Xia Dynasty — the First Hereditary Kingdom in China
Restoration Map of the Palace of the Xia Dynasty
What is Xia Dynasty?
In about 471 years of the Xia Dynasty, about 17 kings had reigned the empire.
Yellow River or Huang He in Henan Province, Photo by Guo Ping.
Facts about the Xia Dynasty
The founder of the Xia Dynasty Yu the Great defeated the Great Flood, established the Xia Dynasty, and divided his land into nine administrative divisions.
He was widely believed as the writer of the Classic of Mountains and Seas.
Besides the central kingdom, 11 big clans paid tributes and pledged their loyalty.
Outside of the Kingdom Xia, there were other states, most of whom were mentioned in the Classic of Mountains and Seas.
There is still no direct archaeological evidence that can prove the existence of the Xia Dynasty.
This kingdom has only been recorded in Chinese historical documentation and literature.
This leads to an extensive debate that whether archaeological evidence is the only standard to prove the existence of a dynasty.
The unearthed Erlitou Culture is quite likely to be the relic site of part of the Xia Dynasty.
Bronze Wine Cup (Jue) Unearthed from Erlitou Site — Luoyang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Brief History of the Xia Dynasty
Establishment of the Xia Dynasty and the Hereditary Monarchy
Yu the Great was assigned to lead people to defend the Great Flood. During this period, he had visited many places and united large numbers of people.
After they succeed, Yu gained most people’s love and respect; soon he accepted the throne from King Shun and subjected more states to his rule. His Clan, the Xia, became the Xia Dynasty.
After Yu passed away, his son took the throne and defeated all the people who were against his crown.
The Abdication System was officially replaced by the Hereditary System in the history of China.
Bronze Artifact Decorated with Turquoise Unearthed From Erlitou Site — Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Losing and Regaining of the Throne
Decades later, a lord of a dependent country defeated the king of Xia and announced the throne.
Several years later, King Si Shaokang took the throne back and rebuilt the royal kingdom.
His son, King Si Zhu invented armor, and largely expanded their territory eastward to the sea. Their ruling was believed one of the most prosperous periods of the Xia Dynasty.
Gradually, more people were included in Xia Empire’s governance, while more complied lords were enfeoffed.
Ritual Jade Weapon (Yue) of Early Xia Dynasty — Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Declining and Falling of the Xia Dynasty
In the following decades, the relationship between Xia’s royal family and some dependent countries became deteriorated, when the tributes to the kings of Xia were largely decreased.
Si Jie, the last king of the Xia Empire, was very strong and aggressive; he had initiated many wars to conquer those who didn’t comply. He then took many beautiful women from those conquered countries, and his queen was one of them.
This queen was also suspected as a spy, who kept sending messages to Yi Yin, the prime minister of the State Shang.
Unearthed Grey Pottery Cup of Xia Dynasty — Luoyang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Whereabouts of the People of Xia
In the year 1600 B. C., the Lord of the State Shang initiated wars against King Si Jie; after a series of intense battles, they finally won.
King Si Jie was then banished to a desolate mountain and passed away there.
Some of Xia’s people surrendered to the King of the Shang Dynasty and stayed in the middle kingdom. They were rewarded noble titles and in charge of offering sacrifice ceremonies to their ancestors.
The rest of those who refused to surrender were separated into two groups, one went to the south, while another migrated northward who was believed as ancestors of the Xiongnu.
Unearthed Ritual Jade Bi of Early Xia Dynasty — Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Political Structure and Social Systems of the Xia Dynasty
Official Selection System:
Specialized officers were assigned to be in charge of historic documentation, food, sacrifice and worship ceremony, military activity, divination, astrology, law and judiciary, horse and chariot, tax, etc.
Shell Currency of the Xia Dynasty
People should help with the cultivation of some public farmlands, which were belonged to the royals.
Everyone in the kingdom had the obligation to fight in their army and protect their family.
Unearthed Ritual Jade Spear of Xia Dynasty — Nanyang Cultural Relic and Archaeology Institute (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Scientific Achievements of the Xia Dynasty
Appearing of winemaking.
Jade ware and Chariots were widely produced and used.
Bronze wares appeared.
Unearthed Bronze Weapon (Yue) with Exquisite Decorations of the Late Xia Dynasty — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)