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Unformatted text preview: Blood or lineage ties were essential to the Zhou
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Shih, from The Shih-Ching
pattern of rule. The Zhou king was
the head of the senior branch of the
family. He performed the sacrifices to the Deity Above for
the entire family.
The rankings of the lords of other princely states reflected
their degree of closeness to the senior line of Zhou kings.
One difference between the Shang and the Zhou was in
the nature of the political legitimacy each claimed. The
Shang kings, descended from shamanistic (priestly) rulers,
had a built-in religious authority and needed no theory to
justify their rule. But the Zhou, having conquered the
Shang, needed a rationale for why they, and not the Shang,
were now the rightful rulers. Their argument was that
Heaven (the name for the supreme being that gradually replaced the Deity Above during the early Zhou), appalled by
the wickedness of the last Shang king, had withdrawn its
mandate to rule from the Shang, awarding it instead to the
Zhou. This concept of the Mandate of Heaven was subsequently invoked by every dynasty in China down to the
twenty-first century. The ideograph for Heaven is related to
that for man, and the concept initially had human, or anthropomorphic, attributes. In the later Zhou, however, although it continued to be viewed as having a moral will,
Heaven became less anthropomorphic and more of an abstract metaphysical force. Iron Age: The Eastern Zhou
In 771 B.C.E. the Wei valley capital of the Western Zhou was
overrun by barbarians. The explanation of the event in Chinese
tradition calls to mind the story of “the boy who cried wolf.” CRAIMC01_001-039hr.qxp 8/12/10 3:57 PM Page 33 Chapter 1 The Birth of Civilization 33 Chinese Writing
The Chinese system of writing dates back at least to
the Shang Dynasty (1766–1050 B.C.E.), when animal
bones and tortoise shells (the so-called oracle bones)
were incised for the purpose of divination. About half
of the 3,000 characters used in Shang times have
been deciphered. They evolved over the centuries into
the 50,000 characters found in the largest dictionaries. But even today only about 3,000 or 4,000 are in
common use. A scholar may know twice that number.
Characters developed from little pictures. Note the
progressive stylization. By 200 B.C.E., the writing had become standardized and close to the modern form of the
(1400 B.C.E.) Zhou
(600 B.C.E.) Seal Script
(200 B.C.E.) Modern Sun Sun + moon = bright Mouth + bird = to chirp Woman + child = good Tree + sun = east It was a matter of convention that the sun behind a tree
meant the rising sun in the east and not the setting sun in
Characters were formed in several other ways. In one,
a sound element was combined with a meaning element.
Chinese has many homonyms, or words with the same
sound. The character, for example, is read tai and means
“elevation” or “to raise up. But in spoken Chinese, there
are other words with the same sound that mean “moss,
“trample, “a nag, and “idle. Thus,
” Moon Tai + grass =...
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.
- Spring '14