Event: Pizza Talk: "In Search of the First Dynasty: Archaeological Landscapes and the Spatialization of History in Early China"

Date & Time

November 8, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Contact Information

Matthew Swanson


Fowler A222

Event Type

Pizza Talk

Event Details

Speaker: Dr. Li Min, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, UCLA

In this lecture Dr. Li Min will discuss the current trends of Chinese archaeology based on his observations of the conference "In Search of Early China through Archaeology: Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Chinese Archaeology at UCLA" co-sponsored by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. This review of current state of research is followed by a re-visit to the highly contentious topic of the Xia (ca. 2100-1600 BCE), the first dynasty in Chinese historiography and the fountainhead of many important political institutions in Bronze Age China. Instead of debating on the historicity of this legendary regime and the stages of evolutionary typology, Dr. Li Min will approach this topic from the perspective of political experimentation and social memory by asking these questions: What made the late third millennium BCE an important watershed in sociopolitical history of China as seen through the archeological lens? What were the contributions of the Longshan and Erlitou legacy of the early second millennium BCE to the emergence of the Shang civilization during the late second millennium BCE? How was the social memory of the pre-Shang legacy transmitted to the Zhou society at the end of the second millennium BCE? How did the Zhou narratives about the Xia civilization correlate to the archaeological landscape of the second millennium BCE? Against the backdrop of societal collapse in lowland Neolithic centers and intensified interactions with Eurasian exchange networks among the highland communities, I argue that the emergence of major Longshan centers in highland basins during the late third millennium BCE and the subsequent rise of the first Bronze Age city at Erlitou in the Luoyang Basin during the early second millennium BCE had critical contribution to the formation of the Xia legacy in Zhou storytelling about the past. Far from a myth invented by the Zhou to justify its conquest of Shang, the pre-Shang legacy served as major source of political knowledge for the Zhou state-building enterprise and the Xia corresponded to a culturally constructed constellation of political concepts, institutions, and social memories of different episodes of state building from the Longshan and Erlitou periods.