Ancient River Civilizations
Shang China
Shang China notes
The Geography of China
A. Geographic Isolation
1. East = Yellow Sea and Pacific Ocean
2. West = Taklimakan Desert
3. Southwest = Himalaya Mts.
4. North = Gobi Desert
5. 2/3 of China’s land = mts. + deserts
B. 2 Main River Systems
1. Huang He (Yellow) R. in North China
2. Yangtze R. in Central China
3. Most of farmland and pop. is in eastern plain between
these rivers.
*Why is the Huang He called “China’s Sorrow”?
Because of the death and destruction caused by flooding
II. The Shang Emerge in China
A. The Shang Dynasty = 1st documented Chinese dynasty
1. 1532- 1027 B.C.
2. main capital = Anyang
B. Shang Cities
1. most structures and homes made of wood
2. cities protected by earthen walls
C. Shang Social Classes
1. sharply divided
2. ruled by warrior class headed by a king
3. nobles owned land; sent tribute to Shang ruler
4. peasants worked the land with wood and stone tools
D. Mandate of Heaven
1. king’s authority to rule came from heaven
2. a just and fair ruler was seen as having god’s approval
3. unfair or unsuccessful king = No approval
4. justification for overthrow
5. Dynastic Cycle = Rise, decline, and replacement of dynasties
III. Early Chinese Culture
A. Family was central to Chinese Society
1. Elder male controlled property + made decisions
2. women expected to obey male family members
Adult sons
Eldest ran household
B. Religious Beliefs – Polytheistic & animistic
1. Believed in ancestor worship
a. Spirits could bring good or bad luck
b. offering made to keep spirits happy
c. Offerings included human sacrifice
2. Supreme God = Shang Di
C. First Chinese Writing! = Oracle Bones
1. Kings consulted gods through Oracle bones.
a. Priests scratch question on bone or turtle shell
b. Apply heat to cause cracks
c. Interpret cracks for answers
2. Chinese writing – symbols stand for idea not sound
a. Advantage = everyone could learn writing; uniting
b. Disadvantage = more than 10,000 symbols to learn
D. Excellence in Bronze working
1. Shang artisans perfected bronze casting skills
2. bronze weapons, jewelry, religious items
** Why did the Ancient Chinese refer to themselves as the
Middle Kingdom?
They saw their country as the center of the civilized world.
China as the “Middle Kingdom”
of the world
The rest
of the
Ancient China
Middle Kingdom

Shang China Culturenotes only