Year One: The Beginning of Chinese Civilization

The year 2696 used to be considered the start date for Chinese civilization, for the winter solstice of that year was held to be the beginning of the reign of the Yellow Emperor. Most historians had accepted that that the period of the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors is mythic time, though Huangdi was honored as the man who taught the Chinese to how to build shelters, tame wild animals, build boats and carts, and plant and reap the five cereals, while his wife taught weaving and silk-making, and their chief minister set out how to write, keep laws, and the annual calendar.

If we were all to agree to a new world calendar system, the Chinese Year One would not be such a bad start date, for it calibrates pretty closely with other great memory pegs of world history, such as the construction of the first pyramid (2630 BC), the first era of Stonehenge (3100-2400 BC), and the first recorded king (Enme-Barage-Si of the Sumerian city-state of Ur, c.2600 BC).”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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