The Shang Dynasty: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Shang Dynasty.

  • The Shang dynasty, also known as the Yin dynasty, ruled in China from about 1600 BC to 1100 BC. It was the first dynasty to be documented centuries later, and for which there is archaeological evidence.

  • Chinese tradition says that the Shang Dynasty was founded by a rebel leader who seized power during a battle. The first of the 33 rulers of the dynasty was Da Yi, also known as Tang the Great.
  • The Shang people worshipped their ancestors, as well as the earth, the moon and the sun. They also relied on fortune telling, and practiced human sacrifice.
  • Several important Shang tombs and palaces have been excavated in the region. Thousands of animal bones have also been found, with Chinese writing on them. These were oracle bones. The Shang people used them for fortune telling. They wrote questions on the bones and then heated them up. As the bones cracked the fracture lines were supposed to give answers to the questions.

Shang Dynasty Oracle Bone

  • One of the largest Shang dynasty tombs was discovered in 1976 in Yinxu. It was the tomb of General Fu Hao, and contained more than 700 jade objects, 4 statues of tigers, and almost 7,000 valuable shells.
  • The population of the dynasty was probably around 13 million. Most of the people lived in eastern China, especially along the Yellow River, the 3rd longest river in Asia.
  • The armies of the Shang Dynasty used horses, chariots, bows and arrows and bronze weapons. Soldiers often fought with nomadic tribes and nearby settlements.
  • Dead rulers were buried with valuable items so they could use them in the afterlife. Slaves were sometimes buried alive so they could look after their master.
  • The Shang Dynasty saw advances in art, music, politics, astronomy and science. Shang astronomers were able to observe the planet Mars and decide that the year should have 365 days.
  • The dynasty was also skilled in making weapon and household items from bronze. There were rules for how many bronze items noblemen or noblewomen could own.