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Chapter 5
Political Organization in Early
Early Agricultural Society and the Xia Dynasty
The Yellow River
2920 miles
HuangHe=Yellow River
altered course
and caused
Loess soil is
extremely fertile
and easy to
Yanshao Society and Banpo Village
neolithic village
fine painted pottery and bone tools
as population increased
settlements cropped up in the valley
of the Yangzi River and Yellow River.
Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties
emerge which were hereditary
states that extended control over
larger regions
Xia Dynasty
• made one of the first
efforts to organize the
public life
• hereditary monarchical
• dynasty founder was the
sage king Yu
• organized large public
works projects (flood
control) helped to est. a
recognized authority and
political institutions,
promoted selflessness,
social harmony and hard
• dynasty encouraged
founding of cities and the
development of
• Erlitou may have been
the capital
Discussion Questions
• 1. Why do you think the Xia Dynasty promoted “selflessness, social
harmony and hard work”?
The Shang Dynasty
Bronze Metallurgy &
Horse Drawn Chariots
Technology aids in Shang
Bronze maybe used to beat
their competitors
Chinese chariots similar to
assigned gov’t craftsmen to
create weaponry for Shang
rulers and armies/no public
creations w/bronze allowed
Used bronze for horse
Imposed rule on agricultural
kings claimed agricultural
surplus portions from regions
they controlled to support
military forces
Shang Political
Shang relied heavily on political allies
Not centralized authority but relied
on a network of vast towns that
recognized the authority of the
Shang king
Others who shared agricultural
surplus and who also influenced
Shang policy include: advisors,
ministers, craftsmen, and
Shang dynasty revolved around
large cities, supposedly the dynastic
capital moved 6 times.
Though each city chosen for military
& political reasons
The Shang
Capital at AO
one of the
city wall (33ft
high & 66ft
Discussion Questions
• 2. What can you infer about Bronze in the Shang Dynasty?
• 3. Why do you think a non-Central authority worked for the Shang
The Shang Dynasty
Shang Capital at Yin
capital during the
last two or three
centuries of Shang
had large palaces,
written texts,
tombs for kings
tombs had
sacrificial victims
to go onto the
afterlife with the
The Tomb of Lady Fu Hao
1/64 wives of Shang king
Wu Ding (his favorite wife)
escaped notice of grave
468 bronze objects, would
have required 11 tons of
ore, also jade figurines,
cowrie shells, sacrificial
humans and dogs
unlooted tomb shows the
valuable resources that
were available to the royal
Beyond the Yellow River Valley
• while Xia and Shang
ruled the Yellow River
Valley other areas
were ruled by
contemporaries to
those of the Shang
Dynasty (ex.
Discussion Questions
• 4. Based on the tomb of Lady Fu Hao, what can you infer about the
importance of her?
Zhou Dynasty
Rise of the Zhou
the last Shang king gave
himself up to many vices
and resulted in the
towns and political
districts to change
allegiance to the Zhou.
Zhou forces seized
Shang capital of Yin,
beheaded the king, and
replaced administration
allowed Shang heirs to
rule small districts but
reserved the right to rule
throughout the realm,
mainly entrusted their
relatives to the regions
Political Organization
The Mandate of Heaven
In order to justify the
disposition of the Shang, Zhou
held an idea of heavenly
powers granted the right to
govern “mandate of heaven”
to an esp.deserving individual
known as the son of heaven
ruler served as a link between
heaven and earth
duties: observe high
standards, maintain order &
harmony as long as he did this
he would maintain control
when disorder occurred he
would be able to lose control.
Zhou was much larger
than Shang
entrusted power,
authority and
responsibility to
subordinates who show
allegiance, tribute and
military support to
central gov’t.
Zhou rulers sought to
arrange marriages in
order to strengthen ties
to their political allies
Discussion Questions
• 5. Why do you think the Chinese Dynasties continued to have a
decentralized rule?
• 6. Create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the Egyptian
leaders to the Chinese leaders.
Zhou Dynasty
Weakening of the Zhou
Iron Metallurgy
subordinates gradually est.
their own bases of power:
set up regional
bureaucracies, armies, and
tax systems
As they became more
secure in their rule they
also became more
independent of the Zhou
subordinates sometimes
ignored their obligations to
the Zhou
Technological developments worked in favor of
subordinate rulers
Zhou controlled all uses for the creation of
couldn’t control the entrance of iron metallurgy
subordinates moved quickly to est. ironworks
and outfit their forces.
iron weapons allowed subordinates to resist the
central gov’t and pursue their own interests
reasons for collapse: nomadic peoples invaded
China during an ineffective king, territorial
princes ignored central gov’t and used their
resources to build, strengthen and expand their
Period of Warring States (403-221bce)-period of
violence where the Zhou Dynasty ended when
the last king abdicated his position under
pressure from his ambitious subordinate the
king of Qin
Discussion Questions
• 7. Of the reasons provided as to why the Zhou Dynasty ended,
which do you think was mostly likely to have occurred and why?
Society and Family in Ancient
The Social Order
Ruling Elites
Merchants and Trade
Specialized Labor
families occupied the
most honored positions in
Chinese society (resided
in palatial compounds,
agricultural surplus, and
taxes delivered)
ruling elites possessed
much of the bronze
weaponry which ensured
military strength and
political hegemony, and
through the subordinates
and retainers they
controlled most of the
remaining bronze
weapons available in N
• free artisans and
craftsmen in China
• worked for
privileged classes
little info on merchants and
linked trade networks to the
W and S of China (Jade from
Central Asia, chariots from
found Shang pottery from
King Yu invention of sails, used
large oar-propelled vessels
which helped to support the
large fishing trade
Zhou dynasty shipbuilding
emerged as a prominent
business, mariners learned
how to navigate their vessels
by the stars and other
heavenly bodies
Discussion Questions
• 8. What can we infer about the interactions we know about
between Chinese dynasties?
The Social Order
peasants, owned
no land but
military and labor
services for their
lords in exchange
for plots of land
to cultivate,
security and a
portion of the
sizable class of
slaves, enemy
captured during
performed hard
Family and Patriarchy
Veneration of Ancestors
believed spirits of
ancestors passed into
another existence where
they could protect and
support their surviving
families if the descendants
displayed proper respect
and ministered to the
spirits needs.
this led to a strong ethic of
family solidarity
all family members had to
work cooperatively toward
common interests
Patriarchal Society
• vested authority in
elderly males
• Chinese men gained
public authority by
virtue of the female
line of descent
Women’s Influence
• vested authority in
elderly males
• Chinese men
gained public
authority by virtue
of the female line of
Discussion Question
• 9. How are the ideas of Family and Patriarchy still in existence in
today’s Chinese society?
Early Chinese Writing and Cultural
Oracle Bones and Early Chinese Writing
Oracle Bones
Early Chinese Writing
principal instruments used by
ancient Chinese
• heated, developed splits and
cracks, fortune tellers studied the
patterns of the splits and cracks
and determined the answer to
the question inscribed on the
• most come from royal archives,
questions posed clearly reveal
the day to day concerns
oracle bones offer earliest glimpse
into Chinese writing
• pictographic, sometimes
pictographic to ideographic
Discussion Questions
• 10. Why do you think Oracle Bones were so important to the royals
of Chinese society?
Thought and Literature in Ancient China
Zhou Literature
Book of Changes=
foretelling instruction
Book of
History=book of
history that justified
the Zhou state and
called for subjects to
obey their overlords
Book of Etiquette
aka Book of Rites=art
of polite behavior
Destruction of Early
Chinese Literature
Book of Songs
aka Book of Poetry aka
Book of Odes
traditions of Early Zhou,
some poems had
political implications
verses about life, love,
family, friendship, eating
drinking, work, play,
nature, daily life that
offer reflections on
human affairs without
particular concerns for
political or social
books fell victim to
human enemies
Qin dynasty ordered
destruction of all Zhou
kept those on divination,
agricultural but destroyed
those on poetry, history
and philosophy, feared
that it might inspire
doubts about Qin gov’t or
encourage the mind
Discussion Questions
• 11. What can you infer about all the creation of “Books” in the Zhou
Chinese cultivators and Nomadic Peoples of
Central Asia
Steppe Nomads
pastoral societies located
N and W of China
• not really suitable for
agriculture or settlement
Nomadic Society
• nomadic societies of central
Asia helped to link agricultural
societies of the East and West
• tense relations, posed a threat
to northern and western
regions of China
The Southern Expansion of Chinese Society
The Yangzi Valley
• Chinese influence spread
to the north, south and
west through migration
and assimilation
• supports more intensive
agriculture than in the
Yellow River
• aka as the Long River
State of Chu
• agricultural surpluses and
growing populations led to
the emergence of cities,
states and complex
societies in the Yangzi and
Yellow River valley
• autonomous and
challenged Zhou for
• adopted Chinese political
and social traditions and
Discussion Questions
• Why did the State of Chu become a powerful dynasty like Xia, Shang
and Zhou?