The Shang And Zhou Documents Essay, Research Paper
How do we know what we know about the Shang and Zhou cultures?
The information and knowledge that archeologists and historians have gathered about the Shang and Zhou cultures come from archaeological sites as well as from ancient literal texts. The two largest sites for the Shang culture are the Zhengzhou and the Anyang sites. At Zhengzhou, there was a wall surrounding the capital city which ran 2385 ft long, 30 ft high and 60 ft wide (the massive size of the wall indicates that the Shang cultures had the ability to not only organize and utilize large groups of labor forces but also to mobilize them for long periods of time, as needed to build such a wall). Oracle bones revealed the beliefs and occurrences of the cultures. They were used by the king and diviners as a ways of communication between themselves and the higher beings (the king would ask the spirits questions about the future or a current problem and the answer would guide him in his decision or explain an event). These questions, answers and outcomes would be recorded on the tortoise shells or on the shoulder bones of oxen, showing the occurrences of crop failures, royal births or wars and invasion of outsiders which threatened the peace. The tombs of royals also show the belief of life after death in both the Shang and the Zhou cultures. The tombs of royal Shang kings contain not only vessels and bronze axes but also evidence of live burials (although in the Zhou periods, live burials were increasingly replaced by human statues rather than actual humans). The ancient text of the Classic of Documents show how the Zhou believed in the concept of a Mandate from Heaven (perhaps a way of justifying their overthrowing of the Shang culture). The Mandate states that a heaven chooses and empowers a ruler with the right to rule on the condition that he is righteous and wise in his handlings of administrative duties as well as in his treatment of his subjects (as well as practicing religion devotedly). However, if the leader violates these conditions, heaven will take away his right to rule by giving power to a new ruling family.