Three dynasties ruled China between the beginning of the second millennium BC and the year 221 BC. They all lived around the Yellow River Basin. The Xia, Shang and Zhou were responsible for the process of occupation of Chinese territory and for the ethnic formation of the country .
Even before the influence of this dynasty, around 2.9 thousand years BC, important inventions credited to the Chinese were already registered, such as the potter’s wheel, a great advance to model the vase. Even today, this is one of the most common methods for producing clay pots.
The reign of the Xia dynasty, the oldest of them, begins in 2200 BC and goes until 1750 BC, in the region known as the Yellow River Valley. Historians have little evidence gathered about the permanence of the Xia dynasty, which began with the reign of Yu the Great, known for acting against the Yellow River floods.
On the Xia side, China experienced the development of agriculture, commerce and medicine. Settlers built houses on the banks of the Yellow River and, in addition to cultivating the land, also kept animals. It is also during this period that silk appears, made from the cocoon of the silkworm.
Seventeen emperors reigned during this dynastic period. The Xia dynasty played an important role in the social organization of the Chinese, being responsible for the institution of marriage. Also the precursor works of writing, which would be perfected by its successor, the Shang dynasty, which remained from 1750 BC to 1040 BC
Scholars in the Shang dynasty developed a writing system that was engraved on animal bones and bronze pieces. The inhabitants of that dynastic period developed the use of bronze pieces and an exquisite system of social organization
Ceramic pot from the Shang dynasty
Researchers found bronze vases with the first evidence of writing dating back to 1200 BC
The Shang divided society between nobles, inhabitants of city-palaces and peasants. Monarchical power was restricted to the religious field. They were polytheists and believed that the dead were transformed into gods.
The last Chinese capital belonging to the Shang dynasty was located in Anyang in 1300 BC, whose evidence was only discovered by archaeologists in the last century.
Neighboring peoples ended up weakening the dynasty, which was replaced by the Zhou, who ruled China between 1100 BC and 771 BC Previously allied with the Shang, the Zhou lived in the lands that are now known as Shaanxi.
A battle that took place in 1050 BC marked the fall of the Shang dynasty and led China to the period that became known as the “golden age”. The reference summed up the Zhou’s way of governing, admittedly efficient.
Power was weakened in the year 771 BC, when King Zhou was killed by members of a tribe of vassals. Although the son assumed power, he fled to the east and the dynasty’s influence was weakened.
The Zhou dynasty is considered to be the main founder of Chinese civilization and controlled the country during the Middle Kingdom. It was up to the Zhou to develop the first military artifacts in iron, which contributed to the defense of borders. This is the so-called iron age in China.
Vase from the Zhou Dynasty
Among the many points that highlight this dynastic period is Confucius , born in 600 BC and considered one of the most important philosophers in Chinese and world history. Confucius’ doctrine, Confucianism , encourages traditional hierarchy, rituals, piety and respect for the elderly.
In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huangdi became the emperor of unified China after almost 250 years of war. Huangdi’s reign begins the period of imperial China and is responsible for the introduction of the payment system, weights and measures and writing.
Also during this period the construction of the Great Wall of China begins . Quin Shi Huangdi died in 210 BC and, to protect his grave, an army of 10,000 ceramic soldiers was built. The warriors became known as the Terracotta Army and, although they were produced in series, they exhibit individual features.