Shang Dynasty

The Shang Dynasty was the first Chinese dynasty with written records. The Shang ruled from around 1600 BC to 1046 BC and is sometimes referred to as the Yin Dynasty.

Legend tells that the Shang were united under the leadership of Cheng Tang when he defeated the evil King Jie of the Xia. The Shang ruled an area around the Yellow River Valley. They had many rulers and capital cities during that time. The government became corrupt under the rule of King Di Xin, who was overthrown by Wu of Zhou.

Much of what we know about the Shang comes from oracle bones used by the Shang to determine the future. Religious men would write a question on one side of the bone and then burn the bone until it cracked. They would then interpret the cracks and write the answers on the other side of the bone. Historians are able to uncover Shang history through these questions and answers. Thousands of oracle bones discovered were from oxen shoulder blades or turtle shells. Questions on oracle bones included things like "Will we win the war?" and "Should we go hunting tomorrow?"

Other information about the Shang comes from Ancient Chinese historians. Some short inscriptions have been found on bronze religious items of the Shang.

The Shang were the first Chinese Dynasty to invent writing similar to modern Chinese script. Writing enabled the Shang to have an organized society and government.

The government of the Shang was advanced. They had many levels of leaders, ruled by the king. Most of the high-level officials were closely related to the king. Warlords often ruled areas of land, but owed allegiance to the king and would provide soldiers during war. The government collected taxes from the subjects and tributes from surrounding allies.

The Shang also developed bronze technology, which they used for religious items and weapons. Bronze weapons such as spears gave the Shang an advantage in war against their enemies. The Shang also used horse-drawn chariots in battle.

The Shang worshiped their dead ancestors as well as a supreme being called Shangdi.

Source: Shang Dynasty
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