How Old Is Chinese Culture

The Oldest Living Civilization

During his missionary studies in China, an elderly missionary student made the observation that Chinese history is “distant, repetitive, opaque, and, worst of all, there is just too much of it.” In terms of written history, China has the longest continuous history of any country on the planet, with 3,500 years of documented history. And even 3,500 years ago China’s civilisation was ancient! Considering history as a perplexing list of who begat whom, who succeeded whom, who slaughtered whom, with just the odd concubine tossed in for human interest is disappointing to a student in and of itself.

Many people believe that, in terms of art and philosophy, no civilization has ever excelled that of China throughout its great creative times.

Examples include: paper, gunpowder, the compass, silk, tea, and porcelain.

We Were Once the “Backward” Ones

When it comes to instilling a new and genuine respect for the Chinese people, nothing beats a quick glance into their history. Chinese people are generally considered to be a “backward” people who are less civilized than we are, and it is true that they have lagged behind the procession of what we carelessly refer to as civilization—mechanization and the fruits of scientific discovery—in the last hundred years. However, they are only now beginning to catch up. There are a variety of factors contributing to this temporary regress, which we shall discuss further later.

Until the Opium War of 1840–42, European traders and voyagers who visited the faraway continent of China were filled with awe, believing the Chinese to be a nation of superior knowledge and civilization.

He loved the widespread usage of paper money in China, despite the fact that he was originally from the banking and commercial center of Venice.

Western World Dynasties Chinese World
B.C. Hammurabi HSIA
1800 BRONZE AGE NEOLITHIC AGE. Agricultural communities in Yellow River valley cultivated loess soil with stone tools. Domesticated dog and pig. Hunting and fishing tribes in Yangtse valley.
SHANG
1700
1600
1500 EGYPTIAN NEW EMPIRE BRONZE AGE. Primitive Yellow River city states. Probable use of irrigation. Shang-inscribed bones give base line of history. Sheep and goats domesticated. Writing. Beautiful bronze castings. Potter’s wheel. Stone carving. Silk culture and weaving. Wheeled vehicles.
Moses
1400
1300
Trojan War
1200
1100 CHOU ANCIENT FEUDALISM. Expansion from Yellow River to Yangtse valley. “City and country” cells. Increased irrigation. Eunuchs. Horse-drawn war chariots. 841 B.C. earliest authenticated date.
IRON AGE
1000 Solomon
900 Lycurgus
800 Carthage founded
Glass.
700 Hebrew prophets
Greek lyric poets
600 IRON AGE. Round coins. Magnetism known.
CLASSICAL PERIOD. Confucius. Lao-tze.
500 Persian Wars
Socrates
400 Plato
Aristotle Mencius.
300 Alexander Bronze mirrors.
Punic Wars BEGINNING OF EMPIRE. Great Wall.
200 CHIN Palace architecture. Trade through Central Asia with Roman Empire. Ink
Carthage and Corinth destroyed HAN
100
A.D. Birth of Christ First Buddhist influences.
Jerusalem destroyed
100 Paper.
Marcus Aurelius
200 3 KINGDOMS (CHIN; WEI; SUNG, CHI, LIANG, CHEN)
Tea.
300 Constantine Political disunity but cultural progress and spread.
Roman Empire divided
400 Buddhism flourishing. Use of coal.
Odoacer takes Rome Trade with Indo-China and Siam.
500
Justinian
600 SUI Large-scale unification. Grand Canal.
Mohammed’s Hegira TANG ZENITH OF CULTURE. Chinese culture reaches Japan. Turk and Tungus alliances.
700
Moslems stopped at Tours Revival of Confucianism weakens power of Buddhist monasteries. Mohammedanism. Cotton from India. Porcelain. First printed book. State examinations organized. Rise of Khitan. Foot binding. Poetry, painting, sculpture.
800 Charlemagne
Alfred
900
Holy Roman Empire 5 DYNASTIES
1000 LIAO, CHIN, SUNG Wang An-shih.
CRUSADES Classical Renaissance. Paper money.
1100 Rise of Jurchid. Compass.
Navigation and mathematics.
1200 Magna Carta MONGOL AGE. Jenghis Khan. Marco Polo. Franciscans.
1300 RENAISSANCE YUAN Operatic theater. Novels.
Lamaism.
1400 Printing in Europe MING Yung Lo builds Peking.
Turks take Constantinople Period of restoration and stagnation.
1500 AGE OF DISCOVERY Portuguese traders arrive.
Clash with Japan over Korea.
1600 Religious Wars Nurhachi.
1700 American, French, Industrial Revolutions CHING Critical scholarship.
Canton open to Western trade.
1800 Treaties with Western powers. Spread of
Western culture. Taiping Rebellion.
1900 First World War Boxer Rebellion. 1911 Revolution. Nationalist
Russian Revolution REPUBLIC Revolution. Unification under Chiang Kai-shek.
Second World War Japanese invasion and World War II.

The culture of ancient China was comparable to that of European civilization before the Industrial Revolution, and in many respects it was superior to it. As a result of the extensive use of irrigation in Chinese agriculture, it was more sophisticated and productive than that of Europe; in addition, the extensive network of canals that delivered water for irrigation also enabled inexpensive transportation. While malting such goods as porcelain and silk, the Chinese bad achieved a high degree of technique and art, and in general, the guild artisans of their towns were at least on par with those of the cities of pre-industrial Europe.

They possessed vast government and financial statistics at a period when Europe has virtually little such information.

It depicts what was happening in China at the time of well-known events in the Western world, as depicted in the historical chart.

The chart’s centre column depicts a sequence of Chinese dynasties from the first to the last.

One governing family reigned for several hundred years during the course of a dynasty, and some families held power for many hundred years until being toppled either by another Chinese family or by barbarians from the north.

In the Beginning

It is believed that the Chinese people are the direct descendants of the prehistoric cave men who lived in northern China hundreds of thousands of years ago, as opposed to our own early immigrants, who came to the country from someplace else. Chinese civilisation as we know it initially emerged near the vast bend of the Yellow River, where the land was soft and readily worked by the rudimentary tools of China’s Stone Age ancestors who lived before 3000 B.C. Chinese civilization developed from primitive Stone Age men to men who could domesticate animals, cultivate land, make beautiful bronze weapons and utensils, build walled cities, and produce great philosophers such as Confucius after spreading north, east, and south from the Yellow River, sometimes absorbing aboriginal tribes along the way.

China did not become an unified empire until 221 B.C., when the last of the country’s feudal kingdoms fell, despite the fact that they had been loosely federated under an emperor for centuries.

to 1911 A.D., the imperial system of administration was in place.

The goal of this magnificent feat of engineering was to safeguard the established Chinese population from invasions by barbarian nomads who lived outside the walls of the fortress.

How Dynasties Rose and Fell

It is possible to see a pattern in the rise and fall of dynasties across China’s 2,000-year history. After a period of battle and hunger had decreased the population to the point where there was enough land and food to go around, a dynasty would come into control. Among the many benefits would be economic prosperity, a cultured, sophisticated, and sumptuous court, families of great wealth and culture dispersed across the land, and a burgeoning of art, literature, and philosophy. Then, as the population grew and the fields were split, the landlords refused to pay taxes, undermining the government while collecting ever-increasing rent from the peasants.

  • Peasant uprisings would be brutal and widespread.
  • Once in power, a successful war lord would need to enlist the aid of academics who were well-versed in administration and record-keeping to assist him in his endeavors.
  • While they were busy establishing a government service for the new dynasty, they were also busy establishing landed estates for themselves and their descendants.
  • Nomad soldiers from outside the Great Wall of China have established empires on several occasions.
  • It is stated that China has always assimilated the conquerors who have come to her.

Before the Japanese invasion, her conquerors were barbarians who looked up to China’s greater culture and quickly accepted its ways of life. The armored automobiles and tanks of a highly mechanical civilisation are not as easily absorbed as earlier civilizations.

Of What Use Today Is an Old Civilization?

“What good does it do the Chinese to have such a long-standing civilization?” one might wonder. There is a very substantial benefit, which tourists to China frequently perceive even when they are unable to articulate it. Because the principles of culture and civilized living have been present in China for such a long period of time, they have permeated the whole population. The instincts and demeanor of a well-educated guy are likely to be present in even the poorest Chinese with no formal schooling.

Even if he only knows the history of his nation and his native region through tale and folklore rather than through reading, he nevertheless knows a lot about it—and in most cases, a startling amount of it.

From EM 42: Our Chinese Friend (1944)

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Is Chinese Civilization Really Thousands of Years Older than America’s?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/edward stojakovic As bilateral ties between China and the United States continue to worsen amid charges ranging from intellectual property theft to rising tensions in the South China Sea, it is instructive to consider a comment made by the Chinese government that is frequently cited in the media. Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, was questioned by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in July, and he opened his interview by declaring, “Actually, the Chinese culture has been there for almost 5,000 years, which is far older than the United States.” Most foreigners, and particularly Americans, who have lived in China for an extended period of time are well acquainted with this contrast.

  • It is also an overt attempt to place America in what the Chinese regard to be its appropriate historical position.
  • Although what is frequently referred to as “the 5,000 history speech” is an obvious effort at one-upmanship, the problem is that it is based on a misleading comparison that does not stand up under careful scrutiny, as is the case with this speech.
  • As a result, the comparison between “American civilisation” and the present nation-state of the United States is wildly inaccurate and misleading.
  • It denies that the United States as a “civilization,” like most civilizations (including China’s), does not have a clearly defined geographic center.

The fact that America’s origins are heavily centered on various “European civilizations,” as well as the multiple cultures of the indigenous population of North America and Africans who were forcibly brought to the Americas as slaves, are not taken into consideration by such a narrow historical perspective.

  1. A more appropriate comparison would be to debate or compare “Western civilisation” with “East Asian civilization,” which would be more accurate.
  2. From exchanges along the Silk Road to invasions by groups such as the Mongols and the Manchus, Chinese civilisation has been shaped by thousands of years of dynamic engagement and interaction with others.
  3. In fact, the same may be said of immigrants to the United States, particularly those from East Asia.
  4. When it comes to defining what is meant by “civilization” or “culture,” the most difficult part is that it is difficult to do it in a way that fits into popular patriotic narratives, which is where the greatest difficulty lies.
  5. Is it true that Chinese immigrants to the United States have no cultural effects from China that can be traced back thousands of years?
  6. Importantly, by restricting the scope of the comparison to the establishment of the United States as a nation-state, China is putting itself in a position of shame rather than advantage.

The term “Chinese person,” as advocated by nationalist writer Zhang Taiyan at the turn of the twentieth century, can be traced back to the turn of the twentieth century, according to Professor Zhao Suisheng of the University of Denver, who is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on Chinese nationalism.

However, the comparison with the United States, which is commonly made, simply does not stand up under close examination.

Such parallels reflect a lack of grasp of comparative social science as well as the complicated histories of both the United States and China, which is demonstrated by those who espouse them.

Dr. Christopher K. Colley is a non-resident China scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., where he studies Chinese politics and society.

Dynasties of China, Timeline Summary, Maps

China is one of the world’s four oldest civilizations, and the documented history of the country extends back more than 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), at which time the country was known as the Han.

Timeline of Chinese History

Year Era Dynasty Capital Remarks
2100–1600 BC Ancient China Xia LuoyangDengfengZhengzhou The first dynasty in traditional Chinese historiography
1600–1046 BC Shang Anyang First dynasty to have historical records remaining
1046–221 BC Zhou Xi’anLuoyang Confucianism emerged
221–206 BC Imperial China Qin Xi’an First to unite China as a country under an emperor
206 BC – 220 AD Han Xi’anLuoyang The same period as the Roman Empire
220–581 Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties LuoyangChengduNanjing Frequent regime changes
581–618 Sui Xi’anLuoyang A system was established to select talents by examination
618–907 Tang Xi’anLuoyang It had the only female emperor.
960–1279 Song KaifengHangzhou Printing, the compass, and gunpowder were invented.
1271–1368 Yuan Beijing The first foreign regime to unite China
1368–1644 Ming NanjingBeijing Most of the Great Wall today was built or repaired during the Ming Dynasty.
1644–1912 Qing Beijing The last dynasty of China
1912–1949 Republic of China Republic of China BeijingWuhanNanjing
1949–present Modern China People’s Republic of China Beijing

Please visit China’s historical chronology and some significant events for a more full table. There’s also a straightforward parallel with the historical growth of the world.

Dynasties of China in Order

Prior to the establishment of the dynasties, China was a backward and primitive culture. Some of the earliest human remains have been discovered in China, including Yuanmou Man, discovered in Yunnan Province, Lantian Man, discovered in Shaanxi Province, and Peking Man. Peking Man had the ability to utilize fire and carve stone objects. As hunter-gatherers, they lived in small groups. This was the initial stage of primitive society, and it lasted for a short period of time. Upper Cave Man is believed to have formed a somewhat stable group of blood connections around 17,000 years ago, according to archaeological data.

Then humans began to cultivate and raise livestock.

Dynasties were formed as a result of the union of clans.

The Xia Dynasty (2070–1600 BC)

  • China was a primitive civilisation prior to the establishment of the dynasties. Yuanmou Man, discovered in Yunnan Province, Lantian Man, discovered in Shaanxi Province, and Peking Man are only a few of the world’s oldest human remains that have been discovered. Using fire, Peking Man was able to carve stone objects for his own use. It was a hunter-gatherer lifestyle for them and they lived in small groups. This was the initial stage of primitive society, and it was characterized by a lack of technology. Upper Cave Man may have formed a rather stable group of blood connections 17,000 years ago, according to archaeological findings. Such clans were also found at Banpo Village in Xi’an, as well as in other archeological sites along the Yangtze River’s eastern shoreline. Afterwards, individuals engaged on agriculture and livestock raising. Primitive has progressed to the second phase. Dynasties were formed as a result of the consolidation of clans.

The Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC)

Dynastic Map of the Shang Dynasty

  • The Shang Dynasty was the first dynasty to have historical documents that have survived. The earliest type of Chinese writing, oracle bones, was discovered, and it was discovered to correspond with subsequent descriptions of the Shang Dynasty. Chinese civilisation originated near the Yellow River during the Shang dynasty, according to historical records. The Simuwu Rectangular Ding at the National Museum of China, which was created during the Shang Dynasty and is the largest bronze vessel ever discovered, is the world’s largest bronze vessel ever unearthed.

The Zhou Dynasty (1045-221 BC)

Western Zhou is depicted on this map.

  • It is possible to split the Zhou Dynasty into three periods: the Western Zhou (1045–771 BC), the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC), and the Warring States Period (475–221 BC). In Chinese history, the subsequent eras are referred to as the Eastern Zhou
  • While the Western Zhou enjoyed peace and prosperity, the Eastern Zhou lived through a period of severe division. Seven major nations formed as a result of the collapse of the Zhou dynasty’s rule
  • Qin was the last victor out of these seven nations, and he was the one who built the Qin Dynasty later on. Confucianism and Daoism, for example, were major philosophical and religious movements that formed the foundation of Chinese views in subsequent ages.

Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC)

The Qin Dynasty’s Map

  • This period marked the beginning of China’s feudal era, as it was the first to unite the country under the rule of an emperor rather than a governing clan. The Qin Dynasty in China was the shortest dynasty in history, having reigned for only 15 years. The First Emperor—Qin Shi Huang was the first person in Chinese history to adopt the title of emperor
  • Qing Shi Huang standardized units of weight and measurement, as well as the writing system
  • And Qing Shi Huang standardized units of time and space. Great construction projects, such as the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army, were completed during this time period.

The Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD)

Detailed map of Western Han

  • Chinese history includes many powerful, successful, and significant dynasties. The Han Dynasty flourished at the same time as the Roman Empire. The Chinese history includes many powerful, prosperous, and important dynasties. Among the many accomplishments of the Han Dynasty were the establishment of the Silk Road Trade and the establishment of a link between China and Central Asia and Europe. Confucianism was formally raised to the position of orthodoxy, and it was to have a significant impact on later Chinese civilisation. Buddhism, which originated in ancient India, was imported to China, and Taoism, which was developed as the country’s indigenous religion
  • Hua Tuo was the first doctor in the world to perform surgery under general anesthesia, having developed the world’s first anesthetic, mafeisan. Cai Lun refined the technology of papermaking, while Zhang Heng developed an earthquake-measuring instrument known as an earthquake seismograph.

Wei, Jin, and the Southern and Northern Dynasties (220–581)

  • The most frequent regime transitions in Chinese history occurred during this time period. When the Han Dynasty began to crumble, it was fragmented into the Three Kingdoms Period (between 220 and 265 AD). The Jin Dynasty came to power following the Three Kingdoms Period, bringing with it a partial unification of China. China, on the other hand, was once again divided, this time into the Southern and Northern Dynasties(420–589)
  • During this era, various ethnic groups in the north gained political power and came to the center plains, eventually absorbing Han culture. This period of turmoil saw the culmination of national integration
  • Buddhism gained popularity and received backing from governors throughout this turbulent period. People were encouraged to willingly accept pain and place their hope in the hereafter by the rulers, in order to give up their opposition to the ruling class. Buddhist beliefs were exploited to accomplish this goal.
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The Sui Dynasty (581–618)

  • The Sui Dynasty was a brief, intense dynasty that was responsible for many notable conquests and achievements, including the construction of the Grand Canal and the reconstruction of the Great Wall. One of Emperor Wen’s most notable accomplishments was the establishment of an imperial examination system to select talented individuals for bureaucratic positions
  • Japan sent emissaries to the Sui Dynasty to study the culture, economy, and political system, which had an impact on Japanese culture

The Tang Dynasty (618-907)

Tang Dynasty Map (in Chinese)

  • The Tang Dynasty reigned over one of the most powerful kingdoms on the planet at the time. Tang was ruled by the second Emperor of Tang, Li Shimin, who is considered to be one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history. Tang’s capital Chang’an (now Xi’an) was then the world’s largest metropolis at the time. Because of his courage and openness, the Tang Dynasty enjoyed prosperity for almost a century. The Tang Dynasty also produced the only female ruler in Chinese history, Wu Zetian. The Tang Dynasty was also a golden period for poetry, art, multicolored glazed pottery, and woodblock printing. China’s papermaking, textiles, and other technology expanded throughout West Asia and Europe through the Arab world during the time, which featured great Tang poets Li Bai and Du Fu. During the period, Korea, Japan, and other vassal countries sent numerous studentsto study in Chang’an and Luoyang. Islam was brought to China, and women’s standing increased dramatically. People were also allowed to marry and divorce at their discretion.

The Song Dynasty (960–1279)

Map of Northern Song (in English)

  • It was under the Song Dynasty that China had its highest levels of expansion in the commodities economy, culture, education, and scientific innovation in history. Chinese GDP was estimated to be US $26.55 billion in the year 1000, accounting for 22.7 percent of the world’s total, and its per capita GDP was US $450, far more than Western Europe’s GDP of US $400 at the time. The shipbuilding industry was well advanced at the time. In addition to interacting with the South Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and other areas of more than 50 nations
  • International trade was thriving. The Song Dynasty saw the continued development of the “four major innovations” of the Chinese people from ancient times (paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder)
  • The world’s oldest paper money, discovered in Sichuan Province and dating back to the Song Dynasty, was discovered
  • Foot binding began to emerge. Women’s health was badly impacted as a result of this deviant aesthetic idea.

The Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)

Yuan Dynasty Map (in Chinese)

  • The Yuan Monarchy was the first foreign-led dynasty in China, and it was dominated by Mongol tribes. China’s engagement with foreign countries, as well as trade and scientific growth, continued under the reign of the Mongols. The Yuan sought to invade Japan, Vietnam, and Burma, but were unsuccessful, and Yuan-Dynasty China served as the eastern and southern borders of the Mongol Empire. Marco Polo, a Venetian explorer, traveled extensively in China and eventually wrote a book, The Travels of Marco Polo, in which he chronicled China’s culture and wonders.

The Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)

The Ming Dynasty’s Map

  • The founder, Zhu Yuanzhang, was responsible for the overthrow of the declining Mongol Empire in China, which marked the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. There were frequent disturbances along the northern frontier, which resulted in the (re-)construction of the Great Wall during this dynasty’s reign
  • “> The Forbidden Citywas constructed and served as the palace of the Emperor for the duration of the imperial period
  • During the Ming Dynasty, the majority of the Great Wall that exists today was constructed or restored, and maritime trade flourished. Emperor Yongle constructed a large fleet and dispatched emissaries on missions to collect tributes and trade with the people of the West. The navy traveled all the way to Arabia.

The Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)

Qing Dynasty Map (in Chinese)

  • The Qing Dynasty’s Map of the World

The Republic of China Era (1912–1949)

The Qing Dynasty was brought to an end by the Republican Revolution of 1911, which was headed by Sun Yat-sen. However, the Republic of China was unable to establish itself solidly throughout China, and a civil war ensued that lasted for decades.

Modern China (1949–now)

Following China’s establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the country has entered a period of Communist stability, with the Reform and Opening Up program of 1978 bringing about the country’s extraordinary economic growth.

Learn about Chinese History through Travel

With a big land and a lengthy history, China has a great deal to see and discover for visitors. Historical towns like as Beijing, Xi’an, and Luoyang are excellent places to visit if you want to learn more about China’s long and illustrious past. See the following tours as recommendations:

  • The Golden Triangle (8 days) consists of Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, which are the most popular locations for first-time visitors to China. 4-Day Private Tour of Beijing: Take an Emperor’s Tour of the city and learn about its history. Please contact us if you would want us to design a tour around your requirements.

China and the Myth of 5,000 Years of History

China has a five-thousand-year history, making it the world’s oldest country. “Five thousand years of history,” said Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt in 2007. “Five thousand years of history.” It’s a term that both Chinese and non-Chinese people use frequently. We are led to assume, for whatever reason, that China has a longer history than other countries. Regardless matter whether you wish to define “history” as beginning with written records or as beginning with the rise of “civilization,” which can be observed in the first big settlements, the number of five thousand years is inaccurate.

  1. History begins to collapse into mythology far earlier than that.
  2. Other civilizations in other regions of the world are older than China in terms of age.
  3. Uruk, in modern-day Iraq, is the world’s oldest city, having existed for more than seven thousand years.
  4. Confucius’ life intersected with the lives of Pythagoras and Socrates in a number of ways.
  5. Every one of those millennia (or more) seems to be old enough to be relevant today.
  6. There’s a reason for this, and not only because it’s frustrating to have this mistake repeated ad nauseam as historical truth, let alone because it’s hypocritical to praise history while simultaneously maintaining it so shoddily.
  7. This has significant ramifications in real life.

The country has, after all, been around for more than a millennium.

Because they are a lot older society than we are, the Chinese view history and the future in terms of centuries rather than decades, as we do.” The remark from the Google CEO that appeared at the beginning of this chapter was also intended to convey the need of patience.

That might be an indication of how long our patience will last.” Earlier in the year, Google launched a Chinese version of their website, Google.cn, which used self-censored search results in order to maintain good relations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

So much for Google’s informal business slogan, “Don’t be evil,” which was adopted in 2005.

Google struggled to acquire market share and encountered difficulties dealing with the Chinese government.

Google’s tolerance had finally run out, and they made the decision to no longer restrict search results by redirecting their website to Hong Kong, where they are now headquartered.

When Chris Patten, the former Governor General of Hong Kong, was preparing a speech for his swearing-in ceremony, this was an excellent illustration of what I mean.

Following his instincts and displaying the courage and bluster that would soon earn him the CCP’s derogatory labels of “a whore, a criminal, a serpent,” and, curiously, “a tango dancer,” Patten chose “two ancient civilizations” over the advice of his counselors.

Because of the assumed superiority of such a long past, a hazardous attitude of entitlement is engendered.

Consider what would happen if we applied the reasoning of “old civilizations deserve special treatment” to Egypt and the present Mesopotamian states of Iraq and Iran, which have a combined history of almost five thousand years, instead of only ancient civilizations.

Painting hyperbolic scenes combining Oriental refinement with Western ugliness; silk-robed professors sipping tea and contemplating poetry while far out in the depths of Europe, the residents run around in furs “Westerners [who] still slathered themselves in woad and did nothing more than grunt,” writes author Simon Winchester in a recent biography of Sinologist Joseph Needham, in contrast to the technical marvel of a two-thousand-year-old Chinese irrigation waterworks.

In addition to its sheer age, China’s status as the “longest continuous civilisation” is sometimes cited as one of its distinguishing characteristics.

Falsehoods may sometimes be more than simply amusing asides; they can be the fundamental basis of tales.

Jacques repeats the argument that China is unique because of its antiquity and continuity, but he also puts his own spin on it: A “civilization state” rather than a nation-state describes China’s status.

This type of remark is insulting to the Chinese people, since it reduces them to the status of passive victims of their own history, doomed to repeat it forever.

Does Chinese Civilization Come From Ancient Egypt?

Sun Weidong, a geochemist from Hefei, the capital city of the landlocked province of Anhui in eastern China, delivered a public talk to an audience of laypeople, students, and academics at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei on a cold Sunday evening in March. However, the lecturer did not limit his remarks to geochemistry. As well as other old Chinese classics, he quoted from them at various points, including one that quoted from historian Sima Qian’s depiction of the topography of the Xia empire, which is widely considered to be China’s founding dynasty and dates back to 2070 to 1600 B.C.

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“There is only one large river in the world that flows northwards, and that is the Nile.” “Can you tell me which one it is?” the professor inquired.

Audience members erupted into smiles and whispers as this author, a researcher at the same institute, observed, intrigued by the fact that these ancient Chinese texts appeared to better correspond with the topography of Egypt than with the geography of China.

While doing radiometric dating on ancient Chinese bronze objects in the 1990s, he was surprised to discover that their chemical composition was more similar to that of ancient Egyptian bronze objects than local Chinese ores.

Both Sun’s ideas and the controversy that has surrounded them stem from a much older tradition of nationalist archaeology in China, which has been working for more than a century to answer a fundamental scientific question that has always been heavily politicized: Where did the Chinese people come from?

Its carriers, according to him, were the Western Asian people known as the Hyksos who dominated areas of northern Egypt as foreigners between the 17th and 16th centuries BC until their final departure from the country.

Due to the fact that the Hyksos were known to have developed ships for war and trade that allowed them to sail the Red and Mediterranean seas, Sun hypothesizes that a small population of people escaped their collapsing dynasty using seafaring technology that eventually brought them and their Bronze Age culture to the Chinese coasts.

  1. Credit for the image goes to Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons.
  2. “His daring title and straightforward wording piqued the curiosity of more than a few readers,” said the liberal journal Caixin.
  3. A frequently read page dedicated to the issue on the microblogging site Weibo — with the hashtag “Chinese People Come From Egypt” — has also been created by Kooniao, and it offers a useful sample of reactions from the general population.
  4. This is a rather sad issue to be discussing.
  5. Even if they are not completely convinced, they are at least willing to consider Sun’s suggestions.
  6. “I agree,” commented one person in response to the poll.
  7. It’s worth looking into, regardless of whether it turns out to be accurate or untrue.” “The Earth is such a vast area that one encounters many unusual things while traveling across it,” remarked another.

Cultural exchanges may be quite profound and long distances apart.” Sun remarked on his website, anticipating his opponents, that re-examining the beginnings of Chinese culture “may look ludicrous in the eyes of some, because historians have long declared clearly: We are the descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperor.” As a result of his research, historian Sima Qian concluded that these legendary people were the progenitors of both the Han and the Xia dynasties, and that the Yellow Emperor’s great-grandson, Yu the Great, was the founder of the semimythical Xia empire.

These served as the foundational stories for imperial China and were continued to be credited for decades after the Republic of China replaced it in 1912, to the point where even the nation’s most iconoclastic and rebellious sons — Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai-Shek, and People’s Republic founder Mao Zedong, among others — have felt compelled to pay their respects at the tomb of the Yellow Emperor.

  1. In 1903, an anti-Qing Dynasty propagandist published this assertion about the nation’s antiquity (under a pseudonym), which was unknown to many at the time.
  2. At the time, the Qing dynasty was in a state of serious collapse, with its visible backwardness in comparison to Western countries being the source of much internal debate.
  3. The study of the French philologist Albert Terrien de Lacouperie, who published the Western Origin of the Early Chinese Civilization from 2300 B.C.
  4. in 1892, was the one that attracted their attention the most.
  5. King Nakhunte is said to have led his people out of the Middle East and onto the Central Plain of the Yellow River Valley approximately 2300 B.C., when the Yellow Emperor was first mentioned.
  6. Credit for the image goes to Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons.
  7. His book, History of the Chinese Nation, published in 1903 was one of the first to do so.
  8. The founder of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen, provided additional support in his 1924Three Principles of the Peoplelectures, in which he stated that the “growth of Chinese civilization may.
  9. Since China shared common lineage with other great civilizations, it was hoped that there would be no fundamental reason for it not to catch up with more evolved nations in Europe and America as the centuries progressed.
  10. The genesis theories of Western countries, as well as their previous supporters, have been scrutinized by Chinese historians in an attempt to disassociate China from colonial nations.
  11. The discovery of Neolithic pottery in Longshan, Shandong, in 1928 revealed that eastern China had been populated by indigenous tribes long before the Bronze Age migration hypothesised by Lacouperie was proven to be incorrect.

Because of the excellence of the Yin-material Shang’s culture — its famous oracle bones, for example, whose writing is the ancestor of the modern Chinese script used today — that polity is often referred to as the “root of Chinese civilization,” despite the fact that it was located within China’s borders, in what is now the city of Anyang in the province of Henan, at the time.

Essentially, the theory proposed that Eastern Neolithic culture moving west met Western Neolithic culture moving east, resulting in a fusion that resulted in the formation of the Shang.

However, with the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chinese archeology saw a fundamental shift toward more extreme nationalism, as described by historian James Leibold, when “China’s scientific community closed inward on itself.” As a result of nationalism and authoritarianism, archeological evidence had to be interpreted as proof that Chinese civilization had arisen indigenously, without the influence of outside influences.

For example, Tong Enzheng, an archaeologist at Sichuan University who later became a dissident, described the politicization of scholarship between 1949 and 1979 in his fascinating account: “Mao Zedong implemented a comprehensive anti-Western policy after 1949,” which expanded “pre-existing anti-imperialism.

As a result, archaeologists throughout the Mao period worked hard to utilize their findings to support these regulations, so legitimizing the existing quo.

It should come as no surprise that meetings were held during the Cultural Revolution under ridiculous titles such as “Using the Antiquities Stored in the Temple of Confucius in Qufu County to criticizeLin Biao and Confucius.” Meanwhile, revolutionary sloganeering found its way into scientific publications, alongside the data they were intended to complement.

  • Credit for the image goes to the Chabot Space and Science Center/Wikimedia Commons.
  • Credit for the image goes to Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons.
  • The Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project, which was directly inspired by the achievements of Egyptian archaeology, is the most well-known example from that time period.
  • The result of this was his advocacy for a project that was incorporated in the government’s ninth five-year plan and would provide Chinese dynasties with a historical record on par with that of the European monarchies.
  • Some have questioned the motivations behind the Chronology Project.
  • Shaughnessy, “There is a chauvinistic desire to push the historical record back into the third millennium B.C., putting China on an equal footing with Egypt.
  • For example, the Stanford archaeologist Li Liu expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the Xia was regarded as historical and assigned dates to it when there is still no conclusive archaeological evidence for its existence.
  • Thus, most archaeological traditions have a strong nationalistic urge at their core.

“The most crucial issue that we should address,” Yun continued, “is whether or not the scientists involved in the project were able to preserve scientific rigor throughout the process.” Sun’s present idea is, in some ways, an unanticipated consequence of the Chronology Project’s scientific rigor, which was not intended.

student at the radiation laboratory of the University of Science and Technology at the time of the project’s inception in 1996.

He discovered that the radioactivity of these Yin-Shang bronzes was virtually identical to that of ancient Egyptian bronzes, indicating that their ores all came from the same source: African mines, according to his findings.

As a result, Sun was requested to hand up his data and was assigned to a different project.

Despite the fact that Sun’s thesis has been welcomed well by the general people, it remains outside the mainstream of scholarly thought.

However, it is not believed to have traveled straight from the Middle East as part of a massive migratory route to Europe.

Despite this, the obsession in ancient Egypt looks to be a trend that will continue for some time.

President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Egypt in January, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations, provided another opportunity to see them up close and personal.

It remains to be seen whether Sun’s data will be adopted into mainstream politics to indicate a long-standing Sino-Egyptian cultural tie.

Featured image: Xuan Yuan The Dao’s Inquiries, a scroll painted in color on silk.

Ricardo Lewis is a research associate at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, China, where he studies biotechnology. He writes a blog in Portuguese, which may be found at www.osinobrasileiro.com.

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