Bai and Du Fu celebrated the age, setting high standards for Chinese literature for centuries.
But the Tang Empire was struck by a century of natural disasters; floods on the Yellow River and along the Grand Canal followed by widespread droughts brought devastating famine and economic collapse. Agricultural production fell by half, and as usual desperate people turned elsewhere for leadership. Beset by endless rebellions, in 907 the former salt smuggler risen to military governor, Zhu Wen, deposed the last huangdi (emperor) of the Tang. Thus was ushered in the period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (the label pretty much says it all) which ended around 960 AD. In the next four centuries, five dynasties would rule reunified (again) China: the Song, Liao, Jin (again), Western Xia and Yuan (established by Kublai Khan after the Mongols slipped past that Great Wall). Each contributed its own technological discoveries, philosophical insights and social advances to the tapestry of civilization. But it is the Ming dynasty that captures the imagination.
Throughout the core of China, there was significant resentment to Mongol rule, exacerbated during the 1340s by famine and plague and marked by numerous peasant rebellions. Obviously, the tianming had been withdrawn from Kublai’s descendants. The poor-peasant-turned-rebel-leader Zhu Yuanzhang (known today as the Emperor Hongwu) proclaimed himself emperor of the Ming in 1368 after capturing Beijing. He’d come a long way; according to legend Zhu was the youngest of seven or eight brothers, several of whom were sold to raise money for the starving family. After the Yellow River flooded out his village and plague killed all his remaining family, he took shelter in a Buddhist monastery, which was destroyed by a Mongol army retaliating against Zoroastrian rebels. Thus, Zhu came to join the rebel movement himself, rising to its leadership by the age of 30. Vengeance begat vengeance.
The Ming dynasty ushered in a glittering age for China. Once secure on the throne Tatzu (an alliterative name for a complex person) instituted a number of policy initiatives. Among the first, a move to limit the advancement and influence of eunuchs in the imperial court, where several had enjoyed great power under previous dynasties (perhaps some of the empire’s later woes could be blamed on their return to influence – establishing a virtual parallel administration). In the social order, four classes were recognized, each with its own rights and obligations: gentry, farmers, artisans and merchants. Later Ming emperors granted ever more benefits to the merchant class, viewing their efforts as generating wealth and taxes for the empire. Besides fighting off the Mongol threat again, wars with Korea and Japan used up a lot of that wealth. And then a cycle of natural disasters struck yet again. By 1640, masses of peasants – starving, unable to pay their taxes, and unafraid of the oft-defeated imperial army – were in rebellion. When it was all sorted out, the Qing (or Manchu) dynasty ruled.
And it did so fairly effectively until the Europeans started making waves. Although the Polos and other occasional visiting traders and adventurers had made their way through China’s back door, the Portuguese arrived by sea in the guise of Jorge Alvares in 1513. Soon enough they had conned the Ming emperor into granting them a trading “enclave” in Macau, with the first governor there taking up his duties in 1557. Meanwhile, under the Qing the economy and government – which wisely tended to avoid foreign adventures – were stable. A high level of literacy, a publishing industry supported by the government, growing cities, and a pervasive Confucian emphasis on peaceful exploration of the inner self, all contributed to an explosion of creativity in the arts and philosophies. Traditional arts and crafts such as calligraphy, painting, poetry, drama and culinary styles underwent a resurgence.
But those annoying outsiders continued to meddle. By the early 19th Century, Imperial China found itself vulnerable to European, Meiji Japanese and Russian imperialism. With vastly superior naval forces, better armaments, superior communications and tactics honed in fighting each other, the colonial powers sought to dictate to the Qing government, dominate China’s trade, and generally do whatever they liked. In 1842 China was defeated in the First Opium War by Great Britain and forced to sign the infamous Nanking Treaty, the first of many “unequal treaties.” A series of such trade treaties ruined the Chinese economy by 1900. Japan, which had quickly modernized and joined the colonial fray, forced China to recognize its rule in Korea and Taiwan. While the Qing remained nominal rulers, the European powers, including Russia, divvied the entire country up into exclusive “spheres of influence.” The United States, meanwhile, unilaterally declared an “Open Door” policy in China.
It was all too much. In 1899 the populist Yihetuan (“Militia United in Righteousness”) launched the Boxer Rebellion in an effort to return China to its own devices. Unfortunately, they lost. In the crushing peace treaty of 1901, the “Eight Nations” (those who had been attacked by the Boxers) forced the execution of all in the Qing government who had supported the Boxers, provided for the stationing of foreign troops in the capital, and imposed an indemnity greater than the annual national tax revenue. The nation plunged into growing civil disorder; in response the Dowager Empress Cixi called for reform proposals from the provincial governors. Although wide-sweeping and innovative, even if successfully adopted, it was too late. In November 1908 the emperor died suddenly (likely from arsenic poisoning), followed the next day by Cixi. In the wake of insurrections and rebellions, in 1912 the new Dowager Empress Longyu convinced the child-emperor Puyi to abdicate, bringing over two millennia of imperial rule in China to an end. And China descended into another period of contending, bloody-minded warlords.
In the 1920s, Sun Yat-sen established a revolutionary base in south China, and set out to unite the fragmented nation. With assistance from the Soviet Union (themselves fresh from a socialist uprising), he entered into an alliance with the fledgling Communist Party of China. After Sun's death from cancer in 1925, one of his protégés, Chiang Kai-shek, seized control of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party or KMT) and succeeded in bringing most of south and central China under its rule in a military campaign known as the Northern Expedition (1926–1927). Having defeated the warlords in south and central China by military force, Chiang was able to secure the nominal allegiance of the warlords in the North. In 1927, Chiang turned on the CPC and relentlessly chased the CPC armies and its leaders from their bases in southern and eastern China. In 1934, driven from their mountain bases such as the Chinese Soviet Republic, the CPC forces embarked on the Long March across China's most desolate terrain to the northwest, where they established a guerrilla base at Yan'an in Shaanxi Province. During the Long March, the communists reorganised under a new leader, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung).
The bitter struggle between the KMT and the CPC continued, openly or clandestinely, through the 14-year-long Japanese occupation of various parts of the country (1931–1945). The two Chinese parties nominally formed a united front to oppose the Japanese in 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), which became a part of World War II. Following the defeat of Japan in 1945, the war between the Nationalist government forces and the CPC resumed, after failed attempts at reconciliation and a negotiated settlement. By 1949, the CPC had gained control over most of China and on the 1st of October that year, Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China.
Emerging triumphant over the Nationalists shortly after World War II, the Communist government spent the subsequent sixty years consolidating power, modernising infrastructure, and improving the lives and education of its vast population, a process which included a number of massive missteps, including the disastrous "Great Leap Forward" and the bloody "Cultural Revolution" which did great harm to its ancient culture. In the past 38 years since Deng Xiaoping's successful economic reforms, China has emerged as a major world power, an economic behemoth which will soon dwarf all other economies including the once unstoppable United States.
China is not without its difficulties, however. Much of its energy is expended simply supporting its huge and growing population base. Pollution is becoming a major problem as more and more factories are built, and more and more automobiles are clogging the bigger cities. Tibet - which depending upon your point of view is either a captive nation or an integral part of China - remains an open wound and major political distraction for China. None of these are insurmountable, though, and China stands poised to dominate the 21st century.
- Main article: Chinese cities (Civ6)
|Males||Females||Modern males||Modern females|
- A Chinese city appears in the Civilization VI announcement trailer.
- When the Chinese were first added to the game, their colors were yellow-green and white. They were later changed to green and white, which now applies to all rulesets when led by Qin Shi Huang.
- The Chinese civilization's symbol is a head of a Chinese dragon.
- The Chinese civilization ability references an important political theory in Chinese history that explains the repetitive cycle of imperial dynasties rising, falling and being replaced.
- China is also playable in the Path to Nirvana scenario.
Elixir of Immortality
Win a regular game as Qin Shi Huang
|Civilization VI Civilizations |
|American • Arabian • Australian1 • Aztec • Babylonian1 • Brazilian • Byzantine1 • Canadian • Chinese • Cree • Dutch • Egyptian • English • Ethiopian1 • French • Gallic1 • Georgian • German • Gran Colombian1 • Greek • Hungarian • Incan • Indian • Indonesian1 • Japanese • Khmer1 • Kongolese • Korean • Macedonian1 • Malian • Māori • Mapuche • Mayan1 • Mongolian • Norwegian • Nubian1 • Ottoman • Persian1 • Phoenician • Polish1 • Portuguese1 • Roman • Russian • Scottish • Scythian • Spanish • Sumerian • Swedish • Vietnamese1 • Zulu|
|1 Requires a DLC|