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Shang or Huang He (Yellow River) valley civilization

Page history last edited by Kevin C. 9 years, 10 months ago

☼The Huang He (Yellow River) Valley Civilization☼

The Huang He (pronounced Who-wong Huuh -Kevin Chen) river civilization was one of the Earth's civilization cradles, and people from this area of China eventually spread across to other parts of Asia. This civilization is unique because it developed in isolation, though it did have some contact with the Middle East and India through trading. Since the Huang He river provides fertile soil around its banks, early Chinese settlers were able to plant many different crops. The river also provided drinking water and seasonal floods constantly kept the soil fertilized. 

The Huang He (yellow) river. It's 3395 miles long, flows across Northern China, and its source is the Kunlun Mountains. It's yellow.


Chinese beliefs:  

The people of ancient China had different beliefs and rituals, and one thing that they believed was that their ancestors lived in a spirit world with the gods, and had the ability to grant either good or bad luck to them. The Chinese would set up temples for their ancestors and give offerings to them in order to have good luck. They also believed that life carried on after death (like the ancient Egyptians), and their tombs also contained items they thought they might need in the afterlife.


Chinese Creation scene


The Chinese also believed in P'an ku, who was a mythical Chinese ancestor believed to be born from a "Cosmic Egg". When he was born, he seperated Yin and Yang into sky and earth, and recieved assistance from 4 animals: the dragon, the unicorn, the phoenix, and the tortoise. It's believed that he spent 18,000 years creating the universe and that his body lice became humans...



Agriculture was obviously practiced in this region and the land was fertile because of the loess deposited along the Huang He river. The Chinese were known to use irrigation on their crops and had an organized state that regulated different conditions. Crops such as wheat, millet, rice, grapes, peaches, green onions, and ginger root were grown, and pigs and other animals were domesticated. 



The Huang He river flooded so often that it became known as "the river of sorrow" for the number of deaths it caused. Flooding was also beneficial, though, because it constantly enriched the soil with silt.  


Science, Art, and Writing: 

The ancient Chinese produced art with entricate designs, and had an interest in music. Their most prized materials were bronze and jade, and they had a secret method of producing silk cloth from silkworms. Bronze was used to make pots, weapons, bells, and other objects, and iron was eventually used. Ceramic production became more advanced during the Shang dynasty. Science also arose at an early time (especially astronomy). 


                        Bronze ritual vessel     Ying Yang dish                                     


Writing began to develop in China during the Shang dynasty, and the first examples of Chinese writing were found on oracle bones (bones or tortoise shells related to divination that were written on and were used by the ancient Chinese as records of activity). Over time, different materials were written on. Chinese writing is made up of logograms, where symbols represent meanings or words.  Oracle bone with writing on it.

by Monica Arebalos:

Where does it get its name?

  • By 1500 BCE, a line of kings called the Shang ruled over the Huang He River Valley
  • The river absorbed a yellow/brown dust
  • Also called “the river of sorrows”, because the unpredictable flooding would often kill people


The Usual Pattern a Chinese Dynasty takes:

Mandate of heaven -> all is good and prosperous -> leaders get greedy (more taxes, projects, rules, etc) & natural disasters of some kind -> civil war/protests (people are unhappy, so they revolt) -> a new family takes over



  • 1700 BCE- people long the Yellow River Valley had created complex organized cities
  • Dynasty= a family based political system in which one family rules over everyone else
  • The Shang Dynasty
    • One king, but also some mediators between kings and peasants
    • Emperor was only ruling because of "mandate of heaven"
  • Zhou Dynasty over threw Shang Dynasty
    • Longest lived Chinese dynasty
    • Kept written records



  •  The economy was fairly stable for such an early civilization
  • 7000BCE-5000BCE, the Neolithic people of E Asia domesticated rice
    • Rice became a major part of their diet, and still is
  • Domesticated wheat, barley
  • Agriculture and metalworking developed independently in China
  • 4-pronged hoe= more productive agriculture
  • Silk Manufacturing:
    • Very important economic export
    • Silk worms were raised, and their nests used to make silk
  • Mainly Agricultural, like so many other early civilizations
  • Very isolated, so little trade with other river valley civilizations.
  • Salt farming probably developed during this time period, which involves drying of a source of salt water.




  •  Praised the God-like Kings of the early civilizations
  • Organized religion wasn’t very important
  • Connection between currently living and their ancestors
  • Strong Beliefs in:
    • Family = foundation
    • Learning and literacy= important and valued



  •  Developed in considerable isolation,  but still traded with India and the Middle East
  • Development of Social Classes
    • 1- Alete- royalty
    • 2- Craftsman- worked for Alete
    • 3- Merchants and Traders
    • 4- Peasants- didn’t own land
    • 5- Slaves- prisoners of war



  •  Had an unusually elaborate concept of their distant origins
    • Started recording history very early
  • by 2000 BCE, the Chinese had made great advances in technology:
    • rode horses
    • used bronze (and by 1000 BCE, iron)
    • skilled in pottery
    • invention of ideographic symbols (representing ideas or things rather than letters)
  • Strangely enough, with all the isolation, the Chinese invented a lot of things... independently.



  • Chinese art used delicate designs
  • Had an early interest in music
  • Architecture wasn’t very elaborate, due to a lack in materials


Near Geography:

  •  Due to its geographic barriers, and also their culture, people of Ancient China developed independently from other civilizations of its time
    • Shaped the way the culture is to this day
  • Gobi Desert is North and West of the Yellow River Valley
  • Himalaya Mountains are Southwest of the valley
  • Tarim Basin is West



The Shang Dynasty: 

The Shang Dynasty took place around 1500 B.C.E. along the Huang He river as one of the first dynasties. A line of Shang Kings ruler a large portion of Northern China, and aristocrats ruled over the military. The dynasty consisted of 30 kings and 7 different capitals, and some rulers big built palaces and tombs. Shang troops fought frequent wars with nearby civilizations and settlements. Agriculture was an important practice during this time, and many crops and animals were domesticated. Also, writing was created in China during this time, which was a very important development. Finally, the Shang dynasty fell because of disruptions of invasions, but its decline still wasn't as chaotic as other areas like the Middle East and India; the Chinese were able to rebuild ideas on Huang He bases. 



As China developed, it went through a series of dynasties and rulers. The Zhou dynasty came after the Shang, and many others came after the Zhou. As time went by, the Chinese became more advanced and made many important discoveries.  



Comments (2)

Jonah, Y said

at 10:17 am on Apr 18, 2010

It was probably already mentioned, but was the flooding periodically or did It just happened at random times of the year?

Alianna D. said

at 6:27 pm on May 7, 2010

how many people would die from the flooding of the river?

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