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The Shang Dynasty
Transcript of The Shang Dynasty
What do the legends of the three sage-kings tell us about the matters of greatest importance to the people of early East Asian societies?
Shun, Yu and Yao are known as the three sage kings of ancient China. In order to improve the life of others, they made personal sacrifices. These three kings were known to be perfect and wisdomatic, but also rule with clarity and virtue. Each of the three sage-kings taught East Asian societies valuable life lessons. The sage- king Yu, taught to avoid egotism and self indulgence, and to perform good deeds in the act of charity, while Shun examplified the persistance and time needed to succed by creating units of time, measures, weights, and the four seasons. Lastly, the sage-king Yao, represented the graceful characteristics of being modest, sincere, and respectful. The Chinese refer to the time period in which these three kings ruled, as the most virtuous period in china.
What does the term mandate of heaven mean? How did it influence political development in early East Asia?
mandate of heaven
was a ruling system in the Zhou dynasty. The system gave heavenly powers to a admirable individual and gave them the right to govern. They were known as the
son of heaven
. If the son of heaven continued to rule with honor and proper morals, he would maintain his place as ruler. If he failed to rule properly, the region would suffer and the ruler's heavenly powers would have been taken away and given to a more deserving person. With this notion, the Zhou dynasty was able to tell how the Shang dynasty collapsed and how the power was transferred from the Shang to the Zhou dynasty. The Zhou dynasty and other societies followed this notion and called their emperor the son of heaven.
Describe the different social orders that developed during the first three dynasties.
The three ancient dynasties were Xia, Shang, and Zhou.
What was the purpose of oracle bones during the Shang? What do they tell us about life at that time?
Oracle bones are the oldest example of the Chinese writing. The bones are often mad of turtle shells, cattle bones, or various other types of bones, and were used for diving practices and for the documentation of important events that took place near the end of the dynasty. They were typically used by rulers or the Shang kings, and diviners would inscribe the date, the diviners' name, and the question that the diviner wanted an answer for. They would seek wisdom and advice from spirits of ancestors or the powers of nature. The oracle bones display the superstitious side of the Shang dynasty. The rulers would bring divination into their daily lives for fortune, farming, reassurance in actions, health, and many other things. The bones help us understand the rulers of the dynasty from the divination topics discussed on the bones.
Describe the relationship between the Chinese society under the dynasties and the people of the steppe lands. How did these cultures differ? How did they influence each other?
The Chinese society under the dynasties had villages with political and writing systems. While the Chinese society had a writing system, the people of the Steppe Lands did not. They also moved from place to place in search of food, water, and shelter which made them nomadic. The Chinese created agricultural societies, while the steppes created pastoral societies. Compared to the land of the dynasties, the Steppe's Lands were too dry and arid to cultivate. Even though they were dependent on pastoralism, they still relied on goods from agricultural settlements.
How did the physical features of the land and waters in East Asia influence the development of the culture?
What were the causes of the decline and eventual fall of the Zhou dynasty?
What is the relationship between patriarchy and ancestor worship in early China?
What do we know about writing and literature during the Zhou? Why is our knowledge so limited?
What was the relationship between the culture of the Yellow River and that of the Yangzi (Yangtze) Valley?
East Asia is able to get their food directly from oceans, rivers, and tributaries. The topography of the land was also used for the cultivation of tea and rice. The Yellow River eventually became the main source of trade and food for many settlements in East Asia. At times, the Yellow River was both beneficial and detrimental to the people living alongside the river. It consisted of loess soil, which is extremely fertile and allowed cultivators to successfully grow a variety of crops. Occasionally, the loess soil would build up and push the water out of its original path, causing the river to flood the yields of crops, all while destroying the surrounding communities. During the Shang dynasty, land allowed much trade between outsiders. These trade networks attracted horse-drawn chariots, other wheeled vehicles, tin, and cowry shells. The waters were used by mariners for sea travel, and the boats were used to support fishing and offshore trade.
Not much is known about the writing and literature from the Zhou Dynasty. The lack of knowledge is mostly because the literacy was not well developed at that point of time. Many of the early writings were preserved on bronzes, and due to the fact that the bronzes were made into drinking cups, plates, and accessories, there wasn't enough room left to write abundantly.
During the Zhou period, books were often written on bamboo,like the Bamboo Annals, and a multitude of other perishable materials. Various pieces of literature such as Confucius' Analects that were considered significant were copied multiple times, and were preserved.
Many emperors would burn the books that disagreed with their own philosophical teachings.
The people in both of these settlements relied on agriculture brought on by these rivers. Because of their increase in food production, their population rised to meet it. With population increase, both of these settlements needed cities and governments. The settlements overcame this predicament by becoming cultivators and joining the Chinese societies. However, some became hunters and gathers and moved to places where there was less agriculture production.
Bronze metallurgy and horse-drawn chariots were brought to East Asia from the people of the steppe region.
The rulers relied on decentralized administration. They bestowed their power, authority, and responsibility upon their subordinate, which in return became allies. They provided support and military to the central government. Gradually, the king was losing his influence on his region. The subordinates ruled themselves with little influence from the central gov. With the king losing his power, a powerful group of nomadic hunters attacked. At that time, the Zhou dynasty had a inadequate ruler, who had no military help from his subordinates. After this, the rulers basically had no power while the subordinates did. Subordinates would ignore the central gov. and fight other subordinates in order to expand their territory. This continuous fighting was labeled as the Period of Warring States. It was during this time that the Zhou dynasty fell as the last king abdicated his position from the pressures of one of his subordinates, the king of Qin.
Due to the strong patriarchy in ancient China, the oldest male of a house hold had the most power and respect. The patriarchal society they lived in gave the men great power because they were considered the link between the living and dead members of a family. The eldest male was also given the honor of preforming various ceremonies that relished the memories of the family's ancestors.
The ruling family and noble families were, of course, the highest social order in the Chinese society. They would live in large areas, and would live off of agricultural surpluses and the taxes of the people in the lower-ranking. Due to the high demand of bronze during that time,only people of great wealth were able to purchase it.Their diet, which was served on bronze utensils, consisted of steamed rice, fish, pheasant, poultry, pork, mutton, and rabbit. The majority of the nobles were fortunate enough to receive at least, an elementary level of education where they were taught proper etiquette.
The next social class is for specialized workers who worked for the higher class; these people were able to have a comfortable lifestyle. Examples of specialized workers are: bronze-smiths, jewelers, jade workers, embroiderers, and silk manufacturers.
Merchants were the next social class within society. They traded goods with India, southwest Asia, and Mesopotamia in exchange for horse-drawn chariots, tin, cowryshells, and pottery.
Those of the lower-ranking's diet contained vegetables, porridge made from millet, wheat, or rice made in and served on clay utensils. They did not own any land, but they offered agricultural, military, and labor services to the lord in exchange for land to cultivate on. They lived in small subterranean houses with thatched walls and roofs (this helped protect them from the weather). Women's work consist of wine making, weaving, and the cultivation of silkworms. The men spent their day out on fields and would hunt and fish to provide for their families. However, until the Zhou dynasty, peasants had to use wooden weapons to cultivate soil, because of the high price of bronze. The rise of iron production allowed peasants to cultivate with iron tools.
At the bottom, we have slaves. This was the lowest social class. Most of the slave population was made up of warriors captured from enemies. These people were forced into heavily labor intensive work. Their work consisted of clearing new fields for harvests or building city walls. During the Shang dynasty, slaves were sacrificed during funerals and religious or any other rituals.
These were some of the books writting during early China.