Shang dynasty
   HOME

TheInfoList



The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a
Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From the inauguration of dynastic rule by Yu the Great in circa 2070 BC to the abdication of the Puyi, ...
that ruled in the middle and lower
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and the List of rivers by length, sixth-longest river system in ...
valley in the
second millennium BC The 2nd millennium BC spanned the years 2000 through 1001 BC. In the Ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban de ...
, traditionally succeeding the
Xia dynasty The Xia dynasty is the first dynasty in traditional Chinese historiography. According to tradition, the Xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great, after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors, gave the throne to him. In the tra ...
and followed by the
Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscript ...
. The classic account of the Shang comes from texts such as the ''
Book of Documents The ''Book of Documents'' (''Shūjīng'', earlier ''Shu King'') or ''Classic of History'', also known as the ''Shangshu'' ("Esteemed Documents"), is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical pros ...
'', ''
Bamboo Annals The ''Bamboo Annals'' (), also known as the ''Ji Tomb Annals'' (), is a chronicle A chronicle ( la, chronica, from Greek language, Greek ''chroniká'', from , ''chrónos'' – "time") is a historical account of events arranged in chronology, ...
'' and ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second imperial dynasty ...

Records of the Grand Historian
''. According to the traditional chronology based on calculations made approximately 2,000 years ago by Liu Xin, the Shang ruled from 1766 to 1122 BC, but according to the chronology based upon the "current text" of ''Bamboo Annals'', they ruled from 1556 to 1046 BC. The
Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project () was a multi-disciplinary project commissioned by the People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and de ...
dated them from c. 1600 to 1046 BC based on the carbon-14 dates of the
Erligang The Erligang culture () is a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the s ...
site. The Shang dynasty is the earliest dynasty of traditional
Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was mentioned as the twenty-first Shang king by the same. Ancient histo ...
firmly supported by archaeological evidence. Excavation at the
Ruins of Yin
Ruins of Yin
(near modern-day
Anyang Anyang (; ) is a prefecture-level city Image:Yangxin-renmin-huanyin-ni-0022.jpg, A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply "Huangshi" (). This is a useful distinction, because the sign is located ''already'' wit ...
), which has been identified as the last Shang capital, uncovered eleven major royal tombs and the foundations of palaces and ritual sites, containing weapons of war and remains from both animal and human sacrifices. Tens of thousands of
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminum, manganese, nickel or zinc) and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or ...
,
jade Jade is a mineral, much used in some cultures as jewellery and for ornaments, mostly known for its green varieties, though it appears naturally in other colors as well, notably yellow and white. Jade can refer to either of two different silicat ...

jade
,
stone A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its chemical composition and the way in which it is formed. Rocks form the Earth's outer solid layer, th ...

stone
,
bone A bone is a Stiffness, rigid tissue (anatomy), tissue that constitutes part of the skeleton in most vertebrate animals. Bones protect the various organs of the body, produce red blood cell, red and white blood cells, store minerals, provide str ...
, and
ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials made by shaping and then firing a nonmetallic mineral, such as clay, at a high temperature. Common examples are earthenware, porcelain, and brick. ...
artifacts have been found. The Anyang site has yielded the earliest known body of
Chinese writing Written Chinese () comprises Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, and remain a key component o ...

Chinese writing
, mostly
divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy', related to ''divinus'', ' divine'), or "to be inspired by a god," is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standa ...
s inscribed on
oracle bone Oracle bones () are pieces of ox scapula and turtle plastron, which were used for pyromancy – a form of divination – in ancient China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty. ''Scapulimancy'' is the correct term if ox scapulae were used for the ...

oracle bone
s – turtle shells, ox
scapula In anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any in ...

scapula
e, or other bones. More than 20,000 were discovered in the initial scientific excavations during the 1920s and 1930s, and over four times as many have been found since. The inscriptions provide critical insight into many topics from the politics, economy, and religious practices to the art and medicine of this early stage of
Chinese civilization
Chinese civilization
.


Traditional accounts

Many events concerning the Shang dynasty are mentioned in various
Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated before the imperial unification by the Qin dynasty in 221 BC, particularly the "Four Books and Five Classics The Four Books and ...
, including the ''
Book of Documents The ''Book of Documents'' (''Shūjīng'', earlier ''Shu King'') or ''Classic of History'', also known as the ''Shangshu'' ("Esteemed Documents"), is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical pros ...
'', the ''
Mencius Mencius (); born Mèng Kē (); ( ) or Mengzi (372–289 BC or 385–303 or 302BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , ...
'' and the ''
Zuo Zhuan
Zuo Zhuan
''. Working from all the available documents, the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
historian
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the H ...

Sima Qian
assembled a sequential account of the Shang dynasty as part of his ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second imperial dynasty ...

Records of the Grand Historian
''. His history describes some events in detail, while in other cases only the name of a king is given. A closely related, but slightly different, account is given by the ''
Bamboo Annals The ''Bamboo Annals'' (), also known as the ''Ji Tomb Annals'' (), is a chronicle A chronicle ( la, chronica, from Greek language, Greek ''chroniká'', from , ''chrónos'' – "time") is a historical account of events arranged in chronology, ...
''. The ''Annals'' were interred in 296 BC, but the text has a complex history and the authenticity of the surviving versions is controversial. The name ''Yīn'' (殷) is used by Sima Qian for the dynasty, and in the "current text" version of the ''Bamboo Annals'' for both the dynasty and its final capital. It has been a popular name for the Shang throughout history. Since the ''Records of Emperors and Kings'' by
Huangfu Mi Huangfu Mi (215–282), courtesy name Shi'an (), was a Chinese physician, essayist, historian, poet, and writer who lived through the late Eastern Han dynasty, Three Kingdoms period and early Western Jin dynasty. He was born in a poor farming f ...
(3rd century AD), it has often been used specifically to describe the later half of the Shang dynasty. In Japan and Korea, the Shang are still referred to almost exclusively as the Yin (''In'') dynasty. However, it seems to have been a
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
name for the earlier dynasty. The word does not appear in the oracle bones, which refer to the state as ''Shāng'' (商), and the capital as ''Dàyì Shāng'' (大邑商 "Great Settlement Shang"). It also does not appear in securely dated Western Zhou bronze inscriptions.


Founding myth

The founding myth of the Shang dynasty is described by Sima Qian in the ''Annals of the Yin''. In the text, a woman named Jiandi (簡狄), who was the second wife of
Emperor Ku Kù (, variant graph ), usually referred to as Dì Kù (), also known as Gaoxin or Gāoxīn Shì (), was a descendant of Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor. He went by the name Gaoxin until receiving imperial authority, when he took the name Ku and the t ...
, swallowed an egg dropped by a black bird (玄鳥) and subsequently gave birth miraculously to Xie (偰) – also appearing as Qi (契). Xie is said to have helped
Yu the Great Yu the Great (大禹) (c. 2123–2025 BC) was a legendary king in History of China#Ancient China, ancient China who was famed for his introduction of flood control, his establishment of the Xia dynasty which inaugurated dynastic rule in China, an ...
to control the
Great Flood A flood myth or deluge myth is a myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, or supe ...
and for his service to have been granted a place called Shang as a fief.


Dynastic course

In the ''Annals of the Yin'', Sima Qian writes that the dynasty was founded 13 generations after Xie, when Xie's descendant Tang overthrew the impious and cruel final
Xia Xia (Hsia in Wade–Giles) may refer to: Chinese history * Xia dynasty (夏) (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC) * Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms) (夏) (407–431), a Xiongnu state * Xia (夏) (617–621), a state founded by Dou Jiande near the end of the Sui dynast ...
ruler in the
Battle of Mingtiao The Battle of Mingtiao was a battle A battle is an occurrence of combat in warfare between opposing military units of any number or size. A war usually consists of multiple battles. In general, a battle is a military engagement that is well d ...
. The ''Records'' recount events from the reigns of Tang, Tai Jia, Tai Wu,
Pan Geng Pán Gēng (), personal name Zi Xun, was a Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regime ...
,
Wu Ding Wu Ding (), personal name Zǐ Zhāo, was a king of the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarc ...
, Wu Yi and the depraved final king
Di Xin King Zhou (/oʊ/; ) was the pejorative posthumous name A posthumous name is an honorary name given to royalty, nobles, and sometimes others, in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most ...
, but the rest of the Shang rulers are merely mentioned by name. According to the ''Records'', the Shang moved their capital five times, with the final move to Yin in the reign of Pan Geng inaugurating the golden age of the dynasty. Di Xin, the last Shang king, is said to have committed suicide after his army was defeated by
Wu of Zhou
Wu of Zhou
. Legends say that his army and his equipped slaves betrayed him by joining the Zhou rebels in the decisive
Battle of Muye The Battle of Muye or Battle of Mu () was a battle fought in ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's re ...

Battle of Muye
. According to the ''
Yi Zhou Shu The ''Yi Zhou Shu'' () is a compendium of Chinese historical documents about the Western Zhou period (1046–771 BCE). Its textual history began with a (4th century BCE) text/compendium known as the ''Zhou Shu'' ("Book of Zhou"), which was possibl ...
'' and
Mencius Mencius ( ); born Mèng Kē (); or Mengzi (; 372–289 BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who has often been described as the "second Sage", that is, after only Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or ...

Mencius
the battle was very bloody. The classic,
Ming#REDIRECT Ming dynasty#REDIRECT Ming dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...

Ming
-era novel ''
Fengshen Yanyi ''The Investiture of the Gods'' or also known by its Chinese names () and is a 16th-century Chinese novel and one of the major vernacular Chinese Written vernacular Chinese (), also known as Baihua, is the forms of written Chinese Written C ...
'' retells the story of the war between Shang and Zhou as a conflict with rival factions of gods supporting different sides in the war. After the Shang were defeated, King Wu allowed Di Xin's son
Wu GengWu Geng or Wugeng ( Chinese: ''Wǔgēng'') was an ancient Chinese noble who was the son of Zhou, the last king of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg">Aztec King Nezahualpiltzintl ...
to rule the Shang as a
vassal A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief, ...
kingdom. However, Zhou Wu sent three of his brothers and an army to ensure that Wu Geng would not rebel. After Zhou Wu's death, the Shang joined the
Rebellion of the Three Guards The Rebellion of the Three Guards (), or less commonly the Wu Geng Rebellion, was a civil war A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same Sovereign state, state (or country) ...

Rebellion of the Three Guards
against the
Duke of Zhou Dan, Duke Wen of Zhou (), commonly known as the Duke of Zhou (), was a member of the royal family of the early Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historical ...
, but the rebellion collapsed after three years, leaving Zhou in control of Shang territory.


Descendants of the Shang royal family

After Shang's collapse, Zhou's rulers forcibly relocated "Yin diehards" (殷頑) and scattered them throughout Zhou territory. Some surviving members of the Shang royal family collectively changed their surname from the ancestral name Zi (子) to the name of their fallen dynasty, Yin. The family retained an aristocratic standing and often provided needed administrative services to the succeeding Zhou dynasty. The ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second imperial dynasty ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'' states that
King Cheng of Zhou King Cheng of Zhou (), personal name Ji Song (姬誦), was the second king of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The dates of his reign are 1042–1021 BCE or 1042/35–1006 BCE. His parents were King Wu of Zhou and Queen Yi Jiang (邑姜). King Cheng was ...

King Cheng of Zhou
, with the support of his regent and uncle, the
Duke of Zhou Dan, Duke Wen of Zhou (), commonly known as the Duke of Zhou (), was a member of the royal family of the early Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historical ...
,
enfeoffed In the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similarly to the Post-classical, Post-classical period of global history. It began with the fal ...
Weiziqi (微子啟), a brother of Di Xin, as the Duke of
Song A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at melody, distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various song form, forms, such as those includi ...
, with its capital at
Shangqiu Shangqiu (), Postal romanization, alternately romanized as Shangkiu, is a city in eastern Henan province, Central China. It borders Kaifeng to the northwest, Zhoukou to the southwest, and the provinces of Shandong and Anhui to the northeast and sou ...

Shangqiu
. This practice was known as 二王三恪 ("enfeoffment of three generations for two kings"). The Dukes of Song would maintain rites honoring the Shang kings until Qi conquered Song in 286 BC.
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

Confucius
was possibly a descendant of the Shang Kings through the Dukes of Song. The Eastern Han dynasty bestowed the title of Duke of Song and ''"Duke Who Continues and Honours the Yin"'' ( 殷紹嘉公) upon Kong An ( 孔安 (東漢)) because he was part of the Shang dynasty's legacy. This branch of the Confucius family is a separate branch from the line that held the title of Marquis of Fengsheng village and later Duke Yansheng. Another remnant of the Shang established the
vassal state A vassal state is any state that has a mutual obligation to a superior state or empire, in a status similar to that of a vassal in the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support in exchange for certain pr ...
of
Guzhu Guzhu () was a vassal state of the Shang Dynasty, Shang and Zhou Dynasty, Zhou dynasties located in the vicinity of modern Tangshan, Hebei province. The kingdom was tribal in origin and had close relations with King Tang of Shang. During the Western ...
(located in present-day
Tangshan Tangshan () is a coastal, industrial prefecture-level city A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply " Yangxin County from the neighboring Xianning), but still from the Huangshi main urban area. A prefec ...
), which
Duke Huan of Qi Duke Huan of Qi (; died 643 BC), personal name Xiǎobái (小白), was the ruler of the Ancient Chinese states, State of Qi (state), Qi from 685 to 643 BC. Living during the chaotic Spring and Autumn period, as the Zhou dynasty's former vassal stat ...
destroyed. Many Shang clans that migrated northeast after the dynasty's collapse were integrated into Yan culture during the
Western Zhou The Western Zhou ( zh, c=, p=Xīzhōu; c. 1045 BC – 771 BC) was the first half of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China. It began when King Wu of Zhou King Wu of Zhou () was the first king of the King of the Romans (variant used in the ...
period. These clans maintained an élite status and continued practicing the sacrificial and burial traditions of the Shang. Both Korean and Chinese legends, including reports in the ''Book of Documents'' and the ''Bamboo Annals'', state that a disgruntled Shang prince named
Jizi Jizi or Qizi or Kizi (; Gija or Kija in Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, an ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language * Korean alphabet, or Hangul Places * Kore ...
, who had refused to cede power to the Zhou, left China with a small army. According to these legends, he founded a state known as
Gija Joseon Gija Joseon (1120–194 BC) refers to the period of Gojoseon following the alleged arrival of the sage Jizi (Gija). Concrete evidence for Jizi's role in the history of Gojoseon is lacking, and the narrative has been challenged since the 20th ce ...
in northwest Korea during the
Gojoseon Gojoseon () was the first Korean kingdom that lasted until 108 BCE. According to the legend of the kingdom, the kingdom was established by the founder named Dangun Dangun (; ) or Dangun Wanggeom (; ) was the legendary * :"The continuing p ...
period of ancient Korean history. However, scholars debate the historical accuracy of these legends.


Early Bronze Age archaeology

Before the 20th century, the
Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscript ...
(1046–256 BC) was the earliest Chinese dynasty that could be verified from its own records. However, during the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kuan ...
(960–1279 AD),
antiquarian 's cabinet of curiosities, from ''Museum Wormianum,'' 1655 An antiquarian or antiquary (from the Latin: ''antiquarius'', meaning pertaining to ancient times) is an fan (person), aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More speci ...
s collected
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminum, manganese, nickel or zinc) and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or ...
ritual vessels attributed to the Shang era, some of which bore inscriptions.


Yellow River valley

In 1899, several scholars noticed that Chinese pharmacists were selling "
dragon bones
dragon bones
" marked with curious and archaic characters. These were finally traced back in 1928 to a site (now called
Yinxu Yinxu (modern ; ) is the site of one of the ancient and major historical capitals of China There are traditionally four major historical capitals of China, collectively referred to as the "Four Great Ancient Capitals of China" (). The four are B ...

Yinxu
) near
Anyang Anyang (; ) is a prefecture-level city Image:Yangxin-renmin-huanyin-ni-0022.jpg, A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply "Huangshi" (). This is a useful distinction, because the sign is located ''already'' wit ...
, north of the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and the List of rivers by length, sixth-longest river system in ...
in modern
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China Provincial-level administrative divisions () or first-level administrative divisions (), are the highest-level Chinese administrative divisions. There are 34 such divisio ...

Henan
province, where the
Academia Sinica Academia Sinica (AS, la, 1=Academia Sinica, 3=Chinese Academy; ), headquartered in Nangang, Taipei, is the national academy of Taiwan (Republic of China). It supports research activities in a wide variety of disciplines, ranging from mathemati ...
undertook archeological excavation until the Japanese invasion in 1937. Archaeologists focused on the Yellow River valley in Henan as the most likely site of the states described in the traditional histories. After 1950, the remnants of the earlier walled settlement of Shang City were discovered near
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou (; ), also spelt Zheng Zhou and alternatively romanized as Chengchow, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppe ...

Zhengzhou
. It has been determined that the earth walls at Zhengzhou, erected in the 15th century BC, would have been wide at the base, rising to a height of , and formed a roughly rectangular wall around the ancient city.Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 43. The rammed earth construction of these walls was an inherited tradition, since much older fortifications of this type have been found at Chinese
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
sites of the
Longshan culture The Longshan (or Lung-shan) culture, also sometimes referred to as the Black Pottery Culture, was a late Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen i ...
. In 1959, the site of the Erlitou culture was found in Yanshi, south of the Yellow River near
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan Henan (; Chinese postal romanization, alternatively Honan) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China, in the Central China ...

Luoyang
.
Radiocarbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material Organic matter, organic material, or natural organic matter refers to the large source of ...
suggests that the Erlitou culture flourished c. 2100 BC to 1800 BC. They built large palaces, suggesting the existence of an organized state. In 1983, Yanshi Shang City was discovered north-east of the Erlitou site in Yanshi's Shixianggou Township. This was a large walled city dating from 1600 BC. It had an area of nearly and featured pottery characteristic of the
Erligang culture The Erligang culture () is a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the s ...
. The remains of a walled city of about were discovered in 1999 across the
Huan River The Huan River (), or Anyang River (), is a river in Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China Provincial-level administrative divisions () or first-level administrative divisions (), are the highest-level ...
from the well explored Yinxu site. The city, now known as Huanbei, was apparently occupied for less than a century and destroyed shortly before the construction of the Yinxu complex. Between 1989 and 2000, an important Shang settlement was excavated near Xiaoshuangqiao, about 20 km northwest of Zhengzhou. Covering an intermediary period between the Zhengzhou Site and the late capitals on the
Huan River The Huan River (), or Anyang River (), is a river in Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China Provincial-level administrative divisions () or first-level administrative divisions (), are the highest-level ...
, it features most prominently sacrificial pits with articulated skeletons of cattle, a quintessential part of the late Shang ritual complex. Chinese historians were accustomed to the notion of one dynasty succeeding another, and readily identified the Erligang and Erlitou sites with the early Shang and
Xia dynasty The Xia dynasty is the first dynasty in traditional Chinese historiography. According to tradition, the Xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great, after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors, gave the throne to him. In the tra ...
of traditional histories. The actual political situation in early China may have been more complicated, with the Xia and Shang being political entities that existed concurrently, just as the early
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
, who established the successor state of the Shang, are known to have existed at the same time as the Shang. It has also been suggested the Xia legend originated as a Shang myth of an earlier people who were their opposites.


Other sites

The
Erligang culture The Erligang culture () is a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the s ...
centred on the Zhengzhou site is found across a wide area of China, even as far northeast as the area of modern
Beijing Beijing ( ; ; ), Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the Capital city, capital of the People's Republic of China. It is the world's List of national capitals by population, most populous national capital ci ...

Beijing
, where at least one burial in this region during this period contained both Erligang-style
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminum, manganese, nickel or zinc) and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or ...
utensils and local-style
gold Gold is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Au (from la, aurum) and atomic number 79, making it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur naturally. In a pure form, it is a brightness, bright, slightly reddish yel ...

gold
jewelry. The discovery of a Chenggu-style ''ge''
dagger-axe bronze dagger-axe File:Chinese dagger-axe and related polearms.svg, alt= Dagger-axes and variants., Two dagger-axes (left) and a variety of ''ji''. The dagger-axe (; sometimes confusingly translated "halberd") is a type of pole weapon that was i ...
at Xiaohenan demonstrates that even at this early stage of Chinese history, there were some ties between the distant areas of north China. The Panlongcheng site in the middle Yangtze valley was an important regional center of the
Erligang culture The Erligang culture () is a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the s ...
. Accidental finds elsewhere in China have revealed advanced civilizations contemporaneous with but culturally unlike the settlement at Anyang, such as the walled city of Sanxingdui in Sichuan. Western scholars are hesitant to designate such settlements as belonging to the Shang dynasty. Also unlike the Shang, there is no known evidence that the Sanxingdui culture had a system of writing. The late Shang state at Anyang is thus generally considered the first verifiable civilization in Chinese history. In contrast, the earliest layers of the Wucheng culture, Wucheng site, pre-dating Anyang, have yielded pottery fragments containing short sequences of symbols, suggesting that they may be a form of writing quite different in form from oracle bone script, oracle bone characters, but the sample is too small for decipherment.


Genetic studies

A study of mitochondrial DNA (inherited in the maternal line) from Yinxu graves showed similarity with modern northern Han Chinese, but significant differences from southern Han Chinese.


Absolute chronology

The earliest securely dated event in Chinese history is the start of the Gonghe Regency in 841 BC, early in the
Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscript ...
, a date first established by the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
historian
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the H ...

Sima Qian
. Attempts to establish earlier dates have been plagued by doubts about the origin and transmission of traditional texts and the difficulties in their interpretation. More recent attempts have compared the traditional histories with archaeological and astronomical data. At least 44 dates for the end of the dynasty have been proposed, ranging from 1130 BC to 1018 BC. * The traditional dates of the dynasty, from 1766 BC to 1122 BC, were calculated by Liu Xin during the Han dynasty. * A calculation based on the "old text" of the ''
Bamboo Annals The ''Bamboo Annals'' (), also known as the ''Ji Tomb Annals'' (), is a chronicle A chronicle ( la, chronica, from Greek language, Greek ''chroniká'', from , ''chrónos'' – "time") is a historical account of events arranged in chronology, ...
'' yields dates of 1523 BC to 1027 BC. * David Pankenier, by attempting to identify astronomical events mentioned in Zhou texts, dated the beginning of the dynasty at 1554 BC and its overthrow at 1046 BC. * The
Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project () was a multi-disciplinary project commissioned by the People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and de ...
identified the establishment of the dynasty with the foundation of an
Erligang culture The Erligang culture () is a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the s ...
walled city at Yanshi, dated at c. 1600 BC. The project also arrived at an end date of 1046 BC, based on a combination of the astronomical evidence considered by Pankenier and dating of archaeological layers.


Late Shang at Anyang

The oldest extant direct records date from approximately 1250 BC at Anyang, covering the reigns of the last nine Shang kings. The Shang had a fully developed system of writing, preserved on Chinese bronze inscriptions, bronze inscriptions and a small number of other writings on pottery, jade and other stones, horn, etc., but most prolifically on oracle bones. The complexity and sophistication of this writing system indicates an earlier period of development, but direct evidence of that development is still lacking. Other advances included the invention of many musical instruments and celestial observations of Mars and various comets by Shang astronomers. Their civilization was based on agriculture and augmented by hunting and animal husbandry. In addition to war, the Shang also practiced human sacrifice. Crania of sacrificial victims have been found to be similar to modern Chinese ones (based on comparisons with remains from Hainan and Taiwan). Cowry, Cowry shells were also excavated at
Anyang Anyang (; ) is a prefecture-level city Image:Yangxin-renmin-huanyin-ni-0022.jpg, A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply "Huangshi" (). This is a useful distinction, because the sign is located ''already'' wit ...
, suggesting trade with coast-dwellers, but there was very limited sea trade since China was isolated from other large civilizations during the Shang period. Trade relations and diplomatic ties with other formidable powers via the Silk Road and Chinese voyages to the Indian Ocean did not exist until the reign of Emperor Wu of Han, Emperor Wu during the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
(206 BC – 221 AD).


Court life

At the excavated royal palace of
Yinxu Yinxu (modern ; ) is the site of one of the ancient and major historical capitals of China There are traditionally four major historical capitals of China, collectively referred to as the "Four Great Ancient Capitals of China" (). The four are B ...

Yinxu
, large stone pillar bases were found along with rammed earth foundations and platforms, which according to Fairbank, were "as hard as cement". These foundations in turn originally supported 53 buildings of wooden timber framing, post-and-beam construction. In close proximity to the main palatial complex, there were underground pits used for storage, servants' quarters, and housing quarters. Many Shang royal tombs had been tunneled into and ravaged by Grave robbing, grave robbers in ancient times, but in the spring of 1976, the Tomb of Fu Hao, discovery of Tomb 5 at Yinxu revealed a tomb that was not only undisturbed, but one of the most richly furnished Shang tombs that archaeologists had yet come across. With over 200 bronze ritual vessels and 109 inscriptions of Fu Hao, Lady Fu Hao's name, Zheng Zhenxiang and other archaeologists realized they had stumbled across the tomb of Wu Ding, King Wu Ding's most famous consort, Fu Hao, who is mentioned in 170 to 180 Shang oracle bone inscriptions, and who was also renowned as a military general. Along with bronze vessels, stoneware and pottery vessels, bronze weapons, Chinese jade, jade figures and hair combs, and bone hairpins were found. The archaeological team argue that the large assortment of weapons and ritual vessels in her tomb correlate with the oracle bone accounts of her military and ritual activities. The capital was the center of court life. Over time, court rituals to appease spirits developed, and in addition to his secular duties, the king would serve as the head of the ancestor worship cult. Often, the king would even perform oracle bone divinations himself, especially near the end of the dynasty. Evidence from excavations of the royal tombs indicates that royalty were buried with articles of value, presumably for use in the afterlife. Perhaps for the same reason, hundreds of commoners, who may have been Slavery, slaves, were buried alive with the royal corpse. A line of hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of northern China, and Shang troops fought frequent wars with neighboring settlements and nomadic herdsmen from the inner Asian steppes. The Shang king, in his oracular divinations, repeatedly showed concern about the Fang states, ''fang'' states, the barbarians living outside of the civilized ''tu'' regions, which made up the center of Shang territory. In particular, the ''tufang'' group of the Yan Mountains, Yanshan region were regularly mentioned as hostile to the Shang. Apart from their role as the head military commanders, Shang kings also asserted their social supremacy by acting as the high priests of society and leading the divination ceremonies. As the oracle bone texts reveal, the Shang kings were viewed as the best qualified members of society to offer sacrifices to their royal ancestors and to the high god Shangdi, Di, who in their beliefs was responsible for the rain, wind, and thunder. The King appointed officials to manage certain activities, usually in a specified area. These included field (agricultural) officials 田, pastors 牧, dog officers 犬 (hunting), and guards 衛. These officers led their own retinues in the conduct of their duties, and some grew more independent and emerged as rulers of their own. There was a basic system of bureaucracy in place, with references to positions such as the "Many Dog officers", "Many horse officers", the "Many Artisans", the "Many Archers" or court titles like "Junior Servitor for Cultivation" or "Junior Servitor for labourers". More distant rulers were known as marquess 侯 or count 伯, who sometimes provided tribute and support to the Shang King in exchange for military aid and augury services. However these alliances were unstable, as indicated by the frequent royal divinations about the sustainability of such relations. The existence of records regarding enemy kills, prisoners and booty taken, point to the existence of a proto-bureaucracy of written documents.


Religion

Shang religious rituals featured divination and sacrifice. The degree to which shamanism was a central aspect of Shang religion is a subject of debate. There were six main recipients of sacrifice: (1) Di (the High God), (2) nature powers like the sun and mountain powers, (3) former lords, deceased humans who had been added to the dynastic pantheon, (4) pre-dynastic ancestors, (5) dynastic ancestors, and (6) royal wives who were ancestors of the present king. The Shang believed that their ancestors held power over them and performed divination rituals to secure their approval for planned actions. Divination involved cracking a turtle carapace or ox scapula to answer a question, and to then record the response to that question on the bone itself. It is unknown what criteria the diviners used to determine the response, but it is believed to be the sound or pattern of the cracks on the bone. The Shang also seem to have believed in an afterlife, as evidenced by the elaborate burial tombs built for deceased rulers. Often "carriages, utensils, sacrificial vessels, [and] weapons" would be included in the tomb. A king's burial involved the burial of up to a few hundred humans and horses as well to accompany the king into the afterlife, in some cases even numbering four hundred. Finally, tombs included ornaments such as jade, which the Shang may have believed to protect against decay or confer immortality. The Shang religion was highly bureaucratic and meticulously ordered. Oracle bones contained descriptions of the date, ritual, person, ancestor, and questions associated with the divination. Tombs displayed highly ordered arrangements of bones, with groups of skeletons laid out facing the same direction.


Bronze working

Chinese bronze casting and pottery advanced during the Shang dynasty, with bronze typically being used for ritually significant, rather than primarily utilitarian, items. As early as c. 1500 BC, the early Shang dynasty engaged in large-scale production of
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminum, manganese, nickel or zinc) and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or ...
-ware vessels and weapons. This production required a large labor force that could handle the mining, refining, and transportation of the necessary copper, tin, and lead ores. This in turn created a need for official managers that could oversee both hard-laborers and skilled artisans and craftsmen. The Shang royal court and aristocrats required a vast number of different bronze vessels for various ceremonial purposes and events of religious
divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy', related to ''divinus'', ' divine'), or "to be inspired by a god," is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standa ...
. Ceremonial rules even decreed how many bronze containers of each type a nobleman or noblewoman of a certain rank could own. With the increased amount of bronze available, the army could also better equip itself with an assortment of bronze weaponry. Bronze was also used for the fittings of spoke-wheeled Chariot (Ancient China), chariots, which appeared in China around 1200 BC. File:Dinastia shang, tipode ding biansato, xiii-xii sec. ac.JPG, A Shang dynasty bronze ''ding'' vessel File:HouMuWuDingFullView.jpg, The Shang dynasty Houmuwu Ding is the heaviest piece of bronze work found in China so far. File:Liu Ding.jpg, A late Shang dynasty bronze ''ding'' vessel with taotie motif File:Gu wine vessel from the Shang Dynasty.jpg, Bronze ''gū'' ritual wine vessel File:La Tigresse, bronze vessel to preserve drink. Hunan, 11th BC. Cernuschi museum.jpg, A Shang dynasty bronze vessel to preserve drink


Military

Bronze weapons were an integral part of Shang society. Shang infantry were armed with a variety of stone and bronze weaponry, including ''máo'' (矛) spears, ''yuè'' (鉞) pole-axes, ''gē'' (戈) pole-based
dagger-axe bronze dagger-axe File:Chinese dagger-axe and related polearms.svg, alt= Dagger-axes and variants., Two dagger-axes (left) and a variety of ''ji''. The dagger-axe (; sometimes confusingly translated "halberd") is a type of pole weapon that was i ...
s, composite bows, and bronze or leather helmets. The chariot first appeared in China around 1200 BC, during the reign of Wu Ding. There is little doubt that the chariot entered China through Central Asia and the Northern Steppe, possibly indicating some form of contact with the Proto-Indo-Europeans, Indo-Europeans. Recent archaeological finds have shown that the late Shang used horses, chariots, bows, and practiced horse burials that are similar to the steppe peoples to the west. Oracle bone inscriptions suggest that the Shang used chariots in royal hunts and in battle only as mobile command vehicles. In contrast, the western enemies of the Shang, such as the Zhou, began to use limited numbers of chariots in battle towards the end of the Shang period. Although the Shang depended upon the military skills of their nobility, Shang rulers could mobilize the masses of town-dwelling and rural commoners as conscript laborers and soldiers for both campaigns of defense and conquest. Aristocrats and other state rulers were obligated to furnish their local garrisons with all necessary equipment, armor, and armaments. The Shang king maintained a force of about a thousand troops at his capital and would personally lead this force into battle. A rudimentary military bureaucracy was also needed in order to muster forces ranging from three to five thousand troops for border campaigns to thirteen thousand troops for suppressing rebellions.


Kings

The earliest records are the
oracle bone Oracle bones () are pieces of ox scapula and turtle plastron, which were used for pyromancy – a form of divination – in ancient China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty. ''Scapulimancy'' is the correct term if ox scapulae were used for the ...

oracle bone
s inscribed during the reigns of the Shang kings from
Wu Ding Wu Ding (), personal name Zǐ Zhāo, was a king of the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarc ...
. The oracle bones do not contain king lists, but they do record the sacrifices to previous kings and the ancestors of the current king, which follow a standard schedule that scholars have reconstructed. From this evidence, scholars have assembled the implied king list and genealogy, finding that it is in substantial agreement with the later accounts, especially for later kings. According to this implied king list, Wu Ding was the twenty-first Shang king. The Shang kings were referred to in the oracle bones by posthumous names. The last character of each name is one of the 10 celestial stems, which also denoted the day of the 10-day Shang week on which sacrifices would be offered to that ancestor within the ritual schedule. There were more kings than stems, so the names have distinguishing prefixes such as 大 ''Dà'' (greater), 中 ''Zhōng'' (middle), 小 ''Xiǎo'' (lesser), 卜 ''Bǔ'' (outer), 祖 ''Zǔ'' (ancestor) and a few more obscure names. The kings, in the order of succession derived from the oracle bones, are here grouped by generation. Later reigns were assigned to oracle bone diviner groups by Dong Zuobin:


See also

*Chinese sovereign *Chinese mythology *Historical capitals of China *Women in ancient and imperial China


Explanatory notes


References


Citations


Works cited

* * * * * * * * A 1985 paperback 2nd edition is still in print, . * * * * * * * * * * (English translation of ''Wénzìxué Gàiyào'' 文字學概要, Shangwu, 1988.) * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * *


External links


Zhengzhou Shang City Site
{{Authority control Shang dynasty, States and territories established in the 16th century BC States and territories disestablished in the 11th century BC Dynasties in Chinese history Former countries in Chinese history 11th century BC 11th century BC in China 16th-century BC establishments in China