The Xia Dynasty (Chinese: 夏朝; pinyin: Xià Cháo; Wade-Giles: hsia-ch'ao) of China is the first dynasty to be described in ancient historical records such as Records of the Grand Historian and Bamboo Annals. According to Warring States and Han texts, the Xia Dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great after Shun gave his throne to him, and was later defeated and replaced by the Shang.
According to the traditional chronology based upon calculations by Liu Xin, the Xia ruled between 2205 and 1766 BC; however, according to the chronology based upon the Bamboo Annals, it ruled between 1989 and 1558 BC. The Xia Shang Zhou Chronology Project concluded that the Xia existed between 2070 and 1600 BC. Because there are no textual records earlier than about 1200 BC in China, it is impossible to prove the existence of the Xia, despite efforts by Chinese archaeologists to link the Xia with the Erlitou archaeological site. If the Xia did exist, it could only have been one of the many polities that are known from archaeological evidence, and not a dynasty that ruled China. The tradition of tracing Chinese political history from heroic early emperors to the Xia to the Shang, etc., comes from the idea of the Mandate of Heaven, in which only one legitimate dynasty can exist at any given time, and was promoted by the Ru school (including Confucius) in the Eastern Zhou period, later becoming the basic position of imperial historiography and ideology. Thus although the Xia is an important element in early Chinese intellectual history, reliable information on the history of China before 1200 BC can only come from archaeological evidence.