Key Concepts Sub-Points:

I. Under the Shang and Zhou dynasties, many of the elements of classical Chinese
civilization emerged.

- The Shang people arose from diverse Neolithic cultures in north China,
and from around 1500B.C inhabited the area along the Yellow River in
present-day Henan province.
  • They belonged to a highly stratified society ruled by an aristocracy
  • Kings were the political, military, and religious leaders.
  • The Shang were an agricultural society, they principally cultivated millet.
  • Farmers depended on stone and wood tools
  • Had large cities, and a well-organized government administration,
  • Often engaged in warfare to ensure territorial boundaries.
  • They practiced human sacrifice,
  • The Shang is the first Chinese dynasty archaeologically authenticated by oracle-bone inscriptions and engravings on ritual bronze objects
  • Mastered bronze technology, sees bronze more valuable than silver or gold
  • Domesticated the horse, and introduced the horse-drawn chariot.
  • They were also the first culture in China to have a fully developed writing system.
  • Used ritual ceremonies to communicate with their ancestors since the welfare of the living was contingent on the support and good will of ancestral spirits.

II. Confucianism, Daoism and Chinese society

"Those who know do not say; those who say do not know." -Lao-tzu

"The superior men are sparing in their words and profuse in their deeds." -Confucius

Daoism and Confucianism existed simultaneously in dynastic China, attracting countless numbers of followers over the past 2,500 years.

Characteristics of the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1100-256 BCE)
  • Divided into the Western Zhou (1027-771 BCE), the Eastern Zhou (770-221 BCE)
  • Chinese notion of the ruler as the "Son of Heaven" who rules with the Mandate of Heaven
  • A feudal government very similar to the European feudal government
  • Iron technology increased and improved
  • Began to collect books (literature begin)
  • Achievements during the Zhou Dynasty in economy, politics, science and culture, were much more illustrious than any which occurred during the Shang Dynasty.
As Richard Bulliet says on page 40~47 of our textbook:

  1. Followed by the first dynasty called XIA but uncertain with the reality of Xia
  2. First culture in China to have a fully developed writing system
  3. Cities as administrative centers
  4. A political system based on control of a defined territory rather than a kinship connection
  5. Mastered bronze technology
  6. Labor-intensive bronze production was as symbolic of ruling authority
  7. Geographical isolation enable its distinct culture
  8. Oracle Bones
  9. Pioneered the production of silk cloth.
  10. Religious ideologies (oracle bone divination, Mandate of Heaven theories)

  • Shang and Zhou governments were less bureaucratic in nature
  • Highest position was King
  • hierarchical society
  • The social structure in many ways resembled medieval Europe. However, the peasants working on the land of a Chinese lord was free to leave whenever he wanted to, as he was not bound to the land
  • Farmers were the largest social class
Culture (Religion)

- Geographic isolation help promote its unique culture.

  • The Shang dynasty developed in the Yellow River Valley
  • Practiced ancestor worship. They make sacrifices to their ancestors and thought their ancestors would be go-betweens to the gods and bring them good fortune
  • The frequency of floods and other calamities led the people of Shang civilization to believe that some gods were good and others demonic.

I. Oracle bones
  • Oracle consultations served to search for auspicious or inauspicious omens for undertakings like war, marriage, etc.oraclebones0890949d19c0a91bff80.jpeg
  • Also use as keeping records of the history events
  • Made from pieces of the underside of a turtle that were heated and cracked then

II. Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism
  • Confucianism
    • Confucius (551-479 BCE) emphasizes moral cultivation of individuals, service to the state, and leadership by ethical, educated men.
    • Confucian thought builds on the fundamental Chinese world view of this time. In keeping with the values of universal order, Confucius propagates this world view and stresses the values of...
      • 1) filial piety, or respect of children for their parents (family and hierarchy)
      • 2) humanity
      • 3) the importance of ritual — state rituals and family rituals — for preserving universal order.
    • Confucius believes that man is primarily a social being in a set of relationships and that men must educate and cultivate themselves so that their behavior will be consonant with the moral order and they will be able to serve the state as moral leaders.
  • Taoism
    • Concept of Tao was employed by all Chinese schools of thought.
    • It is the first-cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life.
    • Explains the powers that drive the universe and the wonder of human nature.
    • The folk religion of Taoism became popular after its adoption by China as the state religion in 440 C.E., and continues to be practiced even to the present-day.
  • Legalism
    • Third philosophy of Ancient China.
    • All human are naturally evil.
    • Due to this thinking, the founder Han Feizi wanted people to have harsh laws and strict punishments.
      • Many aristocrats in China like the idea. They liked the idea because it favored power.

III. Human sacrifice
  • Made sacrifices of young men and women to river deities, and to have buried slaves alive with their owners upon death as part of a funeral service.
  • Women and slaves are also buried together alive with high-ranking leaders.

IV. Writing system
  • The Shang dynasty developed a system of writing consisting of over 3,000 symbols.
  • This writing system has remained in use for over 3,500 years.
  • Each of these characters is made of two parts. One part tells its meaning and the other tells its pronunciation.
Human / Environment
  • Arose in the Hwang Ho River Valley (Yellow River Valley), permitting a stable and bountiful supply of agriculture to support a large, growing civilization.
  • The civilization was based on agriculture, augmented by hunting and animal husbandry.
  • The river was a source of transportation which allowed for trade.
  • Shang Dynasty changed their capital numerous times because of environmental problems (floods), hostile neighbors, or because they were a semi-nomadic people used to moving.

Traded primarily with Mesapotima Indus Valley Civilization.
  • Silk Road
    • Found steep and high mountains in the southwest region of China extremely challenging to negotiate. In order to overcome difficulties, clever ancient people built characteristic bridges and plank roads along cliffs by perforating holes on mountains.
    • traders carried products such as silk and tea through the Gansu Corridor to the countries in the west and east
    • Various goods like silks, bullions, irons, ivories, cubiloses, pearls, seashells and ambers traversed the route regularly.SILKMAP3.jpeg

  • Bronze production
    • Shang Dynasty known as the "Bronze Age" due to its mastered of Bronze production.imgres-1.jpeg
    • People saw bronze more valuable than gold and silver.
    • The casting techniques of bronzes wares were at its peak.
    • Labor-intensive bronze production was a symbolic of ruling authority.
    • Bronze was used in making a variety of ceremonial vessels, instruments, and weapons.
  • The King had supreme power over everything else; He was both the political leader as well as the religious leader
  • A monarchy system.
  • Hierarchy society
  • Constantly at war with outsiders near and far (Evidence found in oracle bones)
  • The king sent out armies of as many as 13,000 men to fight battles on behalf of the kingdom. Victorious armies brought back prisoners of war

Rise : King Tang founded the Shang dynasty by overthrowing the last king of the Xia dynasty.
Fall: Ended in about 1050 BCE, when conquerors from the state of Zhou invaded the capital and successfully toppled the Dynasty.
Thus, established the Zhou dynasty, by Wu Wong