Xia Dynasty

Xia is the first dynasty in the history of China, lasting nearly 500 years, from 21 century BC to 16 century BC, with 14 generations and 17 kings. It is situated mainly in the districts in the southern part of Shanxi and the western part of Henan.

It is said that Da Yu, the hero harnessing the river and rescuing the people, managed to get the support of his tribe due to his succeeding in controlling the Yellow River from overflowing throughout the year, thus setting up the Xia dynasty. Xia Dai’s setting up indicated that the long primitive society had been substituted by the private ownership society.  From then on, China entered the slave society.

In the last years of Xia dynasty, politics was in confusion and the class contradiction was becoming sharper. The last king Jie, after his enthronement, squandered wantonly and had no idea of reformation. He spent all day drinking with his favorite concubine (Meixi) to make merry, turning a blind eye to the hardships of common people. Those ministers who dared to admonish would be killed. Henceforth, the vassals of Xia dynasty rioted one after another. Shang, one of them, seizes the opportunity to cut down Jie, and win over Xia Jie’s army finally. Jie died in Nanchao after fleeing, and thus Xia dynasty went to its perdition.

As a result of the desire of extant historical materials of Xia, it is still a question in dispute whether Xia existed or not. However, the lineage of Xia was clearly recorded in the famous book Shiji.
Archeologists have been working hard, in order to trace back and revive the history of Xia. The research of “Xia Ruins” in 1959 initiated the exploration of Xia Civilization. Today, most scholars hold the idea that “Culture of Erlitou”, named after the site at Erlitou in Yanshi of Henan province, is the main object of the exploration. It is determined that the site dates back to about 1900 BC, namely the Xia years. In fact, though not enough evidences have been supplied to ascertain the relationship between the site and Xia Civilization, the excavation has greatly promoted the exploration.

The tools of production unearthed from the site of “Erlitou” consist in stone implements. Bone horn implements and clam implements were also in use. Vestiges of digging with wooden Leisi can be found at the foundations, in the ash pits as well as on the walls of the graves. People of that time made advantage of these tools and their wisdom/industry, and were successful in controlling water, plowing the soil and developing the agricultural production. Bronze falchion, awl, chisel, arrowhead, dagger, pottery model, copper dregs, as well as crucible bits have been found. Furthermore, batches of elaborate jade articles, adornments of turquoise and musical instruments have witnessed the development of the handicraft and the social division of labor.

Furthermore, the records about the Xia dynasty calendar on Xiaxiaozheng in Dadailiji, are the most valuable.  One can conclude that people of that time were used to name the months according to the course of the handle of the Dipper —— the earliest calendar of China. Likewise, astrology, weather, agriculture and appropriate political events could be predicted, which can be said to be the earliest materials of Chinese science and wisdom.

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