Guest Author - Heather J. Hasan
In 91 B.C., the first Chinese text concerning the country's history was completed by Sima Qian. In this text, Chinese history starting with the Yellow Emperor’s reign starting in 2600 B.C. and ending in Qian’s era was chronicled. The name given to this integral text was Records of the Historian.
It was within the pages of Qian’s Records of the Historian that the Xia Dynasty was introduced. The tale of the Chinese leader, Shun, and his faithful minister, Yu the Great, is one of heroism and loyalty. According to the text, Shun gracefully surrendered his throne to his priest, Yu, because of his greatness and leadership skills. He was believed to have tamed floods and he divided China into nine distinct provinces. Therefore, Shun believed that Yu could be a better leader than himself. Instead of serving as ruler, Yu passed the position to his son, thus starting the first dynasty in China.
The Xia Dynasty would see the rise of seventeen rulers from 2200 – 1600 B.C. Perhaps the most notorious ruler next to Yu the Great is the last reigning emperor of the Xia period, King Jie. Jie was a corrupt man and during his leadership (1728 – 1675 B.C.), he became a dictator and greatly mistreated his people. Legend has it that during the last year of his reign, many natural disasters occurred including ice and frosts forming during the summer season and heavy rain fall and flooding. His people feared that King Jie was punishing them through disastrous weather. Evidence would later show that the strange weather most likely took place due the eruption of a volcano.
In approximately 1675 B.C., King Tang of the Shang defeated Jie. This brought an end to the Xia dynasty and the Shang Dynasty came into play.
Historians have disputed the Xia Dynasty because of lack of evidence to support its existence. Many have passed it off as simple myth or an Early Bronze Age. Recent findings may prove otherwise. A site in Erlitous, Henan called Yanshi has been uncovered containing jade and bronze ware possibly produced during the era. This area is considered the likely capital of the Xia Dynasty based on the findings.