Shang Dynasty

In the Chinese academia, Xia is considered to be the earliest dynasty of ancient times, but most of our knowledge about Xia dynasty, depends upon the documents of the succeeding dynasties and has not been confirmed yet. Shang, of ancient times, is the first dynasty which can be verified by precise archaeological materials. Now let’s introduce it to you.

Shang was founded in 16 century BC, and became extinct in 11 century BC, lasting 600 years. Shang moved its capital to another place many times, and finally settled down at Yin (near Anyang of Henan). Archaeological studies verify that in its early days, Chinese civilization had been highly developed. Its main characteristic is the inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells and bronze culture.

The discovery of the inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells is completely accidental. At the beginning of the 20th century, when peasants of Xiaotun Village in the west northern part of Anyang of Henan sold as traditional Chinese medicine the tortoise-shells and beast bones got by chance at that time, some scholar recognized ancient Chinese prose on them. After detailed research, paleography experts ascertained that those inscriptions were none other than the characters of Shang dynasty. Therefore, they concluded that Xiaotun Village was the capital site mentioned in the ancient book –Yin Dynasty ruins.

The discovery and excavation of Yin site, is the most important one in the history of the archeology of China during the 20th century. Since 1928, a great amount of valuable culture relics have been unearthed. Jiaguwen is the inscriptions on the tortoise-shells and beast bones. In Shang dynasty, augury is a must before action of the kings. Jiagu is the implement of augury.  First the flesh and blood of the bones should be removed and then sawed, chopped and rubbed down. Concaves would be chiseled out with certain utensils on the inside or the reverse sides in perfect order. Necromancers, those who are in charge of the augury, had their own names, dates and questions inscribed on the bones, which should be burned. Heated concaves split open and the flaws were called “omen”. If the augury came true, the inscribed bones would be kept as documents.

Until now, more than 160,000 pieces of bones have been discovered. More than 4,000 different characters with 3,000 have been examined by experts. However, among them, only 1000 have been agreed upon. As for others, some are unexplainable and others are debated upon. Nonetheless, one can peep into the different aspects of the society of Shang. The earliest treatise on bones was said to be Teiyunzanggui published in 1913 by Liu’e.  Equally important is the Studies on Jiagu Characters published in 1929 by Guomoruo. Qiuxigui, professor from Beijing university and Lixueqin, professor from Institute of History of China, tops the lists of experts of Jiaguwen.

Bronze wares, together with the bones, represent Shang dynasty. Thousands of bronze wares have come to light, of which is the Simuwu square quadripod.  It weighs 875 kilograms, with a height of 133 centimeters, a length of 110 centimeters, and a width of 78 centimeters that embodies the zenith of the bronze civilization.

The archaeological studies have already proved that in the period of the Shang dynasty, the machine of country had already emerged, and private ownership was established basically too. From then on, China’s history entered civilization era.

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