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Shang

Shang (shäng) [key] or Yin, dynasty of China, which ruled, according to traditional dates, from c.1766 B.C. to c.1122 B.C. or, according to some modern scholars, from c.1523 B.C. to c.1027 B.C. It is the first historic dynasty of China; its legendary founder, T'ang, is said to have defeated the last Hsia ruler, Chieh. His successors ruled over a city-state in modern Henan prov. and may have controlled other smaller states on the North China Plain. They warred against the Huns and against the Chou, who finally defeated the last Shang king, Shou. Archaeological remains at one of the capitals, near modern Anyang, suggest (along with later records) that the Shang had a complex agricultural civilization of peasants and city-dwelling artisans, with a priestly class, nobles, and a king, who was also high priest. Shang religion was characterized by ancestor worship, sacrifices to nature deities, and divination. Stylized inscriptions on bone and bronze artifacts probably reveal the earliest examples of Chinese writing. Bronze casting under the Shang reached a height of artistic achievement rarely equaled anywhere in the world. There was a highly organized bureaucracy, and the patriarchal Chinese family system seems to have already been developed.

See H. G. Creel, The Birth of China (1954); T. Cheng, Archaeology in China: Vol. II, Shang China (1960); K. C. Chang, Shang Civilization (1980); D. Keightley, Early China (1981) and The Origins of Chinese Civilization (1983).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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