16 Chinese Culture During the Shang and Zhou Dynasties

In 1952 CE the remains of a vast city from the Shang Dynasty were discovered near the modern city of Zhengzhou. The excavations also uncovered bronze foundries which were used to craft weapons and statues. The weapons of the Shang military were all bronze and finds at excavations have shown that they were well armed. Still, the arts were as important to the Shang as military campaigns. The bronze statues found at Erligang are far superior in craftsmanship and size to those found anywhere else from the same time.(16)

Besides work in bronze, the craftsmen of the Shang Dynasty were also expert in stonework, especially jade. Grave goods of very ornate jade workmanship have been found, including bodies covered in jade shingles, like armor plate. In textiles, the artists were equally skilled. Work in silk and other woven materials was of a very high quality which is clear from the clothing of carefully preserved bodies from Shang Dynasty tombs. (16)

During the Zhou Dynasty, works in bronze became more sophisticated and the metallurgy of the Shang, overall, was improved upon. Chinese writing was codified and literature developed, as evidenced in the work known as Shijing (the Book of Songs, composed 11th-7th centuries BCE), one of the Five Classics of Chinese literature. The poems of the Shijing would have been sung at court and were thought to encourage virtuous behavior and compassion for members of all social classes.(17)

Bronze Gui Vessel from Ancient China

Gui Vessel from Ancient China
Osama Shukir Muhammed | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0



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