The Huang River Valley of China gave rise to one of four cradles of civilization on earth. From 8,000 to 4,000 years ago, primitive humans developed agriculture, domestication of animals, hierarchical social organization, ideographic communication, and other cornerstones of society. River valleys, such as those surrounding the Nile and the Indus, were the most viable centers for civilization because they provided water for drinking and irrigation, seasonal floods to enrich soil for farming, and a navigable trade route.
The Huang He River, also known as the Yellow River, flows across Northern China for 3,400 miles (5500 km), with its middle part forming the Huang River Valley. Heavy summer precipitation in the Kunlun Mountains feeds the river's western beginnings with water and a kind of topsoil called loess. Loess, which also gives the river its remarkable yellow color, is a kind of silt, ideal for growing crops. The Huang He River, nicknamed "China's Sorrow," erratically floods the middle plains, having killed countless people over centuries. However, the beneficial floods deposited nutrient-rich loess in a low area of the Huang River Valley, creating the raised, flat loess plateau called the Tai Yuan where humans established a neolithic community.
As far back as 8000 years ago, the Tai Yuan was not as eroded as it is today. Then, the Huang River Valley boasted the best location in China for early humans to develop excess food stores, protect their settlements from roving tribes competing for resources, and create permanent dwellings. Humans moved from egalitarian societies that hunted and gathered, yet always remained on the edge of starvation, to patriarchal communities with divided labor. This social organization distributed resources in a way to promote other advances.
Among the many innovations of the people of the Huang River Valley were a primitive writing in ideographic characters, irrigation canals to water crops, ritualized burials for exalted rulers, and dikes and levees to control the flooding of the Huang He. Early Chinese settlers raised many crops, like wheat and rice, peaches and grapes, green onions and ginger root. They even domesticated pigs. Later, ca. 3000 years ago, they began to forge bronze, form ceramics on a pottery wheel, weave silk, and write on paper. In modern times, the people of this region continue to combat flooding by building a large-scale dam across the Yellow River.