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The Shang Dynasty

The Shang Dynasty

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The Shang Dynasty

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  1. SS.6.W.4.8 The Shang Dynasty

  2. Introduction • Ancient China was not one country, but a number of clans, or extended families, led by warrior kings. • Rival clans often fought each other, and occasionally, one clan became powerful enough to control all of ancient China and start a dynasty. • The Shang (pronounced Shung) was one such clan who ruled the area around the Huang He from 1700 to 1122 B.C.E.

  3. Shang Society • Shang society was divided into 6 classes: 1. The King and his Relatives 2. Nobles- wealthy landowners who fought in the king’s army 3. Craftspeople- skilled labor such as bronze workers, potters, and stonemasons 4. Traders- those who made money by trading with neighboring regions 5. Farmers- the largest class in Shang society; did not own the land they farmed or control the goods they produced 6. Slaves- mostly captured in wars; spent their lives building tombs and palaces

  4. Anyang • Anyang was a Shang royal city. • While excavating it, archeologists found at least 9 tombs. • Each tomb was a large pit with ramps leading down from the north and south. • When a king was buried, slaves, servants, and animals were led down the ramps into the pit. • They were sacrificed so that they could serve the needs of the king in the afterlife. • Kings were also buried with food, weapons, and jewelry.

  5. Religion • The religion of the Shang centered on ancestor worship. • They believed that dead ancestors had the power to help or harm the living. • For this reason, they believed it was important to honor their ancestors. • They did this through offerings of wine, food, and sometimes even human sacrifices! • In Shang belief, kings had the power to rule because they were descended from powerful ancestors, but kings also had the responsibility of following the wishes of their ancestors.

  6. Oracle Bones • Kings used oracle bones to ask their ancestors’ advice on such important matters as when to hunt, where to build new cities, and whether to go to war. • The oracle bones were made from turtle shells or the shoulder blade of a cow. • To ask a question, a holy man made a statement and then pressed a hot needle against the back of the bone. • The heat would make the bone crack, and the pattern it left was believed to be a message which the holy man or king translated.

  7. Shang Warcraft • Shang kings depended on strong armies to maintain their rule since they were in almost constant war with their enemies. • The king’s armies were especially powerful because they had weapons made of bronze. • The Shang were among the 1st people in the world to discover how to make bronze from a mixture of copper and tin. • Craftspeople used bronze to make many tools of war such as arrowheads, spearheads, ax heads, and helmets. • Their skill was one of the reasons why the Shang remained in power for over 500 years!

  8. The Shang Legacy • Fighting so many wars eventually weakened the military power of the Shang. • The Shang kings and nobles also spent enormous sums of money which may have bankrupted the dynasty. • One legacy they left behind was their writing which helped to unify the Chinese people. • Although spoken language varied from place to place, people of the upper-classes used the same written language. • Shang writing, like modern Chinese, used characters which stood for words, not sounds. • For this reason, it takes much longer to learn Chinese than English!