Shang Dynasty, China Culture

Around 2000 BC, the Chinese learned how to make bronze out of tin and copper, so we call this the Bronze Age. About the same time, they developed writing. Like Sumerian and Egyptian writing of this time, their writing is based on pictures that stand for ideas or sounds. We know of this writing from oracle bones, which are bones with writing carved into them. They were used to tell fortunes. People also used bones and tortoise shells to keep records about who paid what to who, much like Linear A in Crete or Linear B tablets in Greece at the same time.

 China Culture

Thousands of archaeological finds in the Huang He, Henan Valley--the apparent cradle of Chinese civilization--provide evidence about the Shang dynasty, which endured roughly from 1700 to 1027 B.C. The Shang dynasty (also called the Yin dynasty in its later stages) is believed to have been founded by a rebel leader who overthrew the last Xia ruler. Its civilization was based on agriculture, augmented by hunting and animal husbandry. Two important events of the period were the development of a writing system, as revealed in archaic Chinese inscriptions found on  tortoise shells and flat cattle bones (commonly called oracle bones), and the use of bronze metallurgy. A number of ceremonial bronze vessels with inscriptions date from the Shang period; the workmanship on the bronzes attests to a high level of civilization. 

Shang Dynasty, China

A line of hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of northern China, and Shang troops fought frequent wars with neighboring settlements and nomadic herdsmen from the inner Asian steppes. The capitals, one of which was at the site of the modern city of Anyang, were centers of glittering court life. Court rituals to propitiate spirits and to honor sacred ancestors were highly developed. In addition to his secular position, the king was the head of the ancestor- and spirit-worship cult. Evidence from the royal tombs indicates that royal personages were buried with articles of value, presumably for use in the afterlife. Perhaps for the same reason, hundreds of commoners, who may have been slaves, were buried alive with the royal corpse.


By about 1800 BC (the traditional date is 1766 BC), the Shang dynasty had become the first to unite a big part of China under one king. The king had his capital in Anyang, in northern China. People had already begun to divide up into the rich and the poor. We know that some people were slaves under the Shang Dynasty. Many men were in the king's armies.


During the Shang Dynasty, people also began to use horse-drawn chariots. This is about the same time as in West Asia. People also used jade (a green stone) for jewelry and decoration.


The Shang Dynasty lasted for about 700 years. But finally they were conquered by the Chou, about 1100 BC.



Kings / Kingdoms

Events In China

Comments / Worldwide Events

Shang Dynasty (1,783 1,134 B.C.)



Shang Events
Shang Tomb
Shang Map
Shang Painting

Shang Tang

(1,783 1,753 B.C.)

Tang surrounded Xia Jie at Xia Tai, and exiled him to Nanchao. After conquering Xia, Tang established the Shang Dynasty.

Minoan Crete dominated Aegean (2,000 1,450 B.C.)

Hebrews migrated to Egypt (1,550 B.C.)

Moses gave Ten Commandments to Hebrews on Mount Sinai (1,320 B.C.)

Hebrews entered the land of Canaan (1,280 B.C.)

Olmec civilization in Central America (1,200 B.C.)

Shang Tai Jia

(1,753 1,720 B.C.)

Yi Yin house-arrested Tai Jia at Tong, who reestablished his kingdom at Hao, in three years.

Shang Wo Ding

(1,720 1,691 B.C.)


Shang Tai Kang

(1,691 1,666 B.C.)


Shang Xiao Jia

(1,666 1,649 B.C.)


Shang Yong Ji

(1,649 1,637 B.C.)


Shang Tai Wu

(1,637 1,562 B.C.)

Ordered Yi Xie to be in charge of Hu. Nine surrounding tribes came to pay tribute to the Shang Dynasty.

Shang Zhong Ding

(1,562 1,549 B.C.)

Moved kingdom from Hao to Xico. Brought an end to the Deng Kingdom established during the Xia Dynasty.

Shang Wai Ren

(1,549 1,534 B.C.)

Huai and Xian tribes rebelled against Shang.

Shang He Tan Jia

(1,534 1,525 B.C.)

Moved kingdom from Xico to Xiang.

Shang Zu Yi

(1,525 1,506 B.C.)

Moved kingdom from Xiang to Geng, then moved from Geng to Xing.

Shang Zu Xing

(1,506 1,490 B.C.)


Shang Wo Jia

(1,490 1,465 B.C.)


Shang Zu Ding

(1,465 1,433 B.C.)


Shang Nan Geng

(1,433 1,408 B.C.)


Shang Yang Jia

(1,408 1,401 B.C.)


Shang Pan Kang

(1,401 1372 B.C.)

Moved kingdom from Yan to Beimeng.

Shang Xiao Xing

(1,372 1,352 B.C.)


Shang Xiao Yi

(1,352 1,324 B.C.)


Shang Wu Ding

(1,324 1,265 B.C.)

Asked Ganpan as his prime minister (1,324 B.C.).

Asked Fushuo as prime minister (1,319 B.C.)

Shang Zu Geng

(1,265 1,258 B.C.)


Shang Zu Jia

(1,258 1,235 B.C.)


Shang Bing Xing

(1,235 1,219 B.C.)


Shang Geng Ding

(1,219 1,198 B.C.)


Shang Wu Yi

(1,198 1,194 B.C.)

Emperor Wu Yi was a cruel king who wanted to demonstrate his power by playing a game of Liubo against god. Duke of Pan moved to Qi Zhou.

Shang Tai Ding

(1,194 1,191 B.C.)


Shang Di Yi

(1,191 1,154 B.C.)

Asked Zhou Gong Ji Li as priest. Made his son Ziqi, the duke of Hao (Taiyuan in Shanxi).

Shang Zhou

(1,154 1,134 B.C.)

One of the cruelest Kings in the history of China, Zhou and his queen TaJi were known for their novelties of torture and for the invention of chopsticks. Killed Bi Gan, imprisoned Qi Zi, and Wei Zi fled (1,123 B.C.)

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