(Pre-History and the First Two Dynasties)
Ancient China –
Political Geography
Ancient China – Physical
Natural Resources and Agriculture
• North China plane (the Yellow River /
North China Plane) = millet and wheat
• South China (the Yangzi River Valley) =
• Agriculture =
collective labor
Pre-Historic China
• Evidence of Neolithic lifestyle – 10,00012,000 years ago
• Yangshao Culture (3,000 BCE) and
Longshan Culture (2,000 BCE)
Pre-Historic China (Cont.)
The Yangshao People
• Domesticated dogs
and pigs
• Main crop – millet
• Elaborate burial and
fertility rituals
• Painted Pottery
The Longshan People
• Cultivated rice and
• Job specialization and
social stratification
• Emphasis on
ancestor warship
• Divination
Pre-Historic China (cont.)
• The Yangshao pottery
• The Longshan pottery
Xia Dynasty (2183-1752 BCE?)
• Mythical?  Not enough evidence
• Chinese vs. Non-Chinese interpretation
• Shang Sources (Xia people – opposite)
The Shang Dynasty
(also known as the Yin Dynasty
1750 BCE – 1045 BCE)
The Shang Dynasty (cont.)
Alleged Shang
Alleged Xia
Watery Underworld
Lord Below
The Shang Dynasty (cont.)
• Highly stratified society (by hereditary rank
and occupation)
(SCHOLARS? – probably not yet!)
The Shang Dynasty –
Religious Beliefs
Religious Beliefs (cont.)
• Oracle Bones / Scapulimancy
Examples of Inscriptions on Oracle
• Crack-making on jiashen (day 21), Que
divined: “Lady Hao’s (a consort of Wu
Ding) childbearing will be good.”
(Prognostication:) The king read the
cracks and said: “If it be on a ding-day that
she gives birth, there will be prolonged
luck.” (Verification:) (After) thirty-one days,
on jiayin (day 51), she gave birth; it was
not good; it was a girl.
Examples of Inscriptions on
Oracle Bones
• Crack-making on yiwei (day 32), Gu divined:
“Father Yi (the twentieth Shang king, Xiao Yi, the
father of Wu Ding) is harming the king.”
• Divined: “Grandfather Ding (the fifteenth king,
father of Xiao Yi) is harming the king.”
• Divined: “There is a sick tooth; it is not Father Yi
(=Xiao Yi, as above) who is harming (it/him).”
Ancient Chinese Characters –
connections to modern Chinese
Religious Beliefs (cont.)
- Burial Tombs
• Practiced Human and Animal Sacrifice (to
appease an “angry ancestral spirit”)
• Human sacrifice – mostly prisoners of war
• Buried were the objects useful in the
Religious Beliefs – Burial Tombs
Shang Dynasty – Perception of the
World (Us vs. Them)
• Political control
through direct
confrontation and
• Circles of civilized
• Shang towns – square
– Zhangguo – The
Central Country
(sinocentric view!!!)
Shang Dynasty –
Major Intellectual, Artistic, and
Cultural Accomplishments
Bronze Vessels
Silk Production
Calendar (Lunar Based)
Protective walls (pounded earth)
Economy – bartering / cowry shells
Shang Bronze Vessels
• Mostly used for ceremonial occasions
(rituals, sacrifices, ancestor worshiping)
• Bronze – status symbol ( common people
worked with simple stone tools)
The Zhou Dynasty
1045 BCE – 221 BCE
Zhou Dynasty – The Origins
• Chinese – speaking people; descendants
of Neolithic Longshan people (similar to
the Shang)
• Located to the West of the Shang
• Semi-Barbarian in the eyes of the Shang
• Intermarriage with the Shang before
Famous Leaders:
• King Wen (“the cultured king”) – built
alliances with neighboring people to
increase the power of the Zhou
• King Wu (“the martial king”) – sacked the
Shang capital, practically ending the
Shang rule
• Duke of Zhou (King Wu’s brother) –
established the Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty - Famous Leaders
• King Wen
King Wu
Duke of Zhou
Zhou Dynasty – Accounts Vilifying
the Shang
• From Chinese sources on the last Shang king:
“. . . [was] dominated by women, given up to
sensual self-indulgence with his 'pools of wine
and forests of meat,' oppressing the people with
his taxes, carving open a pregnant woman to
examine the fetus, and killing or imprisoning all
who remonstrated against him. He was also
famous for his great speed and strength and
fond of battling wild animals, and he was a noted
devourer of human flesh who fed several feudal
lords to his court and even duped King Wen into
eating his own son.”
The Duke of Zhou
• Subdued territories loyal to the Shang
after the Shang capital was conquered
• Eliminated all pretenders to the throne
(protected his nephew King Cheng)
• Favorite historic figure of Confucius
The Zhou Rule
• “Feudal” system
• More decentralized as the time went on
• Zhou kings continued supremacy in
sacrifice rituals (other kings claimed their
connection to them)
• Same culture, though different political
• Education – luxury for the rich, until
Confucius’ ideas become popular
The Concept of Heaven
• Gradually replaces Shangdi (Di) in the
writings of Zhou aristocracy
• Replaced with TIAN (English translation
• Heaven (in Chinese culture) – does NOT
mean “a place to which one's soul goes, or
a state of being one's soul attains, after
The Concept of HEAVEN (cont.)
• 1. "Heaven" was an all-powerful entity that actively
intervened in human affairs. In this meaning, "Heaven" is
similar to the older Shangdi.
• 2. "Heaven" was the cosmos in general or as a whole. It
did not actively intervene in human affairs. Instead,
"Heaven" was the sum total of the workings of nature
including the laws and patterns by which nature
• 3. "Heaven" also meant the sky, or that which is apart
from the earth. This meaning is similar to the English
usage in a sentence like "Rain poured down from the
The Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven (cont.)
The Warring States Period
(480 BCE -221BCE)
The Warring States Period –
New Developments
• Training and use of larger (citizen) armies
• “Barbarian” fighting techniques
(horseback) and iron weapons
• Successful rulers = able organizers and
• Increased need for skilled bureaucrats (tax
collectors, scribes, scholars/advisers)
End of the Zhou Dynasty
• The Zhou Dynasty ends in 221 BCE.
• Conquered by the state of Qin (semiChinese / semi-barbarian state to the West
of the Zhou)
In the follow up Lecture (take notes
in class!!!):
• Major School of Thought during the
Eastern Zhou Period
Slide 1 – Ancient China (;;
Slide 2 – Ancient China – Political Geography (
Slide 3 – Ancient China – Physical Geography (
Slide 4 – Natural Resources – (
Slide 5 – Pre-Historic China -
Slide 6 – Pre-Historic China -
Slide 7 – Pre-Historic China -;;
Slide 8 – Xia Dynasty -
Slide 9 – The Shang Dynasty
Slide 12 – The Shang Dynasty – Religious Beliefs -
Slide 13 – Religious Beliefs -;
Slide 14 – Oracle Bones –
Slide 15 – Oracle Bones –
Slide 16 – Ancient Chinese Script -
Slide 17 – Burial Practices -
Slide 18 – Burial Practices -;
Slide 19 – Perception of the World -
Slide 21 – Bronze vessels -;;
Slide 22 – Zhou Dynasty -;;
Slide 25 -;;
Slide 26 -
Slide 30 -
Slide 31 – Mandate of Heaven -
Slide 32 – Mandate of Heaven -
Slide 33 – Warring States Period -;
Slide 35 – End of Zhou Dynasty -