Read Part One Here.

In the last article, we looked at how China entered the monarchy and the early Bronze Age. It is believed that Shun, the last emperor of the five emperors, gave the kingdom to Yu. He created the Xia dynasty, now widely regarded by the Chinese as ‘Yu The Great’.

Xia Dynasty (2070-1600 BC)

The mainland of ancient China was often submerged by their floodwaters. Yu is said to have tried for 13 years to build dams and irrigation canals to protect the people from flooding, thus inspiring Emperor Shun to give the kingdom to Yu. Yu is also known as ‘Yu the Great Who Controls the Waters’.

Depiction of ‘Yu The Great’

It is believed that 17 kings ruled the Xia dynasty for 450 years. Historians believe that there is no historical evidence that such a dynasty existed. Some objects and mansions excavated in the 1950s are said to date to the Xia period. The Chinese people are proud of these kings and consider them to be the ‘Founding Fathers of China’.

Location of Xia Dynasty/Courtesy: WikiMedia

The last king of the Xia dynasty, Jie, was so tyrannical and incompetent that Tang, a tribal citizen, rebelled and seized the throne. With the Battle of Mingtiao, the Xia Dynasty came to an end and the Shang Dynasty began in the 1600 BC.

Battle of Mingtiao
Illustration courtesy:

From here China enters the Era of ‘Ancient China’ from ‘Prehistoric China’.

Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC)

The first Chinese dynasty to be proven with historical evidence was the Shang dynasty. King Tang, who had started and ruled well, expanded the border and ruled the central and lower Yellow River basin. During this time, the Chinese became familiar with the calendar and accounting and produced sophisticated bronze works, pottery, and trinkets.

Image Courtesy: ThingLink

The Shang Dynasty did not have that much stability. They changed capital five times over the next 250 years. By 1350 BC the situation had stabilized and the regime came to be headquartered in what is now known as Anyang. From here the ‘Shang’s Golden Age’ began.

The most successful of these is the Wu Ting, who ruled for 58 years from 1250 to 1192 BC. A variety of highly sophisticated objects dating back to the Shang period were excavated by archaeologists, made of bronze, ivory and many other precious metals. No Chinese regime has produced as much bronze as the Shang Dynasty. Tons of bronze objects were excavated in the tombs. Agriculture also prospered.

Bronze Relics of Shang Dynasty
Image Courtesy: Flickr

Horses and chariots were introduced and were widely used by the end of the Shang Dynasty. Writing systems were also improved.

The rule is that all dynasties must come to an end. Di Xin, the last king of the Shang dynasty, became very tyrannical in old age. The King, who feared that Lord Wen, who had ruled the western frontier, had become stronger than himself, is said to have imprisoned him.

Wen planned to avenge the king. He died before his plan could be fulfilled. His son Wu decided to fulfil his father’s wishes and attacked the centre of the Shang region. He was also helped by the former allies of the Shang King. At the Battle of Muye, King De Xin was defeated and the Shang dynasty ended. The defeated Di Xin went to his palace and set fire to himself. Wu was crowned the new king. From him began the Zhou dynasty.

Part Three will be out soon. 


China by Raymond C.Nelson

Ancient China- Captivating History

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