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EAST 211 Lecture Notes - Zhongyuan, King Zhou Of Shang, Xia Dynasty

Asian Language & Literature
Course Code
EAST 211
Rebecca Doran

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Legenday Culture Heroes/First Dynasties
Fuxi: The Ox-Tamer: domesticated animals and created the family
Shennong: The Divine Farmer: invented plough and hoe
Huangdi: The Yellow Emperor: invented bow and arrow, carts, boats, writing, ceramics, and silk, secured the
Yellow River plain for the Chinese people
“The Five Emperors”: selection of successor by virtue
o Yao: inventor of calendar and ritual
o Shun: difficult family; father and stepmother repeatedly tried to kill him; harmonized his family; Yao
married him to his two daughters and he also harmonized their relationship
o Yu: the tamer of floods; his son succeeding him, starting the Xia Dynasty (succession by descent)
Jie: legendary “evil last ruler” of the Xia Dynasty
Neolithic Cultures
-Yangshao (5000-3000 B.C.)
-Central Yellow River
-“slash and burn” agriculture
-cowrie shell currency
-silkworm cultivation
-rammed-earth construction
-pottery: geometric, human, and animal designs
-Liangzhu (3400-2250 B.C.)
-Yangzi River delta
-burial sites: expensive grave goods, jade pendants
-Longshan (3000-2000 B.C.)
-Central and lower Yellow River; cities
-black eggshell pottery: high-temp kilns and pottery wheel
-burial sites: grave goods, burial chambers, coffins
-Erlitou (2000-1500 B.C.)
-Central Henan
-large-scale metallurgy: bronze foundry, very large dwellings
The first three dynasties in Chinese history
Xia (traditional dates generally given as ca. 2700-ca. 1600 B.C. ; historical existence -
Shang (1766-1122 B.C.;1600 B.C.-1027 B.C)
o “Evil last king and queen” King Zhou and Daji: meat forest; wine river; heated bronze
cauldron; lewd songs with bad rhythm; excessive taxation
o Divination/Oracle Bones:
turtle shells, cattle bone
Pyromancy: divination using fire (done by a professional diviner applying heated
cattle prod to the shell or bone)
“Charge”: to the ancestors, the high god Di/ other nature spirits (interpreted by the
Central concerns of the charges: weather, war, childbirth of the king’s consorts (i.e., a
male heir)
Central role of the Shang king and professional diviners in political religious structure
Human sacrifice; grave goods
Highly stratified society
Bronzes/taotie: frontal, bilaterally symmetrical design with animal motifs, gesture towards
animals but are not direct representations
o Interpretations of the taotie:
sacrificial vessels
totemism: animal ancestors
shamanism: animal spirits help in communicating with the spirits
purely artistic
Zhou (1027-256 B.C.)
Virtuous Founding Figures:
-King Wen (the “Cultured King”): alliances prior to conquest
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