The Records of the Grand Historian (史记Shǐjì) written from 109 BC to 91 BC, was the magnum opus of Sima Qian, in which he recounted Chinese history from the time of the Yellow Emperor until his own time. (The Yellow Emperor, traditionally dated ca. 2600 BC, is the first ruler whom Sima Qian considers sufficiently established as historical to appear in the Records.) As the first systematic Chinese historical text, the Records profoundly influenced Chinese historiography and prose. In its impact, the work is comparable to Herodotus and his Histories.
The Yangshao culture (仰韶文化Yǎngsháo wénhuà) was a Neolithic culture that existed extensively along the central Yellow River in China. The Yangshao culture is dated from around 5000 BC to 3000 BC. The culture is named after Yangshao, the first excavated representative village of this culture, which was discovered in 1921 in Henan Province. The culture flourished mainly in the provinces of Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi.
Longshan culture (龍山文化Lóngshān wénhuà) was a late Neolithic culture in China, centered on the central and lower Yellow River and dated from about 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Longshan culture is named after Longshan of eastern Jinan in Shandong Province, the first archaeological find and excavated site of this culture.
The distinctive feature of Longshan culture was the high level of skill in pottery making, including the use of pottery wheels. Longshan culture was noted for its highly polished black pottery (or egg-shell pottery). This type of thin-walled and polished black pottery has also been discovered in the Yangzi River valley and as far as the southeastern coast of China proper. It is a clear indication that neolithic agricultural sub-groups of the greater Longshan Culture had spread out across China proper.
Life during the Longshan culture marked a transition to the establishment of cities, as rammed earth walls and moats began to appear; the site at Taosi is the largest walled Longshan settlement. Rice cultivation was clearly established by that time. Small-scale production of silk by raising and domesticating bombyx mori in early sericulture was also known.
The Neolithic population in China reached its peak during the Longshan culture. Toward the end of the Longshan culture, the population decreased sharply; this was matched by the disappearance of high-quality black pottery found in ritual burials.
The Dawenkou culture (大汶口文化dàwènkǒu wénhuà) is a name given by archaeologists to a group of Neolithic communities who lived primarily in Shandong, but also appeared in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu, China. The culture existed from 4100 BC to 2600 BC, co-existing with the Yangshao culture. Turquoise, jade and ivory artefacts are commonly found at Dawenkou sites. The earliest examples of alligator drums appear at Dawenkou sites.
Archaeologists commonly divide the culture into three phases: the early phase (4100-3500 BC), the middle phase (3500-3000 BC) and the late phase (3000-2600 BC). Based on the evidence from grave goods, the early phase was highly egalitarian. The phase is typified by the presence of individually designed, long-stemmed cups (gu). Graves built with earthern ledges became increasingly common during the latter parts of the early phase. During the middle phase, grave goods began to emphasize quantity over diversity. During the late phase, wooden coffins began to appear in Dawenkou burials. The culture became increasingly stratified, as some graves contained no grave goods while others contained a large quantity of grave goods.
The type site at Dawenkou, located in Tai’an, Shandong, was excavated in 1959, 1974 and 1978. Only the middle layer at Dawenkou is associated with the Dawenkou culture, as the earliest layer corresponds to the Beixin culture and the latest layer corresponds to the early Shandong variant of the Longshan culture.