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Did the Hsia dynasty really exist?


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Most of the knowledge today about the Hsia dynasty is mythological. There is very little archaeological evidence to support the claim that the Hsia dynasty really existed. Maybe "claim" is the wrong word, so I will use "cultural memory" instead.

The Shang dynasty was also thought to be mythological, until in 1899, when the discovery of oracle bones in Anyang shocked the world. Apparently, oracle bones had lay hidden beneath city streets for centuries until their discovery. More bones were discovered in 1928, and most recently last year. Before 1899, almost all that is known about the Shang came from Chinese cultural memory. Now the archaelogical evidence has proven that what the Chinese knew about the Shang was very accurate. The Hsia is included in Chinese history even though there is no hard evidence, because a nation's history is not only derived from written documents and archaeological evidence, but also from the cultural memory of its people.

Therefore, it is possible that the Hsia may not be mythological after all. It took millenia and centuries later to discover hard Shang evidence. The same is yet to happen regarding the Hsia. If it does happen, Chinese history could go back far beyond 5,000 years.

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I think all myth began with truth. But as the time passed by, much of the "cultural memory" were blown into myths. If I wanted to remember when I am in old age, something from when I was 6 years old.. I would have to make a deep imprint in my memory for it to last. Perhaps a small bike accident would be blown into something big and much more painful than it really was. Same thing.

The Xia "dynasty" is now officially accepted, has been since 1953 when the first Xia site was discovered. From archaeology, the time period given by the «Book of Records» (2395-1625BCE) is divided into 4 periods.

Different archaeologists accept a different time period for the Xia. In China, periods 2, 3 are usually accepted by most to be distinctly Xia. Many add period 4, but some say that period 4 are part of the Shang hegemony. Some add on period 1, but many say that period 1 has more characteristics of Longshan or Yangshao cultural hegemony than the Xia. Some say periods 1, 2 are Xia, 3,4 are Shang... and so on...

There are many reasons to doubt the existence of the Xia, but the main archaeological reason is that since the 1950's when excavations to find a Xia archaeological site were commenced, two distinct cultures were found. Named by the site that most distinctly portray their culture. One is 二里头文化the Erlitou culture, the other is 东下冯文化the Dongxiafeng culture. In this way, there is reason to doubt a Xia hegemony over the neighbouring tribes.

The most famous excavation that is open to the public is the palace complex at Erlitou. Mainly from periods 3 and 4. From the period 4 layer, 2 palaces have been found, and is open to the public, while palace 3 and buildings 4, 5, 6 are being excavated. Out of the 7 Xia capitals listed in the «Book of Records», and the 4 others listed in other documents, three matches in location. But most believe it is the last capital of the Xia hegemony Zhenxun, once resided by Dié.

From «中国历史图集»The scale is in metres...


In short. For Chinese scholars, most accept the existence of the Xia hegemony from 2100BCE onwards, some stopping at 1800BCE, some stopping at 1625BCE for the Shang hegemony. Later Xia was pretty powerful, they had writing "文化", and were well into the bronze age. But their bronze were not perfected, and they used more copper weapons than bronze weapons. The bronze which Shang brought to new heights gave the Shang better weaponry and destroyed the Xia. Whether Dié was a terrible king, and therefore Shang led an alliance to combat him, possibly, but that belongs to the realm of literature and mythology.

As for the views of western scholars, I have little to no idea.

-Shibo :mrgreen:

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Finding of objects from an era in which the Xia is said to exist does not prove that the Xia is real. It does prove that there were people living in China during that period, but not that they were all ruled by this Xia dynasty.

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It is called the Xia hegemony. The tribe, later called the "Xia" by historians had a hegemony over the Huang He (Yellow River) banks. Leading other tribes to combat more tribes, but outside of Xia's tributary tribes.

Archaeological evidence definitely suggests a powerful kingdom, (definitely more than just a tribe living there), but a conglomeration of different pottery styles from surrounding tribes, one of the few tribes that was in the bronze age, and probably most convincing of all, the kilometre long earthen-walled city at Erlitou. Which was probably the Xia capital of King Jie.

I don't really understand the skepticism in some european books. The scholars willingly accept the Chavin culture in the Andes, and yet there are no writings and it's only archaeological evidence. They themselves made mythical tales about the Chavin rulers just as the Xia rulers of China.

As I said, Xia definitely existed, they didn't call themselves Xia, but that's what historians refer to them as. They definitely had a hegemony over the surrounding tribes/kingdoms, it was hereditary. Why can it not be called a dynasty? What probably is not true are the stories/tales associated with this period.

-Shibo :mrgreen:

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