The term usually includes bronze inscriptions of the preceding Shang dynasty as well.
Under them, many of the key features of later Chinese civilization began to develop. King Tang of Shang Dynasty as imagined by by Song Dynasty painter Ma Lin To date there has come down to us no direct historical evidence for the existence of the Xia dynasty.
Given that the roots of Chinese civilization go much further back than the Shang, there are plenty of reasons to think that the Xia dynasty did indeed rule in northern China. For centuries prior to the rise of the Shang dynastythe farming culture of northern China had been advancing in social complexity and technological sophistication, for example with the introduction of wheel-thrown pottery.
During this period, walled towns grew dramatically in size and density. The earliest-known city in ancient China appeared in c. In the early 2nd millennium BCE, what had been a fairly typical walled town of the period suddenly mushroomed into a city some hectares acres in area about ten times the area of earlier settlements in the region.
This change on the order of magnitude of settlement size was accompanied by other changes, such as the appearance of elaborate elite burials, ritual bronze vessels, and the presence of two palaces.
Erlitou is only one urban site amongst several dating from this ancient period of history. Sharp social divisions were increasingly apparent, and the power and status of rulers is shown by the occurrence of human sacrifice — always a sign of overwhelming, usually sacred authority — as well as by magnificent graves.
It is clear that warfare became much more prevalent during the early 2nd millennium BCE, presumably the result of population expansion. Throughout history, success in war has always been dependent upon good organization as much as military valour, and this was clearly an age in which tribal chiefdoms were being transformed into proper kingdoms.
In these, the kings and their officials were able to exercise control over comparatively wide areas, collecting sufficient tribute from the farming population to pay for luxurious courts where power was concentrated.
These courts were serviced by specialized and highly skilled craftsmen — the range and quality of the bronze vessels recovered from sites of the period is staggering, appearing so suddenly in the archaeological record. These court centres, with their temples and palaces, were surrounded by sizeable towns and cities, enclosed by stamped-earth walls and moats.
One of these early kingdoms — in all likelihood that of which Erlitou was the capital — was probably ruled by a dynasty which later generations called the Xia. This state would be the forebear to all the great dynasties of Chinese history that followed.
The Shang dynasty If traditional Chinese historiography is followed, the Xia kingdom was conquered in c. This ruler was the founder of the Shang dynasty.
The resulting kingdom became the most powerful state in northern China. The heartland of the Shang kingdom lay where the Yellow River leaves the mountains and enters the eastern plains.
This is an extremely fertile area, due to the soil deposits brought down by the river system from the mountains.
It is also conveniently situated near metal-rich deposits in the uplands.
Under the Shang, ancient China emerges into the light of history. Written records, mostly in the form of inscriptions on oracle bones, or on pottery or bronze vessels, shed light on the society and politics of the period.
The Shang script was a fully developed system of writing, similar to that still in use on China today. The Shang state The Shang kings were, like many rulers of the ancient world, high priests as well as political and military leaders.
The bronzes of the Eastern Zhou period, after BC, show signs of a gradual renaissance in the craft and much regional variation, which appears ever more complex as more Eastern Zhou . The Chinese Bronze Age had begun by B.C. in the kingdom of the Shang dynasty along the banks of the Yellow River in northern China. At times the Shang kings ruled even larger areas. Contrary to common notions about the Chinese, the Bronze Age Chinese did not drink tea or eat rice. At Shang bronze casting sites, such as Xiaomintun at Yinxu in Anyang, molds for casting bronze vessels are made from pottery (e.g. Yinxu Xiaomintun Archaeological Team, ). Although several bronze vessels have been discovered at Yanshi Shangcheng, none date to the first occupation phase.
As the oracle bone inscriptions reveal, one of the main functions falling to the king was to offer sacrifices to his royal ancestors; and he also led the worship of the high god, Di.
The king was assisted in his duties by a staff of literate scribes, headed by officers who had titles which reflected specific, departmentalised responsibilities.
The Shang royal precinct, with its palaces and temples, functioned as much as a religious ceremonial centre as a centre of government. It lay at the centre of the royal capital, with its workshops and houses, and the whole surrounded by a stamped earth wall. Outside the capital were the villages in which the majority of the people lived.
Most of these people were peasants, farming small plots of land. The land was owned by the king or by local lords; in exchange for being allowed to farm these plots, the peasants had to give part of their crops as tribute to their lord, and were also required, when ordered, to follow their lord to war, or to work on a project which he wanted carrying out, such as digging a pond or canal.
Further away from the capital and the land which immediately surrounded it, which was controlled directly by the king, the Shang kingdom was partitioned amongst many such local lords.
These lords all owed obedience to the king, and they had to see to it that the people in their area obeyed the law, and that tribute owing to the king was collected and sent to the capital.
The lords also provided soldiers for the royal army from amongst their peasants, as well as labourers for the large projects which the king ordered to be carried out from time to time, such as building temples or royal palaces.
The lords also had the duty of advising the king as to what policies he should follow. This inner area of subordinate lordships was surrounded by an outer ring of semi-independent kingdoms and tribes who owed the Shang king some form of loyalty.Chinese bronzes: Chinese bronzes, any of a number of bronze objects that were cast in China beginning before bce.
Bronzes have been cast in China for about 3, years. Most bronzes of about – bce, roughly the Bronze Age in China, may be described as ritual vessels intended for the worship of ancestors. By convention, the "Early Bronze Age" in China is sometimes taken as equivalent to the "Shang dynasty" period of Chinese prehistory (16th to 11th centuries BC), and the "Later Bronze Age" as equivalent to the "Zhou dynasty" period (11th to 3rd centuries BC, from the 5th century also dubbed "Iron Age"), although there is an argument to be made.
Chinese bronze inscriptions, also commonly referred to as Bronze script or Bronzeware script, are writing in a variety of Chinese scripts on Chinese ritual bronzes such as zhōng bells and dǐng tripodal cauldrons from the Shang dynasty to the Zhou dynasty and even later.
Chinese Bronzes of the Shang and Zhou Periods No other ancient civilization can rival China in the quantity, decorative variety, and sheer technical sophistication of bronze vessels cast between the 17th and 1st centuries B.C.E. Chinese bronze inscriptions, also commonly referred to as Bronze script or Bronzeware script, are writing in a variety of Chinese scripts on Chinese ritual bronzes such as zhōng bells and dǐng tripodal cauldrons from the Shang dynasty to the Zhou dynasty and even later.
Size and complexity of bronze vessels gradually increased in the following periods, and it is generally agreed that the bronze casting industry culminated in the central plains of China during the Late Shang to Early Western Zhou period (around – BC).