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River Dynasties in China
POWER AND AUTHORITY The early rulers introduced ideas about government and society that shaped Chinese civilization.
WHY IT MATTERS NOW
The culture that took root during ancient times still affects Chinese ways of life today.
TERMS & NAMES
• loess • oracle bone • Mandate of Heaven • dynastic cycle • feudalism
SETTING THE STAGE The walls of China’s first cities were built 4,000 years
ago. This was at least a thousand years after the walls of Ur, the great pyramids of Egypt, and the planned cities of the Indus Valley were built. Unlike the other three river valley civilizations, the civilization that began along one of China’s river systems continues to thrive today. TAKING NOTES
Following Chronological Order On a time line, identify major events in early Chinese dynasties. event 1 event 2 event 3 >
The Geography of China
Natural barriers somewhat isolated ancient China from all other civilizations. To China’s east lay the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the Pacific Ocean. Mountain ranges and deserts dominate about two-thirds of China’s landmass. In west China lay the Taklimakan (TAH•kluh•muh•KAHN) Desert and the icy 15,000-foot Plateau of Tibet. To the southwest are the Himalayas. And to the north are the desolate Gobi Desert and the Mongolian Plateau. River Systems Two major river systems flow from the mountainous west to the
Pacific Ocean. The Huang He (hwahng•HUH), also known as the Yellow River, is found in the north. In central China, the Chang Jiang (chang•jyhang), also called Yangtze (yang•SEE), flows east to the Yellow Sea. The Huang He, whose name means “yellow river,” deposits huge amounts of yellowish silt when it overflows its banks. This silt is actually fertile soil called loess (LOH•uhs), which is blown by the winds from deserts to the west and north. Environmental Challenges Like the other ancient civilizations in this chapter,
China’s first civilization developed in a river valley. China, too, faced the dangers of floods—but its geographic isolation posed its own challenges. • The Huang He’s floods could be disastrous. Sometimes floods devoured whole villages, earning the river the nickname “China’s Sorrow.” • Because of China’s relative geographic isolation, early settlers had to supply their own goods rather than trading with outside peoples. • China’s natural boundaries did not completely protect these settlers from outsiders. Invasions from the west and north occurred again and again in Chinese history. China’s Heartland Only about 10 percent of China’s land is suitable for farm-
ing. Much of the land lies within the small plain between the Huang He and the
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Ancient China, 2000–200 B.C.
The Huang He, or Yellow River, is named for the color of its silt. This silt nurtured early development of Chinese civilization and is still a vital resource today.
Extent of Shang Dynasty
Extent of Zhou Dynasty
Border of modern China
HI H C
H ow e )
ng ll e (Y
a Ch g an (Y
n t ze g
P L A T EAU OF T IBET
ng J ia River)
Yellow silt gives the Huang He a distinctive color.
GEOGRAPHY SKILLBUILDER: Interpreting Maps
1. Location Describe the location of the Huang He and Chang Jiang in terms of where they begin and end. 2. Region What area did the Shang and Zhou dynasties control?
Chang Jiang in eastern China. This plain, known as the North China Plain, is China’s heartland. Throughout China’s long history, its political boundaries have expanded and contracted depending on the strength or weakness of its ruling families. Yet the heartland of China remained the center of its civilization....
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