When Did Ancient China Civilization Start?

Ancient China is considered one of the oldest civilizations in the world, with a rich and fascinating history spanning over thousands of years. But when did it all begin? Let’s dive into the origins of ancient China civilization.

The Neolithic Period

The prehistoric era of ancient China dates back to around 10,000 BCE during the Neolithic period. This period marked the transition from hunting-gathering to farming and animal domestication. The Yangshao culture was one of the earliest farming communities that emerged in the Yellow River valley around 5000 BCE.

The Xia Dynasty (c.2070-1600 BCE)

The Xia dynasty is considered the first dynasty in ancient China, although there are debates among scholars about its existence. According to legend, Yu the Great founded this dynasty after he successfully tamed the floods that plagued northern China. However, little archaeological evidence exists to support this claim.

The Shang Dynasty (c.1600-1046 BCE)

Following the Xia dynasty was the Shang dynasty, which marks a significant period in ancient Chinese history. The Shang dynasty emerged around 1600 BCE and ruled over much of northern and central China for over 500 years. They were known for their bronze casting, oracle bone script, and ancestor worship.

  • Bronze Casting: The Shang dynasty perfected bronze casting techniques that allowed them to create intricate vessels and weapons.
  • Oracle Bone Script: The Shang kings would inscribe questions on turtle shells or animal bones and heat them until they cracked. The cracks were then interpreted by diviners who would provide answers to questions about war, agriculture, weather, etc.
  • Ancestor Worship: The Shang believed in worshipping their ancestors as they believed their ancestors had the power to influence their lives.

The Zhou Dynasty (c.1046-256 BCE)

The Zhou dynasty overthrew the Shang dynasty around 1046 BCE and ruled over China for almost 800 years. This period saw significant developments in agriculture, iron casting, and philosophy. The Zhou dynasty is also known for the creation of the Mandate of Heaven, which claimed that rulers were appointed by heaven but could lose their mandate if they ruled poorly.


In conclusion, ancient China civilization can be traced back to the Neolithic period around 10,000 BCE. The Xia dynasty is considered the first dynasty, but little evidence exists to support its existence.

The Shang dynasty introduced bronze casting, oracle bone script, and ancestor worship while the Zhou dynasty brought significant developments in agriculture, iron casting, and philosophy. These early civilizations laid the foundation for modern-day China and continue to intrigue scholars and historians alike.