Harvard Magazine reports, "One of the oldest foundational stories in Chinese mythology recalls the Great Flood: a massive cataclysm in the upper Yellow River valley that persisted for decades. Early historical texts describe “endless” water washing over hilltops and rising to the heavens. Survivors left their homes to seek shelter in the high mountains. Finally, a legendary hero, Yu the Great, tamed the flood by dredging channels to drain it away. This feat took years, and it earned him the divine mandate to establish the Xia dynasty, the first in Chinese history, marking the beginning of Chinese civilization.
Already ancient by the time it was written down in about 1,000 B.C.E., the story of the Great Flood was accepted as truth for more than 2,500 years. But a century ago, scholars began challenging it, questioning whether any real historical disaster lay behind the legend. Some wondered if the Xia dynasty itself was pure myth too, cooked up to justify the centralized rule and political succession of the country’s emperors. Archaeologists began searching for evidence that the flood—and the dynasty—had really existed."