When he died, Da Yu passed the throne to his son Qi, who founded the first slave dynasty in Chinese history, the Xia Dynasty, at the end of the 22nd and beginning of the 21st century BC. Dynastic rulers governed the country for over 400 years until the 16th century BC, when Jie, an infamous tyrant, was overthrown.
At that time, the Shang, a tribe living along the lower reaches of the Yellow River who specialised in animal herding, rose rapidly. By the end of the Xia Dynasty, they had become a powerful tribe led by Tang, also known as Shang Tang or Cheng Tang.
Indignant over its corruption, Tang was determined to topple the Xia Dynasty. While acting ostensibly obedient to Jie, he secretly enhanced his own power. In order to facilitate military operations, he moved his tribe to Bo (today’s Shangqiu, Henan Province). From Bo to the capital of the Xia Dynasty stretched a vast plain without any mountains or rivers, a geological advantage making it easy for large troops to manoeuvre. In Bo, Tang with his tolerance won the support of all his tribesmen. He also tried to boost his profile across the country, and to seek the approval of other tribes.
At that time, all tribal leaders believed in gods, and considered the worshipping of the heavens, the earth and their ancestors, to be of paramount importance. However, a tribe called Ge, not far from the Shang tribe, did not offer sacrifices at the correct time. Worse still, the people there themselves ate the cattle and sheep Tang had offered them for sacrificial use. They even went as far as to kill the young man who had brought the food sent by Tang to farmhands hired by some Ge nobles, and stole the food. This triggered a battle between the two tribes, in which the Ge was defeated. Tang took this opportunity to seize a number of nearby tribes. Tang’s power gradually strengthened with these moves. However, the insensible, decadent Jie did not take note of Tang’s ambitions.
Tang thought the time was ripe for overthrowing the Xia Dynasty, since many tribes, no longer able to bear the cruelty of the Xia, had seceded from the dynasty. Tang decided to launch a massive attack. He first imbued the soldiers with a desire to topple the Xia Dynasty by appealing to the aspirations of the heavens. As a result, all the soldiers fought heroically. At a decisive battle in Mingdi, Jie’s troops suffered a major defeat. Jie fled to Nanchao (southwest of today’s Chaoxian County, Anhui Province), where he was captured by Tang’s troops. He exiled there until his death.
After ousting Jie, Tang continued to eradicate the remaining forces of the Xia Dynasty. Around 1600 BC, Tang officially founded the Shang Dynasty (c. early 17th – 11th century BC), the second slave regime in Chinese history.