A History of China

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

The human record in China can be traced back at least 1.7 million years with the discovery in southwest China of fossils known as Yuanmou man, a closely related ancestor of modern man. Another protohuman toolmaker called Peking man lived about 500,000 years ago in North China. By about 25,000 , also in the vicinity of Beijing (Peking), a fully advanced human, sometimes referred to as Upper Cave man, hunted and fished and made shell and bone artifacts.


Although fossil remains of early humans have been discovered in various other places in China, the North — especially the fertile region watered by the Huang He (Hwang Ho, or Yellow River) — was the nuclear area of ancient Chinese civilization. There, and also along the southeastern coast, the switch from hunting-gathering methods of food collection to an agricultural way of life first occurred in China sometime during the 6th to the 5th millennium , a development that was independent of the Near Eastern Neolithic revolution.

During the first phase of the Chinese Neolithic Period (c.5000–2500 ), called Yangshao (Yang-shao) after the first associated site, farmers employed primitive techniques of cultivation, shifted their villages as the soils became exhausted, and lived in semisubterranean houses in the region of modern central Shaanxi (Shensi), southwestern Shanxi (Shansi), and western Henan (Honan) provinces. Their handcrafted, painted pottery occasionally bears a single incised sign that may be a forerunner of Chinese writing. During the second, or Longshan (Lung-shan), phase (c.2500–1000 ) agriculture became more advanced. Farmers lived in more permanent settlements and began a wide-spreading cultural expansion into the eastern plains, Manchuria, and Central and South China. Longshan farmers worshiped their ancestors, a Chinese custom that still persists. (See also Chinese archaeology.)

  • Subjects:
    Asian History, Asia, Politics, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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