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The History of China is told in traditional historical records that refer as far back as the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors about 5,000 years ago, supplemented by archaeological records dating to the 16th century BC. China is one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations. Turtle shells with markings reminiscent of ancient Chinese writing from the Shang Dynasty have been carbon dated to around 1500 BC. Chinese civilization originated with city-states in the Yellow River valley. 221 BC is commonly accepted to be the year in which China became unified under a large kingdom or empire. In that year, Qin Shi Huang first united China. Successive dynasties in Chinese history developed bureaucratic systems that enabled the Emperor of China to control the large territory.

China alternated between periods of political unity and disunity, occasionally becoming dominated by foreign peoples, most of whom were assimilated into the Han Chinese population. Cultural and political influences from many parts of Asia, carried by successive waves of immigration, expansion, and assimilation, merged to create Chinese culture.

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