HISTORY 1601E September 21 , 2010
HISTORY – LECTURE 02
Pinyin: q, x, c, z. Q - ? sound, X – th sound, C – ts sound, z – dz sound
What is prehistory?
o Period before written history. China, it ends around 3000 Before Common Era (BCE). Japan and
Korea ends around first centuries of the Common Era (CE). China had head start over the other
o It began in the Near East around 8000 BCE. Evidence of agriculture in Hoa Binh, northern
Vietnam around the same time, possibly two separate developments in two different areas of
the world. It spread from India from near east.
o Also possibility or Northern China having independent development back then.
o Needs good water, arrogation system. A lot of early civilizations were supporting huge
populations because they were centered on rivers like the Yellow River.
o North China situated at Yellow River valley for agriculture.
o South China created around 5500-4500 BCE
o Another important river was the Yangzi River valley, which is where the cultivation of rice began
because of the ideal climate and water. It began in South-East Asia.
o Yellow River valley much more climate, there is winter, up until genetic modification to plants,
rice could not grow there. Instead, they cultivated “millet” (similar to birdseed). First noodles to
be created were by the Chinese from millet.
o Today, emphasis on rice in the south, noodles in the north, due to that history.
o In addition to the millet, in the “Longshan” area, there surfaced the black pottery culture.
Birth of a Civilisation
o Bronze (copper, tin, zinc) production centered along Yellow River in Anyang in 1900 BCE.
o Early Chinese legends talk of the legendary rulers: first the Three Rulers and then the Five
Emperors, the most famous of which being Yao (Ruler), Shun (Ruler) and Yu (last of the Five
Emperors), having been credited with the foundations of agriculture, fishing, hunting, writing,
the calendar and medicine. However, we have no real written proof of these legendary figures.
It is possible they were regular people and the legends developed around them to accredit them
with their creations.
o Those with Bronze weapons took control of those that didn’t because they were stronger
weapons and far easier to kill with. HISTORY 1601E September 21 , 2010
The Xia Dynasty (2205-1766 BCE)
o Legendary dynasty. Yu, the last of the Five Emperors, considered founder of the dynasty.
However, we have found no archaeological evidence for the dynasty, for the founder or much
about it. It was said to be centered in the Yellow River valley, where tiny bits of proof have been
o There is still hope to find it, because about eighty years ago things from the second dynasty
were found, giving people hope to find things from the first dynasty.
o Along the Yellow River valley, there have been remnants from what is POSSIBLY the Xia Dynasty,
given that they are made of Bronze, but archaeologists are still unsure.
Casting versus Blacksmith work (East versus West)
o West had less of a range of weapons because they had to beat things against the anvil.
o East had casting, making forms through moulds, giving them a far larger range.
o However, the West’s weapons were thus stronger and more solid, the East’s were more likely to
break, but easier to repair.
Bronze, Turquoise, Jade = common casting and decorative materials, very often associated with Chinese
culture as they came up with it first.
The Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BCE)
o Arose at a time of improvements in bronze casting.
o The chariot is first formed from the bronze casting, divination is created, the first evidence of
writing on bronze and bones appears, and finally bronze decoration and weapons all happen
during the Shang period.
o “Feudal” relationship between Shang ruler and subordinate rulers. Shang ruler in the capital,
keeping control by marriage, taxes, etc. The subordinate rulers were allowed to control land, but
had to send in taxes and perform in his wars, but if they disobeyed they could easily be
o Shang Religion: Shang ruler was also the high priest of the Shang religion. Archaeology has
discovered that peasants were unable to write, didn’t leave much behind, but the evidence left
behind was of higher noble people.
Highest God was the “Deity Above” and actual worship was given to Shang ruler’s
ancestors, pleading to them for rain on enemies, asking for fertility, good crops, etc.
There were animal sacrifices and libations (offering of liquids, like rice wine).
Human sacrifices were common, especially at the death of a ruler, people being buried
along with the rulers. The idea being that once a ruler was dead, he still needed
servants, soldiers and wives in the afterlife. They eventually came to realize this was a
waste of human life and resource, so they began making statues instead, which is where
the evidence of the “terra cotta warriors” originated.
o Divination: Important part of Shang religion and royal action. HISTORY 1601E September 21 , 2010
Bones from sacrificial animals or tortoise shells were burned and the cracks in the bones
were read to tell the future.
Fortunes were often written on the bones or shells. Questions for divination as well.
This was all the first evidences of Chinese writing, chronically their divination.
o The Shang State: based on agriculture.
Primitive form of money by using cowrie shells.
Shang state could field an army of between 3000 to 5000 men.
Succession from brother to brother or father to son, deciphered from bronze creations
or bone writings.
Architecture started with raised earth, and then brick, supplement by wood. A lot of
what is left from this state is foundations, because a lot of the buildings burned (wood)
or crumbled (brick,