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Prehistoric and Ancient History (1.7 million years ago-476 B.C.)

China's earliest primitive human discovered so far is known as "Yuanmou Man," a fossil anthropoid unearthed in Yuanmou in Yunnan Province who lived approximately 1.7 million years ago. The better-known "Peking Man," discovered in the Zhoukoudian area in the suburbs of Beijing, lived about 600,000 years ago. Peking Man was able to walk upright, make and use simple tools, and make fire. By the start of the Neolithic Age in China about 10,000 years ago, people were cultivating rice and millet with farming tools, something revealed by relics found in the ruins of Hemudu in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province, and Banpo, near Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province. The Hemudu site, about 7,000 years old, was one of the earliest New Stone Age locations along the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Archaeologists have unearthed in the area of Hemudu piles of rice grains, husks, stalks and leaves — and other indications of abundant rice cultivation. The rice grown at Hemudu was long-grained non-glutinous rice, and is the earliest example of artificially cultivated rice that has been found in China to date. The relics are also the oldest rice found so far in Asia.

The Xia Dynasty started in 2070 B.C. The center of Xia was the western section of modern Henan Province and the southern section of modern Shanxi Province with a sphere of influence that reached the northern and southern areas of the Yellow River. It was in this period that the slave society began to appear. The Xia Dynasty was overthrown by Shang. The Western Zhou (1046-771 B.C.) Dynasty saw further development of slave society. This era was followed by the Spring and Autumn (770-476 B.C.) and Warring States (475-221 B.C.) periods when silk production advanced and steel production started. This era also produced the philosophers Lao Zi, Confucius, Mencius and Mo Zi, as well as the military scientist Sun Wu, author of the Art of War.

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