In Ancient China, the word “dynasty” referred to a bloodline of rulers who would control a country, and who would pass the title from one generation of the family to the next.
The Xia Dynasty was the first dynasty in Ancient China. It was established around 2070 BC and lasted until approximately 1600 BC.
For a long time, historians believed that the Xia Dynasty was just a legend. It was so old, there was barely any evidence left of it by the time people started to search for it.
However, excavations in the late 1900s uncovered historical sites and locations which matched up with the “legends” of the Xia Dynasty.
The Xia Dynasty’s origins are rooted in stories of the first emperor of Ancient China – the Yellow Emperor, Huang-ti, who is credited with the creation of Chinese government and culture.
Though Huang-ti did not officially start the Xia Dynasty, he was the one who laid the foundation which the Xia Dynasty would operate on.
This is because Huang-ti was the first tribal leader to rise up to a real government position. He ruled the region of Shandong between 2697-2597 BC. It is believed that he invented many of the musical instruments used in Ancient China.
He also helped to develop the production of silk, installed a strong system of agriculture in Ancient China, and laid the foundation for the country’s first system of law and order.
When he died, he was buried in Huangling County, in the Shaanxi Province. The “mausoleum” (tomb) where he was buried is today a popular tourist attraction.
After his death, Huang-ti was succeeded by his grandson Zhuanxu. Zhuanxu was one of the famous Five Emperors, and he founded the Xia tribe.
The Xia tribe established the first dynasty in China years later under the leadership of Emperor Yao. Yao controlled the development of cities in Ancient China.
He ordered the construction of great palaces for emperors and government workers to live in and was in charge of the transformation of small villages into urban centers. Yao was the first “philosopher king” of Ancient China.
He was a deep thinker who ruled his people wisely and worked in their best interests following the legacy of Huang-ti which had been left behind so many years before.
A famous story from the Xia Dynasty is about a problem that Yao faced as emperor. During his rule, there was a serious issue of flooding in China where the Yellow River would continually burst its banks.
This would cause a lot of damage to the country’s agriculture, as well as to the homes of people, and many people drowned as a result.
Yao appointed a man called Gun to solve this problem. Gun was believed to be an almost divine figure at the time – however, even after nine full years of trying, Gun could not stop the flooding.
By this time, Yao had given up his rule and had been succeeded by a man named Yu Shun. Yu-Shun was not pleased with Gun’s failure and put him in prison as punishment.
Gun’s son – who was also named Yu – was appointed to take over the operation to stop the flooding.
(Before you get confused since both of these men were called Yu, I will be calling “Yu Shun” Emperor Shun from here on! What bad luck they had the same names!)
Yu’s project to end the flooding ran for thirteen years. He never went home once in these thirteen years – even though his colleagues encouraged him to go home to his wife and child, Yu refused.
He would not abandon his post until the job was completed. His dedication inspired those around him, and the people of Ancient China began to look up to him as a role model.
Eventually, by working together with the people, Yu was able to end the flooding – and shortly afterward, he took over from Emperor Shun and became a ruler.
Yu ruled for 45 years. When he died, his son Qi took over from him – which began the system of dynastic succession which Ancient China was known for.
The Xia Dynasty remained in control of China until 1675 BC, when the last of the Xia emperors – the cruel, tyrant Emperor Jie – was overthrown.