Category: Yin Xu.

About Yin Xu

WHS#1114 | Yin Xu | Tourist Maps | Travel Guide | Photo & Video | News Update

Yin Xu plan view

The site of Yin Xu, which spreads across the Huanhe River in the northwestern downtown area of Anyang City, is the site of the capital of the Late Shang Period (14th-11th century BC). Among such capitals recorded in Chinese historical sources it was the first to have its existence confirmed by modern archaeological excavations and contemporary oracle bone inscriptions. Yin Xu is also an important representative of Bronze Age civilizations worldwide.

Yin Xu is an ancient capital city that rose in the late Shang Dynasty, a time of prosperity of Chinese bronze age. Around the 17th century BC, the Shang tribe, an important branch of the Chinese nation, beat the Xia Dynasty and established a slave dynasty in central China, the second of its kind in Chinese history. The territory of this new dynasty extended to the great ocean in the east, the present-day Sichuan in the west, the Liaohe River Basin in the north, and the Dongtinghu Lake in the south. It was one of the most powerful states in the East Asia during the Bronze Age.

In early Shang Dynasty, the capital was removed repeatedly due to political, environmental and other reasons. In about 1300 BC,Pan Geng, the king of the Shang Dynasty, removed his capital from Yan (present-day Qufu of Shandong Province) to Yin Xu and built the latter into a magnificent capital city. Since then, this capital city was rebuilt by 12 kings in eight generations of the Shang Dynasty, including the kings Pan Geng, Xiao Xin, Xiao Yi, Wu Ding, Zu Geng, Zu Jia, Lin Xin, Kang Ding, Wu Yi, Wen Ding, Di Yiand Di Xin, lasting for a total of 255 years. With kings ‘keeping to it as the capital in spite of dynastic changes,’ Yin Xu remained the political, economic, military and cultural center of China during the prime of its bronze age.

shang dynasty

The Bamboo Annals states that “in the 14th year of the reign of King Pan Geng, the king removed the capital from Yan to Beimeng and renamed the latter into Yin. In the 15th year of his reign, he built a new capital city: the City of Yin.” Around the year 1046 BC, King Wu sent a punitive expedition against King Zhou, the last ruler of the Shang Dynasty. Yin was deserted and the city was turned into ruins, hence the name Yin Xu (the ruins of Yin) in historical sources.

The powerful Shang Dynasty marks a new epoch in the development of Chinese history in many ways. Contrary to earlier examples of Chinese Bronze Age capitals, the layout of Yin Xu is markedly different. While other capital sites in China are usually surrounded by walls and divided into sections, at Yin Xu the Palace and the Royal Ancestral Shrines Area forms the core of the capital while other types of sites are situated around this core in concentric circles. There is no surrounding wall. The palaces and royal ancestral shrines located by the south bank of the Huanhe River were wooden structures built on rammed earth foundations. This architectural style greatly influenced the palace and temple architecture of the following Chinese dynasties. Located by the north bank of Huanhe River is the oldest and most integral royal cemetery area ever discovered in China. The biggest of the tombs is more than 10 meters deep and it contained a large number of human and animal sacrificial victims as well as funerary accessories providing evidence for a very highly developed crafts industry during the Shang Dynasty. Perhaps the most important discovery at Yin Xu, however, was turtle plastrons and bovine scapulae inscribed with writing, the so-called oracle bone inscriptions. This writing proved out to be the direct ancestor of the modern Chinese written characters. The writing on these bones confirmed later historical sources and pushed back the recorded Chinese history by a thousand years.These inscriptions constitute one of the four earliest written languages in the world. The other major type of find that has attracted a lot of attention both in China and abroad is the ritual bronze vessels associated with the Shang Dynasty. These ritual vessels are often exquisitely decorated and while they had important functional roles during the time of their use they can also be considered to be magnificent pieces of art. The Shang also excelled injade and bone carving, and ceramic manufacture. In many of these craft industries the Late Shang period stands out as a period of significant technological advances.

horse chariot

Horse chariot remnant.

These various artefacts and structures found at Yin Xu not only testify for its importance as an archaeological treasure house but also asthe birthplace of Chinese civilization. In addition to the historic, cultural, and scientific importance of Yin Xu for the Chinese nation, it is also indispensable for the study of the history of human civilization. The unique characteristics of Shang Dynasty compared with other Bronze Age civilizations, the influences it had on the later Chinese dynasties, and its achievements in the fields of crafts industries, state administration, and the world of religion, will help further generations to understand not only the development of Chinese culture but also world cultures and technologies in general.

Oracle bones.

Oracle bones.

Category: Yin Xu
Please login to your facebook account before comment.