Ancient History of China I
(Zhang YouBen)


(2205 B.C. - 1766 B.C.)

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 on the world, this cultural development has been delievered, 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 an intensive agriculture and the establishment of great communities. These two types of communities were bounded together in an exchange of goods, but conflicts often appeared. The farming areas were constantly attacked by the northern barbarians.

The Land of Ancestors - An insight into "Eastern geography"

The great area which eventually became China, streched 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, inpenetrable 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 orangetrees 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 soyabeans played an important role in the 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.

Huanghe - "The Yellow River"

(Huanghe (The Yellow River) is China's second largest river - 4667 kilometers long)

The Ancient Times

The ancient chinese stories from the dawn of time were without doubt legends. A chinese legend said that a gigantic god named Pan Gu separeted 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 B.C., tells us about The Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, who he assumed excisted more than 2600 years before Christ.

The Legend of The Yellow Emperor

Since the day he was born, The Yellow Emperor had a supernatural gift. Already as a baby he was able to talk, and he developed his skills with great speed. He grew up to be a frank and hard-working man, and by the time he reached his age as a mature adult, The Yellow Emperor had a sharp and open mind. He lived in turbulent times, where warlords fought amongst themselves and made the people suffer. The Yellow Emperor developed skills in warcraft and allied himself with powerful lords to create peaceful surroundings for the people. When The Emperor was forced to wage war, he had a purpose. His greatest enemy was Yang Di, and in the battles at Banquan the Yellow Emperor often used wild animals, such as bears, tigers and leopards to defend himself. After the third battle he gained victory, and he had then secured major parts of North-China. His kingdom was passed on through several generations, until The Great Yao received the throne.

The Great Rulers

Emperor Yao lived more than 2300 years before Christ. His kindness was comparable to heaven's, and he had skills and knowledge of a god. When he was close, he looked like the sun, but when he was far away, he looked like a cloud. He was wealthy but not arrogant; even though he was high in rank, he never underestimated others.

With some help from skilful and educated officials he managed to rule the country wisely. He was especially taken up with the studies of the movements of the heavenly bodies, and he took advantages of this knowledge by creating a precise calendar, which was indispensable when the farmers wanted to know the right time of the year to sow and plant.

Yao was probarly well-known for his remarkable choice of successor. He was quite dissatisfied with the thought of his son as the heir to the throne, and he was advised by the most skilful advisers of the kingdom to choose a successor among the people. There was a young man among the crowd, his name was Yu Shun. Shun was the son of a blind man. His father was a crimminal, his mother was dishonest and his younger brother was insolent. But in hope for restoring the family's honor and to prevent his parents from loosing face, he had gradually managed to get a hold of his family. Yao decided to put this young man through a test to see if he was qualified enough to rule his kingdom when the time came. Emperor Yao let Shun marry two of his daughters and he also gave him the authority to govern parts of the country. Shun did a remarkable work and the emperor was quite pleased with him. The people praised Shun and wanted to to have him as their emperor, and so Yao decided to carry through the people's wishes and concluded with that it was the will of God that had manifested in this decision. Yu Shun then ascended the emperor's throne.

Emperor Shun was especially well-known for his choice of co-workers, and this really came in useful when the officials tried to solve the biggest problem in the country, the flood. It was told that in the reign of emperor Yao, the flood water raised up towards the sky, and it surrounded the mountains and flooded the hills. Some historians think that these floods might have something to do with the deluge. A man named Yu was assigned by emperor Shun to deal with this problem, and according to old sayings he managed to overcome this problem after years with hard-work. Some said that he got rid of the floods by magic, other said that he stopped the floods by putting through a gigantic draining-work. According legends Yu leveled the nine mountains and led the nine rivers out to the sea. The floods withdrew, and China was saved.

Xia-Dynasty (2100 B.C. - 1600 B.C.)

Xia-dynasty was the first political dynasty in China. It 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. Xia's last king was known as Jieh. According to old legends the last emperor of China was in bad repute for his tyrannical actions towards the people. One of the kingdom's officials, Tang, rebelled against the emperor, and in the end, around 1600 before Christ, Xia was conquered by Tang, and a new era had begun, the Shang-dynasty was founded.

The Great Rulers:

- The Yellow Emperor, Huangdi (around 2600 B.C.)

-Emperor Yao the Great (around 2300 B.C.)

-Emperor Yu Shun

Rulers of Xia-Dynasty (2100 B.C. - 1600 B.C.)

The first king of Xia-Dynasty:
King Yu the Great (reign from 2205 B.C. to 2197 B.C.)

The last king of Xia-Dynasty:
King Jieh

Return To Chinese Chronology

Return To HomePage