The Xia dynasty (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC) is the first dynasty in traditional Chinese history. It is described in ancient historical chronicles such as the Bamboo Annals, the Classic of History and the Records of the Grand Historian. According to tradition, the dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors, gave his throne to him. The Xia was later succeeded by the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC).

According to the traditional chronology based upon calculations by Liu Xin, the Xia ruled between 2205 and 1766 BC; according to the chronology based upon the Bamboo Annals, it ruled between 1989 and 1558 BC. The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project concluded that the Xia existed between 2070 and 1600 BC. The tradition of tracing Chinese political history from heroic early emperors to the Xia to succeeding dynasties comes from the idea of the Mandate of Heaven, in which only one legitimate dynasty can exist at any given time, and was promoted by the Confucian school in the Eastern Zhou period, later becoming the basic position of imperial historiography and ideology. Although the Xia is an important element in early Chinese history, reliable information on the history of China before 13th century BC can only come from archaeological evidence since China’s first established written system on a durable medium, the oracle bone script, did not exist until then; however, no mention of the Xia, or the supposed conquest of the Xia by the Shang, is found in any oracle bones found to date. The first documentary reference to the Xia dates from more than a thousand years later. Thus, despite efforts by Chinese archaeologists to link the Xia with Bronze Age Erlitou archaeological sites, the Xia dynasty is considered by many modern historians to be legendary.

Picture: Discovery of  the site of a city 4000 years ago.

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