History of the Yellow River (Huang He - 黃河) (1) Dawn of Civilization on the River
The Path of the Yellow River through Tibet & China :
EARLIEST HISTORY OF THE YELLOW RIVER:
Around the year 10.000 B.C. Settlements began to appear in East Asia as the Climate warmed. When farming began is still a matter of controversy, with estimates ranging between 10.000 B.C. and 7.000 B.C. at the latest, agriculture starting with the planting of millet in China, according to the Wilson Chronology of Asia and the Pacific. In this same period, several kinds of animals were domesticated, among these pigs, chickens and dogs.
As was proven by the archeological finds at Shuidonggou in Linhe County of Yinchuan Prefecture in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, parts of the Ningxia Plain of the Yellow River were inhabited by a primitive but modern people (homo sapiens) as early as 10.000 B.C. (some Chinese experts even say 15.000 B.C.). These were a people of hunter gatherers who mixed european and asian cultural features, lived along a small tributary of the river near rocky cliffs in which they found caves and where they left various stone tools during their stays.
Pottery, non-fired, appeared in Japan as early as 10.000 B.C. Around the year 9000 B.C. decorated
Schematic Map of the Flow Path of the Yellow River through China.
pottery began to appear in other parts of East Asia such as China and Korea.
At some time in this period, the earliest civilization in China settled on the banks of the Huang He. It is unknown when or where the first settlement occured although archeological finds have been done in several places along the 5.500 kilometer length of the Yellow River and along its smaller tributaries. Most early sites can be found in current day Henan Province and in southern Shaanxi Province along the Wei River.
In the years between 8000 to 7000 B.C (some say 6000 to 5000 B.C.). someone left rock carved art forms near Damaidi (大麦地 ; Big Wheat Field) in Zhongwei Prefecture of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region starting a lasting tradition of rock carvings in this location and leading to the find of what today is the earliest (suspected) proof of primitive writing in China.
Although, official history of writing starts with the
Today archeologists and historians have located 3,172 cliff carvings, "featuring 8,453 individual characters such as the sun, moon, stars, gods and scenes of hunting or grazing." These pictographs are reputed to be similar to the earliest characters confirmed to be written Chinese.
(Archeological finds do show that rice was being planted and harvested in the Yangtze River valley as early as 7000 B.C. however, at this time these regions were not inhabited by people that we now recognize as being of a Chinese Culture or background.)
Overview of the Central and Southern Regions of the Peoples Republic of China showing the location of Luoyang City and other important population centers.
During the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1121 BC) the lower reaches of the Yellow River were inhabited and settled. Not only that, in this period the first "Chinese" Cities appeared in the Yellow River basin and not along the Yangtze River.
During the initial centuries of the Shang Dynasty Period, the Capital City of "China" moved around until it eventually wound up at Yin, which was situated near Anyang along the Yellow River in northwest Henan Province (near the border of Hebei Province). This makes the city of Anyang the first ever Imperial Capital of China.
According to the Wilson Chronology of Asia and the Pacific, Chinese artist started working Jade in around 2500 B.C. with much of the jade supply coming from Central Asia along an early form of the Silk Road. At the worked copper items appear in Chinese Culture. It is unknown if the copper was only worked or also smelted.
Around 2500 B.C. same potters turn-tables were also introduced in China.
Around 2255 B.C. during the reign of the semi-legendary Lord Shun, in Chinese Music the five note scale was set giving "social value" to each note. In the same period (2255 B.C. - 2206 B.C.) musical instruments in China were divided into 8 classes. This period is also credited with the introduction of the five stringed zither and panpipes.
Around 2205 B.C. is traditionaly held as the date of the establishment of the Xia Dynasty, still an unproven and semi-legendary Dynasty. The Xia Dynasty was supposedly founded by Emperor Yu who reigned from 2205 B.C. to 2185 B.C. Although there are previous "histories" of earlier Emperors, such as the Legend of the Yellow Emperor, it was Emperor, if he Yu ever existed who created the first ever Chinese Dynasty which lasted from 2205 B.C. to 1722 B.C.
Among things, theYu Reign Period is credited with the introduction of a new musical system known as Tai-Ha.
Not long after, around the year 2100 B.C. chariots appear in
China being used solely for a military purpose. Chariots are fast and nimble, and first serve as mobile command posts. Shortly after they are used as a mobile weapons platform serving as a decisive weapon in many battles in East Asia.
In 821 B.C. the State of Qin was founded in north and western China, declaring it independence from the Central Zhou State. The State of Qin included parts of what is today Gansu Province and was situated along the Yellow River.
Historical records and maps surviving from the "Spring and Autumn Period" (771 B.C. - 476 B.C.) of the Zhou Dynasty Era (1121 B.C. - 255 B.C.) depict the course of the Yellow River including the city of Luoyang and the lower reaches of the river. The maps indicate that at that time, the flow of the yellow river was significantly different from what it is today.
In the year 602 BC a disastrous flooding occurred in the lower reaches of the Yellow River completely altering its original path. Instead of slowly turning nothward after passing Luoyang, Zhengzhou and Kaifeng in Henan Province, the yellow river burst its banks to flow directly onward to the Yellow Sea instead.
This gargantuan flood shifted the mouth of the river several 100 miles south, from a location near current day Tianjin to the south of the Shandong peninsula. Oddly, another flood recorded in the year 70 A.D. restored the old flow of the river and moved the mouth back to near its original position near Tianjin City.
According to historical records, at sometime during the 6Th Century B.C. , Lanzhou, currently the Capital of Gansu Province and a city situated on the Upper Reaches of the Yellow River, became part of the territory of the State of Qin. Qin took the territory from the Western Qiang Peoples and would not much later go on to unify all of China under one rule. Today the Qiang People are on of the 56 Ethnic Groups found within the Peoples Republic of China.
During the Warring States period (475 A.D. - 221 B.C.) of the Zhou Dynasty Era (1121 B.C. - 255 B.C.) Sabotage of dikes, canals, and reservoirs and deliberate flooding of rival states became a standard military tactic.
As the art of iron casting rapidly was introduced around 400 B.C. and rapidly developed afterward, warfar as well as agriculture changed across the Warring States. During the two centuries following, the development of the steel plow as well as other technological developments such as the horse yoke allowed for the rapid expansion of agricultural territories, with Central China and the valley of the Wei River (a tributary of the Yellow River) becoming densily populated. Massive land clearing and succesive drainage and irrigation using the new invention known as the "waterwheel" were undertaken with equal attention to the care for crops through systematic watering and manuring. As a result of a dramtic rise in available framland and higher crop yields, China soon became the most populous nation in the world of its time.
The State of Qin develops more and more beyond its original borders in West China and Northern China, overwhelming the State of Wei and the Wei River valley along the Yellow River in the year 280 B.C.
The year 259 B.C. sees the birth of the Prince of Qin, Ying Zheng (嬴政), who would later become King of Qin in 249 B.C. and Grand Emperor of China in 221 B.C.
Around 260 B.C. the Forces of the State of Qin are victorious over the forces of the State of Zhao at Gapoing (in current day Shanxi Province).
Between 300 B.C. and 250 B.C. a first earthen version of what can be dubbed a "Great Wall" was reportedly built at the end of the Imperial Highway which led westward out of Chang'An (Xi'An in Shaanxi Province). Supposedly the wall stood at a distance of some 250 to 300 miles west of today's Xi'An.
In 296 B.C. King Xiang of the State of Wei ((魏襄王) (Reign: 319 A.D. – 296 A.D.)) on the Yellow River dies. His body is entombed in Central Henan Province south of the Yellow River. Later unearthed the tomb contains a number of documents written on bamboo slips now known as the "Bamboo Annals (竹書紀年)". The Bamboo Annals provide an early historic narrative and is one of the few ancient Chinese texts. Other scripts found in the tomb included Guoyu, the I Ching, and the Tale of the now semi-legendary King Mu's visit to the legendary "Royal Mother of the West" (Xi Wang Mu).
In 297 B.C. Tomb Robbers raid the Tomb of King Xi'Ang, extracting an unknown number of ancient bamboo slips. Their discovery later provides an opportunity for studies of ancient text that had become unavailable in their original form due to the book-burning of 213 B.C. and much editing work of later scholars and historians such as Liu Xiang and Liu Xin of Han.
The first archeological excavations at Anyang were done in 1927 A.D. finding and exploring the Royal Tombs of Shang.
YouTube Video: Retracing the History of the Shang Dynasty and excavations at Yin, near Anyang and elsewhere in Henan Province.
With the development of sophisticated Chinese bronze-casting techniques around 1500 B.C., Shang Dynasty bronzework included a wide range of sacred and secular forms including ceremonial vessels, cookware and serving dishes. Sophisticated pottery also developed, as was a a wide array of jade cuttings.
In this same period, the Shang developed a form of written language involving pictographs. Surviving samples of this earliest Chinese script have been found on animal bones as well as turtle shells and have revealed some 2.000 to 2.500 different signs and meanings. Now known as "Oracle Bones", the inscribed bones played an important part in "divination", that is foretelling the future or reading ones fortunes by means of manipulating the bones, or as a means of communicating with the spirit world.
As historians have agreed, in the process of divination, the insribed bones were heated by fire, after which the cracks that appeared should be interpreted. Interestingly, some of the oracle bones have so recorded the sightings of Lunar and Solar eclipses, eventually giving birth to the first astronomy.
1400 B.C. Lances and daggers strongly resembling the type long in use in Siberia are starting to appear in China.
In 1387 B.C. Yin, at a location near Anyang, becomes the Capital of the Shang Dynasty. It will remain the Shang Dynasty Capital until 1027 B.C. and the end of the Dynasty.
In around 1300 B.C. at the end of the Shang Dynasty Era (1766 B.C. - 1121 B.C.) Chinese sculptors were producing small marble figures which, to date, are the earliest known examples of Chinese stone sculptures.
Around 1200 B.C. cast bronze bells appear in the Chinese Civilization along the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River.
In 1027 B.C. Zhou King Wu Chang, the Martial King, led Zhou and allied forces in a decisive battle against Shang Forces at a place known as MuYe. The Zhou are victorious and advance on the Shang Capital of Yin near Anyang. The Capital is sacked and Shang disappears from existence.
Subsequently, the Zhou Dynasty (1027 B.C. - 771 B.C). Capital is established more to the west, near Xi'An, along the Wei River. As King Wu Chang died shortly after his momentus victory, he was formally succeeded by his son Cheng Wang, although his elder brother Zhougong, the Duke of Zhou (Chou) was the real power behind the throne functioning as regent for at least 7 years.
After crushing an internal rebellion, the Zhou would go on to expand the Chinese territory significantly into northern and central China. While the Empire prospered during the first centuries, a massive new agricultural state based on Feudal Principles took shape.
The Chinese Civilization grew up along the Yellow River banks and only much later, during the Qin Dynasty Era (221 B.C. - 207 B.C.) the Yangtze River valley became included within its realm.
Ever since the dawn of Civilizations along it, the yellow river has been a source of life and death, both a blessing and a curse to the developing Nation. It gives blessings in the shape of its rich deposits of loess soil, which, when irrigated become fertile lands. However, the river has always been a curse due its unpredictable nature and recurring floods, mainly along the middle and lower reaches of the River.
In fact, in the thousands of years of Chinese Civilization the yellow river has flooded so often that is has become known as the River of Sorrow, a Golden Dragon with a terrible temper.
Yangshao Cultures (仰韶文化), today recognized as among the first primitive but true Chinese Cultures
began to appear in the central Yellow River Basin as early as 5.000 B.C.
Yangshao, named after the village in Henan Province where the first find was done in 1921 by the Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson (1874–1960), was a farming culture based on millet as well as the domestication of pigs and dogs. Some villages were also found to have grown rice and weat.
The Yangshao Cultures were proven to be a collection of related cultures, mainly based on their pottery, the colors used and the decorative patterns on it.
The earliest known representation of the Yangshao Culture is known as the Banpao phase, which started as early as 4800 B.C. and ended at around 4200 B.C. Remnants of the Banpao Culture can still be seen today at the location of their original archeological find, the Banpao neolithic village on the outskirts of the city of Xi'An, along the Wei River in Shaanxi Province.
The period ends in about 3.000 B.C. when advances and the coming of bronze created new cultures.
The art of bronze working may have come from Mesopotamia, via Persia, through what might then be recognized as the the earliest proof of what later became the Trans-Eurasian "the Silk Road".
Around 2900 B.C. the first Longshan Cultures (龙山文化), so named after the location of the first find, appears in Longshan, in Jinan City Prefecture near the Yellow River in Shandong Province. The Longshan Culture is "new" and different because of its distinctive black and highly polished pottery, jade carvings and in the later period, their bronze castings. The Longshan Culture period ends at around 1500 B.C. during a period of fast decreasing population. (Other sources have it 3.000 to 2.000 B.C.).
The first Longshan site was excavated in the year 1928 A.D. leading to numerous discoveries since. Longshan type Archeological finds have been uncovered along the Yangtze River and as far as the south-eastern Coastline showing that in early days cultures could spread easily over a long distance.
As has been proven, the Longshan knew the use of the pottery wheel. Further they had domesticated cattle and started silk farming on a small scale.
In the end of the Longshan Period "cities", fortified villages surrounded by rammed earth walls started appearing, sounding in a new Era.
YouTube Video: Dawn of Civilization in China - Discovery of the elusive Longshan Culture(s) and where did they come from ?