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River Dynasties in China
Ch. 2, Sec. 4 (pp. 50 - 55)
Geographic Features
• Many natural barriers
– Pacific Ocean & Yellow Sea to east
– Himalaya Mountains to west
– Gobi Desert to north
• River Systems
– Huang He (Yellow River)
• Gets name from loess deposits
– Chiang Jiang (Yangtze River)
The Yellow River
Environmental Challenges
• Unpredictable devastating floods
– Known as “China’s Sorrow”
• Isolation meant no trade
• Natural borders didn’t always protect
from outsiders
• Only 10% of China is suitable for
– Known as “China’s Heartland”
China’s Heartland
• Shang Dynasty (~1700 B.C. to 1027
B.C.) were first people to leave written
• Anyang was a capital of Shang
– Made mostly of wood
– Surrounded by giant earth wall
Anyang Ancient City Walls
Social Classes
• Society was sharply divided b/t nobles &
– King’s ruled (highest class)
– Warrior-nobles owned land, paid tribute &
helped govern (middle class)
– Villagers labored in the fields (lower class)
Role of Family
• Family was central to society
• Men made familial decisions & owned
– Women were treated as inferior
• Respect for one’s parents was crucial
Filial Piety
Religious beliefs
• Families paid respect to ancestors
• Shang kings consulted gods using
scratched animal bones (oracle bones)
An Oracle Bone
Writing System
• All Chinese writing was the same, where as
Chinese spoke different languages in
different regions
– Think of it as: English, French & Spanish people
can all understand when they read “2 + 2 = 4”
whereas only English speakers can understand
when they hear “two plus two equals four”
• There is an enormous amount of characters
(more than 10,000)
Technological advances
• Developed bronze tools/weapons
• Used war-chariots
• Silk textiles
Model of Shang Chariot
• Bronze jars, pottery & plaques
The Zhou Dynasty
• Around 1027 B.C., the Zhou overthrew
the Shang & established their own
• To justify their conquest, Zhou leaders
said that the Shang king had been a
poor king, so the gods had taken away
his right to rule and given it to the Zhou
– Known as the Mandate of Heaven (the
fact that god gives the ruler power to rule)
The Mandate of Heaven
The Chinese Dynastic Cycle
Rise > Decline > Replacement
• Nobles (lords) were granted the use of
the king’s land
• In return, nobles (lords) had to give
loyalty & military service to the king
Confucianism on Chinese
Culture…Confucius says…
• Confucius believed that social order, harmony, &
good govt could be restored in China if society were
organized around 5 relationships.
– 1. ruler & subject
– 2. father & son
– 3. husband & wife
– 4. older brother & younger brother
– 5. Friend & friend
(3 of these 5 based on family)
Confucianism on Chinese
Culture…Confucius says…
• Confucius & the examination system
Confucius said that education could transform a
humbly (poor) person into a gentlemen.
Before the Confucian Examination System, state
officials were selected based on recommendations
by prominent aristocrats or state officials.
Theoretically, a person from any economical or
social background had a chance to become a state
official by passing the exam. The exam was used up
until 1905 (fall of Qing dynasty), spanning over a
course of 1300 years.
The Warring States Period
• Zhou ruled a relatively stable empire from
1027 B.C. to ~500 B.C.
• By 771 B.C., Zhou kings began to lose their
power to nomads & regional leaders
• China entered a major period of Civil War
known as the “Warring States Period” in
which Chinese warlords constantly fought for
control of territory