Still, the project takes as already proven the existence of the Xia as a precursor empire to the better-established Shang, pointing to a site uncovered at Erlitou, Henan Province, in as the probable capital. Today the presumed palace walls at Erlitou lie under farmland. After the site was excavated and documented, it was covered for protection and local farmers moved in. A few hundred yards away, trained villagers dig in a related excavation, and a few yards beyond them, new buildings are being built. The report today concludes that the Xia ruled from around B.
The scholars were able to muster new findings about the Shang Dynasty, which is believed to have reigned in the Yellow River area centered on present-day Henan and Shaanxi Provinces for the following years, but fixed rulers' exact dates only for the later Shang era, after B. Early in the 20th century, many scholars doubted traditional claims of a Shang Dynasty, too. But then discoveries of ''oracle bones'' -- animal bones bearing inscriptions used to decipher the future -- proved its existence. There was also evidence that the Shang engaged in human sacrifice and may have held slaves.
By all accounts, the project has also helped clarify the formerly confused chronology of the early Zhou Dynasty, which produced beautiful bronzes seen in world museums. But one of the most contentious and important questions involves the timing of the Zhou conquest of the Shang. The event's date is vital to chronology before and after, but scholars must sort out contradictory signs from early inscriptions, reports of Jupiter's position in the sky and accounts in ancient documents of disputed authenticity. The project's decision to settle on B.
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One historian, Jiang Xiaoyuan of Jiaotong University in Shanghai, complained in an interview that his published conclusions about the conquest year, developed under project auspices, had been set aside by project leaders to support the date they preferred. But Mr. Jiang also acknowledged that the project had brought fresh funding and modern equipment to starved disciplines and had ''vastly advanced the study of China's ancient history.
David S. Nivison, emeritus professor of Chinese studies at Stanford University, said he was outraged by the selection of , which he said contradicted research he had submitted to the project. Above all, the great river systems of China, the Yellow River to the north and the Yangtze to the south, which have given Chinese civilization its distinctive character. A large part of this area is covered by loess soil.
This very fine earth has blown in from the highlands of central Asia over thousands of years, and makes one of the most fertile soils in the world. In ancient times, the main crop in northern China was millet, a highly nutritious food still grown in many parts of the world as a major crop.
To the south, the great Yangtze valley , with its warm, wet climate, was the first area in the world where rice was grown, sometime before BCE. From this region rice cultivation spread far and wide across southern China and into south-east Asia. Rice is one of the most nutritious plants known to humans — three or four times as nutritious as wheat. This means that, other things being equal, a much larger number of people can be supported from the same area of land with a rice crop than with a wheat crop.
Away from the great river valleys, hills, forests and swamplands covered much of China at this time. These would later be covered by dense populations of farmers, but in ancient times these regions were home to many small groups of people who practised some farming, but who also hunted animals and gathered plants for a living. The hilly or swampy landscapes of these regions were not really suited for intensive farming; it would not be until pressure of population elsewhere encouraged landowners and peasants to make the investment needed to prepare the land sufficiently for cultivation.
This would involve clearing forests, terracing hillsides and draining lakes and marshes. To the north and west of the Yellow River region are the wide plains of central Asia. Farming was possible in central Asia only in the scattered oases. Along this chain, luxury goods were exchanged and new techniques learned about.
Modern scholars believe that skills in working with metals, and in particular, making bronze objects, came to China from the Middle East via this route. It was here that the earliest Chinese dynasties were based. By the end of the Han dynasty, the final chapter of ancient Chinese history, all of modern China except the outlying regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, most of the northeast what was Manchuria and parts of Yunnan in the south-west had been more or less incorporated into the world of Chinese civilization.
Faithful photographic reproduction of Goazu, Founder of the Han Dynasty. He won a great victory, which further strengthened his power. Shortly before his death, instead of passing power to the person deemed most capable to rule as had been the case in the past , Yu passed power to his son, setting the precedence for dynastic rule. Prior to the coming of cities and literacy the hallmarks of Ancient Chinese civilization major Stone Age farming cultures had grown up in China since the 7th millennium BCE.
One was located in the Yellow River region, the other in the Yangtze region. In the Yangtze, an agriculture based on rice cultivation had developed, whilst in the north, the Yellow River region, millet was the main crop. The Yellow River region was the setting for the emergence of Chinese civilization into the light of history.
A large area of northern China is covered by loess. Based on this staple, a flourishing Stone Age agriculture developed. They continued to grow in size.
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In the Yellow River region, what looks very much like primitive Chinese characters had also appeared, inscribed on pottery. These characters became more complex as time went by. Finds of luxury grave goods and the remains of large and complex buildings show that a wealthy ruling elite stood out from the population at large. These represent the highest level of the Hongshan Culture. In southern China, archeologists found a site group of the Liangzhu Culture in Yuhang, Zhejiang at a site covering more than 30 square kilometers in the Hangzhou-Jiaxing-Huzhou region at the lower reaches of the Yangtze, at the center of which was Mojiaoshan site containing foundations of large palatial buildings.
These findings all furnish convincing proofs of the prototypical features of Chinese civilization. One hundred years ago these 3, year-old specimen of mature Chinese characters were discovered at the palace and royal ancestral shrines area on the site of Yin ruins in Xiaotun Village in Anyang, Henan. The discovery of jiagu writing shows that China had developed a fairly mature system of writing as early as several millennia ago during the Shang Dynasty. Around 4, individual jiagu characters have now been found, of which around 1, have been identified.
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People say that China has a history of 5, years. They present the Records of the Historian by Sima Qian as evidence. But in the Records of the Historian the periods of the reigns of Huang Di, Yan Di and even the Yao, Shun and Yu periods are described as though they had been ancient historical legends. Even the written history of Xia is sparse, so there is hardly sufficient information for a comprehensive study of the history of those periods.
That is why some historians in China and overseas doubt that the history of Chinese civilization goes back as long as five thousand years.
Some are even skeptical about the existence of the period of Xia. Nevertheless, the tremendous archaeological achievements producing large quantities of archaeological findings in China over the last 50 years have provided important evidence of the long history of Chinese civilization. Xia Nai, in his work The Origin of Chinese Civilization published in the s, points out that archaeological studies of the origin of Chinese civilization should focus on three types of historical remains, i.
The first element of civilization is cities. Quite a number of sites of ancient cities have been uncovered in China, including large cities dating at least as far back as the late period of Yangshao Culture. The Xishan ancient city site in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, and the Chengtoushan ancient city site in Lixian County, Hunan Province, are believed to be at least 6, years old. More sites of ancient cities dated later in the period of the Longshan Culture were found scattered over a much broader area.
The second element is written language. The most ancient example of written language discovered in China were carved on turtle shells and animal bones or cast in bronze ware. These provided samples of a mature written language. The symbols on pottery of the Yangshao Culture and Longshan Culture prior to the period of Shang, especially those of the Dawenkou Culture and Liangzhu Culture, are generally believed to be closely related to a written language.
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Potteries of the Dawenkou Culture decorated with symbols are believed to be around 2, B. The third element is metallurgy.
The semicircular copper plates found at the ruins at Jiangzhai, Shaanxi Province, are the most ancient metal articles ever discovered in China. The tiny bronze knives found at Linjia sites in Gansu, that are believed to belong to the Majiayao Culture and date to around 3, B. Back in , archaeologist Xu Xusheng made an archaeological survey of the district believed to be the main area of activity of the Xia Dynasty according to ancient records.
His search brought him to the Erlitou Site in Yanshi, western Henan. The archaeological excavations covered an area of four square kilometers and lasted half a century. The excavations uncovered the ruins of a group of palatial buildings and buildings housing workshops for bronze metallurgy, pottery kilns and bone articles, crisscrossed with roads and containing burial sites. Archaeologists unearthed royal-use bronze ritual artifacts, jade ornaments and various types of pottery, shedding new light on the formation of imperial power in ancient China.
The findings of the first excavations conducted by Chinese archaeological institutions in at the site of the Yin ruins produced rich archaeological findings and revelations that further proves the existence of the Shang Empire, for which there are only sporadic references in Chinese classics.
This also further proves the credibility of the Records of Yin , Records of the Historian by Sima Qian, and other classic literature writings. The more than , pieces of turtle shells and animal bones with writing on them unearthed at the Yin ruins not only furnish evidence of the independent development of the written form of the Han language, but also illustrate the rules that govern the formation of written language in ancient China.
That has exerted a fundamental impact on the Chinese culture over the last 3, years, and this written language is still being used by one quarter of the human race today. The Yin ruins has also yielded the largest amount of bronze articles yet uncovered, totaling around 6, articles. The unique technology developed by this highly developed civilization is convincing proof of the credibility of early Chinese civilization.