| The aim of this page is
to lightly introduce Chinese pre-history - from the
earliest records of anthropologists - right through
to the beginning of 'modern' history at the beginning
of the Neolithic Period (After the last Ice Age).
This is for fun and general interest, as we will not
delve too deeply into scientific journals - although
our information is based in established fact. Neither
will we become embroiled in the debate as to whether
Chinese peoples' descend from Homo Erectus rather than
Homo Sapiens - although the evidence does suggest Chinese
are mainly the latter, with some large-scale inter-marriage!
The Ice Age
This was a fundamental world event which lasted from
around 1.8 million years ago, until a mere 10, 000 years
ago. Whilst much of the world was decimated by ice sheets,
some areas were excluded, such as Africa. Here human
development continued, and eventually humanoids migrated
to all areas of the globe.
Whilst it is generally agreed that humanoid history
dates back some 4.5 million years to the Rift Valley
of Africa. About 1 million years ago homo erectus, the
presumed forerunner or peer of homo sapiens, appears
in africa. This is at odds with earlier finds from Asian
circa 1.6 million years ago, which now suggest homo
erectus evolved independently of Homo Sapiens somewhere
Many types of humans evolved contiguously, and you
will recognise terms such as Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon
amongst them. It would be normal to expect that these
different types of higher apes occupied the same places,
and in general tolerated each other to a surprising
degree, which included simple trading at local level.
It is agreed that 99% of human history developed
in the Paleolithic (Stone Age), which dates from 2.6
million years ago, to the end of the Ice Age (10,
Upper Paleolithic Era (Stone Age) 500, 000 to
10, 000 BC
In order to understand our human history we need to
know where we came from, and when. Lets start with
the Upper Paleolithic Age
Different types of human Ape lines develop over epochs,
and scatter to all quarters of the planet. Many co-exist
relatively peacefully together. Things like stone
axes, fire, and the wheel are invented. Social structures
develop, as does farming, whilst others prefer to
continue as hunter/gatherers. This is likely due to
immediate factors such as: the type of location and
land available, resources, predators, other human
clans nearby. Some crossed to the Americas or Australia
from Asia, whilst others migrated to better locations.
I see a world in flux, where people stayed in good
locations, whilst were nomadic in less suitable places.
Others may simply have run out of places to go, as
with the Pacific Islands.
What is not disputed is that the Earth changed dramatically,
and very quickly, about 10, 000 years ago. The ice sheets
receded, and the planet became a lot warmer. The first
recognisably modern civilisations appear.
There are certain myths, legends, and facts; which date
to pre-history in origin, but remain common throughout
all world cultures:
• The first man and woman
• The Deluge, and forms of human civilization
set in antediluvian times
• Flying dragons and mythical beasts
It can be generalised that modern human history began
about 10, 000 years ago
Many Chinese people including academics and scholars
working in the fields of paleontology and archaeology
believe that Chinese people descended from Homo Erectus,
and not Homo Sapiens. There is scant evidence to support
these theories, although early remains of Home Erectus
have been discovered.
The earliest discovery was of Peking Man, defined as
Homo Erectus and contiguous with Java Man (Who was later
reclassified). A rough date given is as 500, 000 years
ago, although the oldest carbon dating puts this back
to 780, 000 years ago. The main finds in China are related
to excavations at Zhoukoudian (Chou K'ou-tien) near
Beijing, which came to light in 1927 and have been progressing
(With interruptions by the Japanese invasion) ever since.
Dating of over 200 skeletal remains show a great date
range, with the latest being in the range of 300, 000
years ago. For more information please visit Wikipedia:
Other Early Remains
A pattern of early human displacement is being uncovered
along the eastern seaboard of China. The paleontological
record shows that human remains are located inland of
the sea in what are now: Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangdong
Provinces of modern China.
The remains from Zhejiang are from 200, 000 years ago
show both Homo Sapiens and Homo Erectus occupying the
same area at the same time. Recent discoveries tend
to support the theory that interbreeding between the
two did in fact take place to not a limited extent.
Discoveries in Guangdong reveal early humanoids dated
from 80, 000 to 50, 000 years ago. These bear remarkable
similarity to present day Chinese people. However it
is the latest discovery of Maba Man in Shaoguan of Northern
Guangdong (129, 000) that has really shaken the world.
Shaoguan is physically isolated from direct contact
with northern China by the impenetrable Nanling Mountains.
Whilst there are other access routes to the west and
south, Maba Man shares a common and continued history
of development with earlier remain of Zhejiang Province
(200, 000 BC).
What makes Maba Man so very special, it that the remains
1. Many Homo Sapiens with Homo Erectus Features.
2. A few Homo Erectus with Homo Sapien Features.
3. Widespread use of ancient tools.
As this is intended to be a 'light' study - we will
leave you to draw your own conclusions?
What has very recently rocked the scientific world is
the unearthing of remains in Fujian Province, dated
between those of Zhejiang and Guangdong Provinces. Examination
of skulls recovered also shows an intermediate point
of development. Interestingly these new finds now open
the door to a new thinking that these early human groups
actually migrated south, possibly to escape the advancing
By looking at the above map you will instantly realise
the importance of the preceding paragraph and its relationship
to humanoid dispersion along the eastern seaboard of
China. We do realise the coastline was in a different
place, but it largely mirrored the current seaboard
- only a bit further out. Unfortunately this map does
not show you the physical terrain and nature of the
For instance, up until 2, 000 years ago, there was only
one treacherous mountain pass linking Guangdong to the
North of China, and most of the West was inaccessible
also. Therefore during the last several thousand years
the main form of communication with Guangdong Province
was by sea. We also happen to know the area of northern
Zhejiang province that is bounded by the Yangtze River
was the most inhospitable of wetlands alive with hungry
alligators and many other nasty things. It was certainly
not a place for early humans to go anywhere near.
Similarly, crossing south from Zhejiang to Fujian Province
meant crossing another set of impassible mountains.
Perhaps this knowledge will give you an insight into
early human population movement, and perhaps indicate
that it happened because of a very important 'something'.
Presumably this was the advancing ice sheets, and an
understanding of basic boats and navigation.
It is possible that these people crossed to Zhejiang
from Beijing and the north by walking over the ice -
but I always have problems with this neat hypothesis,
as it indicates a knowledge of what will be possible
many centuries or millennia ahead, and also that food
and shelter will be available during this waiting period.
It doesn't make sense at the daily practicable level.
Therefore we must conclude people left when food and
shelter was becoming scarce, and that they either swam
or used early boats. Is this so far fetched?
Well indications are that whilst the Aborigines could
have walked to New Guinea some 30, 000 years ago, they
could not have crossed all the way to Australia on foot.
Similar is definitely true for the Maori's of New Zealand.
Therefore some form of sea-worthy boat must have been
in use before 50, 000 years ago - the date of the most
recent remains found in Guangdong. I do not claim to
be an expert in these matters, I just apply common sense
and localised knowledge to the information that I receive.
I see no reason why hide sails could not have been made,
and placed upon bamboo rafts. Paddles could also have
been made easily, and this indicates a coastal hopper
or river crossing boat, which makes sense yet again.
I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions: about early
Chinese boats of pre-history, as I will also leave you
to reflect upon the displacement of early peoples as
documented along China's eastern seaboard. You can add
the north american Indians to this mix as well, as I
really do not think they waited millennia for a land
bridge to be formed by ice. It simply doesn't make any
However, you may find it intriguing to compare certain
Red Indian tribes with the Hakka people of Northern
Guangdong Province - surprises await the open-minded.
Now, didn't the Red Indians use canoe's made from animal
hides? The Hakka word for Totem Pole is Tuteng - which
is academically accepted as correct - and a central
part of native society in USA, Australia, and New Zealand.
Gets you thinking doesn't it!
Anyway; While you ponder that, lets do a short run-down
of significant early humanoid fossils discovered in
China. We will exclude the non-humanoid ones, which
you can read about here
= small yellow men crashing their spacecraft somewhere
in the wilds of Yunnan Province; except nobody admits
to knowing anything about it? We did say history should
be 'fun' also!
Ancient human fossils discovered in China
1,700,000 years ago, in Yuanmou County of Yunnan Province
1,150,000 to 600,000 years ago, in Lantian County
of Shaanxi Province
No. 1 Nanjing Man
600,000 years ago, Tangshan of Nanjing
500,000 to 200,000 years ago, Zhoukoudian of Beijing
400,000 years ago, Yiyuan of Shandong Province
Early Homo sapiens
230,000 to 180,000 years ago, Dali of Shaanxi Province
200,000 to 160,000 years ago, Maba of Shaoguan, Guangdong
Province. Latest Carbon dating is 129, 000 BC; and shows
inter-marriage between Homo Erectus and Homo Sapien.
195,000 years ago, Changyang of Hubei Province
Late Homo sapiens
Upper Cave Man
30,000 years ago, Zhoukoudian of Beijing
50,000 to 30,000 years ago, Liujiang County of Guangxi
Neolithic (10, 000 BC to present day)
With the end of the Ice Age, mankind came into its own.
Traditional historical archaeology dictates that there
was say: a new clan appearing in the Yellow River of
China, whilst another clan appeared miraculously somewhere
in Europe, etc.
I would suggest we apply some common sense, and view
the world as being populated by various Tribes and Clans
who did trade and interact. They would also have ‘Turf-wars’,
with some becoming extinct or migrating – it is
human nature. The Archaeological record only portrays
what we can unearth today, and indicates permanent settlements
and tools that survive for eons
What is common, is that within a few hundred years,
diversification such as: The Bronze Age, The Iron Age,
etc; appears to happen to all the worlds peoples. This
means that there is trade, migration, and possibly Traders
travelling between fixed communities. My feeling is
that Traders, or people with other trades skills or
religious beliefs, travelled the world regularly, passing
on new ideas and skills. I do not believe the whole
world suddenly and individually developed Bronze and
Iron smelting skills separately, all at the same point
This presumption also tells me that humans were everywhere
Finally, there is a strong school of thought which
supports the fact that homo erectus in Asia did not
die out as supposed, but continued, and possibly inter-married
with homo sapiens. This could explain one or two anomalies?
I leave this for consideration by open-minded individuals.
My reference was:
where the author implies as much, which other Wikipedia
sources tend to support
This could also explain why diverse peoples such as
Red Indians (Native North Americans) and the Aborigines
of Australia and New Zealand, came into existence. There
are many deep-seated ties to modern Chinese peoples,
most people miss due to ignorance's of heritage and
This article is now winding down, and is intended to
make you think about what is possible given the related
facts above, which we believe to be largely correct
at this point in time. We will now move on to our more
factually based history of China as it was at the end
of the ice age - or the Neolithic as scholars call it.
Our main history of China continues with a description
cultures and tribes of early recorded history. However,
this will in turn follow the standard Han Chinese path
begriming modern history with the Xia
To properly understand Chinese history in full you should
also read our contemporary history of non-Han Chinese
development of Independent
Kingdoms, which is designed to give you a greater
understanding of all the peoples that now comprise modern
This is a very complicated area which we have tried
to simplify over the years, as the Han forefathers occupied
perhaps 10% or less of what is nowadays called China.
Therefore to understand modern Chinese people to a greater
degree you should also take a few moments out to read
our supplementary pages:
1. Centrality - The
Son Of Heaven
2. Chinese Inventions
3. The Silk
4. The Three Sovereigns
and Five Emperors - Huang Di
5. The Bon Culture - a
separate article from our Chinese religious section,
but very important for understanding parallel developments
and early peoples from 20, 000 years ago, especially
from what is now called Tibet.
All the above are inter-related, and cross-over in time
before the first very Chinese Empire, known as the Xia
The above article indicated that Chinese demographical
studies from periods as early as 780, 000 years ago
describe a population movement of Homo Erectus from
Northern China to the South. Homo Sapiens are also mixed
up with all this in contemporary societies that almost
certainly coexisted, and doubtless traded and intermarried.
In our next section: Neolithic
China, you will learn about the early Chinese tribes
from after the ice age to before the dawn of the modern
empires (Circa 10, 000 - 3, 000 BC). What our own research
indicates, which no scholars are apparently picking-up
upon, is that countless hordes of new tribes seem to
generate from the North of China's borders - continuously!
We would arbitrarily place this point of inception around
Lake Baikal in Russia, and to the East.
What you will find is that all these 'new' tribes head
South, and what I want to understand is just why so
many new tribes appear to originate in this desolate
This information is as supplied by China Expats and
Wikipedia, as dated August 2010 or later, and/or other
reliable sources. China Expats have interpreted all
information, and continue to do so for your benefit
of understanding (August 2010).
Maps (Unless stated otherwise) are provided in association
with Thomas Lessman
Shaoguan Snapshots are provided by Lamy
Please check this information yourself as it may alter
without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure
it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for
any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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