China, one of the great cradles of civilization, has always been united. The first dynasty—once thought to
be completely mythical—was more recently bolstered by excavations that found the remains of Bronze
Age settlements. The first dynasty that boasted a writing system, which is a direct ancestor of modern
Chinese writing, the Shang dynasty ruled from the 17th to the 11th century BCE. The Han Dynasty, which lasted from 206 BCE to 220 CE, strengthened China’s union and laid the foundation for cultural elements, such as Confucianism, which are still important in China today.