According to one of the most famous Chinese legend the creator of the world was Pan Ku, who was born from the egg of chaos and grew up to plug the hole between Yin (the earth) and Yang (the heaven). Pan Ku carved the earth for eighteen thousand years to its current shape with the help of a dragon, a unicorn, a phoenix and a tortoise. When he died his body turned into the soil, rivers, and rain, his eyes the sun and moon, while his parasites transformed into human race; then emerged five demigods known as the Five
Supremes which reigned in the world for hundred of years. They invented fire, agriculture, the calendar, silk-breeding and marriage.
Some of the mythological rulers are Yao the Benevolent, the morally perfect sage-king; Shun the Hard-worker of the lands, and Yu the Great, the tamer of floods and apparently the founder of China's first dynasty, the Xia.
The Xia lasted five centuries until their last king was overthrown by the Shang dynasty. The Shang lasted another five centuries and was in turn succeeded by the Zhou dynasty, which ended this legendary era. Together, the Xia, Shang and Zhou are usually known as the Three Dynasties.
In terms of archaeology, recent studies show that was inhabited by Homo erectus more than a million years ago. The most famous remain of the Homo erectus is the Peking Man discovered in 1923. Anthropologists disagree about whether Homo erectus is the direct predecessor of Homo sapiens or just connected through a common ancestor. In either case, modern humans may have emerged in China about 200,000 years ago.
Beginning in approximately 7,000 BC, humans in China began developing agriculture. By 5000 BC there were agricultural communities based around the fertile Huang He and Yangtze basins, such as Banpo in Shaanxi and Homudu in Zhejiang. People produced principally millet and rice complemented with fish and aquatic plants.
Humans also had domesticated pigs, dogs, sheep and cattle. This period comprises the earliest stage of the Chinese written language and the earliest wine production in the world.
There is solid evidence of the Bronze Age in China since 3000 BC. Chinese had created a civilization which was marked by writing, metalwork, domestication of horses, a class system, and a stable political and religious hierarchy. This is the period of the legendary Three Dynasties.
Today, archeologists believe that the palaces at Erlitou near Luoyang, belonged to the Xia capital (2000 BC), but without written evidence, are little what it is known about the Xia dynasty (2100–1600 BC), though their territory apparently covered Shanxi, Henan and Hebei.
The next dynasty, the Shang (1600–1046 BC) was a religious society with a king, a class system and a skilled bronze technology. The king ruled through alliances, royal journeys, and military campaigns. The Shang was often at war with neighboring villages and had to move their capital many times.
In the capital of Shang, Yin, there are still tombs swollen with weapons, jade ornaments, traces of silk and sacrificial animals. The Shang also practiced divination by studying the fire forms and making inscription on tortoiseshell and bone, to cover themes like rainfall, dreams and ancestral curses.
The Shang controlled the modern provinces of Henan, Hubei, Shandong, Anhui, Shanxi, and Hebei, but its influences were extended to more-distant regions.
The writing system created by the Shang is the precursor of the modern Chinese writing system, with characters for every word.
After centuries, a northern tribe, the Zhou, overthrew the Shang, expanded their kingdom west of the Yellow River into Shaanxi and set up a capital at Xi'an. It was the origin of the Zhou dynasty (1122–256 BC).
The Zhou adopted several Shang customs, but also introduced the doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven: a belief that assumes a close relationship between Heaven and the king, called the Son of Heaven, justifying the rebellion by declaring that heaven grants ruling authority to leaders who are strong and wise, and work for the interest of the people.
For this reason, Zhou villages had more independence, which led to the gradual dissolution of the Zhou kingdom in around 600 BC. The capital was moved to Luoyang, and later Zhou rulers became in symbolic kings.
The Zhou presided over a series of expansions into the Yangtze River valley. This was the first of many population migrations from north to south in the history of the nation.
Spring and Autumn Period & Warring States times
In the 8th century BC, when power was expanding to each village, began the Spring and Autumn Period. The real power was fought over by some two hundred city states and kingdoms during four hundred years.
This time of violence and change, called also the Warring States times, broke down the feudal system, and new ideas appear about philosophy and religion based principally on the three most influential schools of thought: Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism.
The war also improved the agriculture and irrigation, trade, transport and diplomacy were all stimulated; iron was first smelted for weapons and tools, and major discoveries made in medicine, astronomy and mathematics.
After three hundred years of war, only seven powerful states continued in fighting. The period ends in the third century BC with the rise of a new dynasty - the Qin.