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From Myth To History:the Xia,Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties(China)

Updated on January 16, 2015

Goddess Nü Wa and Pan Gu

Goddess Nü Wa
Goddess Nü Wa
The Myth of Pan Gu
The Myth of Pan Gu

Goddess Nü Wa,The myth of Pan Gu

The Chinese had a number of myths to explain the origins of the univers.In some myths,either misty and pure vapors,or yin and yang generated or transformed into the myriad things.In another,the goddess Nü Wa kneaded aristocrats from yellow earth,and poor commeners from brown mud.A later myth tells of Pan Gu,who was born in a chaotic mixture of Haeven an Earth,like a chicken`s egg.For eighteen thousand years he grew,and as he grew,Haeven and Earth were separated.When he died,his body parts and vital fluids were transformed into the sun,moon,and other heavenly bodies and the waters,rivers,plants,metals,and rocks of the earth,while "the mites on his body were touched by the wind and were turned into the black-haired people[the Chinese]".

The Xia dynasty

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.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.According to the traditional chronology based upon calculations by Liu Xin, the Xia ruled between 2205 and 1766 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 ofHeaven, 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.


Goddess Nü Wa

Goddess Nü Wa who created human beings
Goddess Nü Wa who created human beings

The Yellow Emperor

Yellow Emperor
Yellow Emperor
Dancers perform during a ceremony to honor Huangdi , the Yellow Emperor , in Huangling county of Northwest China ' s Shaanxi
Dancers perform during a ceremony to honor Huangdi , the Yellow Emperor , in Huangling county of Northwest China ' s Shaanxi
People strike a bell during a public memorial ceremony at the Mausoleum of Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor), a legendary ancestor of the Chinese nation
People strike a bell during a public memorial ceremony at the Mausoleum of Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor), a legendary ancestor of the Chinese nation
"The Yellow Emperor" by Micah Gunnell
"The Yellow Emperor" by Micah Gunnell
The Yellow Emperor. Illustrated by Blue Hsiao, Epoch Times Staff
The Yellow Emperor. Illustrated by Blue Hsiao, Epoch Times Staff

The Yellow Emperor

Of greater interest to the Chinese were myths that described the origins of human society,culture and government.Their mythical accounts began with a series of culture heroes who taught the common people how to build houses,cultivate crops and distinguish beneficial plants from poisonous ones,and invented marketing.One of these mytical rulers,Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor),was said to have reigned for one hundred years,beginning in 2697 BCE.He is described as a heroic character who defeated a number of enemies and absorbed their territories.He was also said to have invented bureaucracy,writing,sericulture,medicine,boats and wheeled vehicles.

Book

Chinese Myths and Legends (Introductions to Chinese Culture)
Chinese Myths and Legends (Introductions to Chinese Culture)

Utilising a variety of ancient Chinese sources, Chen Lianshan examines the origin and development of myths and legends in China, including both well-known and less familiar traditions, and compares these traditions to the mythology of the ancient western world.

 

Yao,Shun and Yu

The next significant rulers in this mythical history were the "three sage kings" :Yao ,Shun and Yu.All three were said to have been benevolent,wise rulers.Yao passed over his sons to give the throne to the most suitable man in the kingdom,Shun,as did Shun when he passed the throne to Yu.The myths describe Shun as a model of filial piety,showing love and respect in spite of the fact that his blind father,his stepmother,and his younger stepbrother were evil and morally bankrupt and attempted to murder him.Yu is best known for the stories of how he controlled the floods of the Yellow River by channeling the water to the sea,working tirelessly for thirteen years at the task.Yu also established the principle of dynastic rule:he is said to have passed the throne to his son,thereby founding the first dynasty,the Xia.

The Shang Dynasty

Many events concerning the Shang dynasty are mentioned in various Chinese classics, including the Book of Documents, the Mencius and the Commentary of Zuo. Working from all the available documents, the Han dynasty historian Sima Qian assembled a sequential account of the Shang dynasty as part of his Records of the Grand Historian. His history describes some events in detail, while in other cases only the name of a king is given.A closely related, but slightly different, account is given by the Bamboo Annals. The Annals were interred in 296 BC, but the text has a complex history and the authenticity of the surviving versions is controversial.The name Yīn (殷) is used by Sima Qian for the dynasty, and in the Bamboo Annals for both the dynasty and its final capital. It has been a popular name for the Shang throughout history, and is often used specifically to describe the later half of the Shang dynasty. In Japan and Korea, the Shang are still referred to almost exclusively as the Yin (In) dynasty. However it seems to have been the Zhou name for the earlier dynasty. The word does not appear in the oracle bones, which refer to the state as Shāng, and the capital as Dàyì Shāng (大邑商 "Great settlement Shang").According to the traditional chronology based upon calculations made approximately 2,000 years ago by Liu Xin, the Shang ruled from 1766 BC to 1122 BC, but according to the chronology based upon the "current text" of Bamboo Annals, they ruled from 1556 BC to 1046 BC. The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project dated them from c. 1600 BC to 1046 BC.

Yao,Shang Dynasty

Yao
Yao
Shang bronze
Shang bronze
human face,Shang bronze
human face,Shang bronze

The Heroes Cheng Tang and Wen Wang

According to traditional Chinese historical accounts,Yu`sdecendants ruled over the Xia kingdom for generations until the time of Jie,the evil and lustful last king of Xia.Then,a hero named Cheng Tang overthrew the Xia dynasty by force and established a new dynasty,the Shang.Cheng Tang`s descendants then ruled until their last king,who,with his nobles,had descended into a life of cruelty,misrule,sesuality and alcoholism.A new hero,Wen Wang,arose in the west,and he and his son Wu Wang,overthrew the Shang and founded the third Chinese dynasty,the Zhou.

The Zhou Dynasty

According to Chinese mythology, the Zhou (c. 1046–256 BC) lineage began when Jiang Yuan, a consort of the legendary Emperor Ku miraculously conceived Qi ( "the Abandoned One") after stepping into a divine footprint.Qi was a culture hero credited with surviving three abandonments by his mother and with greatly improving Xia agriculture,to the point where he was granted lordship over Tai and the ancestral name Ji by his own Xia king and a later posthumous name (Houji, "Lord of Millet") by the Shang king Tang. He even received sacrifice as a harvest god.Qi's son Buzhu abandoned his position at court and either he or his son Ju abandoned agriculture entirely, living a nomadic life in the manner of their Rong and Di barbarian neighbors.Ju's son Duke Liu,however, led his people to prosperity by restoring agriculture and settling them at a place called Bin,which his descendants ruled for generations. Old Duke Danfu later led the clan from Bin to Zhou, an area in the Wei River valley of modern-day Qishan County.

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Art Zhou Dynasty

Bronze Wine Vessels of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties
Bronze Wine Vessels of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties
Elephant-shaped Bronze,Zhou Dynasty
Elephant-shaped Bronze,Zhou Dynasty
Ceremonial bronze,Zhou Dynasty
Ceremonial bronze,Zhou Dynasty
A Rare Eastern Zhou Dynasty Jade
A Rare Eastern Zhou Dynasty Jade
A Rare Eastern Zhou Dynasty Jade
A Rare Eastern Zhou Dynasty Jade

Watch

Nature Wonders - Lijiang River - China
Nature Wonders - Lijiang River - China

Unlike the hustle and bustle of the nearby city of Guilin, in the Guangxi region situated in the heart of China the landscape that follows the Lijiang River has a rural and idyllic atmosphere. Rural life here is blessed with beautiful scenery and the landscape around Guilin is synonymous with the magnificence of the legendary Middle Empire.Numerous stalactites and stalagmites lie within the caves of the region's impressive mountains. Some of the caves, such as the Reed Cave, have in recent years been open to the public. Striking precipices and rock needles unite in a stunningly beautiful panorama full of glorious mystique. Here both wind and water have created a truly remarkable mountain world.In daytime the gravel banks along the shores of the Lijiang are frequented by farmers who lead their buffalo to drink from the river. The local cormorant fishermen are an even more exotic sight. They use captive water birds to attract fish and because their necks are secured to their master they are forced to submit their catch to him!It is not surprising that due to the overwhelming beauty of the surrounding mountains that this section of the Lijiang River is one of the most impressive natural landscapes in the whole of China.

 

Book

Understanding China: A Guide to China's Economy, History, and Political Culture
Understanding China: A Guide to China's Economy, History, and Political Culture

After ten years, John Bryan Starr has thoroughly revised and updated his classic introduction to the background of, the data about, and the issues at stake in China’s present and future. In the new edition, Starr seamlessly weaves in additional material on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese government’s ongoing efforts to curb the influence of the Internet, and the intensifying trade disputes between the United States and China. Succinct, modest, and refreshingly forthright, Understanding China remains a necessary guide for the uninitiated to everything from the Chinese economy and political system, to its intellectual freedoms and human rights, to its relationship with the rest of the world.

 

The myth of Pan Gu

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