China's founding legend may not be true

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China's founding dynasty may just be a myth, say archaeologists. In a news report published in Science magazine, writer Andrew Lawler surveys a decade's worth of discoveries suggesting ancient China sprang from distinct regions, rather than possessing a single national culture some 4,300 years ago. "How China became China is no mere academic topic; it goes to the very heart of how the world's most populous and economically vibrant nation sees itself and its role in the world," Lawler writes.

Since 2004, archeologists headed by Wang Wei of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing have begun tying together a broader picture of China's origins."Most of us accepted that the Yellow River was the origin of Chinese civilization. But as we've done more research, we have found other cultural areas," Wei tells Science.

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Jonathan Dresner - 8/23/2009

When the Chinese begin taking the complex origins of Chinese civilization seriously, that will be news.