History of China
Approximate territories occupied by different dynasties as well as modern political states throughout the history of China
Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in theNeolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations. The written history of China can be found as early as the Shang Dynasty (c. 1700–1046 BC), although ancient historical texts such as the Records of the Grand Historian (ca. 100 BC) and Bamboo Annals assert the existence of a Xia Dynasty before the Shang. Much of Chinese culture, literature andphilosophy further developed during the Zhou Dynasty (1045–256 BC). The Zhou Dynasty began to bow to external and internal pressures in the 8th century BC, and the kingdom eventually broke apart into smaller states, beginning in the Spring and Autumn Period and reaching full expression in the Warring States period. This is one of multiple periods of failed statehood in Chinese history (the most recent of which was the Chinese Civil War). In between eras of multiple kingdoms and warlordism, Chinese dynasties have ruled all of China (minus Xinjiang and Tibet) (and, in some eras, including the present, they have controlled Xinjiang and/or Tibet as well). This practice began with the Qin Dynasty: in 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang united the various warring kingdoms and created the first Chinese empire. Successive dynasties in Chinese history developed bureaucratic systems that enabled the Emperor of China to directly control vast territories. The conventional view of Chinese history is that of alternating periods of political unity and disunity, with China occasionally being dominated by steppe peoples, most of whom were in turn assimilated into the Han Chinese population. Cultural and political influences from many parts of Asia, carried by successive waves of immigration, expansion, and cultural assimilation, are part of the modern culture of China.
See also: List of Paleolithic sites in China
What is now China was inhabited by Homo erectus more than a million years ago. Recent study shows that the stone tools found at Xiaochangliang site aremagnetostratigraphically dated to 1.36 million years ago. The archaeological site of Xihoudu in Shanxi Province is the earliest recorded use of fire by Homo erectus, which is dated 1.27 million years ago. The excavations at Yuanmou and later Lantian show early habitation. Perhaps the most famous specimen of Homo erectus found in China is the so-called Peking Man discovered in 1923-27.
See also: List of Neolithic cultures of China
The Neolithic age in China can be traced back to between 12,000 and 10,000 BC. Early evidence for proto-Chinese millet agriculture is radiocarbon-dated to about 7000 BC. ThePeiligang culture of Xinzheng county, Henan was excavated in 1977. With agriculture came increased population, the ability to store and redistribute crops, and the potential to support specialist craftsmen and administrators. In late Neolithic times, the Yellow River valley began to establish itself as a cultural center, where the first villages were founded; the most archaeologically significant of those was found at Banpo, Xi'an. The Yellow River was so named because of loess forming its banks gave a yellowish tint to the water. The early history of China is made obscure by the lack of written documents from this period, coupled with the existence of accounts written during later time periods that attempted to describe events that had occurred several centuries previously. In a sense, the problem stems from centuries of introspection on the part of the Chinese people, which has...