Chinese Ancient Civilization: Xia Shang Zhou Sanguo

Shang Dynasty Dai Jin mask bronze avatar, from Sichuan Guanghan Sanxingdui Museum

In 1963, the bronze ware of the Western Zhou Dynasty was unearthed in Jiacun Town, Baoji County, and the “House Zhai China” was cast.

People who are accustomed to the title and identity of China have discovered that about 3,000 years ago, people living in this land began to recognize themselves as “people of China.”

But what did China mean at that time? How did Chinese civilization develop? What is the Chinese civilization in the world civilization map?

To answer these questions, we need to return to the beginning of Chinese civilization: Xia Shang Zhou.

If we compare Chinese history to the growth of a person, the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties are like a baby. As the old saying goes, I look old at the age of three. The three generations full of myths are really the key period for the formation of Chinese civilization, shaping the world outlook and cultural character of the Chinese today.

And our understanding of it is still full of too many fallacies and imaginations.

The beginning of civilization
In 1957, archaeologist Xu Xusheng discovered an ancient site in Erlitou Village, Yanshi, Henan. In the ruins, there are two palace-scale terracotta building bases, several small bases and living surfaces, some symbolic pottery pieces, and a small amount of bronze casting remains.

The discovery of this site not only attracted a lot of controversy in the future, but also opened another bright light for Chinese archaeology at that time. In the past few decades, the excavation work of the Shang Dynasty ruins represented by Henan Anyang has been in the chaos of Chinese archaeology, and it has shinen in a bright light, but it was regrettable because of the war.

The site was dating from the 22nd century BC to the 17th century BC. It was represented by the discoverer Xu Xusheng. At that time, the archaeological community was determined to belong to the early Shang Dynasty, because it had entered the Shang Dynasty in the 18th century BC. The timeline, geographically, is close to the western part of the Shang Dynasty, which is recorded in the ancient literature.

But the reversal soon occurred. After the 1970s, the academic circles began to tend to think that the site here is the legendary Xia Dynasty, and this voice is becoming more and more mainstream.

Although there are still a small number of overseas scholars who question the credibility of the existence of the Xia Dynasty because of the lack of words, this voice is already awkward. Today, this site, known as the “Xia Hui”, is considered by the Chinese archaeological community to be the most important and only archaeological evidence in the Xia Dynasty. As the beginning of Chinese civilization, summer seems to have been finalized.

Of course, from the ruins presumed to be civilized, there should be a ring in the middle.

When we measure a human settlement as a civilization, what do we rely on?

In the early history of mankind, the symbol of civilization was nothing more than the composition of bronze smelting, writing, cities, state ruling groups, court buildings, religion, art, and social hierarchy. In these respects, as a civilized China, it is consistent with other civilizations in the ancient history of the world.

Through Xia Hui, there are two kinds of evidences for presuming Xia civilization. One is the remains of bronze castings, and the other is a large number of ruins of suspected palace bases.

In the Erlitou site, there are not many bronze relics, but they already have the characteristics of ancient Chinese bronzes, such as copper-tin alloy and block casting. In this sense, Xia Kai is the first of its kind in China.

Mr. Zhang Guangzhi, an archaeologist, called Xia Shang and Zhou Dynasty the “Chinese Bronze Age”. In the sense of civilization, it is connected to the Stone Age and the Iron Age. To a considerable extent, bronze is closely linked to the state power. In the known history of Shang and Zhou, both dynasties have experienced five or six frequent relocations. One of the important reasons for moving to the capital is to chase the scarce copper and tin mines.

In addition to bronze, a large number of terracotta remains in the Xia Hui have led archaeologists to presume that the form of China’s settlements has changed drastically during this period, and that large-scale settlements centered on the city have emerged. It should be noted that the form of settlement in the middle and late Neolithic period is starry.

The more important speculation behind this is that the existence of the palace means the existence of a large number of oppressed human beings, and the bauxite also has the meaning of social class distinction.

Mr. Zhang Guangzhi, an archaeologist, called Xia Shang and Zhou Dynasty the “Chinese Bronze Age”.

In this way, the ancient Chinese civilization began about 4,000 years ago.

Home and foreign
About 4,000 years ago, the ancient Chinese civilization was just launched, and the other three of the four ancient civilizations: the two rivers, the ancient Egyptian civilization, and the ancient Indian civilization, are not young.

Is it possible that the ancestors of ancient Chinese civilization accepted the promotion of other civilizations?

Indirect evidence seems to be quite a lot.

For example, the existing archaeological data indicates that the origin of wheat cultivation is in the Middle East, and wheat as a food crop also appears in the later commercial civilization.

The founder of the Shang Dynasty may be the first Chinese to turn the kneeling position into a sitting position. Some people suspect that this was learned from ancient Egypt.

Erlitou Site

The Otaru text system on Oracle was 1600-1800 years later than the earliest Sumerian text. Li Ji, the originator of Chinese archaeology, believes that during this period of time, the concept of preserving written records may be transmitted from the two river basins to the Yellow River Basin.

Compared with other ancient civilizations, Chinese ancient civilizations have indeed shown greater isolation.

More direct evidence is also obtained from the shape of pottery.

According to Li Ji’s investigation, the lid of a Shang Dynasty pottery jar, shaped like a flower pot, has an erect stem-like handle in the middle, which is similar to the lids of the Near East and the Middle East.

But the evidence for all this seems to be far from enough.

Even in theory, insisting on the occurrence of civilization is the result of cultural contact. In the empirical evidence, even the most direct example is difficult to explain that China’s civilization in the three generations was directly radiated by foreign civilizations.

Therefore, the biggest consensus at present is still that the economic and cultural foundation of the business is mainly from eastern Asia. Most scholars who study Chinese prehistoric history, world history and social evolution also believe that Chinese civilization is a local origin.

He Bingzhen once argued in “The Cradle of the East” that ancient China had a small number of imported goods, and the impact was not deep and the frequency was not high. They did not leave behind the emergence of major cultural factors in China or the birth of ancient Chinese civilization. What traces.

Compared with other ancient civilizations, Chinese ancient civilizations have indeed shown greater isolation.

Perhaps thanks to the towering terrain between Asia and Europe, Chinese civilization not only avoided the invasion of the Indo-European people in the 17th century BC, but also did not suffer the great aggression of the sea barbarian in the 12th century BC.

In the previous chaos, the Cretan civilization disappeared forever, the ancient Egyptian civilization was severely damaged, and since then the character has changed greatly. The two river civilizations have not been spared, surrendered Babylon, and the northern part of India entered the Brahmin religious era. In the latter shock, the entire eastern Mediterranean was smashed, and the regimes of Greece, Egypt, and Hittite were attacked, the Hittite kingdom disappeared, Greek civilization was interrupted, and history entered a long dark period. .

But in the three generations of China, civilization has never suffered heavy losses and interruptions.

Shang Dynasty Oracle

During the period from about 2000 BC to 500 BC, China was a stage of parallel development and competition. However, these countries formed a multi-layered organization, and their stratification patterns changed according to the dynasty.

In the Xia Dynasty, the Xia Kingdom, centered on the northwestern part of Henan and the southwest of Shanxi, stood on the highest level of the ruling ladder; in the Shang Dynasty, the Shang Dynasty originating from the lower reaches of the Yellow River in the east of Shandong and Shandong was the regional co-owner; In the first half of the period, the Zhou Kingdom, which came from the lower reaches of Shaanxi’s Lishui, became the strongest force.

Three generations, also three countries
The Tang Wu revolution ended the murder of Xia Wei and the coma of Shang Yang. Chinese history marched in a linear vein.

This is a traditional imagination of three generations of Chinese civilization, but recent archaeological discoveries have overturned this imagination.

The transformation from Xia to Shang to Zhou has existed, but it is not the iteration of Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, but three independent groups of different cultures, not only coexisting for a long time, but also very complicated Intense interaction.

Oracle has proved that business and the week, at least two hundred years.

It is not difficult to establish this new understanding. Starting from geography, the geographical scope and cultural sources of the three are not the same.

From the archaeological point of view, Erlitou culture and Xia civilization are native to Jinnan in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, and evolved from the Longshan culture that spread to Henan.

Shang Dynasty bronze gong

The exact origin of the business is not conclusive, and may have originated from the east, on the alluvial plains of the lower Yellow River. However, it is generally believed that the location of the merchants is more south than Dawenkou in Shandong and Longshan in Shandong, and slightly northward than the Lake Mature Cultural District derived from the Hemudu Culture in the south.

Zhou Wenming, almost in 1800 BC, was bred in the western Shaanxi watershed, and then showed a development path from west to east.

When the merchant civilization is strong, the Zhou people are still a “small state”, and “Shangshu” has the language of “not a small country that dares to succumb to life, but the day does not allow for the turmoil.” This “inferiority” gene is profound in the body of the Zhou people, so that even if the success of the business is later, the biggest sacrifice of the Zhou people is targeted at the ancestors of the merchants.

Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties showed a very different cultural character. “Xia Shang Quality, Yin Shanggui, Zhou Shangwen” in The Analects is a good summary of this.

As far as the archaeological materials are known, the outstanding characteristics of the Xia people are that they have mastered the bauxite technology that is far superior to the Neolithic Age. However, when it comes to business, the civilization has achieved a great leap.

This jump is not attributable to breakthroughs in production tools or productivity, because there has been no breakthrough in the production of stone tools in China since about 8,000 years ago. A large number of known bronzes are only used as rituals or weapons.

In the absence of substantial improvement in productivity, this breakthrough can only be explained by the further intensification of class differentiation, because only then can we achieve a large concentration of wealth.

And how can the ruler of the business achieve a sudden concentration of power and authority?

It is generally believed that this is due to the merchant’s witch culture, and Mr. Zhang Guangzhi also calls it Shaman culture. In essence, it is a religious system centered on the beliefs of gods and ghosts.

Mr. Yang Zhao believes that merchants divide the world into two big blocks: one is the space in which the living people live, and the other is the field in which the ancestors who died died. There is an interactive order between these two fields. The principle of interaction is that their ancestors bless their own children and grandchildren, and the ancestors of their families are more authoritative in heaven, and the more capable their children and grandchildren are on the ground.

The link between reality and ancestors is the beast on the bronze, which is why there are so many bronze vessels in the Shang Dynasty, and the pattern decoration is more related to animals. The businessman believes that through the bronzes, especially the beasts above, people can talk directly to the ancestors.

Why do ordinary people want to listen to those in power? Because behind the rulers, there is a spiritual power that ordinary people cannot own and display. In this sense, the bronze ware as a ritual is a symbol of power.

The merchants shrouded in this set of religious beliefs, ghosts, and frequent people, are too far away from the Chinese culture we are familiar with. The realization of the later reversal is the week of taking the business and replacing it.

Descendants of the week
The transition between the Shang and Zhou dynasties is fierce and far-reaching. From organization to cultural personality, Zhou and Shang are very different.

Originally, they were two different ethnic groups.

The merchant’s devil’s belief is originally a game of a bigger size. Whose ancestors are powerful, whoever has the right to sacrifice to the ancestors, will have power. This is not a way of organizing in favor of solidarity. After the reform of the ancestral armor, this system of ghosts has become more closed. Only a few ancestors have enjoyed sacrifices. This is equivalent to saying that others will never be able to approach the power circle.

The essence of etiquette is the means of constantly reminding and repeatedly confirming kinship.

In contrast, Zhou’s clan system is a system of partners that can accommodate complex kinship, marriage, and kinship. This system is known as the patriarchal organization.

Through the patriarchal organization of this big tree, not only the kinship of the family name of Ji is organized as a backbone, but the other married couples can also be included in the way. Zhou Renben is a small tribe that has been continuously expanded. The key way to open up new sites lies in this open organizational principle.

After the Zhou people won, they also institutionalized the clan organization into a feudal system. Although since the Qin Dynasty, the feudal system was forced to retreat by the county system, but its influence has remained.

Originally, the patriarchal law only confirmed the organization of kinship, and it did not have the power in itself. However, when combined with feudalism, it created a ceremonial society.

In the Zoucheng City of Jining City, Shandong Province, the Temple of Meng Temple was performed in front of the ancient temple. The ceremony of the crown ceremony originated from the Zhou Dynasty and was the ancient Chinese rite

The essence of etiquette is the means of constantly reminding and repeatedly confirming kinship. Every behavioral norm involved in etiquette involves the status of a person in kinship, and thus the status of a person in the power system. Through a lot of etiquette, people’s daily life and family network and even power status are closely combined. This large system laid the foundation for China’s later family system and family system.

Zhou’s influence on later generations does not stop there. Zhou’s other invention is to replace the merchant’s devil’s beliefs with the destiny. The world view of destiny has basically shaped the Chinese world view.

Zhou is very clever. Originally, according to the merchant’s sacrificial system, Zhou people couldn’t figure out the number, but Zhou people came up with a better way to bypass the merchant’s ancestor and invent a transcendental power that is higher than the personality of God: .

The days of the Zhou people are not ghosts, but higher levels of existence, covering and dominating everything, but relatively uncontrolled by human influence. Heaven will come to the world at any time, but there is no fixed behavior in heaven, and the destiny will change, but the change is regular. The way to conform to the law is Yide, and the judgment of virtue must return to the people. Thus, the belief in heaven is combined with the same abstract concept of justice.

The so-called “Destiny is returning to Zhou”, Zhou people just moved out of the sky, and proposed that the tyranny of the Shang Dynasty rebelled against God’s will, and this was the heart of the boss.

This transformation has allowed the Chinese to become re-emerged and lightly surpassed.

Under the heavens, an important change has taken place in Zhou’s worldview. Zhou people believe that their residence is the center, they are Chinese, and others who are not Chinese, they are degraded to Yi Di or Canine.

This is very different from the habits of the business. Oracle records, most often with armed conflicts between businessmen, are people, ghosts, and parties. As can be seen from these terms, the merchant did not use the name of the animal to smear the enemy and the opponent.

But the business is far away, and only the Zhou people’s tradition is further internalized in the Chinese tradition. In this sense, we are all descendants of Zhou people.