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What is Xia Dynasty?

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  • Written By: Licia Morrow
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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The first recorded dynasty of China is the Xia Dynasty, which lasted from the 21st century to the 16th century BCE. This dynasty transformed China from a primitive society to a class society. It lasted over 500 years and saw 17 emperors rule over the nation. Historians have have concluded that most of the population of the Xia Dynasty lived in the western Henan Provice and the southern Shanxi Province. The Xia Dynasty contributed much to Chinese culture, economy, art, science, technology, and politics.

Yu the Great set up the original Xia Dynasty under the system of abdication, which focused on the abilities of a ruler. His son, Qi, succeeded him and from that point forward, the throne was given to members of his families under a system of heredity, thereby rewarding the title of emperor based on family ties. After his death, Qi was succeeded by 15 of his offspring.

At the time the Xia reign was in place, people were mostly farmers and used tools made of bone or stone. Horse breeding, livestock, and the production of crops received much attention and these areas were greatly improved upon. Legend has it that winemaking was also attempted during this period. Although it was likely primitive in nature, vehicular transport did exist; however, not much is known about the types of carriages or rickshaws that were used.

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The tracking of time was an important development during the Xia Dynasty as China began using a calendar for the first time. Months and days were tracked using the sun and moon, stars, and weather. Other important developments in science and technology include the development of pottery and bronze.

One very important element of the Xia Dynasty was the existence of the Erlitou Culture, which is believed to have occurred in 1,900 BCE, between the Longshan and Shang cultures. The Erlitou culture is characterized by several examples of pottery, bronze, and other types of artifacts uncovered by archaeologists. It is believed that elaborate tombs and palaces were constructed during the period, which gives great insight into the wealth and lifestyle of the Xia period.

The last Xia emperor was Jie, known for his tyrannical reign. He lived an elaborate lifestyle and murdered members of his own court. The misery that his reign inflicted upon the people caused them to rise up against him and overthrow his court, leading to the establishment of the Shang Dynasty.

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