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Chinese History
Shang Dynasty
Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BC; alt Date : 1766)
Often regarded as the First proper Chinese Dynasty, the Shang ruled a large area that comprised the Eastern and Middle reaches of the Yellow River.

Kindly reproduced from Wikipedia ref: Courtesy of Yu Ninjie

In 1600 BC, the Xia were overthrown by King Tang of the Shang, and a new Dynasty was created.

From the diagram above, you will note that there are areas of settlement and Dynastic control in other parts of China, and especially along the Yangtze River. It is known that the Shang built walled cities made of traditional compacted earth, often 27 feet high (8.2 M), and I would urge to to view the map above as representing strongholds and administrative centres that withstood the test of time. By inference, this also means that much of the land in between was controlled by the Shang, at least so far as safe-passage is concerned. This also indicates Trade routes, especially via major (Wide) rivers

The Shang spent long periods fighting off invaders, and especially those from the North – something that is a common perception for most Chinese peoples. By contrast, they did have very good relations with the Northern Yan culture, which was later integrated into the following Zhou Dynasty

The Shang Dynasty was noted for introducing the first recorded writing system as we would understand it. This implies advanced government and burocrasy also. These are most notably found on Bronze wares, indicating that writing had been used in other forms for a period of time. However, most Shang script was written on ‘Oracle Bones’.

Like their predecessors, the Shang had many Capital cities; which leads me to suggest that given they used a Royal Family model, then the Capital city moved to where the Son, Uncle, or Nephew was in overall control. I am sure there was much politicking and succession intrigue – just as Northern Europe experienced 2, 000 years later

Historians often divide the Shang into two parts. The first is concerned with warring factions, whilst the second from Circa 1350 BC is called the Golden Age. This saw a flourishing culture and gave rise to many new or improved Arts. This period is also synonymous with Yin culture

The Shang lost dominion following The Battle of Muye to The Zhou, who could be considered as a vassal and subordinate Western state of Shang.

1. Based on the Middle reaches of The Yellow River in Henan Province
2. Often referred to as The Yin Dynasty (Especially by modern people from Korea and Japan
3. Period of power (Not sovereignty) 1766 to 1046 BC
4. Capital City: Yinwu near modern Zhengzhou in Henan Province
a) Alternatives: 6 Capitals (From many): Yin (Main Capital), Yanshi (Xia Dynasty also), Anyang (May have been a different culture entirely). They also called their Capital City: ‘Shang’, which may be a real and different place?
5. Common artifacts: Bronze, Jade, Bone, Stone, Oracle Bones, and Ceramics
6. Advanced conceptual writing system
a) Turtle shells carbon-dated to 1500 BC show ancient Chinese characters
7. Writing indicates common usage of thinking such as: politics, economy, culture, religion, geography, astronomy, calendar, art, and medicine. Tomb excavations reveal that women were sometimes great military leaders.
8. Look again at the map above, and conclude that this is a local area within what is now Modern China. Other cultures to the South, North, East, and West were also doing similar things – except we do not know about them yet. Or do we?
9. Mainly ‘Closed’ to outside influences and International Trade. There is evidence of International Trade, but in general the Shang tended to avoid contact with outside powers; excepting Fujian Province to the South, Taiwan, and other pre-dynastic country-states nearby such as Korea and Japan
10. Politics: The Shang were mainly not a great political force, but owed their supremacy to military superiority. They overthrew the Xia by use of chariots, archers, and high-grade bronze weaponry, such as their favoured short sword and a form of spear. They relied heavily on commoners conscripted as foot-soldiers, and governed by Decree to local Administrators (Warlords). Sounds a little reminiscent of the later the Roman Empire to me, but what do I know?

It would be typical for any Chinese culture to have long periods of stability and harmony, interspersed with wars and political intrigue. Culture and Arts tend to advance during safe periods, whilst weaponry and logistics advance during times of war.

The Chinese understood that one Empire would be replaced by another over time (A bit like Darwin and his theory ‘Survival of the Fittest’). What you should consider, is that some of these Empires may have been around at the same time. Some of the Pretenders to the Throne were looking for their best chance of power. They were contemporaries. They over-lapped in terms of ‘Rise and Fall’.

Reference Points:
1. Perception: Being the Geographical Centre of China, and therefore ‘The World’, (Yellow River, Yangtze River; Shaanxi and Henan Provinces)
This information is as supplied by Wikipedia, as dated March 2009 or later, and/or other reliable sources.

Maps (Unless stated otherwise) are provided in association with Thomas Lessman

Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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