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Arts and Sculptures essay
← The Rise of Shang DynastyHistory Unit →

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The Shang dynasty was actually considered as the mark of the Bronze Age in China. This is mainly because the use of the Bronze compound was greatly practiced during the epoch (Song 10-22). Additionally, several improvements on the bronze were also carried out at this point in time. The main importance of the arts and sculptures lay in the fact that the consumption of bronze represented wealth, power, and strength. This is also because of the fact that they were mainly used for building weapons or as ceremonial vessels for food and for wine. A number of the Shang vessels were usually decorated with taotie, face like symbols, with that had “eyes” made up of swirling lines. Their importance comes from the fact that they were used in distinguishing the Shang culture.

Furthermore, the creation of bronze wares was a vital symbol of modernization at the time. This is mainly due to the fact that the Shang people were in a position of arriving at the highest level of artistry as well as creativity. As a matter of fact, the most famous of all the works, the Simuwu Quadripod, was one of the most costly creations during the Shang dynasty. It weighed approximately 833kg and was considered to be the largest and the heaviest of all the Chinese vessels that ever existed. The Quodripod is just one of the artistic works of the Shang people that serves as great evidence of their great artistic skills.

During the Shang dynasty, porcelain wares were also invented. They were discovered during that time, with the practice of jade carvings being greatly improved. It was also at this time that woven silk fabrics were of very high quality, showing the great talent and skills of the Shang people.

The Role of the Shang Dynasty in Trade

One of the key aspects of the Shang dynasty was its economic theory that had an overwhelming emphasis on agriculture. In this regard, other economic activities were termed as nonessential activities. These included activities like manufacturing as well as commerce. Furthermore, the most famous economic reform led to the abolition of the idealized system of landholding. Under the new system, individual system of ownership was introduced which brought new land under cultivation.

This also led to the introduction of poll tax as well as produce tax. In most cases, cowrie shells were used as money. It was also during this time that the building of ships emerged and this was very instrumental facilitating trade. The making of silkworms was also discovered during this time, and this became its most valuable export. In actual sense, this is the kind of trade that linked them to the rest of the world.

By and large, the Shang hoi polloi had specialized occupations. This is because the masses had to have a very complex system of trade to be in a position of obtaining all that they required. The market was definitely the major trading place. This is because it was the only place where the hoi polloi could meet. They mainly used cowry shells as the Shang currency to buy things. This is evident from the fact that all the tombs of the Shang nobles that have been found contain thousands of cowry shells alongside the nobles.

In transporting their goods, the people of the Shang dynasty used many different kinds of transport. Most of the hoi polloi would walk around. However, for the sake of carrying heavy things, they would use oxen or the Yellow River. Boats as well as rafts were used in carrying bags of rice or large quantities of whatever that needed to be carried. In the Shang dynasty, all the major cities were along the river. In this way, the boats would just drop off their cargo at a dock, load up with something new, or continue delivering the goods. Horses were also domesticated and would be used for transporting heavy goods.

The Hierarchy of Those Who Were in Power

The Shang kingdom was made up of a number of large regions, with each region being put under the rule of nobles. The administration of the dynasty was founded on mutual loyalty. The royal clan of Zi was the one in charge of the great kingdom. In this regard, only a member of this clan had the opportunity to be appointed as regional administrators. These regional administrators had the responsibility of defending the kingdom against foreign aggression. They also bore the responsibility of enlisting defense forces to the royal army. They were also charged with the responsibility of collecting tributes.

By and large, the Shang Dynasty was ruled by a monarchy which was presided over by a succession of kings. The king was also served by officials who held various positions of influence and functions. They belonged to a heritable class of the upper class who were related to the king. Though the king ruled the kingdom from a capital city, the city was not the same. Historical records indicate that there were many different Shang capitals, though only a few of them have been confirmed by archeological evidence. It is not exactly known why a king would shift his capital to a different place. However, a number of scholars are of the view that this was as a result of internal feuds within the royal family.

The Peak of the Shang Dynasty’s Dominance

The peak of the Shang dynasty’s dominance was in 1766 BC when Tang, the leader of the Shang tribe, ousted the supreme leader of the Xia dynasty. Thereafter, he established the Shang dynasty. It was during the reign Tang that Bo, the present day Shangqiu City became the novel capital of the Shang dynasty. Tang became famous as a king who ruled his people with munificence and empathy.

He was not only assiduous in state politics, but also compassionate to the common people. He also paid attention to the development of agricultural production. During his reign, Tang carried out retaliatory expeditions against all their neighbors. As a result, there was a great expansion of the Shang territory into Qing and Di minority territories in the west. It was under his rule that the Shang dynasty became very wealthy. The Shang dynasty actually came into existence as a political as well as military force. This was after they overpowered several tribes that lived along the Yellow River Plains.

After the demise of King Tang, King Taiwu took over as the ninth emperor. During his reign, the Shang dynasty went through a period of consolidation as well as development. In spite of the presence of divisive factions among the royals, the dynasty upheld its rule with the assistance of wise and loyal ministers.

Aspects of the Shang Dynasty that Are Still Embodied in Today’s Society

Writing is one of the aspects of the Shang dynasty that is still used not only by China, but many parts of the world today. At the time, the Shang people came up with a very complicated writing system that had about 5000 pictograms. It also involved the used of ideograms. In their system, the characters would be written in vertical lines with the first one being written on strips, then on rice paper and finally on silk.

In actual sense, most of what is now known today about ancient Chinese writing came from the oracle bones that were discovered at a site near Anyang. A number of the Shang kings had fortune tellers who would plunge red hot bronze pokers into bones. The fortune tellers would then read the cracks that had been caused in the bones. They would then write the fortunes on the kings on the basis of the results.

According to archeologists, the calendar is another aspect that must have been used during the Shang dynasty. The argument in support of this comes from the fact that every civilization definitely requires a calendar to enable their king to perform certain religious ceremonies and to know when to collect taxes. The calendar was also used by the farmers to determine when to plant crops. Furthermore, the calendar must also have been used by the Shang dynasty due to the fact that there is an almost precise record of when all the Shang kings were born as well as when they died. There is a probability that they made use of the zodiac calendar that is still being used in China today.

Just like there are monarchies today, the Shang dynasty also had stratified government and society with a king as the overall leader. However, the Shang dynasty’s king was both the lawmaker and judge. As a result, no one dared to argue with him. The king ruled by force and anyone who went against the king’s laws would be instantly killed by his soldiers. His government was made up of 200 to 300 clans that resided in their territories,

These regions were governed by other nobles who kept tol watch of these regions. The political system was also organized into a hierarchy, which had levels of rank, with several functions as well as occupations. The roles of the nobles were likened to those of barons in the medieval Europe. Just like it is today, whenever a king passed away in the Shang dynasty, his position would be taken by his closest relative. In many ways, the invention of writing had an intense upshot on the Shang administration and its ability to reign.

This is due to the fact that the invention was instrumental in enabling the government to organize on a large scale. This was especially in the area of managing a hierarchical administration and ruling the kingdom’s several territories, as well as systematizing the mining of colossal amounts of ore for the making of bronze artifacts. The invention of writing was also helpful in the construction of city walls as well as palaces or the building of elaborate tombs for themselves. Generally, the Shang is recognized by many historians as having created the world’s first state.


It is without a doubt that the Shang Dynasty was a very powerful monarchy during its epoch. This is because its influence was felt not only during is time, but also for generations that followed. As a matter of fact, the Shang Dynasty’s influence has lasted to date, with its inventions being felt in today’s contemporary society. Inventions like in writing, military intelligence, the stratified system of governance, as well as the economic structures have made a great impact in the world today.

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