Yangshao culture was a Neolithic culture which thrived in northern China circa 5000 to 3000 BCE. Though long believed to have been a singular dominant culture which spread over the region and eventually developed into the Han people & "Chinese" culture, most scholars today choose to see the Yangshao as only one of a number of cultures in the region, which between them, in their interactions, constituted the proto-origins of "Chinese" people and culture. These other cultures include groups known as the Hemedu and Majiabang (c. 5000-3000 BCE), the Dalongtan, the Dapenkeng (c. 5000-2500 BCE), and the Xinle (c. 7000-5000 BCE), each of which, like the Yangshao culture, are known chiefly by their pottery.
The long-held "nuclear area" thesis for Chinese origins held that the Yangshao culture, which originated and centered near the great bend of the Yellow River, simply spread out from there to encompass a sizable portion of what is today northern China proper. This was posited based chiefly upon finds of closely related pottery across a wide area, all similar enough to be identified as likely belonging to a single culture, that which archaeologists dubbed "Yangshao." However, newer scholarship suggests that the Yangshao began to interact with a number of other groups around 4000 BCE, and that it was out of these interactions, over roughly a thousand years from 4000 BCE to 3000 BCE, that a coherent culture was born which would later develop into "Chinese" culture.
Some scholars, however, challenge the idea that there was a coherent or unified "Chinese" culture even after 3000 BCE. In any case, the Yangshao are believed to have held sway over a considerable area for several thousand years, and to have produced beautiful early pottery.
- Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 4-6.