GAOZU (born Liu Bang)
The region where the early civilization of China flourished reminds us of Mesopotamia. It began in the far east along the Yellow River with the Xia Dynasty, and then expanded under the Shang Dynasty to include the Yangtze to the South. A third dynasty, the Zhou, then proceeded to overthrew their predecessors and ruled over a larger territory until 771 BCE. After that time, the Zhou kings lost power and their dominions gradually underwent fragmentation, until 475 BCE when four mature states began to engage in wars of domination. This situation, which is known as the period of Warring States, went on for several centuries, and was also accompanied by the competition of many philosophical schools, particularly Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism. A further complication arose when one of the four contending states, Jin, was divided into three parts following a civil war, one of which was the Han. This partition shook the balance of power and facilitated the domination of China. Consequently, within a hundred years, the intensity of alliances and wars increased. The Chu and Qin were the largest and most warlike of the states, although the Qin proved far more successful: They were victorious in most of their battles and they also claimed succession to China after they defeated the last remnants of the Zhou dynasty in 249 BCE. They afterwards fought for 25 years till they established the first empire of China. By this time, a peasant by the name of Liu Bang was already a young man providing feudal labor for the new Qin emperor.