China Ch.1, Traditional Historical Legends and Three Ancient Dynasties

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What you're reviewing: 1. China's traditional beliefs about the legendary "heroes" who created Chinese civilization (and how radically different these "origin myths" are from the West's Judeo-Christian-Islamic ones); 2. The names and dates of the Three Ancient Dynasties. (I won't pile a lot of names and dates on, but you should know the basics. It gets interesting after you can talk about these things with insight and opinion.) From Patricia Ebrey's C…

2000-1600 bce

Xia

c. 1600-1050 bce

Shang

c. 1050-771

Western Zhou

Xia, Shang, Zhou

Three Ancient Dynasties, in order

legendary "founder": 1) domesticated animals, 2) invented family

Fu Xi

legendary "founder": invented 1) plough; 2) hoe

Shen Nong

First of the legendary "Five August Rulers" of Ancient China:
invented:
1) bow and arrow (hunting and defense)
2) boats (sailing)
3) carts (wheeled transport)
4) ceramics (pots, toys, etc)
5) writing
6) silk
Fought barbarian tribes, secured the Yellow River (Huang He) for Chinese "race"

Huang Di, the "Yellow Emperor" (or "Yellow Lord")

4th of the legendary "Five August Rulers" of Ancient China.
"Invented":
1) calendar
2) RITUALS
3) rewarded SHUN for FILIAL PIETY by handing the crown NOT to his spoiled, disrespectful son (dynastic succession), but to the PEASANT Shun. MORAL-ETHICAL MERIT, NOT BLOOD or WEALTH, respected in Chinese pre-history in this legend.

Yao

5th of the legendary "Five August Rulers."
PEASANT, with "evil" parents whom _he still honored anyway_.
Appointed Yu to tackle the Great Flood.

Shun

FIRST RULER OF (so-far legendary) XIA DYNASTY.
Tamed the Yellow River by irrigating, re-directing, dredging (deepening), diking, and other MASSIVE ENGINEERING WORKS. Did it 10 straight years without stopping to see his family (PUBLIC SERVICE A VIRTUE).
APPOINTED SUCCESSOR for merit, but the people wanted a DYNASTY, so they turned to Yu's son.

Yu

China's earliest history book, though much of it is clearly legendary. (Think of the Old Testament in the Bible, which is similarly a mixture of history and myth.)
One of the FIVE CONFUCIAN CLASSICS, written around 600 bce.
Confucius loved and praised it, so China "canonized" it as a great book, kind of like a book of the Bible to the West.
Tells Xia, Shang, and Zhou history.

The Shujing (Book of History)

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