Early Chinese Civilization in the Huang-He River Valley

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How Geography Isolated Ancient China

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Early Chinese Geography
  • 1:34 Great Kings
  • 3:05 Jie, Tang, and a…
  • 4:15 Wu Ting & Downfall
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Although Chinese civilization developed along rivers much like cultures in Mesopotamia and Egypt, the idea of royal power took a completely different direction. Learn how the Mandate of Heaven ruled all in Ancient China.

Early Chinese Geography

The China of 8,000 years ago was a very different place than it is today. Obviously, there were no tablets or TVs or even phones, but even geographically, the land was quite different, as it was just about everywhere. Most importantly, a wide strip of land stretching from Africa to China was much wetter than it is now. For people living in what is now, that meant that there were streams and rivers, making it a lush grassland. However, for people in China, the land between the Yellow (or Huang He) and Yangtze rivers was a gigantic swamp.

Nonetheless, as global climates changed, people in the Sahara Desert got unlucky and had to leave, whereas those living in the swamps of China soon found that the land had become especially fertile. Much like the Nile, floods replenished the land's soil, and while occasionally unpredictable, these river floods were seen more often than not as an asset by the people. Soon, people began to settle in small villages and towns, much like they did elsewhere in the world, and grew rice and wheat. Also, they produced pottery and had specialized jobs, much like other early civilizations. How they differed from these early cultures is what makes early China so interesting.

Great Kings

As you can imagine, we don't have many historical sources from this early period, frankly because writing was still some time off. After all, this was all happening before 3000 BC. However, soon the idea of virtue, or a ruler's right to rule, became an important theme in Chinese society. Unlike other regions, where military power was viewed as the only requirement to rule, China wanted to make sure that they were favored by Heaven to rule. After all, if rule on Earth was in chaos, Heaven would punish the rulers with floods and barbarian invasions. Having Heaven on your side as a Chinese ruler was known as having the Mandate of Heaven and was considered to be very important.

To this end, the earliest oral records of any Chinese kings that we have are largely legendary. In fact, in some instances, these early kings seem to be too good to be true, striking a balance between being proud of being king while being kind to the people. However, true or not, these early records are important because so much of later Chinese culture depends on copying them. With these early semi-mythological kings, soon called the Xia Dynasty, we have found some archaeological evidence, but for the most part, they are still in the fog of history.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account