China had a dual-purpose for its ancient water management. They pursued not just irrigation schemes, but also used their water courses for inland navigation and communication between communities. They were agrarian from an early age, for example millet had been domesticated there as early as 7,000 BCE.
Its sanitation approach seems to have commenced around 2,300 BCE, therefore later than the Indus Valley. This leads to discussion as to whether the notion had in some way travelled to them, but the commercial relations between the two civilizations does not appear to have commenced much before 300 BCE. Recent research has suggested that there must have been some sort of connectivity with Greece in 200 BCE and before the Silk Road began formal operations. Li Xiuzhen, a senior archaeologist at the Terracotta Warriors’ site, and Lukas Nickel, chair of Asian art history at Vienna University, agree that there are indications that a Greek sculptor is likely to have been involved in the warrior design.
BRIEFER: The name China derives from Persian and Sanskrit, first used in 1516 CE. The local name was changed by various dynasties but was usually expressed as Zhōngguó or Zhōnghuá, meaning central kingdom or state.
China had four great ancient capitals, Beijing (literally meaning northern capital), Nanjing (southern capital), Luoyang (once Xijing and thus western capital) and Xi’an (western peace). Its four other major ancient cities are Kaifeng, Hangzhou, Anyang and Zhengzhou. Intriguingly Tokyo means eastern capital, though the Chinese usually demote this to mean eastern provincial capital.
Yu the Great (2,200 – 2,100 BCE) is something of a world legend in water management. He was born as the 8th great-grandson of the Yellow Emperor. His father Gun had moved his people on to the plains where they were plagued by the regular flooding of the Yellow River. Gun spent nine years trying to contain this with dykes and dams – without success.
Subsequently Yu spent thirteen years in working camps as he developed a different approach. He dredged the river to allow more of the floodwater to escape along its course and then supplemented this with relief irrigation canals. He is reported to have passed his home three times in these thirteen years but didn’t venture in because of his dedication to his cause. His privations meant that his hands and feet were heavily calloused and his toenails dropped off from constant immersion in water.
His efforts allowed Chinese civilization to flourish along the Yellow and Wei rivers. Applying that dedication he went on to found and run the Xia dynasty for forty-five years.
Work-in-progress – more to follow