Friday 8 January 2016

Bronze Age China

The Shang dynasty flourished from c.1600 to 1100 BC and was the first society to produce cast bronze on large scale. Believed to be semi divine, the ruling Shang kings performed rituals to please their ancestors and gods. The artifacts they used reveal a sophisticated society.

Shang was the second ancient dynasty of China, Xia( c.2070 - c.1600 BC) was the first. Xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great.

Proposed Location of Xia Dynasty

Zhenghou was the early Shang capital, later was Anyang(1300 - 1050 BC). At Zhenghou 6.4 Km long city wall enclosed a large settlement; the walls and the buildings were constructed of stamped earth.

Remnants of advanced, stratified societies dating back to the
 Shang period have been found in the Yellow River Valley.

The production of Bronze was controlled by the king, and the quantity of Bronze objects found indicates that it was a major industry, employing large number of skilled craftsmen.

When Shang kings died, they were buried in large cross shaped graves. When an important person died his chariots and horses were buried with him and his coffin was surrounded by goods important to the deceased.

The Shang created a Lunar/Solar calendar based on the zodiac, with ten "heavenly stems" and ten "earthly branches". when combined together, they form cycles of sixty days or sixty years. The Shang model although modified, remains the basis for the traditional Chinese calendar.

Considered a tyrant, the last Shang ruler Di Xin, was overthrown by the state of Zhou in the 11th century BC. Many of the achievements of Shang period however, remain central to Chinese culture. 

The Shang dynasty Houmuwu Dingis the
heaviest piece of bronze work found in China so far.
A late Shang dynasty bronze ding vessel.

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