Shang Dynasty 1765 - 1112 BCE

By Adam Badr and Coya Noonan

The Inventions, Technology, and Scientific Breakthroughs of the Ancient Superpower revealed in all it's astonishing glory

The pleathura of Marvelous accomplishments by the Shang?

The Shang were a prolific ancient superpower, and the founding establishment of 4 millennia of dynastic reign. They invented and perfected bronze casting, revolutionizing combat and decor. With it, they invented the nao, a bronze bell, bronze swords, and shields, as well as tide-turning, impenetrable armor which temporarily gave them the upper hand in war. Along with technological advancement, the Shang also contributed widely to modern Chinese architecture by designing a modestly similar shape along the thatched roof and rectangular structure.

At this time, the Shang were also appeasing their polytheistic set of gods, and ultimately, heaven itself with enormous terraformed circles implanted in the earth, as tributes to their belief.

Inventions of the Shang, Behold, Mesmerizing Ingenuity!

-Use of Bronze, Human Sacrifices, Ancestor Worship, Music Instruments, Pottery or Ceramics, Weapons, Palaces, Tombs, Oracle Bone Inscriptions, Chinese Script, Calendars , Jades carving, and chopsticks, as well as a form of writing.

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An ancient Chinese Shang dynasty period bronze helm, seemingly impenetrable to the tribes threatening China's successful prosperity and flourishment as an ancient civilazation.

Religion, Culture, and Social Life In Ancient China during the Shang Dynasty

Were the Shang a Sophisticated Foundation to a dominant Ancient Chinese Superpower with a 4,000 year reign?

Daily life in ancient China was comprised of the usual headache-inducing hustle and bustle as modern society’s strenuous habits would incur, however, containing the constant bickering over trade in the nearby marketplace, and-for the unfortunate mothers in society- homeschooling their children to the best of their abilities while their husbands are away either at war, the overly busy marketplace, farming, praying, or attending to the needs and wants of the current- inevitably cruel- emperor. The most commonly respected belief in the Shang dynasty was Taoism, later redeveloped and named Confucianism, it was a creed that stood for a higher thinking, which led to a final development, the belief in heaven, and it’s undeniable power on the fate of humanity itself. Although, they had accepted other cultures, and their respective beliefs, too. The Shang, although seemingly barbaric, indulged in some of the finer nuances in life, along with the charm of insurmountable manual labor we have now acquainted ourselves with, the Shang were quite sophisticated in their way of life. They cherished priceless various religious artifacts and decorative vassesthat were skillfully sculpted by jade tipped bronze knives, and enjoyed the harmonious ring of a nao, a bronze bell created solely for recreation and social acumen. The Shang had also appeased their gods with the impossible ancient feat of terraforming enormous patches of earth to constructing wonderful circular ornaments. The Shang were a sophisticated, well-developed foundation to a 4,,000 year dominance of the ancient world.
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A Shang dynasty period terraformed circle, a feat of near impossibility for the ancients, they performed these impressive tasks to appease the various gods in their religion.

Shang Dynasty Ecomonics

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Shang Dynasty Jade Coin (Dragon/Snake)
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Shang Dynasty Bronze Coins

With whom did the Shang Dynasty trade?

Trading with other large civilizations was limited due to the isolated nature of the Shang Dynasty in ancient China. Mountains, the Gobi Desert and the China Sea formed natural barriers around the flat plains that made up most of the Shang Dynasty. As a result, trade was primarily intra-dynastic along the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) and Huang He (Yellow) rivers. Farmers and merchants would use the many tributaries of these great rivers to easily and cheaply distribute their goods to the many large, walled cities established throughout the dynasty. They would sell or trade farm crops, consumer goods and bronze tools and weapons within their societies for many years due to the geographical boundaries. There are some archaeological indications of limited coastal trading.

How did the Shang Dynasty contribute to trade?

The creation of bronze quickly paved the way for many improvements in the tools and items used in everyday society. Improvements in agriculture lead to wide spread production of their dominant crops such as millet, wheat, rice, mulberry, hemp and barley, as well as the cultivation of various animals such as dogs, silkworms, pigs, farm sheep’s and ox. The method of fishing also arise during the Shang Dynasty as well as other type of commodity exchanges like trading crops for another, settling deals with people from different city exchanging goods for another and so. In the field of culture and music, the creation of musical instruments out of bronze products and casting was established during this era. The development of all these goods and services was made possible by long periods of relative peace and during which the Shang rulers constructed new roads and canals to improve trade. These connected the small villages as well as the very large, walled cities (with population in the thousands) which the Shang kings built. Shang rulers attached great importance to the development of business trade and transportation industries.

What products were important in the Shang Dynasty?

The most significant product development in the Shang dynasty was the discovery of how to make bronze by combining copper and tin. This allowed the making of superior weapons and consumer goods. Archaeology has provided us with examples of ploughs and other agricultural tools with wooden shafts and bronze blades. Also during the dynasty the development of porcelain wears, jade carvings and woven silk fabrics. Porcelain wares (pottery and ceramics) are also invented and discovered during that time as well as the practice of jade carvings that was greatly improved during the later years of the period. Silk production was also well-known by the Shang people. Jade objects show a great variety of shapes and patterns, nephrite pieces in the shape of animals, etc.

What occupations grew and were important during the Shang Dynasty?

As the Shang Dynasty grew and prospered it established new government officials to oversee and control the agricultural sector (new farming, organizing the harvest) and tax collection. Skilled metal craftsman made bronze tools, and weapons. Archeologists have found metal workshops with furnaces, models, and molds. Other craftsmen carved jade figures and ritual pieces. Legions of workers built roads and canals. Artisans worked with silk to make clothes and linens. The large-scale production of bronze-ware vessels and weapons required a large labor force that could handle the mining, refining, and transportation of the necessary copper, tin and lead ores. This in turn created a need for official managers that could oversee both hard-laborers and skilled artisans and craftsmen. It is estimated that the construction of the large walled cities took tens of thousands of workers and just the construction of the nobles’ tombs alone must have required huge manpower. In spinning, people had mastered the skill of jacquard weaving, producing tabby gauze and leno. Merchants engaging in all kinds of businesses appeared in the cities during the last period of the Shang Dynasty. There were also advances in mathematics and science which lead to new occupations.

Shang Dynasty Politics

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How did the rulers of the Shang Dynasty rise to power?

The first Shang Dynasty ruler (Tang) was the leader of his tribe for more than seventeen years. He started fighting the Xia Dynasty which he saw as corrupt and weak. After sixteen wars, he defeated them and established the Shang Dynasty.

What ruler or rulers held power during the time of the Shang dynasty?

There were thirty (30) rulers (kings) during the Shang Dynasty. The first King Tang. He overthrew the tyrannical role of Xei of the Xia Dynasty. His reign was stable and the people lived happily for 30 years. The longest reign was under Tai Wu (the 9th king) who ruled for 75 years. The 22nd king (Wu Ding, 59 years rule) enlarged the country though a war. Social productivity developed to a high level including aspects of textile, medicine and astronomy. The last (30th) king was Zhou Zi. He was corrupt and brutalized his people. He was overthrown ending the Shang Dynasty by the Zhou tribe at the battle of Muye in 1046 BCE.

How did the rulers of the Shang dynasty expand or unify china?

The Shang dynasty was quick to develop a political hierarchy and a complex economic system which were established in large well protected cities. The Shang leadership could manage thousands of conscripts for mass building project and/or military campaigns. They greatly improved agriculture efficiency. This allowed the Shang to achieve state objectives which became the hallmark of all future successful dynasties.

How did the rulers of the Shang Dynasty lose power or why did the dynasty decline?

After lasting approximately approximately 600 years, the last 30 kings of the Shang dynasty became cruel and corrupt tyrants. The last king devised many cruel laws and means of torture which he used to oppress the common people. He was overthrown by the Zhou tribe, thus ending the Shang Dynasty and beginning the Zhou Dynasty and rule based on “The Mandate of Heaven”.

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The Last Shang Dynasty King (Zhou)
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Dynastic growth of china