Xia dynasty

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Xia dynasty
夏朝
Kingdom

 

c. 2070 BCE–c. 1600 BCE
Proposed location of the Xia dynasty
Capital Yangcheng
Languages Old Chinese
Government Monarchy
History
 -  Establishing of the Xia dynasty by Yu the Great c. 2070 BCE
 -  Qi of Xia succeeds the throne c. 2146 BCE
 -  Jie of Xia falls c. 1600 BCE
Xia dynasty
Chinese 夏朝

The Xia dynasty (Chinese: ; pinyin: Xià Cháo; Wade–Giles: Hsia-Ch'ao; IPA: [ɕiâ tʂʰɑ̌ʊ̯]; c. 2070 – c. 1600 BCE) is the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles such as Bamboo Annals, Classic of History and Records of the Grand Historian. The dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great[1] after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors, gave his throne to him. The Xia was later succeeded by the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BCE).

According to the traditional chronology based upon calculations by Liu Xin, the Xia ruled between 2205 and 1766 BCE; according to the chronology based upon the Bamboo Annals, it ruled between 1989 and 1558 BCE. The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project concluded that the Xia existed between 2070 and 1600 BCE. 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, 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 BCE can only come from archaeological evidence since China's first established written system on a durable medium, the oracle bone script, did not exist until then.[2] 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.[3]

Traditional history[edit]

The Xia dynasty was described in classic texts such as the Classic of History (Shujing), the Bamboo Annals, and the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) by Sima Qian. It has been documented that the tribe that founded the dynasty was the Huaxia, who were the ancestral people of the Han Chinese.[4][5]

Origins and early development[edit]

According to ancient Chinese texts, before the Xia dynasty was established, battles were frequent between the Xia tribe and Chi You's tribe. The Xia tribe slowly developed around the time of Zhuanxu, one of the legendary Five Emperors. The Records of the Grand Historian and the Classic of Rites say that Yu the Great is the grandson of Zhuanxu, but there are also other records, like Ban Gu, 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[edit]

Gun, the father of Yu the Great, is the earliest recorded member of the Xia clan. When the Yellow River flooded, many tribes united together to control and stop the flooding. Gun was appointed by Yao 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 in Jiangsu Province and Linshu County in Shandong Province.

Yu the Great's attempt to stop the floods[edit]

Yu was highly trusted by Shun, so Shun appointed him to finish his father’s work, which was to stop the flooding. Yu’s method was different from his father’s: he organized people from different tribes and ordered them to help him build canals in all the major rivers that were flooding and lead the water out to the sea. Yu was dedicated to his work. People praised his perseverance and were inspired, so much so that other tribes joined in the work. Legend says that in the 13 years it took him to successfully complete the work to stop the floods, he never went back to his home village to stop and rest, even though he passed by his house three times.

Establishment[edit]

Yu’s success in stopping the flooding increased agricultural production (since the floods were destructive). The Xia tribe’s power increased, 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 border tribes. After defeating them, he exiled them south to the Han River area. This victory strengthened the Xia tribe’s power even more. As Shun aged, he thought of a successor and relinquished the throne to Yu, whom he deemed worthy. Yu’s succession marks the start of the Xia dynasty. As Yu neared death he passed the throne to his son, Qi, instead of passing it to the most capable candidate, thus setting the precedent for dynastic rule or the Hereditary System. The Xia dynasty began a period of family or clan control.

Jie, the last king, was said to be corrupt. He was overthrown by Tang, the first king of the Shang dynasty.

Qi state[edit]

After the defeat of Xia by Shang, the imperial descendants scattered and were absorbed by the nearby clans,[6] and some members of the royal family of the Xia Dynasty survived as the Qi (Henan) state until 445 BC.[citation needed] The Qi state was well recorded in the Oracle script as the one major supporter of the Xia dynasty.[7] The Kings of the state of Yue, and therefore its successor state Minyue, also claimed to be descended from Yu the Great.[8]

Modern skepticism[edit]

The Skeptical School of early Chinese history, started by Gu Jiegang 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".[9] 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 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."[9]

In The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art and Cosmos in Early China, Sarah Allan noted that many aspects of the Xia are simply the opposite of traits held to be emblematic of the Shang dynasty. 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, who justify their conquest of the Shang by noting that the Shang had supplanted the Xia.

Archaeological discoveries[edit]

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 the Erlitou culture was the site of the Xia dynasty. Radiocarbon dating places the site at c. 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.[10] In 1959, a site located in the city of Yanshi was excavated containing large palaces that some archaeologists have attributed to capital of the Xia dynasty. 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;[11] at a minimum, the Xia dynasty marked an evolutionary stage between the late neolithic cultures and the typical Chinese urban civilization of the Shang dynasty.[11]

In 2011, Chinese archaeologists uncovered the remains of an imperial sized palace—dated to about 1700 BCE—at Erlitou in Henan, further fueling the discussions about the existence of the dynasty.[12]

Sovereigns of the Xia dynasty[edit]

The following table lists the rulers of Xia according to Sima Qian's Shiji. Unlike Sima's list of Shang dynasty kings, which is closely matched by inscriptions on 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 Pinyin Notes
01 45 Also Yu the Great (大禹; Dà Yǔ)
02 10 Son of Yu
03 29 太康 Tai Kang  
04 13 仲康 Zhòng Kāng  
05 28 Xiāng  
06 21 少康 Shào Kāng Restored the corrupt Xia dynasty
07 17 Zhù  
08 26 Huái  
09 18 Máng
10 16 Xiè Son of Mang
11 59 不降 Bù Jiàng  
12 21 Jiōng  
13 21 Jǐn Guoyu: Jǐn or Jìn, putonghua: Jǐn
14 31 孔甲 Kǒng Jiǎ  
15 11 Gāo  
16 11  
17 52 Jié Also Lu Gui (履癸, Lǚ Guǐ)
1 The reign name is sometimes preceded by the name of the dynasty, Xia (), for example Xia Yu (夏禹).
2 Possible length of reign, in years.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Mungello, David E. The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500–1800 Rowman & Littlefield; 3 edition (28 March 2009) ISBN 978-0-7425-5798-7 p.97.
  2. ^ Bagley, Robert. "Shang Archaeology." in The Cambridge History of Ancient China. Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  3. ^ Liu, L. & Xiu, H., "Rethinking Erlitou: legend, history and Chinese archaeology", Antiquity, 81:314 (2007) pp. 886–901.
  4. ^ Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio; Lai, David (1995). "War and Politics in Ancient China, 2700 BCE to 722 BCE.". The Journal of Conflict Resolution 39 (3): 471–472. 
  5. ^ Lung, Rachel (2011), Interpreters in early imperial China, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, p. 5, ISBN 978-90-272-2444-6 
  6. ^ 夏朝遗民流布情况概说
  7. ^ http://www.cnki.com.cn/Article/CJFDTOTAL-HBSS200503017.htm 夏代是杜撰的吗——与陈淳先生商榷 沈长云
  8. ^ The State of Yue
  9. ^ a b Yun Kuen Lee, "Building the Chronology of Early Chinese History". Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific, Vol. 41, 2002.
  10. ^ Fairbank, John K. China: A New History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992, page 35.
  11. ^ a b "China – the ancient dynasties". Library of Congress Country Studies. 
  12. ^ "China finds 3,600-year-old palace". People's Daily Online. 13 December 2011. 

References[edit]

  • Deady, Kathleen W. and Dubois, Muriel L., Ancient China. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2004.
  • Lee Yuan-Yuan and Shen, Sinyan. Chinese Musical Instruments (Chinese Music Monograph Series). 1999. Chinese Music Society of North America Press. ISBN 1-880464-03-9
  • Allan, Sarah (1991), The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art and Cosmos in Early China (S U N Y Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture). State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-0459-1
  • Allan, Sarah, "Erlitou and the Formation of Chinese Civilization: Toward a New Paradigm", The Journal of Asian Studies, 66:461–496 Cambridge University Press, 2007
  • Mair, Victor H. (2013), with contributions by E. Bruce Brooks, "Was There a Xià Dynasty?", Sino-Platonic Papers 238.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
San Huang Wu Di
Dynasties in Chinese history
21001600 BC
Succeeded by
Shang dynasty