Shang and Zhou SPECS

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                          Shang and Zhou SPECS                                New Dec 2008

Shang (Zhang)
Setting in Time:
     Humans in north China plain 400,000 years ago (Peking man)
     Paleolithic sites along Huanghe
     Neolithic cultivation (8500-3500 BCE)
     Chinese village communities eventually unified while Harappa rose to its peak & declined, and as
        Aryans became dominant in the Subcontinent (see chart p. 48)
     Shang began to create its kingdom from 1700-1500 BCE

S          SHANG Social Strata:
                 1. King
                 2. Bureaucrats ( In capital’s court & the vassals in various regions)
                 3. Peasants (servants of nobles) & some free, prosperous Artisans (made silk
                    cloth & cast the bronze)
                 4. Slaves (many artisans were slaves)

           Shang rulers’ & the ELITES’ families:
               Families had servants & large households
               extended families (several generations) lived in large compounds inside walled towns
               Similar to Aryans, PATRIARCHAL absolute authority

           Ordinary Chinese families:
               Nuclear families
               Probably patriarchal (male = boss) & patrilocal (wife moved to husband’s village)

P          Yu founded Xia, China’s first kingdom
           Shang tribe in Ordos region conquered other tribes & created its kingdom
                 1. Warlike nomads (like Aryan conquerors of the same time period)
                 2. Fought from horseback & chariots
                 3. Used bronze weapons (military technology superiority!)
                 4. Used non-Shang people as their foot soldiers & majority of army
                 5. Battles = wild clashes led by champions who clashed person to person
                 6. DIFFERENCE from Aryans. . . Shang had strong kings w/ loyal vassals
           . . . strong line of authority & obedience to king with Shang
           ROLE OF Shang KING:
                     1. Link between God (Shangdi) and people
                     2. Kingdom = center of world
                     3. King had power over ALL humans
                     4. took care of subjects
                     5. “supervised” fertility of people & soil

           6. managed a huge bureaucracy in capital, Anyang
               1. local leaders served as “vassals” to king & came from aristocratic
               2. “quid pro quo” = vassals/”warrior aristocrats” carry out king’s orders, getting
                   commoners to grow food for their areas & for kings’ army; in return vassals
                   get control over the peasants & collect “tribute”/ a tax on commoners which
                   they take in food & send to King, his court & armies. Of course, they get to
                   keep some of that food for their own families!
               3. vassals keep peace in their region; they are its judges
E   Pre-Shang
       Yellow-brown soil swept by Central Asian winds over centuries created “loess”
       Huanghe, its tributaries, “loess” enabled dense settlements & fantastic grain production
       Region sheltered by mountains to west & south (safety)
       River plain “open” to migrations from & trade to grasslands to its northwest (map p.56)
       Sedentary ag by 4,000 BCE = basis for later Shang Dynasty
             o Ex. #1 Yangshao (2000-1500 BCE) hunted & supplemented w/ some farming
             o Ex #2 Longsham (200-1500BC) grew millet primarily
       Early peasants & ruling classes concentrated on developing irrigation system (dikes) to
         control spring flooding caused by melting snows (similar to Egyptians)
               o YU = praised by Confucius for the skill & virtue he demonstrated in building
                   a flood control system
               o The need to control flooding SHAPED Chinese values; it required a sense of
                   community & cooperation, traits that still define Chinese culture
    Peasants (servants of nobles)
        Grew millet, wheat, beans, rice
    Farmed in teams (cooperation a major feature of Chinese culture)
    NEW tools: wooden hoes, spades (type of shovel), plows
    Lived in sunken houses with hard-packed dirt floors

C   Early tribes = keys features of Chinese culture:
       1. Types of cooking vessels
       2. Analysis of cracked bones to “tell the future”
       3. Silkworm used to make silk fabric for clothing
       4. Ancestor worship

    SHANG Nobility
        Focused on rituals, oracles (divining the future) sacrifices to guarantee fertility of
         soil & family line
        Examples of best artistry in bronze found in vessels used for fertility offerings
        Sacrificed: wine, best grains, animals, even people buried or drowned to ensure
         good crops & enough water.
        Like Egyptians, nobility went to otherworld w/ family, servants, horses, chariots,
        Ancestor worship: mass burials & tombs for emperors

                 BELIEF in priests (shamans) who could predict the future (prophecy); called oracles
                 Artistry in bronze objects reserved for shamans’ ritual vessels
                 People went to oracles who would “predict” outcomes of battles, safety on journeys,
                  best marriage alliances, etc.
                 Heavy reliance on shamans = another KEY element in Chinese culture

        Shang’s system of writing = factor in creating a unique Chinese identify
              Linked to shamans b/c they “read” early patterns of shattered bones; those patterns
                 = basis for later writing
              LIKE Egyptians, writing = pictographic
              Pictographs also groups of ideographs (Ex. Character for emperor)
              3,000 characters – 8,000 for a scholar
              Over time simplification & standardization of characters
              Carving on bones transferred to bamboo, silk, wood & finally paper w/ink &
              USE OF WRITING unified a region w/ varied languages; writing = bond that
                 forged a common identify for a Chinese people


S                FEUDAL ORDER (see below)
                 Zhou conquerors had lighter hair & eyes (possibly an original Turkic tribe who moved
                 Zhou lived separately from ethnic people they conquered in loess area
                 Zhou vassals lived away from capital in the walled, fort-town of their fief
                       o Towns organized on a grid with 2 main streets crossing in central square
                       o Servants, artisans, slaves lived inside fort/towns
                       o Serfs = majority of population & lived outside garrison/towns, in villages
                           nearer their fields.

P          Wu defeated Shang
           Zhou rulers w/ more power than prior Shang: they used that power to expand E & S to
           Moved their capital from too-far-west Zhou capital of Xian to more central Loyang
           Wu has more controlled “hierarchy of vassals” than Shang:
                 o Most powerful vassals = Zhou relatives, members of their clan or military allies
                 o Strong bonds of loyalty & obedience (KEY feature of Chinese culture)
                 o Vassals controlled network of subsidiary vassals
           True FEUDAL ORDER formed w/ each recognizing mutual obligations & benefits:
                 o Warriors who promise to fight for a clan given a FIEF, peasant villages;
                     warrior/vassal got taxes, services from his fief/villages

             o Court ceremonies used & charters written to specify duties & rights of
             o Zhou rulers did not control or interfere in FIEFS unless fiefholder did not send
                tribute or troops to ruler
       PROBLEM with this system: real power is not in the center with the emperor; when
        Zhou dynasty grew weak, the vassals (overlords in regions) had the wealth & troops

    1. MANDATE OF HEAVEN concept
                a. Feature of many monarchies before the Industrial Revolution
                b. Belief that monarchs’ authority came from the gods, God, the heavens, NOT
                    from his people’s belief in or consent to his rule (no “consent of the
                    governed” here!)
                c. Zhou conquest of Shang justified by claim that Shang had LOST the Mandate
                    of Heaven so they did not deserve support of their vassals or people
                d. Wu claimed to inherit the Mandate of Heaven b/c he was a strong, moral
                e. PROBLEM contained in Mandate of Heaven concept = if a monarch failed
                    to rule well, he could lose the mandate & his subjects could overthrow him &
                    create new dynasty! Moral of this story: if the Emperor does not do a good
                    job, we dump him . . . this legitimizes revolution but only under certain
    2. Rise of SHI
                  a. Number in the bureaucratic class grows
                  b. “men of service” work as scribes, clerks, overseers in court & in vassals’
                  c. Specialize in record keeping (remember the Egyptian DOCS on scribes?)
                  d. SHI power & influence grows!!!

    3. Zhou in decline by 8th c BCE (799 & later BCE)
                a. some vassals so powerful that they challenge the dynasty
                b. Zhou ruler killed in battle & a Zhou prince safely taken to Loyang so Zhou
                    capital moves to east (its original location)
                c. Eastern Zhou not as powerful but last another 500 years but its empire
                d. Growing chaos w/ vassals as fight each other
                e. Suffering among people b/c strife
                f. SHI “save the day” (coming to you in Chapter 5)
E    Improved productivity of farms
        o Better farm tools
        o Irrigation system expanded over larger area
        o Greater wealth went to lords (fiefholders) and to Emperor’s court
        o Peasants most burdened; worked building roads, expanding irrigation, growing
            crops, feeding & housing vassals when in villages, fighting in lords’ army.
        o BEST DEAL for a Peasant . . . live as far as possible from your lord’s garrison

                     Population grew, Zhou empire expanded, farming expanded N into north China
                      plain & S along coast & Yangtze
                   By end of Zhou era heart of Chinese civ. established as area of 2 river systems:
                      Huanghe & Yangtze (with its monsoon-watered fields suitable for growing rice)
C          Males have power in families & in society
           Religion:
                    o Religious rituals centered on worshipping royalty & family ancestors
                    o Heaven called Tian
           Like the Aryans, more emphasis over time on performing rituals, rites obsessively correct
            SO an elite emerges with refined manners & behavior. (They have to SHOW that they
            are “better than” the ruffians out there!)
SUMMARY    Geographic area affected by Chinese dev LESS than Mesopotamia
           Unique features of China:
              o      Writing
              o       Feudal type of political organization
              o       Later –art, architecture, etiquette, new technology…esp. irrigation, silk
           Harappan did not have as long-lasting effects as the Chinese, even though
               Harappan traded so widely
           Harappan more vulnerable to natural disasters, changes in climate & invasion

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