Chinese history can be pretty baffling for a Westerner. Probably the biggest problem is that, even when you do learn about a specific event, you don’t have a larger picture in your head for you to plug that event into. Until now.

This all changed for me in 2013 when Mark, a friend of mine who has spent much of his life in Asia, explained his method for remembering the 10 most important dynasties on his fingers, going from right to left, and associating them with familiar events and people from Biblical and church history.

The right hand is B.C., and corresponds with biblical events and people, from Abraham to the New Testament. The left hand is A.D., and shows how each dynasty interacted with Christianity. Chinese Christianity begins fairly early on when Nestorians translated the Bible into Chinese during the Tang Dynasty, and concludes with the establishment of Protestantism during the Qing Dynasty.

  1. 夏 Xià: Abraham
  2. 商 Shāng: Moses
  3. 周 Zhōu: Daniel
  4. 秦 Qín: Apocrypha
  5. 汉 Hàn: New Testament
  6. 唐 Táng: Nestorians
  7. 宋 Sòng: Shrinking Nestorian Presence
  8. 元 Yuán: Silk Road
  9. 明 Míng: Catholicism
  10. 清 Qīng: Protestantism

In future posts, I’ll be breaking the chart down in more detail. But for now, if you’re at all interested in Chinese history, memorizing this chart so that you can recite the material in your sleep will ensure that the basic scaffolding of the Chinese story is always at your fingertips. Once I did that, it all started making sense.

But you should know that once you get a taste for Chinese history, you might just become an addict!

Featured Image: Elijah Wilcott, 2007