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The Shang Dynasty Civilization

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Nick Bennett

on 30 August 2013

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Transcript of The Shang Dynasty Civilization

The Shang Dynasty
In the Shang dynasty and particularly at Anyang, the craft of jade carving made a notable advance. Ceremonial weapons and fittings for bronze weapons were carved from jade; ritual jades included the bi, cong, and symbols of rank. Plaques and dress ornaments were carved from thin slabs of jade, but there are also small figurines, masks, and birds and animals carved in the round, some of these perhaps representing the earliest examples of mingqi (“spirit vessels”), artistic figures substituted for live victims buried in order to serve the deceased.

Jade
Location

The Shang Dynasty civilization occupied the Yellow River valley.
It is referred to as the birthplace or cradle of Chinese civilization.


Origins

The Shang Dynasty began with the rule of Cheng Tang in 1600 BCE. There has been much controversy over whether the Shang or Xia Dynasty was the first Chinese civilization, but there has been no evidence to support the claim that the Xia was first. The Shang Dynasty was one of three warring states in China at the time.



Bronze Zun (ritual wine vessel)
-Originating from the Hunan province, southern China Shang dynasty, 13th-12th century BC
-depicts two rams supporting the vessel


Bronze
.
Bronze Ding (ritual food vessel)
-Shang dynasty 12th-11th century BC
-purpose was ceremonial rather than secular
-sets of vessels were buried with their owners, for offering food and wine to their ancestors
-two handles and three round legs makes this artifact a “ding”

This rare example of a ritual vessel known as a guang was used to pour wine or other potent beverages in ceremonies linking the rulers of the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600– 1050 B.C.) with their ancestors and supernatural forces.
Chariots
The light chariot, with 18 to 26 spokes per wheel, first appeared, according to the archaeological and inscriptional record, about 1200 bc. Glistening with bronze, it was initially a prestigious command car used primarily in hunting. The 16 chariot burials found at Xiaotun raise the possibility of some form of Indo-European contact with China, and there is little doubt that the chariot, which probably originated in the Caucasus, entered China via Central Asia and the northern steppe. Animal-headed knives, always associated with chariot burials, are further evidence of a northern connection.
Oracle Bones
Many pieces of writing from this time period were inscribed on tortoise shells and bones from cattle. Oracle bones are the oldest form of Chinese writing.
These bones told us about the political and social insight behind those in the Shang Dynasty. These relics contain many inscriptions about the Shang people worshipping an ancestor cult. The Shang kings sought for divination for just about everything- ranging to the meaning behind living to personal lives.

Bronze Metallurgy
The Shang Dynasty is also well known for their developments in the creation of Bronze Metallurgy due to the high level of artistry and sophistication within each piece of bronze the Shang Dynasty created. While bone, stone, and wood tools were useful to the Shang Dynasty, the development of bronze as a weapon made the Shang superior to their rivals who wielded bone, stone, and wood.
Bronze was used to create chariots, and these chariots would wreck devastating effects against adversaries who lacked horses and chariots.
As an addition to bronze weapons, bronze metallurgy from the Shang Dynasty was useful for more than war. Bronze cups, goblets, steamers, and cauldrons were used for sacrificial means and some of these objects directly related to the ancestral cult which the Shang Dynasty is known for.

The Zhou Dynasty and the Mandate of Heaven
The Shang Dynasty was overthrown by the Zhou in 1046 BCE. As part of their justification for overthrowing the Shang, the Zhou proclaimed that the right to rule was given to them by the Mandate of Heaven.
The Mandate of Heaven is based on four principles:
1. The right to rule is granted by Heaven.
2. There is only one Heaven therefore there can be only one ruler.
3. The right to rule is based on the virtue of the ruler.
4. The right to rule is not limited to one dynasty.

The Mandate of Heaven justifies rebellion as long as the rebellion is successful. Simply because it was successful, obviously then, the new ruler had to have had a Mandate from Heaven.
End of the Zhou Dynasty
By the end of the 5th century BCE, the Zhou dynasty had turned into an interstate anarchy. This period was known as the warring states period. During the 4th century BCE, the state of Ch'in rose to power and conquered all of the states under its own rule by 256 BCE.
Surviving Writing from Shang Civilization
There is not much writing remaining from this civilization. Several factors contribute to this:
many people were illiterate and only the nobility were able to write
much early writing was written on media such as bamboo, oracle bones, and bronzes
only writing that people deemed important enough to copy each generation survived
Some emperors, such as Shi Huangdi, burned books of differing legal philosophies
Videos
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/videos/the-king-tut-tomb-of-china/
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/videos/shang-dynasty-human-sacrifice/

Folk religion during the Shang Dynasty was polytheistic, for the people at the time worshipped many gods; ancestor worship was also very important. If the ancestors of a family were content, then life for that family would be filled with happiness and prosperity. The dead were buried with numerous goods made out of valuable materials such as jade and bronze. The god worshipped by the masses during the Shang Dynasty was Shang Ti, or "the lord on high," who acted as the link between humans and heavenly beings. It was very important to keep Shang Ti happy, for he was the one who instructed the souls of the ancestors, and the people did this by performing various rituals, prayers, offerings, and even human sacrifices.

Religion
The Three Sage Kings
Ancient Chinese legends tell of three sage kings: King Yao, King Shun, and King Yu. King Yao was a virtuous ruler who brought harmony to society, King Shun regulated the four seasons, weights, measures, and units of time, and King Yu rescued China from raging floods of the Yellow River. These legends reflected the values of Chinese society and what was important to them.
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