The Shang Dynasty (商) (about 1600 BC – 1046 BC) is the second feudal dynasty after Xia (夏) (about 2146 BC – 1675 BC) in ancient China. Yin (殷), located at what now called Anyang in central China's Henan Province, was the capital of Shang during its last 273 years rule. The city is also the first capital where the location is still clearly known today. In 1899, oracle bone inscriptions for the use of auspice were found in the area and since 1928, archeologists discovered royal palaces, workshops and graves. There are also the tools for agricultural production of that time, things that are used in daily life and musical instruments. The imperial capital's area is measured about 36 square kilometers.
UNESCO has enlisted Yin Ruins in World Cultural Heritage. It is undisputed that the Shang Dynasty is the very first civilization in China, and, Yin is the very center of this profound civilization. Therefore, Yin Ruins uniquely contributed to the born of the Chinese culture and to human development in world's history.
Through decades of archeological research, experts have found more than 110 palace sites, some of which were ancestral temples, 12 grand imperial graves, Shang Capital City site, about 2,500 trenches for sacrificial ritual, clans' village sites and family graveyards. They also found the relic sites handicraft workshops, caves for storing oracle bones and many articles written in oracle bone characters, utensils and jewelries made from bronze, jade, earth or animal bones.
The oracle bone inscriptions are mostly distributed at the site of the palace of the ancestral temple. Since the discovery of the oracle bones in late nineteenth century, there are about 15,000 pieces of bone have been found. The discovery has startled the world. These oracle bones recorded every aspect of ancient Chinese society, including religious rituals, hunting, agriculture, astronomy and military. The historical resources provide tremendous and invaluable information to researchers in the Shang Dynasty's culture. They are also one of the earliest testimonies of human existence on our planet.
With a river flowing through the capital city, the ancestral temple situates on the southern bank of the Huan River (洹河) while the opposite bank stands the imperial grave of emperors, which was also the place for holding sacrificial rituals. This site is the oldest imperial graves found in China.
The imperial graves are mainly in the shape of Chinese character "亚", "中" or "甲", grand and majestic. The largest grave has an area measured about 1,803 square meters with depth 15 meters under the earth surface. The coffin is luxury decorated with beautiful mortuary objects. However, it can also discover that there were many buried alive with the dead master, who was well respected with great honor. It was the custom at that time that the man of wealth and power liked young people, including women and small children, being brutally killed and buried alive with him after death. This gigantic grave is an excellent example for people to know about the social conditions during the latter days of the Shang Dynasty, the class ranking system and family relations.
In 1978, more than 4,000 pieces of ancient bronze ware are another great discovery in Yin Ruins. They are unique and beautiful. The ancient Chinese people built large furnaces to burn and melt the raw bronze material, when they were making a bronze ware, they had to watch the making process all the time and it took a few days to complete. Therefore, the workers were on duty by shifts. However, there was no copper mine in Yin area. According to some research, bronze, tin and lead materials were brought from Anhui and Jiangxi regions in eastern China. So some scholars thought that the frequent wars fought during the Shang Dynasty were probably in connection to scramble for mineral resources.
The jade wares and jewelries are also famous. The excavated jade relics in Yin Ruins demonstrate the excellent craftsmanship and profound artistic imagination. Archeological scholars have proved that the jade was from Hotan in Xinjiang and Liaoning in northeast China. It can be assumed that there was a "Jade Road" to Xinjiang over 3,000 years ago; this is about 1,200 years older then the famous Silk Road.
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