SHANG DYNASTY


A Chinese dynasty in the Yellow River Basin that began at about 1750 B.C and lasted about 700 years.

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Social- The Shang believed in an almost theocratic monarchy. The king and his court were considered the noblest while the warrior class was elite. The lower class was mostly farmers and peasants. The king was a spiritual linkbetween the people and the main God, Di. If the king could not perform his duties and keep conditions ideal for farming and other necessities then he was strongly disliked and sometimes removed.

Political- The king ruled above all else under the assumption that he alone could talk to the royal ancestors. Then came his royal court who ruled in his absence and also consisted of oracles who used bones to interpret the ancestors' will. Next came the warrior class who were the elite right hand of the king. Last came the peasants and farmers who made up the majority of the population and had the least power.

Religion- The Shang believed in a central god, Di, who was often uncaring and cruel. When you died you would ascend to heaven where you would be able to be part of a heavenly hierarchy. Only the king and his oracles had the power to access the ancestors. They did this by heating up turtle shells and animal bones then deciephering the cracks in them. If there was a drought or a flood then the king was seen to have a bad connection with the ancestors and god. Their burials were also elaborate and fraught with ritual. The tombs themselves held the bodies of family members as well as slaves who were meant to serve in the afterlife.

Intellectual- The Shang had a very early form of writing that current chinese is still based on. This system of writing used characters to describe people, places or objects. Because the demand for education was so low it is likely that only the kings court was educated in the ways of writing. For a peasant, this form of writing would have been irrelevant to their lifestyle and for a warrior it would have been unessecary.

Technology- Like almost all of the developing cultures the Shang had begun to metalwork. They used bronze extensivly in art, weaponry and carpentry. Unfortunatly, their metal and stone resources were low so they relied on sticks and mud for their houses. The Shang used jade as a precious stone in many of their carvings and sculptures. Silk cloth became a major advance in clothes and thread. They used silk worms to harvest the thread and then turned it into clothes. Oracle bones were cattle bones heated up to a point where they would begin to crack and then the oracle would read the cracks and decide it the will of the ancestors.

Economical- Their economic system mirrors that of feudalism. It has a very small ruling class followed by a warrior class who is in charge of controlling the very large peasant population. The peasants, farmers and artisans made the majority of consumer items including, but not limited to, art, food, clothes and tools. When the warrior class would overthrow enemies they would often take prisoners as slaves.


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<-A bronze vessel crafted in the Shang Dynasty

Oracle bones used to figure out the ancestors will->










By David Griffin