China’s first civilization, like those in the Near East and India, developed in a great river. The Yellow River (Hwang Ho in Chinese) begins in mountains of China and forms a huge loop as it flows nearly 3,000 miles to the Yellow Sea.
According to legend, the Hsia, China’s first ruling dynasty was started about 2000 B.C. by Yu, a great hero. After the later Hsia rulers lost the mandate of heaven, the Shang dynasty emerged. The Shang rulers controlled a fairly small state near the Yellow river but influenced a much larger area. The dynasty ended in a great slave revolt which was joined by one of the Shang enemies, the Zhou. The Zhou overthrew the Shang and reigned nearly 900 years, longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history.
From the Zhou dynasty, Confucius arose. He is regarded as China’s greatest philosopher and teacher. He tried to teach his followers to develop the qualities that would make them virtuous public officials.
Although the last Zhou rulers had little real power, the fall of this dynasty was a turning point in Chinese history. The ruler of the powerful state of Qin overthrew the last of the Chou rulers and they unite China. The Qin is regarded to be the first to rule all of China. It was replaced after only a brief reign by the Han dynasty which conquered southern Manchuria, Korea, Vietnam, and Xinjiang under the emperor Wu Di.
East Asia as a whole is accordingly sometimes called the Sinic culture (from the Latin word for China), one that also inherited most of the traditional Chinese agricultural system as well as its system of writing, philosophy, literature, political and social institutions, and art forms.
Reference: A History of the World (Matthew Perry)