Skip to content

Corporate Strategy as an Art (IX): The Bronze Age – The Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties of China.

Good night to all:

China Yellow and Yantzi Rivers

The Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties lived in the valley between the Yellow and Yangzi rivers. Ancient China Territory. Source: “The Great Bronze Age of China: An Exhibition from The People’s Republic of China”

Let´s continue with our promised material. Today is our journey prospect for the Bronze Age Chinese’s territories. By now, you are probably aware that archaeological vestiges help us to understand the past and map societies and human interactions.  Sometimes archaeologists find art craved in objects, or art painted in walls… or art is written in tablets. Sometimes archaeologists love to interpret the reasons of objects, utensils, weapons and simple stuff.  China Bronze Age is remarkable. I couldn´t publish yesterday, I felt overwhelmed. I was “wow” shocked by the vast quantity of information about Chinese Bronze Age artifacts and vessels. It is huge not just in Youtube or Google. As its territory and population. As soon as you see the following videos,  you will be astounded too. Of course, we have not visited the Egyptian-Israel bronze age art yet (our next week journey), but China´s bronze age remains are astonishing. In addition, it is during this period that the Chinese Ancestors started to write.

Meanwhile, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India were developing their cultures and civilizations, in parallel, the Chinese were also doing it. China started to develop its own culture in the Neolithic or Stone Age. Nevertheless, as mentioned previously, the Chinese Bronze Age is recognized as the period in which bronze had a significant presence in their archaeological record.  Artifacts made of bronze appeared to be manufactured with a pivot in the person who owned them. Even though metal objects appeared much earlier, it is believed that the Chinese Bronze Age began not later than about 2,000 BCE. And the ending was around 770 BCE. Some refer to this segment of Chinese History, as the “slave” society, which gives us a clear social status perception of rich and poor. The bronzes artifacts also serve as a criterion for cultural and social definitions of that time.Eliescalante Chinese Dynasties Bronze Age.jpg

The concept of “having something which is valuable as bronze or jade and this object of bronze gives value to the person who owns it” appears in these Chinese Civilizations clearly. Each person was buried with their utensils, tools, weapons, masks, vessels and objects. Jade Jewelry was also attached to them.  Why did Chinese Bronze Age civilizations lay to rest their elite people with their bronze stuff? Rituals to connect with superior Gods?, Religion?, Power?, Life after Death? all of the latter?

The casting process of bronze was unique in China, and only there. Bronze meant life for the Chinese communities. For the artisans who made them. For the ones who possessed them. The bronze pieces belonged usually to kings, nobles and people whose rank and order was measured by the size and the number of their bronze pieces. These bronze pieces display splendid works of inventive, extraordinary skills from the earliest Chines artisans, and they have played a critical role as the keystones in the reconstruction of Chinese history.

Let´s start. Location means everything. Again, our Chinese ancestors were settling around fresh water. Water from the rivers. The Chinese first farming villages settled in a region between two rivers, the Yellow River Valley and the Yangzi River. This happened sometime around 5,000 BCE.

China Bronze Age Vessel

China Bronze Age Vessel. Source: The MET

Chinese scholars of both historiography and archaeology started to do serious research about their past probably around one thousand years ago.  This is the first observation that shows up into our journey. Artifacts were recovered and collected as of 1056 AD. Many ancient objects and unusual vessels were discovered by farmers, and people usually collected them. The majority of vessels had inscriptions, engravings which were the key to understand who was the person who owned them. These writings and symbols have given information to the archaeologists in posterior periods of history study. Each vessel provided imperial lineages, specific dates, stories, and titles from the owners of the articles. The second observation that pops up into us is the concept of the objects found. We can grasp that the greater and numerous objects found, the better the economic position of that individual. This gives us a classification of people based on “goods he owned”. The concept of the elite was clear in the Chinese first dynasties. The hierarchy of burials at cemeteries reflected the social organization of the living.

China Da Ke Ding

Da Ke Ding, c. 1046 – 771 B.C.E. (late Western Zhou dynasty, China), bronze, 93.1 cm high Source: Shanghai Museum

The third thought about Chinese Bronze Age civilizations (Xia, Shang or Zhou), is the concept of treasure. Bronze objects were more than utensils. They were treasures. And those objects exist up to this day because they were cared, preserved on purpose. The linkage of the treasure with the social hierarchy was established during this period. The linkage of the treasure to the concept of preservation of the story for the next generations was inherent to those treasures. To share their life through the treasures after death was clear for our Chinese Ancestors.  The fact that we know a lot about the Chinese ancient civilizations in comparison to other regions, is because Chinese Bronze Age Civilizations put a “value of respect and caring” for these bronze pieces, particularly to ritual objects, writing their history on them, and these treasures which were buried with them.

Today I will do something different. I will share with you three long videos about each of the dynasties of the Chinese Bronze Age.  Believe me, I have tried to make a summary from “good web Chinese sources of history”, and the topic is really extensive. China has done its homework in relation to finding the authenticity of their own past. For this reason, today is about watching historic videos about China Bronze Age. Tomorrow, Sunday 10th of March, I will publish again, and I will display the most extraordinary art pieces resembling each of these dynasties.

Xia Dynasty:

Xia, Shang Zhou mapFor many centuries, the Xia Dynasty was preserved under the figure of storytelling. Look how important is “storytelling”. Xia Dynasty did not have a formal written alphabet. But their history was told through  “Chinese legends” which were written 1000 years later, during the 1st millennium BCE. Even though the Chinese ancient writing was not formally invented until 1,400 BCE, storytelling was the method to keep the history alive. According to these legends, the Xia Dynasty started with the king YU who is known as the equivalent of the Chinese “Noah” who drained away the floods to render China habitable. Please take 50 minutes of your life to watch the following video about the Xia Dynasty.

The Shang Dynasty:

china-shang-dynasty mapThe Shang dynasty— the first Chinese dynasty to leave historical records in written format—is thought to have ruled from about 1600 to 1046 BCE. (Some scholars date the Shang from the mid-18th to the late 12th century BCE.) As in other cultures the Shang Dynasty has been classified in three periods:

  1. Early Shang (Erlitou), in north-central Henan, which is seen through a certain type of vessel types and burial customs that link Early Shang culture to the Late Neolithic cultures of the east. In this view, the two palace foundations, the elite burials, the ceremonial jade blades and batons, the bronze axes and dagger axes, and the simple ritual bronzes—said to be the earliest yet found in China—(c. 1700–1600 BCE?) signal the advent of the dynastic Shang.
  2. Middle Shang (Erligang), the archaeological classification of Middle Shang is represented by the remains found at Erligang (c. 1600 BCE) near Zhengzhou, some 50 miles (80 km) to the east of Erlitou. There is architecture shown by massive rammed-earth fortifications, ritual bronzes (tetrapods of 86 kg); palace foundations; workshops for bronze casting, pot making, and bone working; burials; inscribed fragments of oracle bones. Other contemporary fortifications at Zhengzhou and Yanshi, indicate the strategic importance of the area and considerable powers of labor mobilization. Another example is Panlongcheng in Hubei, a city wall, with palace foundations, burials with human sacrifices, bronze workshops, and mortuary bronzes. A relatively homogeneous culture united the Bronze Age elite through much of China around the 14th century BCE.
  3. Late Shang period is best represented by a cluster of sites focused on the village of Xiaotun, west of Anyang in northern Henan. The Late Shang kings would have reigned from about 1250 to 1046 BCE. Sophisticated bronze, ceramic, stone, and bone industries were housed in a network of settlements surrounding the unwalled cult center at Xiaotun, which had rammed-earth temple-palace foundations.

Let´s see the following 45 minutes video, please.

The Zhou Dynasty:

china-chou-dinasty mapThe Shang dynasty was conquered by the people of Zhou, who came from farther up the Yellow River in the area of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. In the first years of the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 B.C.), known as the Western Zhou (1046–771 B.C.), the ruling house of Zhou exercised a certain degree of “imperial” power over most of central China. With the move of the capital to Luoyang in 770 B.C., however, the power of the Zhou rulers declined and the country divided into a number of nearly autonomous feudal states with nominal allegiance to the emperor. The second phase of the Zhou dynasty, known as the Eastern Zhou (770–256 B.C.), is subdivided into two periods, the Spring and Autumn period (770–ca. 476 B.C.) and the Warring States period (475–221 B.C.).

Let´s see the following 44 minutes video please:

To be continued…

Sweet dreams for all, and a big kiss to my beau Alejandro Guillermo Lozano Artolachipi.bonne nuit


Source references utilized to write this article:

Disclaimer: All the presentation slides shown on this blog are prepared by Eleonora Escalante MBA-MEng. Nevertheless, all the pictures or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s