The Chinese people tell a legend to explain their beginning. According to this legend, the creator, P'an Ku made a glorious people in the Huang He (Yellow River) valley. Scientific evidence is scarce, but remains of a people-" erectus"-have been found near Beijing. These remains date back 460,000 years. There is evidence that rice farming existed since 5500 BC and there is also proof of the pottery cultures of Yang-shao and the Lung-shan. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that China is one of the world's oldest and greatest civilizations.
It is said that Xia was the first hereditary Chinese dynasty. Unfortunately no evidence of this exists, and as far as we know, the Shang dynasty was the first dynasty. The Shang dynasty ruled what is today the north central region of China. They were an aristocratic society with a complex system of government. They had domesticated animals and were proficient in bronze-work. The Shang dynasty fell when the ruler, corrupted by power, was overthrown by the young king of Zhou.
The Zhou expanded the border to cover most of its current northern territory. They established a feudalistic society with land and power delegated to vassals or lords. These vassals ruled their land and all the people who lived there. The Zhou were mainly an agricultural society.
China was invaded by barbarians and divided in half. Its eastern part still belonged to the Zhou. They continued to develop learning iron-work and inventing the ox-drawn plow, which in addition to improving irrigation techniques increased agricultural yields. This increased the population growth in the vassal-controlled states which became very powerful and took the power from the Zhou. The land was now divided between seven of the main states. Peace between the states did not last and the society was thrown into anarchy.
In this chaotic state several schools of philosophy emerged. A man by the name of K'ung Fu-tzu known as Confucius, said that order can only be achieved by creating a benevolent government which would teach by its own example. Another idea was Taoism which heralded a return to simpler times in which government would not interfere in man's relationship with nature. The third group called legalists propagated a strict impersonal set of laws governing all human activity: to have an all powerful ruler who would see that the laws are carried out, and to create social order with a centralized government based on a healthy economy. These people gave rise to the great Chinese empire.