Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 72 ›› Issue (9): 1580-1593.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201709004

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatial-temporal evolution of early history of north China (1600 BC-300 AD) and dynastic cycle driven by climate change

Sha CHEN1(), Qian LIU1, Yulian JIA1(), Xinxin CHEN1, Chuansheng WANG2, Zhiwei WAN1, Yijun HONG2, Xue LENG1, Xinmei WANG1, Xiangming CAO1, Xuemin PENG1, Yeqiao WANG1   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Poyang Lake Wetland and Watershed Research of Ministry of Education, School of Geography and Environment of Jiangxi Normal University, Nanchang 330022, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2016-07-22 Revised:2017-06-07 Online:2017-09-30 Published:2017-09-30
  • Supported by:
    Collaborative Innovation Center for Major Ecological Security Issues of Jiangxi Province and Monitoring Implementation, No.JXS-EW-00;Open Fund of Key Laboratory of Poyang Lake Wetland, Watershed Research, Ministry of Education, Jiangxi Normal University, No.ZK 2013 003;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41262007;Graduate Students' Innovation Fund Project of Jiangxi Provincial Education Department, No.YC2017-S127]


The early northern China (1600 BC-300 AD) can be divided into two stages roughly: 3600-3050 cal a BP (1600 BC-1050 BC), and 3050-1800 cal a BP (1050 BC-200 AD), which were recorded in many natural sedimentary archives. The former stage, corresponding to the second dynasty - the Shang Dynasty with a time span of more than 500 years, characterized by relatively stable humid climate state, is a historical period with relatively stable political and societal environment; the latter stage, coincident to the transition from the Zhou Dynasty to the Three Kingdoms with gradually becoming dry climate, showed a sharp contrast of political and societal condition to the period during the Shang Dynasty with seven unrests and consequent occurrence of new political regimes within a 1250-year period. And, marked by the relocations of capitals, the centers of these dynasties show a trend of southeastward migration. The correlation of significant climate change (usually cold and/or dry states) and some political unrests, such as, establishment of the Zhou Dynasty, Zhouping King′s eastward relocation of capital and perishment of the Western Han Dynasty, was found. These evidences again indicate that there is a certain relationship between evolution of early stage of Chinese history and climate change of Asian monsoon. This paper suggests that the following two factors, neglected in the previous research, greatly influence the correlation between society and climate. First, northern China has fan-shaped geographic space with a sharp ecological gradient for latitudinal zonality and Asian monsoon activity, which accentuates the effects of climate change on regional human society. Second, in China the small-scale self-sufficient economy cell was very sensitive to climate change. And usually, irrational social regime accentuated the sensitivity of small-scale self-sufficient economy cell to climate change through a series of feedbacks within society and resulted in serious consequences, and eventually caused the collapses of dynasties.

Key words: climate change, Late Holocene, fan-shaped geographic space, the small-scale self-sufficient economy cell, irrational social regime, feedback