Archaeologists believe the Xia Dynasty began around the year 2,000 BCE, about 4,000 years ago. Legend says this dynasty was founded by the best engineer from the Lungshan people, who settled along the Huang He River a thousand years earlier.
From what scientists can tell, these early people were very advanced for their time. They worked together and used a system of irrigation to water the fields. They baked bricks in ovens for strong building materials. The floors of their huts were plaster instead of earth. They used a potters wheel to make vases and pots. And they made beautiful, colorfully dyed and designed woven fabrics, made from silk!
The people were deeply religious. They believed in the gods of nature, like the river god, the rain god, and the earth god. They believed in a great many gods, but the most powerful god was the sky god, T'ien, the king of all the gods, a god more powerful than any earthbound king.
The Three Sovereigns and the Five EmperorsThe Three Sovereigns were powerful demigods who lived to be very old and brought peace and prosperity to the land during their rule.
- Fu Xi was said to have invented fishing, trapping, and writing. His sister was Nuwa. It was Fu Xi and Nuwa who crafted the first humans out of clay.
- Nuwa was the sister of Fu Xi. She helped him to create humans and also repaired the wall of heaven.
- Shennong means "Divine Farmer." He brought the knowledge of agriculture to the Chinese people. He invented the plow, axe, hoe, irrigation, and the Chinese calendar.
The Five Emperors were perfect kings who ruled wisely and with honor. The most famous of the Five Emperors was the Yellow Emperor. He ruled for 100 years and brought about the start of the Chinese civilization. In addition to the Yellow Emperor were Zhuanzu, Emperor Ku, Emperor Yao, and Shun.
The greatest creature in Chinese mythology is the legendary dragon. The dragon is a long, winged, snake-like creature with four legs each with long and dangerous claws. Dragons were thought to have power over water and the weather. The dragon was the symbol of the emperor. His throne was even called the Dragon Throne. It is said that the Yellow Emperor turned into a dragon and flew to heaven when he died.
Interesting Facts about Chinese Mythology
- Only the emperor could wear clothes that had pictures of the dragon.
- Nian was said to have the body of a bull and the head of a lion.
- Sometimes the Yellow Emperor was considered one of the Three Sovereigns.
- The Three Sovereigns are also known as the Three August Ones.
- Some records show that the Three Sovereigns each ruled for over 10,000 years.
- It was the Yellow Emperor's wife, Leizu, who taught the Chinese how to make silk from silkworms.
- Emperor Yao was said to have been morally perfect and served as the example of how all future Chinese emperors should behave.
Craft & Resources
- Scupley Oven Bake Clay, Terra Cotta
- Treasury of Chinese Folk Tales: Beloved Myths and Legends from the Middle Kingdom
- Chinese Myths and Legends (Introductions to Chinese Culture)
- Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #31: China
- Magic Tree House #14: Day of the Dragon King