Historian’s widely agree the the earliest civilization in China was the Shang Dynasty, founded in 1600 BC. This is as far as written records go, as evidenced by oracle bone scripts that have been found. However there is some debate as to weather the Shang is truly where it starts. According to Chinese tradition, the first Kingdom after the reign of the three sovereigns was the Xia Dynasty, supposedly founded after the death of the last sovereign in 2070 BC. The existence of the Xia Dynasty is debated because there is no reliable written records, only legends mostly passed down from word of mouth. However there is archeological evidence of tombs, bronze instruments and building foundations that have been carbon dated between 2100 and 1800 BC. Falling precisely into the supposed period of the Xia.
In 1996, the Chinese government commissioned the Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project, to determine the linage between China’s prehistory and the unifying Qin Dynasty. The project concluded the last pre-civilization society of the Huang He river valley was Longshan culture. A primitive, tribal, neolithic society. It was then however the three sovereigns and the five emperors came about and ruled the first Chinese civilization. Keep note the three sovereigns is mythological and not based in historical fact. Historical evidence says in late Longshan times, two tribes, the Xia and the Chiyou were at war where the Xia prevailed and began a small kingdom in the Huang He river valley. It is then when the three sovereigns and the five emperors came to rule. The story of the Xia Dynasty begins during the reign of a king named ‘Yao’ the second to last of the five emperors.
Legend has that “Yao” appointed “Gun”, an engineer, to stop a series of terrible floods that have always plagued the Huang He river valley. After nine years of continuous failure, the new king “Shun”, last of the five emperors, ordered Gun to be executed for his failures. Gun had a son ‘Yu’. Yu was highly trusted by Emperor Shun. So Shun appointed him to finish his father’s work which was to make the flooding stop. Yu’s method was different from his father’s; he united all the people of every tribe and ordered them to help him build canals in all the major rivers that were flooding and lead it out to the sea. He did this for 13 years, without going back to his home village. Legend says in those 13 years, he passed by his house three times without going in which is a sign of his perseverance in his work. The people who noticed him praised his perseverance and were so inspired by him that other tribes joined in his work as well. In the end, after 13 years, he was successful in stopping the floods and was greatly praised by his people.
Yu’s unification of the tribes in the goal of stopping the floods made him a legend, and was named Emperor of the new Xia Kingdom of China. The Xia Kingdom was the first Chinese society to have a unified army, mass irrigation for crops, and the use of many Bronze tools.
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