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Chinese History
Prehistoric Times

Paleolithic China

Overview of Neolithic and Paleolithic

Archaeological evidence suggests that China is one of the cradles of the human race. The earliest known human in China, whose fossilized skull was unearthed in Shanxi Province in 1963, is believed to date back to 600,000 BC. The remains of Sinanthropus pekinensis, known as Peking Man and dating back to 400,000 BC, were excavated in 1923 at Zhoukoudianzhen near Peking. Peking Man was closely related to Pithecanthropus of Java and lived during the Old Stone Age.
 

Peking Man

Peking Man was a cave dweller, tool maker, fire user, gatherer, and hunter. His use of fire is a great achievement. In view of fossil records and cultural remains, he was superb in his capability of adapting himself to environment with his adaption of physiological structure and technical ability.

Since the systematic excavation of the Peking Man Site in 1927, more than 20 valuable localities have been discovered and excavated.

Peking Man

New Cave Man of 100,000 years ago, Upper Cave Man of 18,000 years ago and Jalai Nur Man of 10,000 years ago all had high cheekbones, flat nose bridges and spade-shaped upper front teeth, which are all characteristics of modern man in China, indicating genetic stability and evolutionary continuity. In particular, the span of 330,000 years from Peking Man, to New Cave Man and Upper Cave Man, who all made their home in the Zhoukoudian area, effectively testifies to the fact that the yellow race evolved from a local ape. top

 

Neolithic China

The dividing line between the paleolithic and the neolithic age is the beginning of plant cultivation and animal domestication around 10,000 years ago (the Neolithic Revolution). That plants did not only serve as food (like millet and rice) but also as medicine can still be seen in the long tradition of Chinese medicine (see the book Shennong bencao jing ateria Medica of the Divine Farmer"). A third use of plants consists in their property to provide fibers, fuel, or even poison.
 

Pot

In Jiahu Henan the oldest music instrument of China was discovered: a bone flute. Pottery is an important material for man to store and to transport eatables and liquids, but it is also a decisive means by which modern archeologists are able to discern different cultures from each other. In China, north and south, agriculture, pottery and stone polishing occurred approximately at the same time. Although the differences between the vessel decorations and shapes are very small (cord marks, shell-edge impressions, vessels with three legs in the north), it is possible to distinguish a couple of regional cultures in China from about 5,000 BC. top

 

Mythology

As a rule, China's recorded history starts with the Xia Dynasty (c. 2100-1600 BC). In the absence of archaeological evidence, the pre-Xia era of the three sovereigns and five emperors has remained a time known only through legends handed down from ancient times.

 

As a very advanced civilization, it is probably not the oldest one, but the only one of the ancient cultures that has survived until today: "5000 years of history, and 7000 years of culture".

Although there is no myth of a god having created the universe like in most other cultures and religions, many popular tales of persons that helped to build up and to repair the world during a time of chaos. These persons are by no means godlike but are rather a part of the world they helped to fix. The most famous of this persons is Pan Gu. But there are even smaller figures like Nu Wa and her brother or husband Fu Xi who repaired the world with dividers and ruler, or like heroical archer Yi who shut down eight of the nine existing suns to prevent the soil from burning out.

There is also a large group of inventors like Sui Ren, who first used the fire; Hou Ji "Lord of Millet" and Shen Nong the "Holy Peasant" - persons that introduced agriculture and the use of medical herbs; Chi You, the inventor of metallurgy and weapons; Bo Yi who first tamed domestic animals; Can Cong, the inventor of sericulture in the state of Shu; or minister Cang Jie, who invented writing, and minister Ling Lun who invented the pitchpipes. Nu Wa is said to have invented matrimony, and she shaped the first men of clay.

Many tales and myth came up in post-antique China, like the myth of the River god (He Shen) Ju Ling who was annually offered a virgin; or the goddess of River Xiang in modern Hunan, the Queen mother of the West (Xi Wang Mu) who resided in the wester paradise in Mount Kunlun. Other immortals lived in the island paradise Penglai in the eastern sea.

The classification of the saints and rulers of highest antiquity ("Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors") takes only shape during the Warring States and Han periods. These divine rulers were grouped together as the "Two Emperors and Three Kings" : Yao, Shun, Yu of Xia, Tang of Shang, and King Zhou Wenwang). top