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Early Civilizations: China and Egypt

Some of the world’s oldest civilizations can be traced back to present-day China and Egypt. The early civilizations in China emerged from the Shang dynasty in the 17th century BCE. To guard their territory against flooding, the Shang dynasty developed complex flood control and irrigation techniques. In Egypt, the earliest civilization was around the lush Nile River Delta. Egyptian civilization began in 3150 BC when the Menes ruler unified the neighbouring area into a kingdom. Comparing the two civilizations from Egypt and China is important to understand what each of the civilizations entailed.

Early civilization in Egypt came from the period 3100 to 3150 BC. The civilizations developed so that Egyptians could have a better way of life and advanced methods of dealing with challenges faced. The first major civilizations in Egypt were centred around the Lush Nile River Delta (Khan Academy, 2022). The Nile River was fundamental to bringing water and rich fertile soil that the Egyptians would use to grow crops. The river Nile also provided water for domestic use. Early civilizations started with people settling around the river and studying its patterns, such as when it floods. With adequate knowledge about River Nile, Egyptians would prepare correctly. The development of the first civilization in Egypt can be traced from the permanent and temporary settlement along the river Nile (Khan Academy, 2022). The Nile was a unifying factor of upper and Lower Egypt under the same ruler.

Egyptians that settled along the Nile started building homes, towns and cities along the river banks. With enough water from River Nile, Egyptians slowly replaced their nomadic life with permanent farming life. Even in the Sahara desert, the Nile greatly influenced how ancient Egyptians built their civilization. Ancient Egyptians settled on both sides of the River Niles banks in a narrow strip with alluvial soils. Ancient Egypt’s culture is renowned for its astounding accomplishments in various disciplines, including art, medicine, engineering, statecraft and religion (Khan Academy, 2022). Those who viewed its impressive structures along the river still gasped in astonishment.

The Nile River and the lush terrains surrounding its banks became vital to Ancient Egypt’s way of life. The long, slender Nile Valley farm owners used irrigation systems to regulate the water pressure so crops might flourish during both rainy and dry seasons (Stevens, 2022). The river’s valley was wealthy and fertile, producing enormous surpluses of crops that enabled extraordinary construction projects like the temples of Luxor and temples of Luxor possible. Additionally, the surpluses from the farm were utilized to finance the elite’s opulent lifestyle. Surpluses were also used to expand international trade and diplomacy and finance conquest-focused wars (Time maps, 2022). Other major innovations from Egypt included writing, demotic and hieroglyphic writing became popular.

Other areas that witnessed the earliest civilization include surveying, quarrying, administration, architecture and math. Irrigation and agricultural practices were the first areas that had civilization’s accomplishments. Ancient civilization in Egypt was fundamental because it produced the first nation-state to be ruled by a single government (Khan Academy, 2022). The Sumerians, documented as the only people to have an urbanized and literary civilization by 3000 BCE, lived in small city-states with populations of no more than a few tens of thousands. From such civilizations, the united monarchy of Egypt was formed, which included the entire nation, which was thousands of miles square and home to millions of people.

China is also well known for its early civilization. The rich civilization of ancient China is still visible in contemporary China. Small farming settlements gave rise to dynasties such as Zhou (1046-256 BCE), Qin Kingdom (221-206 BCE) and Ming (1368-1644 CE). Each of these periods contributed in its unique way to Chinese civilization. It is widely acknowledged that the Yellow River Valley, where villages first appeared approximately around 5000 BCE, is China’s “Home of Civilization” (Mark, 2020). The yellow river is often named the “mother river” because it is the birthplace of Chinese civilization. The Huang he valley surrounds the principal river in Northern China and is often at the centre of thousands of years of Chinese civilization.

Chinese history spans more than 5,000 years and is incredibly rich, intricate, and possibly perplexing. Its old dynastic system makes it slightly simpler to comprehend its basic chronology and some of its most significant events and developments (Mark, 2020). The Hwang and Yangtze River basins also acted as birthplaces of Chinese civilization. In these areas, the early Chinese towns and cities emerged from the ancient farmer’s communities. Three civilization eras can be distinguished in Chinese history: The first civilization is pre-imperial China which included the dynasties of Shang, Xia and Zhou up to 221 BC (Mark, 2020). The next civilization included Imperial China which consisted of the Qin dynasty in 221 BC and the Qing dynasty in 1911.

The first centralized power emerged from these tiny farming settlements and villages, known as the Xia Dynasty. The rivers in china acted as resources to influence flood control and irrigation methods. The Shang people were skilled workers and used jade, ceramics, stone, wood, bronze and shells (Khan Academy, 2022). The people of the Shang dynasty lived off the rivers and had permanent homes where they farmed. To guard against flooding, the Shang communities developed complex irrigation and flood control methods (Khan Academy, 2022). Farming crops such as wheat, millet, rice and barley was practised on a large scale. These crops provided major sources of food because hunting was uncommon. Unlike other cultures, the Shang community created social pyramids with a king at the top (Advantour, 2023). The kings would provide the needed administration to the Chinese. The social pyramids also created farmers, merchants, priests, and military nobilities.

Ancient Egypt and Early China had civilizations that attracted attention from the whole world. There are many cultural similarities and differences between these two civilizations. Major river ebbs and flows had an impact on both communities. For example, the Nile gave many aspects of the Egyptian lifestyle a sense of regularity by influencing the agricultural cycle. The expansion of their territorial authority and political sway over vast tracts of the country was another objective shared by both regimes, which led to the development of empires governed by war and diplomacy.


Advantour. (2023). History of China.

KhanAcademy.(2022). Ancient Egyptian Civilization (article).

KhanAcademy.(2022). Shangdynastycivilization (article).

Mark, J. J. (2020, December 18). Ancient China. World History Encyclopedia.

Stevens, M. (2022, March 3). Comparing the civilizations of ancient Egypt and early China.AmericanSocietyofOverseasResearch (ASOR).

Time maps. (2022, September 5). Ancient Egypt: Location, history and civilization. TimeMaps.


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