Where did China come from? What is China’s history? How did China become one of the leading countries of today?
Those are great questions, and not always easy to answer. To do so you need to go back to the dawn of time and the very first people that came to ancient China.
These ancient cultures existed as long as 10,000 years ago and they’d form the basis for the first Chinese dynasty in 2070 BC, the Xia Dynasty.
Long before that, however, there were ancient myths and beliefs. These include the Creation Myths and Great Flood Myth of China as well as many more. They involve a myriad of ancient gods and deities, such as the Jade Emperor, Shangdi, the Yellow Emperor, and Nuwu.
Sometimes the individuals from those myths would lead men on earth. Yes, it was a strange time 5,000 years ago and even earlier, and to the Chinese back then and today these mythical people were real and walked the earth. Their stories are told here.
The Mandate of Heaven
A simple idea began even before the first dynasties, an idea that Heaven allowed individuals to rule only when they were just and benevolent. When they were not, large-scale environmental disasters would occur and their reigns would be marked by debauchery and excess. This was seen at both the end of the Xia Dynasty and the Shang Dynasty.
Always a new group of leaders would emerge, leaders not afraid to do what was right and rule with the people’s interests at heart. This Mandate of Heaven idea would continue well into the subsequent centuries as the Zhou Dynasty consolidated its power. But a common theme had already emerged, one that was almost cyclical in its nature.
A family would come to power on the heels of an old, one that had lost the Mandate of Heaven to rule. This change was often seen long beforehand with natural disasters, strange phenomenon, and terrible acts of barbarity. Yet after a period of time those same just and benevolent rulers would see their line diluted with the taint that had so afflicted that which had come before. The process would repeat itself, time and time again.
The Historiography of Ancient China
Wars were fought, lives were lived and loves were lost in ancient China, and yet we barely know it today. All of this happened before 1060 BC and most of it is a mystery to those in the West, and even to modern Chinese.
After all, China launched the Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project in 1996 to better study these ancient times. In reality they rewrote most histories involving these ancient peoples that preceded the Han Chinese. They did this to cement their superior place in the world. Ever since 2000 their version of events has been read by the nation’s school children, not necessarily the history that really happened.
This isn’t shocking, for anyone that’s studied ancient Chinese history knows that this was done before, most notably after Qin Shi Huang took power following the Warring States period of Chinese history in 221 BC. And unlike the XSZ Project, this ancient Chinese emperor didn’t just change history, he burned it and anyone talking about it.
Thankfully records were saved. The house where Confucius lived gives us some of the sources we use, for they were holed-up in a wall there to escape the burning of records so long ago.
All of that of course precedes our own ancient history of China. To better understand the country at the forefront of the world today we have to go back to the very beginnings. Do that with From Heaven to Earth and learn why so many throughout the ages have been mesmerized by this foreign land.