Xia Dynasty
Overview
 
The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles such as Bamboo Annals
Bamboo Annals
The Bamboo Annals is a chronicle of ancient China. It begins at the earliest legendary times and extends to the Warring States Period , particularly the history of the Wei state...

, Classic of History
Classic of History
The Classic of History is a compilation of documentary records related to events in ancient history of China. It is also commonly known as the Shàngshū , or simply Shū...

and Records of the Grand Historian
Records of the Grand Historian
The Records of the Grand Historian, also known in English by the Chinese name Shiji , written from 109 BC to 91 BC, was the Magnum opus of Sima Qian, in which he recounted Chinese history from the time of the Yellow Emperor until his own time...

. The Xia Dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

 after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him. The Xia was later succeeded by the Shang Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

 (1600–1046 BC).

According to the traditional chronology based upon calculations by Liu Xin
Liu Xin
Liu Xin , later changed name to Liu Xiu , courtesy name Zijun , was a Chinese astronomer, historian, and editor during the Xin Dynasty . He was the son of Confucian scholar Liu Xiang and an associate of other prominent thinkers such as the philosopher Huan Tan...

, the Xia ruled between 2205 and 1766 BC; according to the chronology based upon the Bamboo Annals
Bamboo Annals
The Bamboo Annals is a chronicle of ancient China. It begins at the earliest legendary times and extends to the Warring States Period , particularly the history of the Wei state...

, it ruled between 1989 and 1558 BC.
Encyclopedia
The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles such as Bamboo Annals
Bamboo Annals
The Bamboo Annals is a chronicle of ancient China. It begins at the earliest legendary times and extends to the Warring States Period , particularly the history of the Wei state...

, Classic of History
Classic of History
The Classic of History is a compilation of documentary records related to events in ancient history of China. It is also commonly known as the Shàngshū , or simply Shū...

and Records of the Grand Historian
Records of the Grand Historian
The Records of the Grand Historian, also known in English by the Chinese name Shiji , written from 109 BC to 91 BC, was the Magnum opus of Sima Qian, in which he recounted Chinese history from the time of the Yellow Emperor until his own time...

. The Xia Dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

 after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him. The Xia was later succeeded by the Shang Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

 (1600–1046 BC).

According to the traditional chronology based upon calculations by Liu Xin
Liu Xin
Liu Xin , later changed name to Liu Xiu , courtesy name Zijun , was a Chinese astronomer, historian, and editor during the Xin Dynasty . He was the son of Confucian scholar Liu Xiang and an associate of other prominent thinkers such as the philosopher Huan Tan...

, the Xia ruled between 2205 and 1766 BC; according to the chronology based upon the Bamboo Annals
Bamboo Annals
The Bamboo Annals is a chronicle of ancient China. It begins at the earliest legendary times and extends to the Warring States Period , particularly the history of the Wei state...

, it ruled between 1989 and 1558 BC. The Xia Shang Zhou Chronology Project
Xia Shang Zhou Chronology Project
The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project was a multi-disciplinary project commissioned by the People's Republic of China in 1996 to determine with accuracy the location and time frame of the Xia Dynasty, the Shang Dynasty and the Zhou Dynasty...

 concluded that the Xia existed between 2070 and 1600 BC. The tradition of tracing Chinese political history from heroic early emperors to the Xia to succeeding dynasties comes from the idea of the Mandate of Heaven
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings, in that both sought to legitimaze rule from divine approval; however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of...

, in which only one legitimate dynasty can exist at any given time, and was promoted by the Confucian school in the Eastern Zhou period, later becoming the basic position of imperial historiography and ideology. Although the Xia is an important element in early Chinese history, reliable information on the history of China before 13th century BC can only come from archaeological evidence since China's first written system, oracle bone script
Oracle bone script
Oracle bone script refers to incised ancient Chinese characters found on oracle bones, which are animal bones or turtle shells used in divination in Bronze Age China...

, did not exist until then. Thus the concrete existence of the Xia is yet to be proven, despite efforts by Chinese archaeologists to link Xia with Bronze Age Erlitou archaeological sites.

Traditional history

The Xia Dynasty was described in classic texts such as the Classic of History
Classic of History
The Classic of History is a compilation of documentary records related to events in ancient history of China. It is also commonly known as the Shàngshū , or simply Shū...

(Shujing), the Bamboo Annals
Bamboo Annals
The Bamboo Annals is a chronicle of ancient China. It begins at the earliest legendary times and extends to the Warring States Period , particularly the history of the Wei state...

, and the Records of the Grand Historian
Records of the Grand Historian
The Records of the Grand Historian, also known in English by the Chinese name Shiji , written from 109 BC to 91 BC, was the Magnum opus of Sima Qian, in which he recounted Chinese history from the time of the Yellow Emperor until his own time...

(Shiji) by Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

.

Origins and early development

According to ancient Chinese texts, before the Xia Dynasty was established, battles were frequent between the Xia tribe and Chi You's
Chi You
Chi You was a tribal leader of the ancient nine Li tribe . He is best known as the tyrant who fought against the then-future Yellow Emperor during the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors era in Chinese mythology. For the Hmong people, Chi You was a sagacious mythical king...

 tribe. The Xia tribe slowly developed around the time of Zhuanxu
Zhuanxu
Zhuanxu , also known as Gaoyang is a mythological monarch of ancient China.A grandson of the Yellow Emperor, Zhuanxu led the Shi clan in an eastward migration to present-day Shandong, where intermarriages with the Dongyi clan enlarged and augmented their tribal influences...

, one of the legendary Five Emperors. The Records of the Grand Historian
Records of the Grand Historian
The Records of the Grand Historian, also known in English by the Chinese name Shiji , written from 109 BC to 91 BC, was the Magnum opus of Sima Qian, in which he recounted Chinese history from the time of the Yellow Emperor until his own time...

 and the Classic of Rites
Classic of Rites
The Classic of Rites , also known as the Book of Rites, Book of Customs, the Record of Rites, was one of the Chinese Five Classics of the Confucian canon. It described the social forms, governmental system, and ancient/ceremonial rites of the Zhou Dynasty...

 say that Yu the Great
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

 is the grandson of Zhuanxu, but there are also other records, like Ban Gu
Ban Gu
Ban Gu , courtesy name Mengjian , was a 1st century Chinese historian and poet best known for his part in compiling the Book of Han. He also wrote in the main poetic genre of the Han era, a kind of poetry interspersed with prose called fu. Some are anthologized by Xiao Tong in his Selections of...

, that say Yu is the fifth generation of Zhuanxu. Based on this, it is possible that the people of the Xia clan are descendants of Zhuanxu.

Gun's attempt to stop the flood

Gun
Gun (Chinese)
Gun was the father of Yu the Great, the founder of the Xia Dynasty. He was appointed by Yao to control the flooding rivers. He used dikes to stop the rivers from flooding, but they eventually collapsed after nine years and killed many people.- In mythology :...

, the father of Yu the Great, is the earliest recorded member of the Xia clan. When the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 flooded, many tribes united together to control and stop the flooding. Gun was appointed by Yao
Yao (ruler)
Yao , was a legendary Chinese ruler, one of the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors. His ancestral name (姓)is Yi Qi (伊祁) or Qi(祁),clan name (氏)is Taotang , given name is Fangxun , as the second son to Emperor Ku and Qingdu...

 to stop the flooding. He ordered the construction of large blockades to block the path of the water. The attempt of Gun to stop the flooding lasted for nine years but it was a failure because the floods became stronger. After nine years, Yao had already given his throne to Shun. Gun was ordered to be executed by Shun at Yushan (Chinese: 羽山), a mountain located between modern Donghai County
Donghai County
Donghai County is a county of Jiangsu province, China. It is under the administration of Lianyungang city.-References:*...

 in Jiangsu Province and Linshu County
Linshu County
Linshu County is a county of southern Shandong province, People's Republic of China, bordering Jiangsu province to the south and east. It is under the administration of Linyi City.The population was in 1999.- External links :*...

 in Shandong Province.

Yu the Great's attempt to stop the floods

Yu was highly trusted by Shun. So Shun appointed him to finish his father’s work which was to make the flooding stop. Yu’s method was different from his father’s; he united all the people of every tribe and ordered them to help him build canals in all the major rivers that were flooding and lead it out to the sea. He did this for 13 years, without going back to his home village. Legend says in those 13 years, he passed by his house three times without going in, which is a sign of his perseverance in his work. The people who noticed him praised his perseverance and were so inspired by him that other tribes joined in his work as well. In the end, after 13 years, he was successful in stopping the floods and was greatly praised by his people.

Establishment

Yu was successful in stopping the flooding and increased the produce from farming (since the floods usually destroy the crops), the Xia tribe’s influence strengthened and Yu became the leader of the surrounding tribes. Soon afterwards Shun sent Yu to lead an army to suppress the Sanmiao tribe who continuously abused the boundary tribes. After defeating them, he exiled them south to the Han River area. Their victory strengthened the Xia tribe’s power even more. Shun, since he was getting old, started to think to whom he will pass his throne to. Shun abdicated the throne in favor of Yu
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

, whom he deemed worthy. This succession of Yu as the king is the start of the Xia Dynasty.
Soon before his death, instead of passing power to the person deemed most capable to rule, Yu passed power to his son, Qi
Qi of Xia
Qi was the son of Yu the Great and the second sovereign of the Xia Dynasty. He ruled for approximately nine or ten years.According to legend, Yu married Nu Jiao and stayed at home for only three days before going back to stop a flood. While Yu was stopping the flood, Yu's wife had a son. He named...

, setting the precedence for dynastic rule or the Hereditary System. The Xia Dynasty began a period of family or clan control.

Jie
Jie of Xia
King Jie was the 17th and last ruler of the Xia dynasty of China. He is traditionally regarded as a tyrant and oppressor who brought about the collapse of a dynasty. Around 1600 BCE Jie was defeated by Shang Tang, bringing an end to the Xia Dynasty, that lasted about 500 years, and a rise to the...

, the last ruler, was said to be a corrupt king. He was overthrown by Tang
Tang of Shang
King Cheng Tang of Shang was the first ruling king of the Shang dynasty in Chinese history. He overthrew Jie, the last ruler of the Xia dynasty.-Early life:...

, the first king of the Shang dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

.

Qi state

After the defeat of Xia by Shang
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

, the imperial descendants scattered and were absorbed by the nearby clans, and some members of the royal family of Xia Dynasty survived as the Qi (Henan)
Qi (Henan)
Qi was a minor feudal state that appears in Chinese history from the beginning of the Shang Dynasty until the beginning of the Warring States Period, circa 445 BCE.-History:...

 state until 445 BC. The Qi state was well recorded in the Oracle script as the one major supporter of the Xia Dynasty. The Kings of the state of Yue
Yue (state)
Yue was a state in China which existed during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period , in the modern province of Zhejiang. During the Spring and Autumn Period, its capital was in Guiji , near the modern city of Shaoxing...

, and therefore its successor state Minyue, also claimed to be descended from Yu the Great
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

.

Modern skepticism

The Skeptical School
Yigupai
The Yigupai refers to a group of scholars and writers who show doubts and uncertainty of antiquity in the Chinese academia starting during the New Culture Movement, . Most of their criticism concerns the authenticity of pre-Qin texts and deals with questions put forward by the past dynastic...

 of early Chinese history, started by Gu Jiegang
Gu Jiegang
Gu Jiegang was a Chinese historian who is known best for his seven volume work Gushi Bian . He was a leading force in the Doubting Antiquity school.-Biography:...

 in the 1920s, was the first group of scholars within China to seriously question the traditional story of its early history: "the later the time, the longer the legendary period of earlier history... early Chinese history is a tale told and retold for generations, during which new elements were added to the front end". Yun Kuen Lee's criticism of nationalist sentiment in developing an explanation of Three Dynasties chronology focuses on the dichotomy of evidence provided by archaeological versus historical research, in particular the claim that the archaeological Erlitou Culture
Erlitou culture
The Erlitou culture is a name given by archaeologists to an Early Bronze Age urban society that existed in China from 2000 BCE to 1500 BCE. The culture was named after the site discovered at Erlitou in Yanshi, Henan Province...

 is also the historical Xia Dynasty. "How to fuse the archaeological dates with historical dates is a challenge to all chronological studies of early civilization."

In The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art and Cosmos in Early China, Sarah Allan
Sarah Allan
Sarah Allan is an American scholar of ancient China. She is presently a Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures, and of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College; formerly she taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University...

 noted that many aspects of the Xia are simply the opposite of traits held to be emblematic of the Shang dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

. The implied dualism between the Shang and Xia, Allan argues, is that while the Shang represent fire or the sun, birds and the east, the Xia represent the west and water. The development of this mythical Xia, Allan argues, is a necessary act on the part of the Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

, who justify their conquest of the Shang by noting that the Shang had supplanted the Xia.

Archaeological discoveries

Archaeologists have uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs that point to the possible existence of the Xia dynasty at locations cited in ancient Chinese historical texts. There exists a debate as to whether or not Erlitou culture
Erlitou culture
The Erlitou culture is a name given by archaeologists to an Early Bronze Age urban society that existed in China from 2000 BCE to 1500 BCE. The culture was named after the site discovered at Erlitou in Yanshi, Henan Province...

 was the site of the Xia dynasty. Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 places the site at ca. 2100 to 1800 BC, providing physical evidence of the existence of a state contemporaneous with and possibly equivalent to the Xia Dynasty as described in Chinese historical works. In 1959, a site located in the city of Yanshi
Yanshi
Yanshi is a county-level city administered by the prefecture-level city of Luoyang in western Henan province, People's Republic of China. The ancient Erlitou culture existed in the area. Yanshi lies on the Luo River. The ruins the first Shang Dynasty capital, Xibo, are located in Shixianggou...

 was excavated containing large palaces that some archaeologists have attributed to capital of the Xia Dynasty
Historical capitals of China
The Chinese phrase Four Great Ancient Capitals of China traditionally refers to Beijing , Nanjing, Luoyang, and Chang'an ....

. Through the 1960s and 1970s, archaeologists have uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs in the same locations cited in ancient Chinese historical texts regarding Xia; at a minimum, the Xia Dynasty marked an evolutionary stage between the late neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 cultures and the typical Chinese urban civilization of the Shang Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

.

Mythology

In Book 5 of Mozi, Mozi
Mozi
Mozi |Lat.]] as Micius, ca. 470 BC – ca. 391 BC), original name Mo Di , was a Chinese philosopher during the Hundred Schools of Thought period . Born in Tengzhou, Shandong Province, China, he founded the school of Mohism, and argued strongly against Confucianism and Daoism...

 (470 – c. 391 BC) described the founding of Xia with description of natural occurrences. Although some Chinese historians regard Mozi's account as mere myth with no historical basis, others regard it as a poetic description of the effects caused by a volcanic climate disturbance. "Sun coming out at night" may allude to the volcanic glow; "blood rain" may refer to a reddish rain caused by ash in the upper atmosphere; water turning to ice may denote unusually cold summer temperatures; the red ash may have been seen in the temple and interpreted as a sign of the dragon's recent presence.

Sovereigns of the Xia Dynasty

The following table lists the rulers of Xia according to Sima Qian's Shiji.
Unlike Sima Qian's list of Shang Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
The Shang Dynasty or Yin Dynasty was, according to traditional sources, the second Chinese dynasty, after the Xia. They ruled in the northeastern regions of the area known as "China proper" in the Yellow River valley...

 kings, which is closely matched by oracle bones from late in that period, records of Xia rulers have not yet been found in archeological excavations.
Posthumous Names (Shi Hao 諡號)1
Order Reign2 Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

Hanyu Pinyin Notes
01 45
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

also Yu the Great (大禹; dà yǔ)
02 10
Qi of Xia
Qi was the son of Yu the Great and the second sovereign of the Xia Dynasty. He ruled for approximately nine or ten years.According to legend, Yu married Nu Jiao and stayed at home for only three days before going back to stop a flood. While Yu was stopping the flood, Yu's wife had a son. He named...

 
03 29 太康 Tai Kang
Tai Kang
Tai Kang was the third sovereign of the Xia Dynasty. He was the son of Qi.He loved to hunt and did not rule well. Tai Kang drowned in a lake.He took the throne in the year of Guiwei .His capital was in Zhenxun ....

 
04 13 仲康 Zhòng Kāng  
05 28 Xiāng  
06 21 少康 Shào Kāng  
07 17 Zhù  
08 26 Huái  
09 18 Máng
Mang of Xia
Máng was the ninth ruler of the possibly legendary Xia Dynasty. He possibly ruled 18 years. He was also known as Huang .He took the throne in the year of Renshen...

 
10 16 Xiè
Xie of Xia
Xie was the 10th ruler of the possibly legendary Xia Dynasty,son of Mang . He possibly ruled 25 years according to Bamboo Annals.He ascended the throne in the year Xinwei ....

 
11 59 不降 Bù Jiàng
Bu Jiang of Xia
Bu Jiang was the 11th ruler of the possibly legendary Xia Dynasty. He possibly ruled 59 years.According to Bamboo Annals, on the 6th year of his regime, he fought with Jiuyuan ....

 
12 21 Jiōng
Jiong of Xia
Jiong was the 12th ruler of the semi-legendary Xia Dynasty. According to the Bamboo Annals, he ruled about 18 years, while according to the Records of the Grand Historian, he ruled about 21 years. He was the son of Xie, the younger brother of Bu Jiang and the father of Jin.He got his throne in the...

 
13 21 Jǐn
Jin of Xia
Jǐn was the 13th ruler of the semi-legendary Xia Dynasty. His other name is Yinjia , He probably ruled for about 21 years. According to Bamboo Annals, he moved the capital to West River . In the fourth year of Jin's reign, he missed his former hometown and made the music of West Sound...

Guoyu
Guoyu
Guoyu may mean or refer to:Language* the common term in Taiwan and Hong Kong for Standard Chinese, based on Mandarin Chinese* the Xianbei language during the Northern Wei Dynasty before its sinicization...

: jǐn or jìn, putonghua: jǐn
14 31 孔甲 Kǒng Jiǎ
Kong Jia of Xia
Kǒng Jiǎ was the 14th ruler of the semi-legendary Xia Dynasty. He possibly ruled 31 years.According to the Bamboo Annals, he lived in the Xia capital of West River ....

 
15 11 Gāo
Gao of Xia
Gāo was the 15th ruler of the semi-legendary Xia Dynasty. He possibly ruled 11 years.In the 3rd year of his regime, he restored the power of Tunwei , the noble who was deposed by Kong Jia, the previous king....

 
16 11
Fa of Xia
Emperor Fa was the 16th ruler of the Xia Dynasty, second to the infamous Jie who brought the dynasty to its end.His given name was Houjin . During his inaugural celebration, all of his vassals gathered at his palace. The first earthquake ever recorded took place at Mount Tai in modern Shandong...

 
17 52 Jié also Lu Gui (履癸 lǚ guǐ)
1 The reign name is sometimes preceded by the name of the dynasty, Xia (夏), for example Xia Yu (夏禹).
2 Possible length of reign, in years.

See also

  • Nine Provinces
  • Erlitou culture
    Erlitou culture
    The Erlitou culture is a name given by archaeologists to an Early Bronze Age urban society that existed in China from 2000 BCE to 1500 BCE. The culture was named after the site discovered at Erlitou in Yanshi, Henan Province...

  • List of Neolithic cultures of China

External links

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