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Shang dynasty

A painting by 13th-century artist Ma Lin of King Tang (ruled c.1617–1588 BC), the first king of the Shang dynasty. Tang overthrew...Read More >>A painting by 13th-century artist Ma Lin of King Tang (ruled c.1617–1588 BC), the first king of the Shang dynasty. Tang overthrew Jie, the last ruler of the Xia dynasty, who dominated northern China, at the Battle of Mingtiao in around 1600 BC. As the Chinese civilization developed, ruling families, or dynasties, began to take power. The Shang dynasty, which came to power in about 1600 BC, succeeded the Xia dynasty as rulers in the Yellow River valley region of northern China. By this time, there were some fairly large towns where people carried out different trades and crafts. Metalworkers used bronze, an alloy (mixture) of copper and tin, to make vessels for the king and noblemen. Bronze vessels found in Chinese burial grounds of this period have inscriptions on them, showing that the Shang had developed their own form of writing.


The Shang dynasty rulers loved to go hunting elephants, rhinoceros and tigers. The king and his attendants shot arrows at their...Read More >>The Shang dynasty rulers loved to go hunting elephants, rhinoceros and tigers. The king and his attendants shot arrows at their prey from a chariot.
A bronze vessel made by Shang craftworkers

Bronze and crafts

The use of bronze meant that people could make strong tools and weapons in Shang China. Copper is a soft metal, but when mixed with tin to make bronze, it becomes much stronger. The Bronze Age had already begun in other lands, but the Chinese developed bronze independently. They made bronze weapons for hunting as well as warfare. Noblemen enjoyed hunting rhinoceros and tigers. Craftsmen worked in many other materials besides bronze. They made wooden chariots for nobles and officials to ride around in, and ornaments in jade, a semi-precious stone.

More than 100,000 oracle bones have been discovered at Yinxu, site of the ancient Shang capital of Yin.

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