Writing their way to the gods.
It is not known exactly when the people living in China started to write, but the earliest firm evidence is from 'oracle bones' originating a thousand years before Christ. They are records of discussions with the ancestors who were revered as the intermediaries to the gods. I think this reverence of the dead is something most humans tend to do - we look for the saintly qualities in people who, when they lived, we regarded as more ordinary. Anyway, ancestor-worship was (and is) a long-standing feature of Chinese life, originating perhaps, in Neolithic times; and those who were thought to be able to communicate with the dead were revered too; the Shang kings, for instance (1600- 1000BC), were believed to have the ear of those who had gone before them.
The oracle bones were consulted by Shang kings for general advice about the future. A diviner would prepare an oracle bone (or a piece of turtle shell) by touching it with a hot poker. The bone would then crack and the way it cracked would be interpreted by the king as the ancestors' answer and this would be recorded on the oracle bone in 'logographic script'.
These symbols on the oracle bones gradually evolved into traditional Chinese writing, and this accident, that it was 'logographic script' that persisted (rather than a phonetic system of letters of the west) had momentous consequences for Chinese civilisation.
As I have found, this 'logographic script' is difficult because 800 different characters need to be learnt just for a basic understanding. It takes three years to learn, so only those with sufficient intellect and time ever became literate. They formed an elite group - uniting not only those from diverse geographical areas, but also, more importantly, those from different times too. Only the literate could understand the words of the ancestors, and, so only they could communicate with the gods too.
One day I hope to come back to this because this system of writing is so different and interesting - I think, like learning the language itself, it is a good way of exercising the brain.