The Yangshao and Longshan cultures laid the foundations for the first true Chinese civilization, the Shang dynasty, which controlled a loose confederation of settlement groups in the Henan region of North China from the 16th century to c.1027 . Shang civilization was characterized by an advanced system of writing, a sophisticated bronze metallurgy, the first Chinese calendar, and cities. Aided by a priestly class, the Shang kings prayed to their ancestral spirits to intercede on their behalf with the most powerful of the Shang gods, Shangdi (Shang-ti), to bring rain for good crops and other blessings. Records of these priestly divinations have survived in the form of oracle bones. Until recently it was believed that many of the characteristic elements of the Shang, such as bronze making and writing, were imports from the Near East and elsewhere. It now appears that, like the Chinese development of agriculture, these were invented independently and that the emergence of civilization in China was thus largely indigenous.
Copyright © 2006 Grolier Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.