In Chinese history the yellow river “Huang he” isn’t just a river. It stands for the origins of culture and civilization. Playing an important part in the early development of china, it has been refered to by the Chinese as “The cradle of civilization” and “The Mother River”.
The name Yellow River does not only come from the colour of the water but yellow is also regarded as a colour of ancient origins. The colour runs in the land (the silt) the river flows through, the emperor, the skin of the Chinese and the legendary Chinese dragon from which Chinese are said to descend from.
The rivers silt is carried from Mongolia down to the pacific ocean making it self the longest river in Asia, after the Yangtze and the Yenisei river. The Yellow River is the sixth longest in the world with an estimated length of 5,464 km (3,395 miles). It flows through nine provinces and ends in the Bohai Sea. It is also called “China’s sorrow” due to it flooding, causing lose of crops and livestock of the cultures living close to the river. In the many years dams and embankments have been built to prevent lives being taken.
Over 3000 years ago the regional cultures along the ‘Huang He’ were booming. These settlements of population of many ethnic groups and cultures were based on a primitive agricultural economy. They focused on hunting, gathering and fishing. In the north they focused on cultivating millet (a type of grain) and in the south they focused on rice. Each of the civilizations is notable for their own style of pottery, homes, tools and burials. These ethnic groups have grown out to be the Chinese now.
The river connects to the Yangtze river. Together with the ‘Huang He’ these rivers provide great food producing areas, though china has many rivers only 10 % of the land is fertile. Most of China is made out of mountains and valleys so it was hard to travel and trade their crops and livestock. When the silk road was established it became a crucial way of trading and it brought on a cultural exchange. Merging different ethnic groups and also agriculture was an immediate profit due to fertile soil. These ethnic groups have grown out to be the Chinese of today.
First Kingdoms and Oracle bones
The first kingdom Xia was established by Yu the Great after Shun, the last of the five emperors, gave his throne to Yu. Gun, Yu’s father, was appointed by Emperor Yao to fight against the Yellow River, ordered to stop the flooding. Gun ordered people to build to block the path of the water. This lasted for nine years but the floods just became stronger and Gun was ordered to life in jail.
His son Yu took over and was trusted by Shun that he would do a much better job. Yu the Great ordered people of different tribes to build canals along the river and lead the water out to sea. These canals were succesful and Yu was praised by people for his determined persistence and he was appointed emperor and ruler over several tribes, defeating other tribes and he grew more in power, making the Xia Dynasty ruling for quite some time until the corrupt Emperor Jie was overthrown by the Shang.
The Shang lived in large complex societies. They were the first to mass produce cast Bronze. The ruling elite acted as shamans of sorts. Communicating with their ancestors and gods through divines. (Divination)
They used large bronze food and wine vessels for banquetting and making ancestral offerings. Insciptions on oracle bones provide the first evidence of writing.