The Shang Dynasty Essay, Research Paper
The Shang Dynasty
The Shang dynasty, also know as Yin, was in power approximately from the years 1765 – 1027 B.C. . According to the Chinese, the start of the Shang dynasty began when Tang, a man of great virtue and wisdom, overthrew the decadent emperor Kie. Kie was know to be the last man in the Hsia dynasty. (Britannica,1)
The Shang dynasty originated, in what would be know today as Henan, in the Yellow River valley. This land was extremely rich in soil, resulting in agriculture. The soil was very loose resulting in severe damage from earthquakes. The Yellow River valley was also very prone to bad flooding. Early during the Shang s rule they, over time, expanded their dynasty vastly over China. They extended as far north as mongolia, and as far south as the Yangzi River.
Tangs anger and hatred for Kie had been on going for 17 years. In approximated 1765 Kie was taken prisoner by Tang. He was later slain. Tang overthrew the Hsia dynasty and took the thrown, for this he was know as a victorious and wonderful leader. Tang was succeeded by hin grandson. Between Tang and Hsin, the last emperor of the Shang dynasty, there were a total of 18 rulers.
The Shang dynasty was the first Ancient Chinese civilization that was studied on both an Archaeological and textual basis. They were largely a part of the bronze age civilization. The bronze age had seem to have come about in the year 2000 B.C. . Most of the textual references that we have about the Shang dynasty came from oracle bones, which were used to answer questions about the future. Oracle bones generally answered questions about the future such as, will emperor Tang have a son, how many years will he be in power, and so forth.
By the time of the Shang the art of oracle bones have been being used for a time of about 1000 years. The oracular activities took place largely at the main court in the town under the supervision of the king. During these activities all officials and religious figures were involved. The shells that were used during this ritual were mostly shoulder blades of water buffalo and turtle shells. These bones were often obtained mostly from importation. The scarcity of these bones made the ritual even more sacred. The bones were carefully scraped, polished, washed and then finally chiseled to produce grooves. During the ritual, the ruler would heat the grooves and create hairline cracks. These cracks were then examined and interpreted by a prognosticator , a role in which the diviner himself could have doubled but which the king himself often performed. (Chang, 61) How the cracks were interpreted is not know. Interpretations would sometime be inscribed next to the cracks. These inscriptions would state a question and sometimes give the answer as well.
Bonze artifacts and weapons, many being inscribed, have long been known from the Shang dynasty, but they have seen to bear primarily on art and technology. (Chang, vii) During the rein of the emperor Shi-huang-ti works of art and literature were prohibited by law. This law did not stop the people from creating these things it simply forced then to bury or conceal them, leaving the artifacts to later be discovered by future cultures and archeologists. Most of the artifacts that were found relating to the Shang were discovered near An-yang, the last dynastic capital.
The Shang city of Cheny-chou located on the Yellow river, not far from An-yang, is a big archeological site. Aside from many archeological finds, an even more important find was the find of the wall. This was a structure of a wall that outlined part of the city and is know to be the largest structure of a city wall to be found in china. Today this wall is protected by the Peoples Republic of China.
The architects of the Shang period built houses of timber over rammed earth floors. Tombs were dug in clay, and their walls show traces of paintings that strongly resemble some of the ornamentation and animal shapes reflected in the outstanding bronze work of the period. (Enclycopedia.com) The earliest bronzes of the Shang were very simple, but development is evident through ceremonial objects as well as a cooking and serving dishes and various utensils. There was a three-legged li for cooking, and into it could be fitted a bronze hsien, a dish with a pierced bottom to function as a steamer. Serving bowls were often stemmed, and pouring vessels had long spouts. Objects like this were often very highly decorated.
Pottery objects were also very abundant. Shang potters would made fired clay sectional molds for casting bronzes. They also used clay molds to imprint decorations into clay vessels. Some of the pottery gives evidence of possibly having been shaped on a potter’s wheel. Pottery included dishes and bowls in a white glaze for ceremonial and ritual use, as well as black pottery and a rich brown glaze for more casual purposes.
Jade carving became quite advanced during the Shang dynasty. ceremonial weapons of jade were made, as well as jade fittings for actual weapons. Jade figurines included both human and animal shapes. Many of these have been found in tombs of the period.
The culture of the Shang, as far as religion, were considered monotheists. Even though the Shang believed in many gods they worshiped Shang Ti, or Lord on High . Shang Ti was thought to be the supreme god who ruled over all the lesser gods, such as the sun, wind, and the moon. The Shang also believed that their ancestors dwelled in the heavens after they passed on to their new life. The gods and the Shang ancestor were sacrificed to. However, we know little about the about their sacrifices.
After a bloody war the Shang dynasty fell. During the fall of their Dynasty the Shang looked to the west for help from the Huns. After this battle the Shang dynasty was no longer in power. The Emperor at that time was Chou-sin. During the war Chou-sin tried to take refuge in his palace. When Chou-sin was finally killed, Wu- Wang took power. This is the turn when the Shang dynasty was through and the Chou dynasty was in charge.
1. Bulliet, Richard W. The Earth and Its Peoples Global History. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
2. Wang, Zhongshu. Han civilization. New Haven : Yale University Press, 1982.