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China, a History

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Author Topic: China, a History  (Read 4427 times)
Bee Cha
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« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2007, 11:52:03 pm »

The Shang Dynasty (Chinese: 商朝) or Yin Dynasty (殷代) (ca. 1600 BC - ca. 1046 BC) is the first historic Chinese dynasty and ruled in the northeastern region of the area known as "China proper", in the Yellow River valley. The Shāng Dynasty followed the quasi-legendary Xià Dynasty and preceded the Zhōu Dynasty. Information about the Shang Dynasty comes from historical records of the Zhou Dynasty, the Han Dynasty Shiji by Sima Qian and from Shang inscriptions on bronze artifacts and oracle bones—turtle shells, cattle scapula or other bones on which were written the first significant corpus of recorded Chinese characters. The oracle bone inscriptions, which date to the latter half of the dynasty, typically recorded the date in the Sexagenary cycle of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches, followed by the name of the diviner and the topic being divined about. An interpretation of the answer (prognostication) and whether the divination later proved correct were sometimes also added. Present-day Chinese culture can be traced to this early dynasty.

These divinations can be gleaned for information on the politics, economy, culture, religion, geography, astronomy, calendar, art and medicine of the period, and as such provide critical insight into the early stages of the Chinese civilization. One site of the Shang capitals, later historically called the Ruins of Yin (殷墟), is near modern day Anyang (安陽). Archaeological work there uncovered 11 major Yin royal tombs and the foundations of palace and ritual sites, containing weapons of war and human as well as animal sacrifices. Tens of thousands of bronze, jade, stone, bone and ceramic artifacts have been obtained; the workmanship on the bronzes attests to a high level of civilization. In terms of inscribed oracle bones alone, more than 20,000 were discovered in the initial scientific excavations in the 1920s to 1930s, and many more have since been found.

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