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The Cultural Revolution in China 4 China Early Dwellers in China

The Xia Dynasty (21st century BC-16th century BC), the first dynasty that emerged in China 4,100 years ago, was founded by Qi, son of Great Yu who conquered floods and tamed rivers. 

The Xia dynasty, which was a slave-owning society, was overthrown by warriors commanded by Shang Tang, the founder of the Shang Dynasty(16th century BC-11th century BC)during which the slave-owning system developed with the growth of farm and handicraft production. 

The art of smelting and casting bronze reached a higher level of development in this period during which recorded history commenced in China. As paper was then unknown, some of the writings in Shang time were cast in bronze, and some inscribed on tortoise shells or animal bones.

The Shang Dynasty was superseded by the Western Zhou Dynasty(11th century BC-771BC)during which the slave-owning system grew more prosperous. The Western Zhou rulers instituted an enfeoffment system under which nobles were invested with hereditary titles as well as land along with the slaves working on it. 

Introduced then was the "9-square pattern" of farming in which a tract of land was partitioned into nine squares. The eight outer squares were allocated to slaves who had to work the central square gratis for their masters.

The Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC) witnessed the advent of the ox as a draught animal and the use of iron implements on the farm. This boosted farm output and made it possible for the opening up of more land for crop cultivation. 

As a result, more farmland came under private ownership and the disintegration of the slave system commenced to give way for a feudal society.

The up-and-coming land-owning or landlord class introduced reforms to change the land ownership system to its own advantage at the beginning of the Warring States Period(475BC-221BC). There were then seven vassal states contending with one another for hegemony. 

In the struggle for supremacy, the state of Qin based in Shaanxi Province, which had become powerful because of the fact that it had adopted drastic measures to reform the land ownership system, conquered all the other states to establish the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), the first centralized, autocratic feudal empire in China. This was a signal victory for the new landlord class.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin Dynasty carried out a lot of reform measures, including standardization of weights and measures and the initiation of a single currency and a unitary script, etc. While building a network of roads across the land, he conscripted 300,000 laborers to build the Great Wall and dispatched 500,000 warriors to garrison Lingnan (present-day Guangdong Province) and 700,000 men to erect his mausoleum. 

The Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum along with a big army of life-sized terra cotta warriors and battle steeds, which have been unearthed in the city of Xi'an, are a big attraction for tourists from all over the world.

Pauperized by such extravagances, the peasant masses rose up in arms and overthrew the Qin rulers to set up the Western Han Dynasty (202BC-AD8).

During this dynastic period agriculture and handicraft made marked progress along with the flourishing of science, culture and the arts. Links between the different ethnic groups in the country were strengthened and exchanges with the outside world broadened. Zhang Qian, a diplomat of that time, who was dispatched as envoy to the Western Regions, opened the world-famous Silk Road.



Dynasties in China 1 Dynasties in China 2 A Brief Chinese Chronology