When did Chinese civilization begin? This is an old question with new relevance. Curiosity about China has surged as the country takes on new roles and more extensive power internationally. The Chinese government itself has turned to the history of Chinese civilization as it refashions national identity in the post-Mao era. Dates proposed for the origin of Chinese civilization can vary by several millennia. According to ancient mythological accounts that still inform the popular idea that China has five thousand years of history, civilization was first created by the sage–kings in the Golden Age of the Yellow Emperor. Inspired by traditional historiography, many Chinese archaeologists trace the emergence of Chinese civilization to the third or second millennium BCE. In contrast, Western scholars tend to place it in the second or first millennium BCE. I propose rephrasing the question altogether.