China was the last of our regions to see the Bronze Age. Although neolithic cultures in China are dated as early as 6000 BC, the first phase of the Bronze Age, called the Erhlitou phase, when the Hsia (sometimes written Xia) dynasty ruled and bronze came into use, dates between 2200 and 1760 BC. In this phase, Erhlitou was one of the main settlements, with walls of rammed earth encircling it. The Hsia dynasty was succeeded by the Shang, whose tenth ruler established the city of Chengchou around 1500 BC.

Ritual human sacrifice is now in evidence and so also, writing. The widest distribution of Shang sites occurred in this middle phase. The civilization is named after the chief ruling dynasty, even though there was probably no political unification and other states also contested for power. The twelve last Shang kings ruled from the city of Anyang, for a period of almost three centuries. The dynasty was defeated by the Western Chou in about 1122 BC.

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