chapter  18
10 Pages

Early Chinese Civilization

The Origins of Chinese Civilization By 4000 b.c., agriculture had taken such hold in China that population densities rose throughout the country (Liu, 2004; Stark, 2006). The farmers took more and more land into cultivation until there was little new acreage available for planting. Some pollen analyses from northern villages show how the trees that once surrounded many settlements were felled as the fields lapped right up to the houses. This population growth also coincided with an expansion of wet rice farming in lowland areas, on moist floodplains, and in lush water meadows where irrigation was easy (Figure 18.1). Those villages fortunate enough to possess lands that could be irrigated, especially in the Huang Ho and Yangtze valleys, soon turned into much more permanent settlements, often protected with earthen walls to guard against floods and marauding neighbors. Even these larger communities were part of a self-regulating folk society in which kinship loyalties and the extended family were all-important and old age was deeply revered. The family ancestors were the conduit to the gods who controlled the harmony of the world.