PREHISTORY 1 _Sources for the earliest history_ Until recently we were dependent for the beginnings of Chinese history on the written Chinese tradition. According to these sources China's history began either about 4000 B.C. or about 2700 B.C. with a succession of wise emperors who "invented" the elements of a civilization, such as clothing, the preparation of food, marriage, and a state system; they instructed their people in these things, and so brought China, as early as in the third millennium B.C., to an astonishingly high cultural level. However, all we know of the origin of civilizations makes this of itself entirely improbable; no other civilization in the world originated in any such way. As time went on, Chinese historians found more and more to say about primeval times. All these narratives were collected in the great imperial history that appeared at the beginning of the Manchu epoch. That book was translated into French, and all the works written in Western languages until recent years on Chinese history and civilization have been based in the last resort on that translation. Modern research has not only demonstrated that all these accounts are inventions of a much later period, but has also shown _why_ such narratives were composed. The older historical sources make no mention of any rulers before 2200 B.C., no mention even of their names. The names of earlier rulers first appear in documents of about 400 B.C.; the deeds attributed to them and the dates assigned to them often do not appear until much later. Secondly, it was shown that the traditional chronology is wrong and another must be adopted, reducing all the dates for the more ancient history, before 900 B.C. Finally, all narratives and reports from China's earliest period have been dealt a mortal blow by modern archaeology, with the excavations of recent years. There was no trace of any high civilization in the third millennium B.C., and, indeed, we can only speak of a real "Chinese civilization" from 1300 B.C. onward. The peoples of the China of that time had come from the most varied sources; from 1300 B.C. they underwent a common process of development that welded them into a new unity. In this sense and emphasizing the cultural aspects, we are justified in using from then on a new name, "Chinese", for the peoples of China. Those sections, however, of their ancestral populations who played no part in the subsequent cultural and racial fusion, we may fairly call "non-Chinese". This distinction answers the question that continually crops up, whether the Chinese are "autochthonons". They are autochthonons in the sense that they formed a unit in the Far East, in the geographical region of the present China, and were not immigrants from the Middle East. 2 _The Peking Man_ Man makes his appearance in the Far East at a time when remains in other parts of the world are very rare and are disputed. He appears as the so-called "Peking Man", whose bones were found in caves of Chou-k'ou-tien south of Peking. The Peking Man is vastly different from the men of today, and forms a special branch of the human race, closely allied to the Pithecanthropus of Java. The formation of later races of mankind from these types has not yet been traced, if it occurred at all. Some anthropologists consider, however, that the Peking Man possessed already certain characteristics peculiar to the yellow race. The Peking Man lived in caves; no doubt he was a hunter, already in possession of very simple stone implements and also of the art of making fire. As none of the skeletons so far found are complete, it is assumed that he buried certain bones of the dead in different places from the rest. This burial custom, which is found among primitive peoples in other parts of the world, suggests the conclusion that the Peking Man already had religious notions. We have no knowledge yet of the length of time the Peking Man may have inhabited the Far East. His first traces are attributed to a million years ago, and he may have flourished in 500,000 B.C. 3 _The Palaeolithic Age_ After the period of the Peking Man there comes a great gap in our knowledge. All that we know indicates that at the time of the Peking Man there must have been a warmer and especially a damper climate in North China and Inner Mongolia than today. Great areas of the Ordos region, now dry steppe, were traversed in that epoch by small rivers and lakes beside which men could live. There were elephants, rhinoceroses, extinct species of stag and bull, even tapirs and other wild animals. About 50,000 B.C. there lived by these lakes a hunting people whose stone implements (and a few of bone) have been found in many places. The implements are comparable in type with the palaeolithic implements of Europe (Mousterian type, and more rarely Aurignacian or even Magdalenian). They are not, however, exactly like the European implements, but have a character of their own. We do not yet know what the men of these communities looked like, because as yet no indisputable human remains have been found. All the stone implements have been found on the surface, where they have been brought to light by the wind as it swept away the loess. These stone-age communities seem to have lasted a considerable time and to have been spread not only over North China but over Mongolia and Manchuria. It must not be assumed that the stone age came to an end at the same time everywhere. Historical accounts have recorded, for instance, that stone implements were still in use in Manchuria and eastern Mongolia at a time when metal was known and used in western Mongolia and northern China. Our knowledge about the palaeolithic period of Central and South China is still extremely limited; we have to wait for more excavations before anything can be said. Certainly, many implements in this area were made of wood or more probably bamboo, such as we still find among the non-Chinese tribes of the south-west and of South-East Asia. Such implements, naturally, could not last until today. About 25,000 B.C. there appears in North China a new human type, found in upper layers in the same caves that sheltered Peking Man. This type is beyond doubt not Mongoloid, and may have been allied to the Ainu, a non-Mongol race still living in northern Japan. These, too, were a palaeolithic people, though some of their implements show technical advance. Later they disappear, probably because they were absorbed into various populations of central and northern Asia. Remains of them have been found in badly explored graves in northern Korea. 4 _The Neolithic age_ In the period that now followed, northern China must have gradually become arid, and the formation of loess seems to have steadily advanced. There is once more a great gap in our knowledge until, about 4000 B.C., we can trace in North China a purely Mongoloid people with a neolithic culture. In place of hunters we find cattle breeders, who are even to some extent agriculturists as well. This may seem an astonishing statement for so early an age. It is a fact, however, that pure pastoral nomadism is exceptional, that normal pastoral nomads have always added a little farming to their cattle-breeding, in order to secure the needed additional food and above all fodder, for the winter. At this time, about 4000 B.C., the other parts of China come into view. The neolithic implements of the various regions of the Far East are far from being uniform; there are various separate cultures. In the north-west of China there is a system of cattle-breeding combined with agriculture, a distinguishing feature being the possession of finely polished axes of rectangular section, with a cutting edge. Farther east, in the north and reaching far to the south, is found a culture with axes of round or oval section. In the south and in the coastal region from Nanking to Tonking, Yuennan to Fukien, and reaching as far as the coasts of Korea and Japan, is a culture with so-called shoulder-axes. Szechwan and Yuennan represented a further independent culture. All these cultures were at first independent. Later the shoulder-axe culture penetrated as far as eastern India. Its people are known to philological research as Austroasiatics, who formed the original stock of the Australian aborigines; they survived in India as the Munda tribes, in Indo-China as the Mon-Khmer, and also remained in pockets on the islands of Indonesia and especially Melanesia. All these peoples had migrated from southern China. The peoples with the oval-axe culture are the so-called Papuan peoples in Melanesia; they, too, migrated from southern China, probably before the others. Both groups influenced the ancient Japanese culture. The rectangular-axe culture of north-west China spread widely, and moved southward, where the Austronesian peoples (from whom the Malays are descended) were its principal constituents, spreading that culture also to Japan. Thus we see here, in this period around 4000 B.C., an extensive mutual penetration of the various cultures all over the Far East, including Japan, which in the palaeolithic age was apparently without or almost without settlers. 5 _The eight principal prehistoric cultures_ In the period roughly around 2500 B.C. the general historical view becomes much clearer. Thanks to a special method of working, making use of the ethnological sources available from later times together with the archaeological sources, much new knowledge has been gained in recent years. At this time there is still no trace of a Chinese realm; we find instead on Chinese soil a considerable number of separate local cultures, each developing on its own lines. The chief of these cultures, acquaintance with which is essential to a knowledge of the whole later development of the Far East, are as follows: (a) _The north-east culture_, centred in the present provinces of Hopei (in which Peking lies), Shantung, and southern Manchuria. The people of this culture were ancestors of the Tunguses, probably mixed with an element that is contained in the present-day Paleo-Siberian tribes. These men were mainly hunters, but probably soon developed a little primitive agriculture and made coarse, thick pottery with certain basic forms which were long preserved in subsequent Chinese pottery (for instance, a type of the so-called tripods). Later, pig-breeding became typical of this culture. (b) _The northern culture_ existed to the west of that culture, in the region of the present Chinese province of Shansi and in the province of Jehol in Inner Mongolia. These people had been hunters, but then became pastoral nomads, depending mainly on cattle. The people of this culture were the tribes later known as Mongols, the so-called proto-Mongols. Anthropologically they belonged, like the Tunguses, to the Mongol race. (c) The people of the culture farther west, the _north-west culture_, were not Mongols. They, too, were originally hunters, and later became a pastoral people, with a not inconsiderable agriculture (especially growing wheat and millet). The typical animal of this group soon became the horse. The horse seems to be the last of the great animals to be domesticated, and the date of its first occurrence in domesticated form in the Far East is not yet determined, but we can assume that by 2500 B.C. this group was already in the possession of horses. The horse has always been a "luxury", a valuable animal which needed special care. For their economic needs, these tribes depended on other animals, probably sheep, goats, and cattle. The centre of this culture, so far as can be ascertained from Chinese sources, were the present provinces of Shensi and Kansu, but mainly only the plains. The people of this culture were most probably ancestors of the later Turkish peoples. It is not suggested, of course, that the original home of the Turks lay in the region of the Chinese provinces of Shensi and Kansu; one gains the impression, however, that this was a border region of the Turkish expansion; the Chinese documents concerning that period do not suffice to establish the centre of the Turkish territory. (d) In the _west_, in the present provinces of Szechwan and in all the mountain regions of the provinces of Kansu and Shensi, lived the ancestors of the Tibetan peoples as another separate culture. They were shepherds, generally wandering with their flocks of sheep and goats on the mountain heights. (e) In the _south_ we meet with four further cultures. One is very primitive, the Liao culture, the peoples of which are the Austroasiatics already mentioned. These are peoples who never developed beyond the stage of primitive hunters, some of whom were not even acquainted with the bow and arrow. Farther east is the Yao culture, an early Austronesian culture, the people of which also lived in the mountains, some as collectors and hunters, some going over to a simple type of agriculture (denshiring). They mingled later with the last great culture of the south, the Tai culture, distinguished by agriculture. The people lived in the valleys and mainly cultivated rice. The origin of rice is not yet known; according to some scholars, rice was first cultivated in the area of present Burma and was perhaps at first a perennial plant. Apart from the typical rice which needs much water, there were also some strains of dry rice which, however, did not gain much importance. The centre of this Tai culture may have been in the present provinces of Kuangtung and Kuanghsi. Today, their descendants form the principal components of the Tai in Thailand, the Shan in Burma and the Lao in Laos. Their immigration into the areas of the Shan States of Burma and into Thailand took place only in quite recent historical periods, probably not much earlier than A.D. 1000. Finally there arose from the mixture of the Yao with the Tai culture, at a rather later time, the Yueeh culture, another early Austronesian culture, which then spread over wide regions of Indonesia, and of which the axe of rectangular section, mentioned above, became typical. Thus, to sum up, we may say that, quite roughly, in the middle of the third millennium we meet in the _north_ and west of present-day China with a number of herdsmen cultures. In the _south_ there were a number of agrarian cultures, of which the Tai was the most powerful, becoming of most importance to the later China. We must assume that these cultures were as yet undifferentiated in their social composition, that is to say that as yet there was no distinct social stratification, but at most beginnings of class-formation, especially among the nomad herdsmen. [Illustration: Map 1. Regions of the principal local cultures in prehistoric times. _Local cultures of minor importance have not been shown_.] 6 _The Yang-shao culture_ The various cultures here described gradually penetrated one another, especially at points where they met. Such a process does not yield a simple total of the cultural elements involved; any new combination produces entirely different conditions with corresponding new results which, in turn, represent the characteristics of the culture that supervenes. We can no longer follow this process of penetration in detail; it need not by any means have been always warlike. Conquest of one group by another was only one way of mutual cultural penetration. In other cases, a group which occupied the higher altitudes and practiced hunting or slash-and-burn agriculture came into closer contacts with another group in the valleys which practiced some form of higher agriculture; frequently, such contacts resulted in particular forms of division of labour in a unified and often stratified new form of society. Recent and present developments in South-East Asia present a number of examples for such changes. Increase of population is certainly one of the most important elements which lead to these developments. The result, as a rule, was a stratified society being made up of at least one privileged and one ruled stratum. Thus there came into existence around 2000 B.C. some new cultures, which are well known archaeologically. The most important of these are the Yang-shao culture in the west and the Lung-shan culture in the east. Our knowledge of both these cultures is of quite recent date and there are many enigmas still to be cleared up. The _Yang-shao culture_ takes its name from a prehistoric settlement in the west of the present province of Honan, where Swedish investigators discovered it. Typical of this culture is its wonderfully fine pottery, apparently used as gifts to the dead. It is painted in three colours, white, red, and black. The patterns are all stylized, designs copied from nature being rare. We are now able to divide this painted pottery into several sub-types of specific distribution, and we know that this style existed from _c_. 2200 B.C. on. In general, it tends to disappear as does painted pottery in other parts of the world with the beginning of urban civilization and the invention of writing. The typical Yang-shao culture seems to have come to an end around 1600 or 1500 B.C. It continued in some more remote areas, especially of Kansu, perhaps to about 700 B.C. Remnants of this painted pottery have been found over a wide area from Southern Manchuria, Hopei, Shansi, Honan, Shensi to Kansu; some pieces have also been discovered in Sinkiang. Thus far, it seems that it occurred mainly in the mountainous parts of North and North-West China. The people of this culture lived in villages near to the rivers and creeks. They had various forms of houses, including underground dwellings and animal enclosures. They practiced some agriculture; some authors believe that rice was already known to them. They also had domesticated animals. Their implements were of stone with rare specimens of bone. The axes were of the rectangular type. Metal was as yet unknown, but seems to have been introduced towards the end of the period. They buried their dead on the higher elevations, and here the painted pottery was found. For their daily life, they used predominantly a coarse grey pottery. After the discovery of this culture, its pottery was compared with the painted pottery of the West, and a number of resemblances were found, especially with the pottery of the Lower Danube basin and that of Anau, in Turkestan. Some authors claim that such resemblances are fortuitous and believe that the older layers of this culture are to be found in the eastern part of its distribution and only the later layers in the west. It is, they say, these later stages which show the strongest resemblances with the West. Other authors believe that the painted pottery came from the West where it occurs definitely earlier than in the Far East; some investigators went so far as to regard the Indo-Europeans as the parents of that civilization. As we find people who spoke an Indo-European language in the Far East in a later period, they tend to connect the spread of painted pottery with the spread of Indo-European-speaking groups. As most findings of painted pottery in the Far East do not stem from scientific excavations it is difficult to make any decision at this moment. We will have to wait for more and modern excavations. From our knowledge of primeval settlement in West and North-West China we know, however, that Tibetan groups, probably mixed with Turkish elements, must have been the main inhabitants of the whole region in which this painted pottery existed. Whatever the origin of the painted pottery may be, it seems that people of these two groups were the main users of it. Most of the shapes of their pottery are not found in later Chinese pottery. 7 _The Lung-shan culture_ While the Yang-shao culture flourished in the mountain regions of northern and western China around 2000 B.C., there came into existence in the plains of eastern China another culture, which is called the Lung-shan culture, from the scene of the principal discoveries. Lung-shan is in the province of Shantung, near Chinan-fu. This culture, discovered only about twenty-five years ago, is distinguished by a black pottery of exceptionally fine quality and by a similar absence of metal. The pottery has a polished appearance on the exterior; it is never painted, and mostly without decoration; at most it may have incised geometrical patterns. The forms of the vessels are the same as have remained typical of Chinese pottery, and of Far Eastern pottery in general. To that extent the Lung-shan culture may be described as one of the direct predecessors of the later Chinese civilization. As in the West, we find in Lung-shan much grey pottery out of which vessels for everyday use were produced. This simple corded or matted ware seems to be in connection with Tunguse people who lived in the north-east. The people of the Lung-shan culture lived on mounds produced by repeated building on the ruins of earlier settlements, as did the inhabitants of the "Tells" in the Near East. They were therefore a long-settled population of agriculturists. Their houses were of mud, and their villages were surrounded with mud walls. There are signs that their society was stratified. So far as is known at present, this culture was spread over the present provinces of Shantung, Kiangsu, Chekiang, and Anhui, and some specimens of its pottery went as far as Honan and Shansi, into the region of the painted pottery. This culture lasted in the east until about 1600 B.C., with clear evidence of rather longer duration only in the south. As black pottery of a similar character occurs also in the Near East, some authors believe that it has been introduced into the Far East by another migration (Pontic migration) following that migration which supposedly brought the painted pottery. This theory has not been generally accepted because of the fact that typical black pottery is limited to the plains of East China; if it had been brought in from the West, we should expect to find it in considerable amounts also in West China. Ordinary black pottery can be simply the result of a special temperature in the pottery kiln; such pottery can be found almost everywhere. The typical thin, fine black pottery of Lung-shan, however, is in the Far East an eastern element, and migrants would have had to pass through the area of the painted pottery people without leaving many traces and without pushing their predecessors to the East. On the basis of our present knowledge we assume that the peoples of the Lung-shan culture were probably of Tai and Yao stocks together with some Tunguses. Recently, a culture of mound-dwellers in Eastern China has been discovered, and a southern Chinese culture of people with impressed or stamped pottery. This latter seems to be connected with the Yueeh tribes. As yet, no further details are known. 8 _The first petty States in Shansi_ At the time in which, according to archaeological research, the painted pottery flourished in West China, Chinese historical tradition has it that the semi-historical rulers, Yao and Shun, and the first official dynasty, the Hsia dynasty ruled over parts of China with a centre in southern Shansi. While we dismiss as political myths the Confucianist stories representing Yao and Shun as models of virtuous rulers, it may be that a small state existed in south-western Shansi under a chieftain Yao, and farther to the east another small state under a chieftain Shun, and that these states warred against each other until Yao's state was destroyed. These first small states may have existed around 2000 B.C. On the cultural scene we first find an important element of progress: bronze, in traces in the middle layers of the Yang-shao culture, about 1800 B.C.; that element had become very widespread by 1400 B.C. The forms of the oldest weapons and their ornamentation show similarities with weapons from Siberia; and both mythology and other indications suggest that the bronze came into China from the north and was not produced in China proper. Thus, from the present state of our knowledge, it seems most correct to say that the bronze was brought to the Far East through the agency of peoples living north of China, such as the Turkish tribes who in historical times were China's northern neighbours (or perhaps only individual families or clans, the so-called smith families with whom we meet later in Turkish tradition), reaching the Chinese either through these people themselves or through the further agency of Mongols. At first the forms of the weapons were left unaltered. The bronze vessels, however, which made their appearance about 1450 B.C. are entirely different from anything produced in other parts of Asia; their ornamentation shows, on the one hand, elements of the so-called "animal style" which is typical of the steppe people of the Ordos area and of Central Asia. But most of the other elements, especially the "filling" between stylized designs, is recognizably southern (probably of the Tai culture), no doubt first applied to wooden vessels and vessels made from gourds, and then transferred to bronze. This implies that the art of casting bronze very soon spread from North China, where it was first practiced by Turkish peoples, to the east and south, which quickly developed bronze industries of their own. There are few deposits of copper and tin in North China, while in South China both metals are plentiful and easily extracted, so that a trade in bronze from south to north soon set in. The origin of the Hsia state may have been a consequence of the progress due to bronze. The Chinese tradition speaks of the Hsia _dynasty_, but can say scarcely anything about it. The excavations, too, yield no clear conclusions, so that we can only say that it flourished at the time and in the area in which the painted pottery occurred, with a centre in south-west Shansi. We date this dynasty now somewhere between 2000 and 1600 B.C. and believe that it was an agrarian culture with bronze weapons and pottery vessels but without the knowledge of the art of writing.