Shang Dynasty China
A bronze pitcher (Shang Dynasty)
Around 2000 BC, people in China learned how to make bronze out of tin and copper, so we call this the Bronze Age. About the same time, people in China also 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.
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 with spoked wheels. These were invented in Central Asia about 2500 BC, and spread to China and to West
Asia about the same time. 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.
Learn by Doing - horse-drawn chariot project
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To find out more about the Shang dynasty in China, check out these books from Amazon.com or from your library:
Eyewitness: Ancient China, by Arthur Cotterell, Alan Hills, and Geoff Brightling (2000). For kids, with lots of excellent pictures.
China (History of Nations), by Greenhaven Press (2002). For middle schoolers. The negative review on Amazon is actually for a different book - don't be alarmed!
Cambridge History of Ancient China : From the Origins of Civilization
to 221 BC, by Michael Loewe and Edward L. Shaughnessy (1999).
A more challenging read, and much more expensive, but it has all the
good solid reliable information you could want.
Shang Dynasty art
Shang Dynasty Architecture
Chou Dynasty (1122-771 BC)
Main Chinese history page
Main China page