The Shang Dynasty – Bronze Age China

The Shang Administration (1600-1046 BC) was the second of the three antiquated Chinese traditions. It was gone before by the Xia Administration and prevailed by the Zhou Tradition.

oracle bone scriptsOracle bone scripts in the Yinxu Museum in Anyang.

The Shang Empire spread along the Yellow River Basin primarily. The Shang capital was Anyang.

It was the principal tradition with put down accounts – engravings on bones and bronze articles. The Shang set the vibe of culture for the later times with dynastic progression, the political way of thinking of the Order of Paradise, complex craftsmanship as found in their bronze works and silk industry, the person composing framework, and alternate ways.

The History of the Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1046 BC)

Current students of history by and large date the start of the Shang Administration to be 1600 BC. They think the year 2500 portrayed by Sima Qian is too soon. At the point when the Shang ancestral pioneer vanquished the Xia Tradition (2070-1600 BC) domain, he established another administration called the Shang Line. The Shang Domain spread to cover northern and focal China during the following 1,500 years.

Shang Dynasty MapShang Dynasty Map

The History of the Shang Described by the Ancient Texts

Dependent essentially upon Sima Qian’s record, we have an image of the Shang’s set of experiences, yet nobody can be sure that this set of experiences is valid without proving proof. As per the old texts, when the Shang Administration was in decay and they became bad and wanton and abused and subjugated their kin, shangdi, their preeminent god, cut down the realm to supplant the tradition.

It is composed that Lord Tang of the Shang clan (1675-1646) watched the last Xia ruler flounder. His name was Jie. He lived in extravagance and debauchery while administering harshly. So Lord Tang began going after the Xia Realm, and he utilized insightful men to help him.

In the contention, large numbers of the Shang nation additionally revolted to agree with the Tang, and they vanquished the Shang in 1600 BC. It is said that Lord Tang administered well since he brought down charges and remote clans became vassals. Their domain expanded with the goal that it included region far toward the south and came to the ocean toward the east.

The last Shang ruler was named Shang Zhou. His fall reflects the fall of the last Xia ruler. It was thought he lost the Command of Paradise. The leaders of an adjoining clan were known as the Zhou. Like Lord Jie and the Xia Tradition, he was crushed by the Zhou rulers since his own kin revolted. His own soldiers and slaves joined the Zhou in the last fight.

The new Zhou leader of the incipient Zhou Administration (1045-221 BC) was named Zhou Wu. He permitted Shang Zhou’s child to administer the Shang nation as vassals. The Zhou rulers additionally scattered noticeable Shang individuals to different spots.

Han Origins in the Shang Dynasty

Records of the Grand HistorianThe Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian are accepted by many Chinese as accurate history.

The primary wellspring of data that we have about Han beginnings are the antiquated Han accounts. Chinese students of history and archeologists will generally depend intensely on the antiquated verifiable composed texts. They bring up that many composed authentic subtleties are confirmed by current archeological revelations.

Archeologists and history specialists by and large attempt to consolidate the data gathered through archeological disclosures with these earliest composed narratives of the Han to find out about the beginning of the Han ethnic gathering.

The Main Historical Texts about Shang

The Han people, the dominant ethnic group in China, have written histories that were written over a millenia between 0 BC and about 1,000 BC.

The main ancient accounts of the Shang include the Records of the Grand Historian that were written between about 109 and 91 BC by Sima Qian and the Bamboo Annals. The Bamboo Annals were written by official historians of Jin and Wei states during the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC).

Shang Written Script

The other source of historical information are oracle bone scripts. Thousands of bones have been found with written characters and understandable sentences, but of the thousands of characters the Shang used, the majority of them haven’t yet been deciphered. Archeologists and linguists are using computers to help decipher the meaning of the writings.

Scholars have been surprised about how some of the Shang writings verify certain things that were described by Sima Qian such as certain names and locations. In general, scholars have said that the discovery and deciphering of the oracle bone writings have only tended to prove the veracity of Sima Qian’s writings. Nothing has been found that contradicted what Sima Qian wrote.

The Cultural Legacy of the Shang

The Shang civilization developed important features of Han Chinese culture. One of these, maybe the most important for Han culture, is the distinctive and complex pictographic writing system.

They used writing to record historical events, to write official signs, and for fortunetelling and prognostication. To prognosticate, they wrote on what are called oracle bones. It was a way to get information supernaturally. Some characters they used are similar to the Chinese characters that Han use today.

The Shang also developed metallurgy to a high degree during the bronze age. They set the style for Han art and technical craftsmanship. Han culture has always been notable for excellent metallurgy, craftsmanship, and artistic finesse.

They also developed the silk manufacture industry that Han empires greatly promoted and profited from, as well as other distinctive features of Han culture such as their tea culture and preference for jade. For more information about the development of Han culture in ancient times, see Ancient Chinese Culture (1600–221 BC) – Development and Features

The Shang’s Governing Structure

The Shang Dynasty was the peak of the slavery trade among the three ancient Chinese dynasties. The ruling class consisted of slaveholders.

The government also had a tight hierarchical structure with many levels of leaders. The closer they were to the king, the higher their status, power, and wealth. Vassals could rule areas of land, but they were required to pay tribute to their king and supply troops in times of war.

The Shang people believed in human sacrifice, and many slaves were sacrificied.

Development of Technology and Culture

AnyangAnyang is where the last Shang capital city was located.

The Ruins of Yin in Anyang are a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage attraction and a museum area. The displays of Shang hieroglyphs trace the development of Chinese characters.

Bronze Craftsmanship

In 1976, archaeologists opened an undisturbed tomb called Tomb 5. It was the tomb of Lady Fu Hao. She had a military career, and a historian named Robert Thorp said that the assortment of weapons in her tomb correlate with oracle bone inscriptions.

The bronze vessels and tools showed that the Shang people had a high level of bronze metallurgy. They were able to cast large cauldrons called dings.

Other Contemporaneous Civilizations

Sanxingdui MuseumSanxingdui Museum.

According to Han historical accounts, civilization developed around the Yellow River under the reign of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. There is no mention of any other advanced civilization in the region.

However, archaeologists have discovered other Bronze Age civilizations around the region of China such as the Sanxingdui Civilization (2000–1250 BC). They belie the traditional Han account that civilization in the region only developed along the Yellow River.

The Shang Invented the Writing of Much of East Asia

The character writing system in the East Asia region can be dated back to the hieroglyphs that were used in the Shang Dynasty. You can see examples of these writings and bone and bronze artifacts in the Writing Museum in Anyang.

The hieroglyphic writing system later evolved into the ideographic and partly-phonetic Chinese characters that are used today primarily in China and Japan. The characters are used to some extent also in other countries such as Korea and Vietnam

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