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Chinese civilization as described in mythology begins with Pangu the creator of the universe and a succession of legendary sage-emperors and culture heroes among them are Huang Di Yao and Shun who taught the ancient Chinese to communicate and to find sustenance clothing and shelter The first prehistoric dynasty is said to be Xia from about the twenty-first to the sixteenth century BC Until scientific excavations were made at early bronze-age sites at Anyang Henan Province in 1928 it was difficult to separate myth from reality in regard to the Xia But since then and especially in the 1960s and 1970s archaeologists have uncovered urban sites bronze implements and tombs that point to the existence of Xia civilization in the same locations cited in ancient Chinese historical texts At minimum the Xia period marked an evolutionary stage between the late neolithic cultures and the typical Chinese urban civilization of the Shang dynasty The Dawn of History Thousands of archaeological finds in the Huang He Henan Valley --the apparent cradle of Chinese civilization--provide evidence about the Shang dynasty which endured roughly from 1700 to 1027 BC The Shang dynasty also called the Yin dynasty in its later stages is believed to have been founded by a rebel leader who overthrew the last Xia ruler Its civilization was based on agriculture augmented by hunting and animal husbandry Two important events of the period were the development of a writing system as revealed in archaic Chinese inscriptions found on tortoise shells and flat cattle bones commonly called oracle bones or and the use of bronze metallurgy A number of ceremonial bronze vessels with inscriptions date from the Shang period the workmanship on the bronzes attests to a high level of civilization A line of hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of northern China
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