Chinese civilization has a long and complex history. Over the years, historians have kept an almost complete record of rulers, cultures, and events. Today the chain of Chinese history directly links present-day China with China's earliest civilizations. Two of the most important early civilizations were located in river valleys. One was in the valley of the Huang He. The other was in the valley of the Chang Jiang.
Legends and Facts About China's Origins
Like many other people, the Chinese have often used legends, or stories handed down from earlier times, to explain the distant past. One Chinese legend tells that the goddess Nugua (NEW»GWAY) made the first humans out of clay Another story tells that her husband, Fuxi (FOOSHEE), invented writing by studying the scratches of birds and other animals.
The story of Yu the Great and the Great Flood may be the most famous Chinese legend of all. This legend tells of a time when floods covered much of China. To save China, Yu the Great dug deep rivers to hold the extra water. Yu worked for 13 years to remove flood waters from the land. When his work was done, the farmers could once again plant their crops. Even today Chinese students say, "If it were not for Yu the Great, we would all be fishes."
Historians may never know if Yu the Great helped farmers control floods. There is no proof that he even existed. Still, the ancient legend tells us a lot about the early Chinese. It helps show the importance that they placed on agriculture.
As early as 5000 B.C., farmers were growing crops in both northern and southern China. There is also evidence that dogs and pigs were domesticated at this time. In northern China early farmers grew grains such as millet, as well as fruits and green vegetables. At the same time, farmers in southern China were growing rice. By 3000 B.C. cattle were being raised in northern and southern China.
In both parts of China, the settled farmers began to make pottery. Bowls, jugs, and other pieces of pottery were used to store and transport rice and other grains. Some pottery was decorated with simple designs and placed in graves during burials. Beautiful objects made of jade a very hard, usually green stone have also been found in graves of this period.
Why is the story of Yu the Great important?