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The dynasty was founded by Yu the Great who worked relentlessly for thirteen years to control the flooding of the Yellow River which routinely destroyed the farmer’s crops.He was so focused on his work that it was said he did not return home once in all those years, even though he seems to have passed by his house on at least three occasions, and this dedication inspired others to follow him.
From these small villages and farming communities grew centralized government; the first of which was the prehistoric Xia Dynasty (c. The Xia Dynasty was considered, for many years, more myth than fact until excavations in the 1960’s and 1970’s CE uncovered sites which argued strongly for its existence.
Bronze works and tombs clearly point to an evolutionary period of development between disparate Stone Age villages and a recognizable cohesive civilization.
This practice led to highly sophisticated rituals dedicated to appeasing the spirits of the ancestors which eventually included ornate burials in grand tombs filled with all one would need to enjoy a comfortable afterlife.
The king, in addition to his secular duties, served as chief officiate and mediator between the living and the dead and his rule was considered ordained by divine law.
The ruling class and the elite lived in urban clusters while the peasant population, which supported the elite's lifestyle, remained largely agrarian, living in rural areas.
Yu’s son, Qi, ruled after him and power remained in the hands of the family until the last Xia ruler, Jie, was overthrown by Tang who established the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE). The dates popularly assigned to him (1675-1646 BCE) do not in any way correspond to the known events in which he took part and must be considered erroneous.
Peking Man, a skull fossil discovered in 1927 CE near Beijing, lived in the area between 700,000 to 200,000 years ago and Yuanmou Man, whose remains were found in Yuanmou in 1965 CE, inhabited the land 1.7 million years ago.
Evidence uncovered with these finds shows that these early inhabitants knew how to fashion stone tools and use fire.
Prior to the Shang, the people worshipped many gods with one supreme god, Shangti, as head of the pantheon (the same pattern found in other cultures).
Shangti was considered `the great ancestor’ who presided over victory in war, agriculture, the weather, and good government.