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Chinese history – Shang Dynasty

The origins of the Shang dynasty lie in the province Henan, on the Yellow River. This dynasty is also called the Yin dynasty. In contrast to the Xia dynasty, it is well investigated.

King Tang founded the Shang dynasty by overthrowing the last king of the Xia dynasty, who had lost the mandate of heaven by his dissipate lifestyle. The first precursors to today’s Chinese characters can be traced back to the Shang dynasty’s culture. The brush with which Chinese characters are written was also invented at this time, introducing a new way of writing. The economy consisted primarily of farming; in the late Shang dynasty, the demand for silk grew greater and the arts of silk weaving and production developed significantly further.

Religion in the Shang era

The Shang had sacrificial rituals, oracle consultations via cattle bones, and tortoise shells. Oracle consultations served to search for auspicious or inauspicious omens for undertakings like war, marriage, etc. The king took part as high priest and connecting link to the highest premonitions. He was also secular and religious head of the dynasty. Human sacrifices have been found at Shang gravesites, including women and slaves buried together with high-ranking leaders.

Territory of the Shang

The demesne of the Shang stretched across the modern province of Shandong to the province Shaanxi in the west, and included parts of Anhuis in the south. Its capital city lay in the province Hebei, near today’s Anyang.

Fall of the Shang dynasty

As with the downfall of the Xia dynasty, another brutal and dissipate ruler who lost the heavenly mandate played a large role. He had a passion for orgies, women, and sadistically tortured his subjects. He too was goaded by a woman (Daji) to commit atrocities. In the 12th century B.C.E. (ca. 1125 B.C.E.), the Zhou dynasty supplanted the Shang.

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