Xia Dynasty, the Oldest Chinese Dynasty

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The Xia Dynasty is the oldest Dynasty recorded in Chinese history. Dated around 2010-1600 BCE, it was said to have been established by Yu the Great.

The Xia tribe developed around the time of Zhuanxu, one of the Five Emperors. There are records that claim that Yu the Great is the grandson of Zhuanxu while others claim that he is the fifth generation of Zhuanxu. Nonetheless, we can determine that the Xia tribe is ascribed to Zhuanxu.

Gun, Yu the Great’s father, is the earliest recorded member of the Xia clan. When the Yellow River flooded, Gun was appointed by Emperor Yao to stop the flooding. He ordered the construction of levees to block the path of water. The attempt lasted nine years but failed after that as the floods became stronger. At this point, the throne had been passed over to Shun who sentenced Gun to life imprisonment at Yushan to reform the Eastern Barbarians.

Someone Shun highly trusted was Yu, who he appointed to do what his father could not — stop the floods. Yu took a different approach and organized people from different tribes and had them build canals in all the major rivers that were flooding. This led the water out to the sea. People were inspired by Yu and they praised his perseverance. It is said that it took 13 years to completely stop the floods, but he never took time to rest.

Stopping the floods resulted in better agricultural production and the Xia tribe’s power increased and the surrounding tribes now began to look to Yu as the leader. Shun then sent Yu to suppress the Sanmiao tribe, which continuously attacked the border tribes, which he did successfully and banished them south of the Han River area.

Following the victory, Xia tribe’s power increased. Shun, needing a successor, deemed Yu worthy and relinquished the throne to him. This marked the start of the Xia Dynasty.

As Yu neared his death, he then passed the throne to his son, Qi, instead of the most capable candidate. This was the start of dynastic rule or the Hereditary System.

The last Xia dynasty king, Jie, was said to be corrupt and was overthrown by Tang, the first king of the Shang dynasty. Tang is said to have given Qi, as mall state, as an homage to the remnants of the Xia ruling family.

There were 17 rulers in the Xia Dynasty in this order:

  1. Yu the Great – Founder of the Xia Dynasty
  2. Qi – Son of Yu
  3. Tai Kang – Son of Qi
  4. Zhong Kang – Son of Qi, Younger brother of Tai Kang
  5. Xiang – Son of Zhong Kang
  6. Shao Kang – Son of Xiang
  7. Zhu – Song of Shao Kang
  8. Huai – Song of Zhu
  9. Mang – Song of Huai
  10. Xie – Son of Mang
  11. Bu Jiang – Son of Xie
  12. Jiong – Son of Xie, younger brother of Bu Jiang
  13. Jin – Son of Jiong
  14. Kong Jia – Son of Bu Jiang, Nephew of Jiong, Cousin of Jin
  15. Gao – Son of Kong Jia
  16. Fa – Son of Cao
  17. Jie – Son of Fa

Interested in what came before the first Chinese dynasty? You can read about that here.

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