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Origin and Development of

Chinese Civilization

Early China
Human record in China can be traced back at
least 1.7 million years with the discoveries in
Southwest China fossils known as Yuanmou, a
closely-related ancestor of modern man.
Another proto-human toolmaker called the
Peking Man, was likewise discovered who lived
about 500 thousand years ago in North China.
About 25,000 BC also in the vicinity of Peking, a
fully advanced human, referred to as the Upper
Cave Man, hunted, fished, and made shell and
bone artifacts.

Early China
Yang Shao culture prehistoric settlement in the west of
the present province of Hunan (in Central China). It was
during the first phase of Chinese Neolithic Period (5000
BC 2500 BC), where farmers employed primitive
techniques of civilization, shifted their villages as soils
became exhausted and lived in semi-subterranean
houses. Typical of this culture is its pottery, evidently
used mainly as gifts to the dead. Pots are painted in
three colors white, red and black. Painted pottery
occasionally bore a single incised sign that may be the
forerunner of Chinese writing. Yang Shao culture
continued until the Bronze Age, about 700 BC

Early China
Lungshan culture plains of Eastern China (Shantung/
Shandong) during the second phase of the Chinese
Neolithic Period (2500 BC 1000 BC). This culture is
distinguished by black pottery of exceptional fine quality.
The pottery has polished appearance on the exterior; it is
never painted and mostly without decoration. Lungshan
may be described as one of the direct predecessors of
the later Chinese civilization. There was a settled
population of agriculturists. Their houses were of mud,
and their villages were surrounded with mud walls. Their
society was already divided into classes and they had a
state organization. This culture lasted until about 1700

Early China
Important element of advanced bronze in
China can be traced in the middle layers
of the Yang Shao culture about 1800 BC
and had become widespread by 1400 BC.
The origin of the Hsia states may have
been the consequence of the progress
due to the discovery of bronze.

Xia / Hsia
Yu is traditionally called the founder of the first Chinese
dynasty. The extension of the Hsia state was limited. Its
center was probably in the south of Hunan. The rulers of
Hsia have exercised full secular power only during the
first generation, soon being confined to priestly function.
Heads of clans and tribes made the continuation of the
dynasty possible. Yu divided his kingdom into nine
provinces, extended westward to the Morning Sun
(Guess what this is?). In 1776 BC due to the weakness
and incompetence of Yus successors they were
dethroned by the lord of Shang. Bronze, cultivating
silkworms, writing (earliest form), advanced pottery, part
of its history is based on legends.

Shang controlled a loose confederation of settlement
groups in the Hunan region of North China from the 16th
century BC to 1027 BC.
Shang civilization was characterized by advanced system
of writing, a sophisticated bronze metallurgy, the first
Chinese calendars and cities (w). Aided by a priestly class,
the Shang kings prayed to their ancestral spirits to
intercede on their behalf with the most powerful of the
Shang gods, Shang-Ti, to bring rain for good crops and
other blessings. Divination was practiced. (B and TS) The
Shang practice was to engrave the question and then the
oracles answered on the bone itself; and in this way
thousands of written documents have been preserved
which threw an interesting light on the court life of the

To protect their domain, Shang warriors
frequently fought frontier tribes.
Because of their written language, the Shang
people were recognized as the first literate group
of people in Asia east of the Urals. There were
about 2000 Chinese characters developed
during this period.
Silk weaving developed fully during the Shang.
The Shang fell with the conquest of the Chou
people around 1027 BC.

Chou / Zhou
The early Western Chou in Shan (1027 BC 771 BC)
did not represent a sharp break with the immediate past.
The Shang deity, Shang-Ti, was still recognized as a
powerful god.
Much like his Shang predecessors, the Chou king or
son of heaven parceled out territories among family
members. The emphasis was on personal loyalty,
military obligations to lords by vassals, and a chivalric
code of conduct in battle similar to that of later European
feudalism. This code also had a parallel in civilian life in
the form of complex rules of social etiquette and
personal development called the li. Those who
practiced the li were considered civilized.

Chou / Zhou
The military pressure on one of the
barbaric people in concert with rebellious
Chou vassals forced the Chou to move the
capital eastward to Loyang (modern
Hunan) in 771 BC, thus marking the
beginning of the Eastern Chou period (770
BC 256 BC). From this time, the Chou
kings exercised fearless political and
military power over their semi-autonomous
vassals. (Centralization)

Chou / Zhou
But the period of war among states (403
BC 221 BC) also propelled new
elements of positions in authority, as talent
not birth, became the basis for promotion
and a system of contractual relationship
began to emerge. Bureaucrats,
forerunners of Chinese scholar-official
class, were given salaries and peasants
were expected to pay taxes to the
government on their landholdings.

Chou / Zhou
The introduction of oxen-drawn, irontopped plow and the development of
agricultural productivity spurred population
growth. Trade and money economy began
to develop. It was also a time of enormous
intellectual development, producing the
Chinese classics and giving rise to Chinas
golden age of philosophy Confucius, Lao
Tzu, Taoists, Dialecticians, Moism (Mo
Tzu) and Legalism.