Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers both along the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era. The written history of China can be found as early as the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1700 BCE ﾖ ca. 1046 BCE). Oracle Bones with ancient Chinese writing from the Shang Dynasty have been carbon dated to as early as 1500 BCE. The origins of Chinese culture, literature and philosophy, developed during the Zhou Dynasty (1045 BCE to 256 BCE).
The Zhou Dynasty began to bow to external and internal pressures in the 8th century BCE. The ability of the Zhou to control its regional lords lessened, and the kingdom eventually broke apart into individual smaller states, beginning in the Spring and Autumn Period and reaching full expression in the Warring States period. In 221 BCE, Qin Shi Huang united the various warring kingdoms and created the first Chinese empire. Successive dynasties in Chinese history developed bureaucratic systems that enabled the Emperor of China to directly control vast territories.
The conventional view of Chinese history is that of a dynasty alternating between periods of political unity and disunity and occasionally becoming dominated by other inner Asian peoples, most of whom were in turn assimilated into the Han Chinese population. Cultural and political influences from many parts of Asia, carried by successive waves of immigration, expansion, and cultural assimilation, are part of the modern culture of China.