China before the Han Dynasty

China before the Han Dynasty

China before the Han Dynasty

China before the Han Dynasty

Excerpt

Unlike some nations described in the books of the present series, the Chinese people is not difficult to define historically. It has occupied the valley of the Yellow river from time immemorial. Even the Palaeolithic race, whose bones have been found there, shares some physical peculiarities with the present inhabitants. While the archaeologist may point out culture-traits which connect with other regions, he discovers no evidence of tribal movements from without of a size and coherence likely to determine thenceforth the racial and cultural constitution of the land. The manner and the time of the colonisation of the great Central Plain of north China, supposing such a thing were ever a definable historical event, is beyond knowledge and conjecture alike.

Within the larger sphere of eastern Asia the Chinese people as we know it today is better defined by language and culture than in anthropological terms. In general a distinction of the physical type may be observed north and south of the Yangtze river, a boundary which corresponded in early times to a cultural division between the relatively advanced civilisation of the Central Plain and the more primitive south. The population north of this line, black-haired and brown-eyed, is comparatively taller and much of it has the Mongol characteristics of yellow skin, slanting eyes and prominent cheek-bones. But other individuals are lighter of skin, with rounder eyes and flatter cheek-bones. In the south the average height is less, the skin is browner and the Mongol characteristics are rarer.

We may assume that the periodic infiltration of tribes from the north into the settled region of the river valley, a constant theme in the early histories which caused anxiety to Chinese rulers for thousands of years, had begun long before these . . .

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