Shang Dynasty (1765-1112BCE)

Bella and Christina

Politics

The Shang dynasty did not have a very strong or controlling political system. This is because the main job was to sacrifice and perform rituals to the Supreme Being, Di. If the Di was pleased, then there would be good crops and the whole kingdom would prosper. But, if the Di was not pleased, he would send disasters like floods or invaders as their punishment. The first ruler of the Shang dynasty was Cheng Tang. Tang governed his people with benevolence and compassion. He conducted punitive expeditions against all sides and expanded his territory in the West. By about 1800 BC, the Shang dynasty had become the first to unite a big part of China under one king. That’s when everything started to change after the leaders ignored the needs of the poor. After that, the Shang became corrupt and unjust because rulers were only interested in gaining more wealth. As a result, one of the clans called the Zhou rebelled and overthrew China.

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This is a picture of the first ruler, Tang, of the Shang dynasty

Economics


The Shang dynasty had a very small trading system but they still traded many important goods that they created. The Shang were one of the first dynasties. Therefore, they did not really have any boats or tools to trade with the other places. They really only traded within China. Within China the Shang had many important goods that they traded during the time period of their dynasty. Some very important products that the Shang traded were bronze vessels, jade, chopsticks, silk, sheep, cloth, cattle and different foods to people around the Huang He River Almost everyone in Ancient China wanted bronze. This was because bronze was a mix of tin and copper. Also, bronze was a lot more durable and stronger than any other material. The serfs and slaves performed all economic functions of society. A lot of the main income came from farming or the harvest of crops. Artisans had an important job because they manufactured weapons, ritual vessels, jewelry and other items of interest to the Shang. Some of the important jobs in the Shang dynasty were farmers, engineers, builders, and warriors. China prospered under the Shang dynasty’s economic system.

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This is a picture of a bronze vessel which was often traded during the Shang dynasty.

Inventions/Technology/Science & Architecture

Inventions and architecture from the Shang dynasty was very impressive because it was very unique. They constructed burials for the dead bodies because the Shang believed in the afterlife too like the Egyptians. The body of the deceased was buried with treasures like jade and jewelry. Home’s in the Shang dynasty were uncommon yet they were also unique. What made the homes so different was that they were rectangularly shaped with long sides. The city of Anyang was the center of the Shang dynasty and it was in the Henan province. It lasted from 1554 BCE-1054 BCE and was the capital of the Shang dynasty. Inventions in the Shang dynasty included chopsticks, oracle bones, bronze and the writing system. They introduced chopsticks to Korea, Japan and Vietnam. The bronze age started in 1700 BCE. Copper and tin were smelted together in order to create bronze. With bronze the Shang made weapons, tools, pots, vessels, etc. Oracle bones were also invented during this time. Oracle bones are ancient scribes carved onto tortoise shells or animal bones. Kings would consult their ancestors about when to hunt, where to build their cities and whether or not they should go to war. The way the bone cracked would tell if the answer was yes or no. The Shang invented the writing system and recorded things like politics, religious practices, their economy, art and even early practices in medicine. As you can see, the Shang were very creative and they showed that through their architecture and inventions.

Religion/Culture/Social Life

The Shang dynasty had a very firm belief in culture, religion and social life. The religion during the Shang dynasty was polytheistic which meant that the people worshipped many gods. Also, the Shang dynasty believed in afterlife. They had many important cultural beliefs that had a big influence on their lives. One of their important cultural beliefs was “Shang Di”. The Shang Dynasty believed that Priests could communicate directly with Shang Di. Another important part of the Shang dynasties cultural beliefs was Oracle bones. They believed the oracle bones consulted their ancestors to answer important questions that they had. People (Kings) often asked questions about daily life to the oracle bones. The Shang dynasty also believed that worshipping the ancestors was also very important to their cultural beliefs. They believed that when they were worshipping to the ancestors, the wise spirits of them controlled every part of their daily lives. The Shang Dynasty focused on many religious sculptures such as, bronze bowls, chopsticks, disks, jewelry, and vases. Finally, for families in the Shang dynasty, family was very important. The oldest man of each family, from nobles to the peasants, was the head of the household. Children were required to be respectful, obedient, and never argue (if they did they were severely punished). Women took care of the children and the household. They took care of things around the house while their husband was at work. If one member of the family did something wrong the entire family was a disgrace and could be punished. Religion, culture and social life was very important to the people in the Shang dynasty.
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Shang Di

This is a picture of Shang Di. The Shang dynasty belived that the priest could communicate directly with Shang Di.