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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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Posts: 3827

« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2007, 11:53:53 pm »

The Shang dynasty is believed to have been founded by a rebel leader who overthrew the last Xia ruler. Its civilization was based on agriculture, augmented by hunting and animal husbandry. The Records of the Grand Historian states that the Shang dynasty moved its capital six times. The final and most important move to Yin in 1350 BC led to the golden age of the dynasty. The term Yin dynasty has been synonymous with the Shang dynasty in history, and indeed was the more popular term, although it is now often used specifically in reference to the latter half of the Shang Dynasty. The Japanese and Korean still refer to the Shang dynasty exclusively as the Yin (In) dynasty.

A line of hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of northern China, and Shang troops fought frequent wars with neighboring settlements and nomadic herdsmen from the inner Asian steppes. The capitals, particularly that in Yin, were centers of glittering court life. Court rituals to propitiate spirits developed. In addition to his secular position, the king was the head of the ancestor- and spirit-worship cult. The king often performed oracle bone divinations himself, especially near the end of the dynasty. Evidence from the royal tombs indicates that royal personages were buried with articles of value, presumably for use in the afterlife. Perhaps for the same reason, hundreds of commoners, who may have been slaves, were buried alive with the royal corpse.

The Shang dynasty had a fully developed system of writing; its complexity and state of development indicates an earlier period of development, which is still unattested. Bronze casting and pottery also advanced in Shang culture. The bronze was commonly used for art rather than weapons. In astronomy, the Shang astronomers discovered Mars and various comets. Many musical instruments were also invented at that time.

Shang influence, though not political control, extended as far northeast as modern Beijing, where early pre-Yan culture shows evidence of Shang material culture. At least one burial in this region during the Early Shang period contained both Shang-style bronzes and local-style gold jewelry. This Shang influence likely made possible the integration of Yan into the later Zhou Dynasty.

The Shang king, in his oracular divinations, repeatedly shows concern about the fang groups, which represented barbarians outside of the civilized tu regions that made up the Shang center. In particular, the tufang group of the Yan Shan region is regularly mentioned as hostile to the Shang. The discovery of a Chenggu-style ge dagger-axe at Xiaohenan demonstrates that even at this early stage of Chinese history, there was some level of connection between the distant areas of north China
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