(View exact match)oracle bonesSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: oracle bone
CATEGORY: language; artifact
DEFINITION: The bones (usually shoulder blades) of oxen or tortoise under-shells used in the Shang culture of northern China for divination. Used to divine messages from ancestors, they are inscribed with either the question, answer, and/or name of the diviner. Oracle bones ordinarily record a question addressed by the Shang king to his deceased ancestors, or the response to the question, or even the ultimate outcome of the matter divined. The subjects of divination comprise a limited range of royal concerns. The Anyang kings asked chiefly about war, hunting, rainfall, harvests, sickness, their consorts' childbearing, the fortune of the coming week and, above all, sacrifices. They originated in the Lung-Shun culture and have been discovered at the Chou site of Qishan and Shang site of Anyang, dating to the late 2nd millennium BC. Anyang was the last capital of the Shang dynasty; apart from the far more limited corpus of inscriptions on bronze ritual vessels, the oracle texts are the only documents left by the Shang civilization. The depressions were made in bone and then a heated point was applied to cause bone to crack. Divination by interpretation of these cracks. The inscriptions are the earliest examples of the fully developed form of Chinese characters. Those deciphered from Anyang have helped reconstruct the Shang kinship system and aspects of the culture. These inscriptions preserve the earliest known Chinese writing and sometimes, by naming kings and ancestors, confirm the historical basis of early legends. A few examples have been found at Neolithic sites as Kexingzhuang (Dadunzi). The divination practice is called 'scapulimancy' (scapulae are shoulder blades).
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AnyangSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: An-yang, Yinxu
DEFINITION: A city in the Honan province of China that was the last capital of the Shang (Yin) Dynasty, occupied in the 12th and 11th centuries BC. It was founded c 14 BC and overthrown by the Chou in 1027 BC and was the seat of 12 kings who ruled for 273 years, a time referred to as the historical Anyang period. Anyang is one of the most extensively excavated sites, beginning in 1928. The buildings had rammed earth floors and many sacrifices of men and animals and chariot burials were found under them. Deep storage pits held oracle bones with inscriptions in an archaic form of Chinese, but the most important finds came from the cemeteries, which included royal tombs. At least as early as the Song dynasty (960--1279), Anyang was known as a source of bronze ritual vessels. Very large cruciform shaft tombs were found near the village of Houjiazhuang. There were eight large tombs in the western part of the Xibeigang cemetery and five more in the east. Excavation has shown that rows of satellite burials in the eastern section were not laid down at the time of the royal entombments but instead were later sacrifices offered to the tombs' occupants; these burials correspond with the oracle texts descriptions of victims sacrificed, sometimes by the hundreds, to the reigning king's ancestors. The only intact royal tomb yet discovered is that of Fu Hao, which is not in the Xibeigang cemetery but across the river at Xiatoun. Later excavations have established that Anyang was heir to the flourishing civilization of the Erligang Phase.DadunziSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Ta-tun-tzu
DEFINITION: A Neolithic site in Pei Xian, Jiangsu province, China, with three main levels named after the nearby sites of Qinlian'gang, Liulin, and Huating. The lowest (Qinglian'gang) level at Danunzi yielded a radiocarbon date of c 4500 BC. In the middle (Liulin) level, extraordinary painted pottery was found with the usual undecorated pots native to the local Qinglian'gang tradition. Both the shapes and the painted designs copy the Yangshao pottery of Miaodigou; radiocarbon dates suggest that the Liulin phase belongs in the 4th millennium BC. Some graves of the Liulin phase at Dadunzi contained sacrificed dogs. At Dawenkou in Shangdong, where the lower level belongs to the Huating phase, pigs appear instead, and the graves often take the form of a stepped pit - significant as forerunners of characteristic Shang burial practices. Perforated tortoise shells from Liulin graves may likewise foreshadow tortoise plastrons in Shang oracle bones.Dong Zuobin (1895-1963)CATEGORY: person
DEFINITION: Chinese archaeologist who specialized in oracle bone inscriptions from the Shang dynasty (1400-1100/1027 BC). He tried to reconstruct the bones' context and establish criteria for determining fakes. He found 10,000 complete or fragmentary oracle bones.Erligang phaseSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Erh-li-kang
DEFINITION: A stage of the early Bronze Age in North China seen in two strata at Zhengzhou Erligang, classified archaeologically as Middle Shang. The phase preceded the Anyang period (c 1300-1030 BC) and radiocarbon dates have been c 1600-1550 bc. The massive rammed-earth fortification, 118 feet wide at its base and enclosing an area of 1.2 square miles, would have taken 10,000 men more than 12 years to build. Also found were ritual bronzes, including four monumental tetrapods, palace foundations; workshops for bronze casting, pot making, and bone working; burials; and two inscribed fragments of oracle bones. The Erligang phase may correspond to the widest sway of the Shang empire and is known for its highly developed bronze-casting industry. Some Chinese archaeologists call the phase Early Shang.Guo Moruo (1892-1978)CATEGORY: person
DEFINITION: Important person in Chinese archaeology who used a Marxist interpretation of history in all his work. He produced a monumental study of inscriptions on oracle bones and bronze vessels, "Corpus of Inscriptions on Bronzes from the Two Chou Dynasties" (1935 new ed. 1957). He was the leading authority on Shang bone inscriptions and on bronze from Chou period using these first written texts as a basis for his study of Chinese society. In this work he attempts to demonstrate according to Communist doctrine the "slave society" nature of ancient China. His research work on bronzes from the Chou period carried out at the same time as B. Karlgren's consisted of making a chronological classification of the bronzes based on their inscriptions and used their typology as a secondary procedure. He reconstructed the development of these bronzes and defined the basis on which research being carried out today still rests. After 1949 Guo held many important positions in the People's Republic of China including the presidency of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.Li Chi (1896-1979)SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Li Ch'i
DEFINITION: Chinese archaeologist responsible for establishing the historical authenticity of the semilegendary Shang dynasty of China (c 1766-1122 BC). He supervised numerous excavations at Anyang (An-yang), working to identify the features distinguishing the Shang civilization from previous Neolithic cultures. More than 300 tombs, including four important royal burial sites, were uncovered and carefully studied. Some 1,100 skeletons and oracle bones, unquestionably linked with the Shang period, were recovered. Li Chi created a typology of bronzes based on their shapes, of ceramic sherds, and bone hairpins. Following the Japanese invasion of China and the expulsion of the Chinese Nationalists from the mainland, many of Li's Anyang remains and notes were lost. After escaping to Taiwan, he established the first archaeology and anthropology department at a Chinese university (National University in Taipei). He published a number of books, including "The Beginnings of Chinese Civilization" (1957).QishanSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Ch'i-shan
DEFINITION: A site in Shaanxi province, China, where the Zhou people established their dynasty and capital before they overthrew the Shang dynasty in 1027 BC. A large palace complex included inscribed oracle bones antedating the founding of the dynasty. The tiled roofs of the buildings are the earliest known (11th century BC) of this standard feature of later Chinese architecture. There are also hangtu foundation platforms for palace buildings. Many bronze ritual vessels have been found in the Qishan area, mostly Western Zhou in date.ShangSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Yin; Shang civilization
DEFINITION: The first dynasty recorded historically, thought to have ruled from the mid-16th to mid-11th century BC (Some scholars date the Shang dynasty from the mid-18th to the late 12th century BC.). However, Shang as an archaeological term must be distinguished from Shang as a dynastic one. Earlier stages of the culture known from Anyang have been recognized at sites assigned to the Erligang Phase and, still earlier, the Erlitou phase. So far virtually no inscriptions have been found at these pre-Anyang sites; even if the date of the dynasty's founding were known it would be uncertain to what extent these archaeologically defined phases fall within the Shang period. Thus while the type site of the Erligang phase at Zhengzhou is generally assumed to have been a Shang capital, some archaeologists have argued that the Erlitou phase falls in the time of the Hsia dynasty, traditional predecessor of Shang. The archaeological classification of Middle Shang is represented by the remains found at Erligang (Erh-li-kang) (c 1600 BC) near Cheng-chou (Zhengzhou). The Shang replaced the Hsia (Zia) in c 1500 BC and was overthrown by the Chou in 1027 BC. The Shang dynasty belongs technically to the advanced Bronze Age - with that metal used for tools (socketed axes, knives, etc.), weapons (halberds, spears, and arrowheads) and for the highly ornamented and artistic ritual vessels. There was a fine white pottery and coarser grey wares, wheelmade and occasionally glazed, which clearly derive from the preceding Neolithic pottery. The period's claim to rank as a civilization is supported by the size and complexity of its cities and its use of writing. Two of its capitals have been identified, at modern Cheng-chou and Anyang, both in Honan province near the middle Yellow River. Rich cemeteries provide much of the evidence, particularly the royal tombs at Anyang. Building was mainly in timber on rammed earth foundations; city walls were also of rammed earth. Burial was by inhumation in pit graves with the skeletons extended, some face down. The pictographic writing appears as occasional inscriptions on the bronzes, much more commonly on the enormous number of oracle bones. The Shang was the second of the Chinese dynasties in the Protohistoric Sandai period.silkCATEGORY: term
DEFINITION: Thread that can be drawn off the cocoon spun by the grub of the moth Bombyx mori and used for weaving fine cloth, which originated in China in Neolithic period. The silk industry was established by the Anyang period, c 1300-1030 BC. The Anyang oracle bones include characters for silk, silk fabrics, silkworm, and mulberry tree, and traces of silk fabrics are occasionally found preserved. Silk fabric was used as a writing surface at least as early as the 5th century BC. Both manuscripts and paintings on silk have come from Chu tombs of the 5th century BC and later. Elaborate methods of weaving were developed by the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and textiles exported in large numbers along Silk Route to Roman world and later to Byzantium. The route is the collective name for several overland and ocean routes for silk trade from the 1st-8th centuries AD. From Chang'an, capital of the Han Dynasty, the main route went west through the Gansu corridor.writingCATEGORY: language
DEFINITION: Any system for symbolizing the symbols of a language. Writing was developed independently several times in different places and both the writing materials and the types of script show great variation. The earliest true writing developed in southern Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC Uruk culture. The writing material was clay; it was first inscribed and later impressed with a stylus to produce the wedge-shaped cuneiform signs. The earliest signs were pictograms ('picture writing', in which the signs represent stylized pictures of the objects in question), but these rapidly developed into ideograms (the signs indicated not only the original object, but also associated objects or concepts). The Egyptian hieroglyphic script, used for inscriptions on stone, painting on walls, and also writing on papyrus, appears well before 3000 BC. There is dispute as to whether the Egyptians developed writing independently or whether the art was diffused from Mesopotamia. The Harappan Civilization of the Indus Valley had a writing system of its own, dated to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC and is found almost exclusively on stamp seals and seal impressions. It has not been deciphered. The first true alphabet, with signs for individual letters, seems to have developed in the Levant, probably in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. The first definite evidence comes from Ugarit in the mid-2nd millennium BC. The Phoenicians spread the alphabet throughout the Mediterranean and theirs is ancestral to most of the alphabets in use today. In China, writing developed independently, first appearing on oracle bones of the Shang dynasty. In Europe the only pre-Classical writing occurs in the Aegean in the 2nd millennium BC - the hieroglyphic and Linear A scripts of the Minoans, as yet undeciphered, and the Linear B of the Mycenaeans, used to record an early form of Greek. The development of writing in the Americas occurred only in Mesoamerica - the glyphic writing of the Maya and related groups, found in inscriptions carved on monuments, and the pictographic writing of Post-Classic groups such as the Mixtecs and Aztecs, found on manuscripts of bark or deerskin known as codices.