China is home to one of the oldest civilizations on Earth. The history of China dates back to the Bronze Age, with written records dated to 1200 BCE. This was the Shang dynasty. However, early Chinese records speak of earlier kingdom, the Xia dynasty. The history of ancient China, however, begins along the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, over one million years ago.
Agriculture developed in China around 7000 BCE, giving rise to the Jiahu culture, which invented the earliest form of Chinese pictographic writing. The historical existence of the Xia dynasty (2100-1600 BCE) cannot be definitively proven, despite its mention in Shang era records. Archeological records of the Shang (1600-1046 BCE) are easier to find, including inscribed oracle bones.
The Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BCE) was the longest in Chinese history, emerging to overrun the Shang. The legendary King Wu and his brother, the Duke of Zhou founded the state. This was a feudal period, and is largely remembered for the birth of Confucianism and Taoism, two of China’s most revered philosophies.
The last major dynasty of ancient China was the Qin (221-206 BCE), emerging after long periods of war and chaos, the Spring and Autumn period (722-476 BCE) and the Warring States period (476-221 BCE). It was under the Qin that construction began on the Great Wall of China.