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LECTURE 2. THE ANCIENT CHINESE WORLD 1. Prehistorical Period (10000 to 2000 BC) From Longshan culture to Yangshao culture. Sites of major neolithic cultures in China Major Neolithic and historic cultures in China over 6 millennia. 2. The Three Dynasties of China Political sphere of Xia, Shang and pre-dynasty Zhou. See Chang, 1981, p. 155 2. Chronology of Xia-Shang-Zhou, the Three Dynasties (夏商周斷代) The precise dating of Chinese history started in 841 BCE, the first year of Gong-Ho of Zhou Dynasty. Before that the dating became fuzzy. For example, the date of Zhou Conquest has been studied over the past two thousand years with about 44 different dates proposed (e.g. Shaughnessy, 1985-1987). However, scholars now can use a whole array of technologies, in addition to ancient texts, to reconstruct the chronology of distant ancient time. The following list some of these methodologies. (1) Genealogy Analysis of the genealogy listed ancient textual materials, particularly the Book of History (Sima Qian) and Bamboo Annals. For example, between the end of King You of Zhou (771 BCE) and King Zhou of Shang (the last King of Shang Dynasty) there were 11 Zhou kings. Then there were 17 kings from King Zhou to King Cheng Tang, the founder of Shang Dynasty, and another 14 generations (or tribal leaders) to Qi, the Founding Father of Shang and a contemporary of Yu the Great, the founder of Xia Dynasty. Thus there were 40 generations between King You and the Great Yu of Xia. Assuming 30 years per generation, we can estimate that the beginning of Xia Dynasty should be dated around 1971 BCE. The book Bamboo Annals was a set of chronological records of Wei Kingdom during the Period of Warring States (480-221 BCE) written on strips of bamboo sticks which were unearthed from a tomb of Wei ruler in Ji Jun (Henan Province, Ji County) at the time of Jin Wu Di (Emperor Wu of Jin Dynasty) in 281 AD. The book gives a chronology of important events from the time of sage Kings until the last year of Wei Xiang King (299 BCE). This book offers an invaluable source of data on ancient China. (2) Archaeology The three dynasties, Xia (c 1971-1600 BCE), Shang (c. 1600-1000 BCE), and Zhou (c. 1000-221 BCE), covers a period of 2000 years in Chinese history. Although dynasty-wise, they succeeded each other in the order indicated, there are both textual and archaeological evidence suggesting that Xia, Shang, and Zhou represent distinct, geographically and culturally, yet related people. As late Professor Chang Kwang-chih pointed out: both new and old textual data indicate considerable temporal overlap between Xia and Shang as political powers and between Shang and Zhou as well. The evidence is beginning to be substantiated by radioacrbon dates (Chang, 1980, p.350). The parallel development model of the Three Dynasties civilization (Chang, 1980, p. 354) (3) Dating by astronomy: (i) Planetary conjunction (Pang, 1987). Conjuction of planets are infrequent.The period of Jupiter is nearly 12 years and that of Saturn nearly 30. The closeness of these periods to the number of "earthly branches" and half the number of years or days in a gan-zhih cycle was undoubtedly noticed by ancient Chinese astronomers. Indeed, Jupiter was at one time called the Year Star (Shuei xing) and used to keep time. Conjunction of the five planets, Mars (Fire Star, 火星huo xing), Jupiter (Wood Star, 木星mu xing), Venus (Gold Star or Great White Star, jin star), Mercury (Water Star, shuei xing), and Saturn (Soil Star, tu xing) occurs about once every 500 years and was thought to be an epochal event. The periodicity of planetary motion greatly impressed ancient Chinese philosophers and astronomers. Menzi (孟子Mencius) went as far as declaring that great sages are born once every 500 years. With planetary motions perceived to have such influence over earthly affairs it was only natural that ancient Chinese astronomers observed and recorded them carefully. "The Prognostication of the Five Planets", unearthed in the Han Tomb at Mawangdui (ca. 170 B.C.) contains accurate records of planetary positions kept for 70 years. According to the book by Stahlman and Gingerich (1963), from February 10 to March 1, 1953 B.C., Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn came within 4° of one another. No such quintuplet conjunction occurred for centuries before or after this date. Such a spectacular display in the heavens must have greatly impressed early Chinese astronomers and was undoubtedly noticed and recorded. A record of this event can provide us with a second absolute date for fixing the chronology of Xia. Indeed we find in ancient textual materials the following two pieces of relevant data. Arcaheological sites associated with three dynasties as a function of geography and time (Chang, 1980) In <Hsiao Ching Ko Ming Cheh > in the 30th chapter of Ku Wei Shu, a collection of ancient astronomical writings compiled by Kung An Kuo in the 2nd century B.C., we find the following passage: "At the time of Yu the five planets were strung together like a necklace. (They) shone as brilliantly as chained jade Tai Pi Yu Lan, vol 7, see the last two lanes. disks." A very similar passage also appears in the 7th volume of Tai Ping Yu Lan, an encyclopedia compiled in 983 A.D.: "According to Ko Ming Shih, at the time of Yu the planets were tied together like a string of beads, shining brilliantly as chained jade disks . . ." (ii) Solar or lunar eclipse The occurrence of past solar and lunar eclipses can be dated with great accuracy, as on the scale of recorded history (several millennia) the motions of the Earth around the sun and the moon around the Earth are practically invariant. However, the rotation rate of the Earth has been varying to such an extent that these changes must be taken into account in determining whether a past eclipse, though having occurred, was visible from a certain location or not (Stephenson, 1982). Using ancient solar eclipse observations, including those from China made after 700 B.C. (i.e., when the absolute dates are known), Stephenson and Morrison (1984) and others determined the past deceleration rates of the Earth's rotation with great accuracy. The textual record of the earliest solar eclipse is also the only Xia eclipse record. It thus has immeasurable value for determining Xia chronology, and deserves a full discussion here. The earliest mention of this event is also by the Book of Documents, in the chapter on the punitive expedition of Prince Yin. To pick up from where we left off in the second section, Hsi and Ho (or their descendents with the same titles) had apparently neglected their duties to observe the celestial bodies, and indulged in wining instead. The passage reads as follows: "When Chung Kang (仲康 the fourth Xia King) began his reign over all within the Four Seas, the prince of Yin (胤侯) was ordered to take command of six divisions. (At this time) Hsi and Ho had neglected their duties and were drunk in their (private) cities, and the prince of Yin received the king's order to punish them . . ." Addressing his troops the Prince of Yin mentioned the following crime of Hsi and Ho: "On the first day of the last month of autumn the sun and moon did not meet harmoniously in (the 4th lunar mansion) Fang! The blind musicians beat their drums, and the lower ranked officers and common people bustled and ran about. Hsi and Ho, however, as if they were mere impersonators of the dead in their offices, heard nothing and knew nothing . . ." The poetic but imprecise language used here has rendered the passage open to different interpretations. Although the reaction of the people are characteristic of what happens during an eclipse (drum beating and commotion) the non-usage of the standard phrase "the sun was eclipsed" caused scholars to question whether this is an eclipse record or not; see, for example, Newton (1970). Looking at this passage in the context of discussions held during a solar eclipse that did occur in the Spring and Autumn period; Wang and Siscoe (1980) argue that this is indeed an eclipse record. The relevant passage is from Tso Chuan, a 5th century B.C. commentary on Spring and Autumn, written by Confucius: "Seventeenth year of Duke Zhao (525 B.C.). In the summer, 6th month, on day chia-xu (August 21) there was a solar eclipse . . ." While discussing what protocol should be followed during a solar eclipse, the duke's historian recalled that: "This is what is written in the Xia Shu or Book of Xia: 'The sun and moon did not meet harmoniously in Fang, the blind beat the drum, low ranking officials mounted their horses, and people ran up in haste'. That is said of the first day of this month;—it was in the 4th month of the Xia year, which is called the first month of summer." Although neither of these two records directly states that a solar eclipse occurred during Xia, the following passage from the Bamboo Annals does: "King Chung Kang . . . 5th year, autumn, first day of 9th month, day keng-xu, the sun was eclipsed. (The king) ordered the Prince of Yin to command an expeditionary force to punish Hsi and Ho." In the above passages the month of the Xia eclipse is given differently: Tso Chuan, quoting the Book of Xia, says that the eclipse happened in the 4th month (or the first month of summer); while the other two sources say it was the 9th month (or the last month of autumn). In the Xia calender, which is still widely used as the "agricultural calendar", the 4th month is equivalent to May, while the 9th month is equivalent to October. To find out which of the two months is correct one needs to only look up ancient records (or compute) to learn out where in the zodiac the sun was during the respective months early in the second millennium B.C. Several of the books written during the Zhou dynasty (1100 221 B.C.), e.g., Canon of Yao or Li Chi, Yue Ling (or Monthly Ordinances of Zhou) give this information. For example, the latter says: "In the 4th month of the Xia year, the sun was in the l9th lunar mansion Pi . . . In the 9th month of the Xia year, the sun was in the 4th lunar mansion Fang . . ." Using the latest available solar eclipse canon (Mucke and Meeus, 1983) we can now confidently date the Xia solar eclipse. A careful check of the eclipse canon yields October 16, 1876 B.C. as the only correct match. The annular eclipse on that day was visible from China. (4) Dating by meteorological and geological evidence Case 1: "Among events of divine ordering there was... after Caesars murder [March 15, 44 B.C.] . . . the obscuration of the sun's rays. For during all that year its orb rose pale and without radiance... and the fruits, imperfect and half ripe, withered away and shriveled up on account of the coldness of the atmosphere."—Plutarch, Caesar (circa A.D. 100) From the Chinese chronicles of the Han dynasty: 43 B.C., third month, "It snowed. Frosts killed mulberries." Fourth month, "the sun was bluish white and cast no shadow. At high noon there were shadows but dim." Ninth month, second day, "Frosts killed crops, widespread famine. Wheat crops damaged, no harvest in autumn. " With the excerpts from Plutarch and many others, Stothers and Rampino were able to pinpoint the eruption date of this particular volcano to 44 B.C. They also suspect that the volcano was Mt. Etna in Sicily, for like others, Vergil wrote: "After the death of Caesar... how often we saw Etna flooding out from her burst furnaces, boiling over the Cyclopean fields, and whirling forth balls of flame and molten stones. " Case 2: An excerpt from Chinese records notes observations that researchers believe are related to the 1120 B. C. eruption of the volcano Hekla in Iceland. On the left is a passage from The Bamboo Annals. It reads: "Fifth year of King Chou [the last king of the preceding Yin dynasty] it rained dust at Bo. " Book of Former Han, Year 43 BC, Han Xuan Di, One of the oldest volcanic Yong Yuan First Year. eruptions to be studied through historical literature is placed at 1120 B.C. + 50 years by ice core acidity measurements. Scientists, believing that the Icelandic volcano Hekla is responsible for that acidity peak, have obtained a time of eruption of 950 B.C. + 130 years using radiocarbon dating at the volcano. Pang and Chou have found accounts in the Chinese record of the volcano's effect that report unusually long dust storms of gray ash. In Lu Tao, a Zhou dynasty book, the researchers read that one foot of snow fell in the sixth month and that the crops didn't ripen. " In China, snow in the sixth month is like our expression once in a blue moon," says Pang. "This is especially true because we know—based on the fact that elephants and rhinos were seen on the banks of the Yellow River— that the climate in China at that time was much warmer than it is now." Since most reports of these events were written long after 1120 B.C. by chroniclers compiling all the happenings that had occurred in the previous dynasties, Pang feels that they can't be completely trusted. So he and Chou turned to the only written records from that time—oracle bones, radiocarbon dated before the Zhou dynasty at 1095 B.C. + 90 years. (Paper From Bamboo Annals. It reads "Fifth year of King Chou [the last had yet to be invented.) As a king of the preceding Yin means of fortunetelling, dynasty] it rained dust at Bo. " questions about the future were carved into these oracle bones—made of turtle shell or oxen bone—and the answer was thought to depend on how the shell or bone cracked when exposed to heat. Chou went through 100,000 pieces of oracle bones, noting all the questions potentially relevant to volcanoes. Some of the oracle bones, dated around 1120 B.C., have alluded the fact that there was a year without harvest, that the seedlings died and that the Chi—the sacrificial ceremony—was performed throughout the land. Pang believes that the sacrifices, possibly human, were made to appease the gods during the bad weather. Correlation between Greenland acidity dates and the basis of this archaeological evidence, the researchers Chinese and European historical dates concluded that the radiocarbon date of the eruption—950 B.C. + 150 years—should be refined to a date of 1100 B.C. with an uncertainity of + 80 years and - 60 years, which is more in tune with the ice core data. to On There is a very good correspondence between the dates of volcanic eruptions as determined from historical records and those measured by acidity peaks in Greenland ice cores. Here the historical date (from reports of "dry fog,” adverse weather and observations of eruptions) is plotted against the Greenland date for very large explosive eruptions that occurred between 1500 B. C. and A.D. 1500. Radiocarbon dates are a/so included. Horizontal and vertical lines are "uncertainty bars"; actual dates could fall anywhere between them. Question marks at 270 B. C. and A. D. 934 indicate times in which abnormally cold weather was reported but no other symptoms of volcanic eruptions such as "dry fogs " were noted. They also occur during times that were poorly chronicled in general. 3. Project Nine-Five—The Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project Modern experts use science to unravel China's early history-Nine-Five Project has helped promote a deeper understanding of many early historical and literary works, according to philologists involved in the project. Peng Lin (Tsinghua University): "While historical documents are key elements in clarifying the outlines of early dynasties, other scientific methods, especially physical and astronomic means, help correct many views on traditional documents," "The Chinese have studied philology for thousands of years, but many clues helpful in clarifying the early dynasties have been neglected," Peng said. "However, we have been able to pick up more clues during our research." For example, the "Bamboo Annals" recorded a solar eclipse during the Xia Dynasty, but many scholars pushed the description aside due to lack of evidence. Even the veracity of the "Bamboo Annals" was called into question. Xi Zezong (academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences): "The ancients were superstitious, and they counted special celestial phenomena as signs from the gods. They noted the phenomena in their own calendars, which became obscure to later generations, for example, a piece of animal bone dating back to the late Shang Dynasty bears four ancient Chinese characters, meaning "three fires eat the sun." The inscriptions also indicate a month and a date in the calendar then. In the past, both Chinese and international scholars thought that this piece of oracle bone recorded a solar eclipse. But through new scientific calculations, astronomers, scientists and historians have found that no such astronomical phenomena occurred during the period indicated on the oracle bone." Philologists have now determined that the previous interpretation of the ancient characters "shi ri," meaning "eat the sun," was wrong. The words are now considered to have nothing to do with solar eclipse. During the project, scholars found two other ancient history books - the "Records of the Historian"by Sima Qian (135-87 BC) in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and "Shangshu (Book of Historical Documents)" also documented the eclipse. Astronomers then went on to corroborate the ancient records with their own calculations. Consequently, the record was recognized as a valuable clue in helping determine the chronology of the Xia Dynasty, said Liao, associate professor in Qinghua University, who is also a member of the team that sorts out and authenticates related records in the "Shangshu" and the "Bamboo Annals." Commenting on the dismissal of the existence of this part of early Chinese history by numerous scholars, Liao said that such scholars were far from objective in their principles and methods. "They often drew their conclusions upon one or two ascertained historical records. They didn't try to find other evidence to compare," Liao said. But the excavation of many ancient ruins has yielded ample relics from the Xia and Shang dynasties, refuting their arguments, Liao said. According to Peng, results from the project are sometimes in clear conflict with certain authoritative views, but abundant proof obtained through various scientific methods seem to support the new results. Peng and Liao said that modern Chinese have the right and responsibility to know their early civilized history. "But we abide by scientific rules, and perform all our work in accordance with scientific methods," Liao said. 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