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Unformatted text preview: few. A
monopoly of bronze weapons enabled aristocrats to exploit other groups. A hierarchy of class defined life in the Chinese
city-state. The king and the officials of
his court lived within the walled city.
Their houses were spacious, built
above the ground with roofs supported by rows of wooden pillars,
resting on foundation stones. Their
lifestyle was opulent for ancient
times. They wore fine clothes,
feasted at banquets, and drank wine
from bronze vessels. In contrast, a far
larger population of agricultural workers lived outside the city in cramped
pit dwellings. Their life was meager and hard. Archaeological excavations of their underground hovels have uncovered
only clay pots.
Nowhere was the gulf between the royal lineage and the
baseborn more apparent than it was in the Shang institution
of human sacrifice. One Shang tomb 39 feet long, 26 feet
wide, and 26 feet deep contained the decapitated bodies of
humans, horses, and dogs, as well as ornaments of bone,
stone, and jade. When a king died, hundreds of slaves or prisoners of war, sometimes together with those who had served
the king during his lifetime, might be buried with him. Sacrifices also were made when a palace or an altar was built. Late Bronze Age: The Western Zhou
To the west of the area of Shang rule, in the valley of the
Wei River, a tributary of the Yellow River, lived the Zhou
people. Culturally closer to the Neolithic black-pottery people, they were less civilized and more warlike than the
Shang. References to the Zhou in the Shang oracle bones
indicate that the Shang had relations with them—sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile. According to the traditional historical record, the last Shang kings were weak,
cruel, and tyrannical. By 1050 B.C.E., they had been debilitated by campaigns against nomads in the north and rebellious tribes in the east. Taking advantage of this opportunity,
the Zhou made alliances with disaffected city-states and
swept in, conquering the Shang.
In most respects, the Zhou continued the Shang pattern
of life and rule. The agrarian-based city-state continued to be
the basic unit of society, and it is estimated that there were
about 200 of them in the eighth century B.C.E. The Zhou so- Oracle Bone. Inscribed oracle bone from the Shang
Dynasty city of Anyang. cial hierarchy was not unlike that of the
Shang, with kings and lords at the top, officials and warriors below them, and peasants
and slaves at the bottom. Slaves served primarily as domestic servants. The Zhou assimilated Shang culture, continuing without interruption the development of
China’s ideographic writing. The Zhou
also maintained the practice of casting
bronze ceremonial vessels, but their vessels lack the fineness that set the Shang
above the rest of the Bronze Age world.
The Zhou kept their capital in the
west but set up a secondary capital at Luoyang, along the southern bend of the Yellow River (see Map 1–6). They appointed
their kinsmen or other aristocratic allies
to rule in other city-states....
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.
- Spring '14