ChAPTER 4 -- Part 5: Unification and the Consolidation
The supreme being, Shangdi, and ordinary mortals were connected by the Shang monarch.
His kingdom was seen as the center of the world.
The affairs of state were directed by the rulers and they bore ritual responsibilities for the well-being of their subjects.
In the springtime, they participated in special ceremonies that included a symbolic mating with female fertility spirits.
The importance of horses and mobility throughout the ancient eurasian world is underscored by this beautiful reproduction of a chariot.
The chariot was a key weapon of the nomadic invaders who established the Shang empire in north China in the middle centuries of the second millennium b.c.e.
The dancer was burned alive to appease the spirits who had caused the natural disasters.
There was a large bureaucracy in the capital city at Anyang.
Most of the peasant and artisan populations of the kingdom were governed by leaders who were bound to the king and the great lords.
The officials were recruited from the former ruling families.
The vassals depended on the produce and labor of the com moners in these areas to support their families and military forces.
The monarch and his court were supported by the tribute collected by warrior aristocrats in the form of cultural produce.
In times of war, they supplied soldiers for the king's armies, and they kept the peace.
In Aryan India, the family life was dominated by the older men in the household.
A family matriarch's sons and grandsons went to live with her husband's family.
Both women and men with their wives and children were expected to obey.
Their own households and family spheres are where they exercise their own Shang China elites.
From mother-in-law to young wife, their commands were carried down the family hierarchy.
The extended family pattern was only widespread among elite groups who had the resources to support large households with many servants.
It is likely that the peasant families were male-dominated and patrilocal like the elite.
The servants of the nobles were Peasants.
Their staple foods were millet, wheat, beans, and rice and they were growing a wide range of crops.
They made offerings to local gods of A Bronze Axe Head from the Shang Dynasty through the sunken houses of stamped earth.
The peasants had limited opportunities for social and economic advancement, but they were better off than most of the slaves.
Many of the artisans were slaves, but some were free and prosperous.
Highly skil ed crafts, such as weaving silk textiles and casting bronze, may have been done by this group.
Outside of the wal s of Shang towns, there were some large and elaborate artisan dwel ings.
Like the elites of many early civilizations, the rulers and nobility of the Shang were focused on rituals.
In addition to the fertility functions of the ruler, the elite was involved in persuading spirits to give good crops and large families.
The ornately carved and cast bronze vessels were used to make these offerings.
Offerings included fine grain, incense, wine, and animals, but also records of water festivals in which rival boats tried to sink each other.
The deities responsible vessel from the Shang era shows the sophisticated for fertility and good harvests, and they were offered up to them after this elaborately decorated bronze ing craft drowned.
It shows a high level of War captives and servants buried with dead rulers and major offi metalworking ability.
The kings of Shang went to the otherworld to use their weapons and tools.
Although the design was accompanied by their wives, servants, and loyal retainers as well as their favorite horses, the vessels were often abstract, mythical hunting dogs, war chariots, and weapons.
The cult of the creatures such as dragons and sacred birds grew into a royal clan that sacrificed war captives, mass burials, and the construction of bronzes that remain some of the tombs for the emperors.
The future could be predicted by shamans or priests.
Warriors about to go future through interpretations into battle, officials embarking on long journeys, or families negotiating marriage alliances routinely of animal bones cracked by heat, consulted these oracles to ensure that their efforts would turn out well.
The reliance on the inscriptions on bones led to strong influences on beliefs and behavior.
The procedures followed by the shamans who presided over these rituals gave rise to the most important element in Chinese culture--writing.
A bone or shell was fired with a red-hot iron poker.
The patterns of the cracks were interpreted by a shaman or priest.
The painted designs on the bones and shells became part of the patterns the shamans read.
The basis of a written Chinese language can be found in these designs.
Like the ancient Egyptians, early Chinese characters were pictographic.
They easily conveyed the ideas they were intended to express.
The original character for the sun was a circle with a dot in the center, the character for a tree was a single tree, and the forest was a set of three trees.
The Chinese elite were able to convey more complex ideas because of the combination of characters.
By the end of the Shang period, there were an estimated 3000 characters.
A scholar in the modern era would need to write in Chinese.