The Xia Dynasty
Chinese civilization, as described in mythology, begins with Pangu. He is the creator of the universe and a succession of legendary sage-emperors and culture heroes -- Huang Di, Yao, and Shun who taught the ancient Chinese to communicate and to find sustenance, clothing, and shelter.
The first chinese civilization was established around the fertile areas of Huanghe (The Yellow River) more than four thousand years ago. The first glimpse of chinese characters had taken form, and unlike any other places in the world, this cultural development has been delivered without any kind of decisive interruption till this day. The cultural development of Central-China and East-Asia was influenced by the contrast between two dramatically different communities. In the northern and western parts of the country one could find enormous wastelands, inhabited by nomadic societies. Compared to people in other regions, the nomads were economically poor, but their military strength was superior. In the southern and eastern parts of the country, the fertile river areas gave life to intensive agriculture and the establishment of great communities. These two types of communities were bound together in an exchange of goods but conflicts often appeared. The farming areas were constantly attacked by the northern barbarians.
The great area which eventually became China, stretched itself from the jungle in the south to the steppes and deserts in the north. In the south, the Yunnan-plateau, covered with mountains and rainforests formed a barrier. This barrier could not prevent the Mongolian habitants from moving south but it did accomplish making the South-East Asia, except for parts of Nan Yue, impenetrable for the imperial troops. In the west, the hard to reach highlands of Tibet were also left in peace until the middle of the first century after Christ.
Between the Yunnan-plataeu and the range of mountains of Isin-ling, one could spot the south-Chinese vegetation-belt, divided by the mighty Yangzijiang. Different types of vegetation were gradually developed and soon, people could enjoy the fruits from hundreds of orange trees and the extracts from different kinds of tea-plants. But the importance of this area in the Chinese cultural development was not determined by these types of vegetation. It was the introduction of millet from the north and rice from South-East Asia that made this area historical. Millet and soybeans played an important role in agriculture.
The ancient main area of China was located near the Yellow River, covered with "loose soil". It stretched itself up against the steppes and deserts of Mongolia. It was in this region one first found the early development of Chinese and East-Asian agriculture and these fertile areas also formed the basis of the first Chinese civilizations. The "loose soil" was easy to grow but the climate troubled the farmers with it's strong and instant rainfalls. Huanghe, "The Sorrow of China" rapidly flooded the lowlands and destroyed many plantations.
The ancient Chinese stories from the dawn of time were without doubt legends. A Chinese legend said that a gigantic god named Pan Gu separated heaven and earth by one single slice with his mighty sword. Even though the Chinese people lived in the centuries before Christ, they seem to have made up stories which stretched farther back towards the dawn of time. China's most famous historian, Sima Qian, who died around 85 BC, tells us about The Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, whom he assumed existed more than 2600 years before Christ.
Legend holds that the Xia was preceded by a succession of three sovereigns and five emperors. Fuxi, the first of the three sovereigns, usually is depicted alongside his wife and sister, the goddess Nugua. Fuxi and Nugua are human from the waist up and have the tails of dragons. Shun, the last of the five emperors, abdicated in favor of Yu, the first emperor of the Xia Dynasty.
The first prehistoric dynasty is said to be Xia, from about the twenty-first to the sixteenth century B.C. Xia-dynasty was founded by the Si-clan, who were descendants of the clan's foundation father, Yu. Because of the lack of written sources, historians have still not gained a correct idea of how the people lived at that time. According to the later tradition, Yu spent thirteen years to dig out channels and maintain dikes. When emperor Shun died, the officials disagreed with the imperial decision of letting Shun's son inherit the throne. They wanted Yu instead, who after his death was followed by his son. It was Yu who founded the first imperial dynasty in China.
Until scientific excavations were made at early bronze-age sites at Anyang, Henan Province, in 1928, it was difficult to separate myth from reality in regard to the Xia. But since then, and especially in the 1960s and 1970s, archaeologists have uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs that point to the existence of Xia civilization in the same locations cited in ancient Chinese historical texts. At minimum, the Xia period marked an evolutionary stage between the late neolithic cultures and the typical Chinese urban civilization of the Shang dynasty.
Xia was conquered by Tang, and a new era had begun, the Shang-dynasty was founded.
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Ancient Chinese Links: Xia Dynasty
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