History >> Ancient China
The Xia Dynasty was the first Chinese Dynasty. The Xia ruled from around 2070 BC to 1600 BC when the Shang Dynasty took control.
Did the Xia Dynasty really exist?
Many historians today debate whether or not the Xia Dynasty really existed or is just a Chinese legend. There is no conclusive evidence as to whether the dynasty existed or not.
King of Yu of Xia by Ma Lin
The history of the Xia is recorded in ancient Chinese writings such as the Classic of History and the Records of the Grand Historian. However, there have been no archeological discoveries that can confirm the writings.
What makes it the first Chinese Dynasty?
Prior to the Xia Dynasty, the king was chosen by ability. The Xia Dynasty began when the kingdom began to be passed to a relative, usually from father to son.
Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors
Chinese legend tells the story of the rulers before the Xia Dynasty. The first rulers of China were the Three Sovereigns. They had god-like powers and helped to create humanity. They also invented things like hunting, fishing, writing, medicine, and farming. After the Three Sovereigns came the Five Emperors. The Five Emperors ruled until the beginning of the Xia Dynasty.
The Xia Dynasty was founded by Yu the Great. Yu had made a name for himself by building canals to help control the flooding of the Yellow River. He became king of the Xia. The Xia grew in power under his reign which lasted 45 years.
When Yu died, his son Qi took over as king. Prior to this, the leaders of China had been chosen by ability. This was the start of a dynasty where the leaders came from the same family. The descendents of Yu the Great would rule for almost the next 500 years.
There are seventeen recorded rulers of the Xia Dynasty. Some of them were good leaders like Yu the Great, while others were considered evil tyrants. The last ruler of the Xia was King Jie. King Jie was a cruel and oppressive ruler. He was overthrown and the Shang Dynasty took over.
The Xia Dynasty was a monarchy ruled by a king. Under the king, feudal lords ruled provinces and regions throughout the land. Each lord swore his loyalty to the king. Legend has it that Yu the Great divided the land into nine provinces.
Most of the Xia were farmers. They had invented bronze casting, but their everyday tools were made from stone and bone. The Xia developed new agricultural practices including irrigation. They also developed a calendar which is sometimes considered the origin of the traditional Chinese calendar.
Interesting Facts about the Xia Dynasty
- Some archeologists think that the recent discoveries of the Erlitou culture could be the remains of the Xia.
- Yu the Great's father, Gun, first attempted to stop the flooding with walls and dykes, but failed. Yu was successful by using canals to funnel the water to the ocean.
- Some historians think that the Xia Dynasty is just part of Chinese mythology and never really existed.
- The sixth king of the Xia, Shao Kang, is credited with starting the tradition of ancestor worship in China.
- The longest ruling king of the Xia was Bu Jiang. He is also considered one of the Xia's wisest rulers.
For more information on the civilization of Ancient China:
History >> Ancient China