Powerpoint on the Shang Dynasty

The First Chinese Dynasty
The Huang He (HWANG HUH)
River valley was the birth place of
Chinese civilization.
- We know this because of the
artifacts (clay pots and cups) that
archeologists have unearthed.
Huang He River (“China’s Sorrow)
Huang He River (“China’s Sorrow)
• Archeologists think that people
settled in the valley because of its
rich soil.
• The early people farmed the land and
used the river for travel and trade.
• As the population grew, the Chinese
began building towns.
Myths and Legends
• Like other early civilizations,
the ancient Chinese created
myths to explain the creation
of their world.
• One myth is about a great
hero named Yu. According the
legend, Yu dug the first
channels to control the flood
waters of the Huang He.
Yu the Great, a legendary ruler of
Ancient China, controls the water.
The Legend Continues…
• Legend has it that Yu founded China’s first
• That dynasty, named the Xia (SHYAH),
supposedly began about 2000B.C.
• Archeologists have not found any historical
evidence of the Xia.
• Based on written records, China’s first
dynasty is the Shang.
Who were the Shang?
• Archeologists have unearthed
long-buried walls and buildings.
These ruins show that the
Shang built the first cities in
• The capital was Anyang (AHNYAHNG). A palace and a
temple stood in the center of
the city.
• Public buildings and homes of
government officials circled the
central area.
• Outside the city center were
workshops and other homes.
The Shang
• The king was the most
powerful person, serving as
the political, religious, and
military leader of the Shang
• At first, Shang’s kings
controlled only a small area
of northern China, but over
time, they conquered
neighboring areas and ruled
over most of the people of
the Huang He valley.
Early Shang King
Growth of the Shang Kingdom
• As the Shang kingdom grew, kings sent out
large armies to defend the kingdom's borders.
• The kings appointed warlords, military
leaders who lead their own armies.
• Shang kings relied on the warlords
to stay in power.
Shang Social Classes
• Under the king, warlords and other royal
officials formed the upper class. They were
the aristocrats, people of noble birth whose
wealth came from the land they owned.
• Most people of Shang China were farmers.
They lived in in rural villages and worked the
land that belonged to the aristocrats. They
raised cattle, sheep, and chickens, and they
grew grains.
• Finally, there were much smaller groups of
merchants, artisans, and slaves.
Shang Religion
• Shang people worshipped many gods.
• The god Shang Ti ruled as a supreme god over
the lesser gods.
• According to legend, the gods lived in the
mountains, rivers, and seas.
• The early Chinese admired and feared gods.
• They believed that the gods could bring both
good and bad fortune.
• They attempted to please the gods by offering
them gifts of food and other goods.
Shang Ti
(sometimes referred to as Shangdi)
Shang Chinese Culture
• They also honored their ancestors, or longdead family members.
• They made offering to their ancestors.
• They hoped that their ancestors would bring
good luck and help them in difficult times.
• Today, may Chinese still pay respect to their
ancestors by going to temples and burning
small paper copies of food, clothing, and other
• These copies represent things that departed
relatives need in the afterlife.
Seeking Guidance from Ancestors
• Shang kings believed that they received
their power to rule from the gods and
their wisdom from their ancestors.
– Because of this, religion and government were
very closely linked.
– For the king, a very important duty was to
contact the gods and the ancestors before
making important decisions.
• The kings asked for help by using oracle
– They instructed priests to scratch questions on the
bones such as “Will I win the battle?” or “Will the
harvest be abundant?”
– Priests heated the bones over a fire until they cracked.
– The patterns of the cracks provided answers from the
gods and ancestors.
Ancient Chinese Writing
• The ancient Chinese wrote in
pictographs, characters that
represent objects, and ideographs,
another type of character that
links two or more pictographs to
express an idea.
Pictograph to represent “tree”
• The English alphabet uses
characters that represent sounds,
but the Chinese language uses
characters that represent entire
Ideograph to represent “forest”
Shang Arts
Shang dagger
c. 1650 B.C.
• The Shang created some of the finest
bronze objects ever made.
– These included sculptures, daggers,
vases, cups, and urns.
Silk Worm
• Some of the farmers raised silk worms,
and the weavers made the silk into
colorful clothing for the wealthy.
• Artisans crafted vases and dishes from
kaolin (KAY eh lehn), a fine, white clay.
• They also carved statues and objects
from ivory and a green stone called
Shang Kaolin
c. 1600 B.C.
Shang Jade
c. 1100 B.C.
Check your Knowledge
1. Who was the most powerful person in the Shang
Dynasty, and what were his responsibilities?
2. Who were the warlords?
3. Explain how religion and government were
very closely linked in the Shang Dynasty.
4. What was an oracle bone, and how was it used?
Explain its purpose.

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