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Facts about the Shang Dynasty

Shang Dynasty

  • Existed around 1700 B. C. to 1122 B.C.
  • People believed in an afterlife in which they would be reunited with ancestors.
  • First official dynasty of China
  • Rulers, priests, warriors lived within walled cities while farmers and skilled craftsmen live outside
  • Archaeologists have found written records on bronze containers and oracle bones (shoulder blades of oxen and other large animals carved with writings, tortoise shells, etc.).
  • Oracle Bones were used to predict the future.
  • Historical records also carved on tortoise shells
  • Shang kings ruled in northern parts of China.
  • Discovery of bronze (tin and copper)
  • Crafts people, working with bronze, begin to develop large towns and cities.
  • Cities had walls around them to keep invaders out.
  • Bronze weapons are cast.
  • Silk is made.
  • Horse-drawn chariots are used.
  • Carving done in jade and ivory
  • A class system and division of labor developed during this dynasty with nobles having the most power, then craftsmen then peasant farmers, and finally slaves.
  • Most Shang people were peasant farmers.
  • Cowrie shells (snails which inhabit the Pacific and Indian Ocean) served as money before bronze coins were produced.
  • Slave revolt in 1122 B.C. led to downfall of Shang dynasty
  • Shang dynasty helped the Zhou dynasty patrol their borders.

Qin (Chin) Dynasty

Existed around 221 B.C. to 206 B.C.

For the first time, China was completely united as one empire. Shi Huangdi unified China with his powerful armies and by strengthening government. He created one system of writing and one money system which helped unify China.

The original Qin region was protected by mountains on two sides.

King called himself Shi (meaning first) Huangdi (meaning emperor). He controlled the entire government. Many people who disagreed with him were killed.

Shi Huangdi took away power from the nobles and forced many of them to move to the capital city. He took away their bronze weapons. He let the farmers own land.

Shi Huangdi’s new ideas about communication helped to unify China. He set up a single system of writing throughout the empire. Local leaders used this writing system to report to the capital. Written language also helped the government to record and collect taxes. By using one form of writing everyone could understand the empire’s laws.

Shi Huangdi

Shi Huangdi created a single system of money to be used throughout the empire. Craft workers made coins out of bronze. Holes in the coins allowed people to keep their money on a string.

Mass construction of roads and canals to make travel easier – Farmers were required to build roads linking the cities together.

Farmers were the backbone of the Qin economy. They also served as part-time soldiers and builders. In fact, they were often forced to strengthen and connect walls along the empire’s northern border. These walls were built to keep the enemy out of the Qin Empire.

Great Wall is built by joining existing walls. It is more than 1, 500 miles long.

Coins, weights, and measures were all standardized (made the same) so that trades were fair and easy to negotiate.

Books, written by past teachers like Confucius, were burned (destroyed) for fear that people would read them and complain about their current state of life.

Old records and art work destroyed to keep people from having new ideas.

A strong military was developed.

One of the greatest building projects was the construction of a tomb for Shi Huangdi. A giant clay army guards the tomb. According to an ancient Chinese historian, crossbows were set up that would shoot arrows at anyone who disturbed the tomb’s entrance. Today, visitors can view the giant clay army; however, the tomb entrance has not been discovered.

After Shi Huangdi’s death, peasants revolted and formed a strong army to defeat the emperor thus ending the Qin Dynasty.

Han Dynasty

Existed around 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.

The powerful Han army expanded China’s border. Controlling the huge empire was difficult.

The Han emperors followed many of the teaching of Confucius. The rulers wanted to rule fairly.

Confucian ideas about duty and education influenced life during the Han dynasty.

Government jobs were given to educated people. Schools were created to prepare students for government service. The schools were run by Confucian teachers.

Learning new things were important. An emphasis was placed on education.

The Chinese language grew from 3,000 to 9,000 characters.

The first Chinese dictionary was written in 100 A.D.

Tried to recover many writings and teachings destroyed during Qin Dynasty

Crafts people began making items in mass quantities and farmers grew abundant food.

Many trade routes were formed with the most famous being the Silk Road.

Buddhism was brought to China by missionaries from India. Buddhism became popular in ancient China in 1 A.D. While Buddhism was growing, Confucianism remained strong.

Paper, foot stirrups, wheelbarrow and the seismograph were invented.

Much knowledge was gained about acupuncture, a medical treatment using small needles, and herbs for medicines, so people stayed healthier and lived longer.

Invention of movable type made printing books easier, allowing more people to learn to read

Established the Mandarins who were high ranking civil servants who needed to pass an examination to receive their posts (beginning of civil service examination)

Farming continued to be the center of the Han dynasty.

As the empire grew in size, its borders were often under attack. A higher population put stress on land use and food supplies. Eventually, the empire’s great expansion became its downfall (due to the cost of military expeditions).

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