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Shang Dynasty

Script on animal bones and tortoise shells
The Shang Dynasty (17th-11th century BC) is the second slave dynasty in Chinese history. With its first capital established in Bo, the Shang moved its center of activities several times, finally settling in Yin (present-day Xiaotun in Anyang County, Henan Province) under the king of Pan Geng. Hence, the Shang Dynasty is also called the Yin Dynasty, consisting of 31 kings who belonged to 17 generations.

The Shang basically followed the system of a hereditary monarchy with the younger brother succeeding the elder one at first, and gradually developing into the eldest-son succession system in the later period of the Shang. This laid an important foundation for the patriarchal clan system adopted by the following Zhou Dynasty (11th century-256BC).

Simuwu Rectangle Ding (110 cm long and 78cm wide)
The Shang is very famous for its augury and the existing Jiaguwen (inscriptions on animal bones and tortoise shells) is the witness of augury of the time. The ruling area of the king was limited to a small central area, with surrounding areas belonging to princes of the royal family and other tribes. At that time, the centralization of state power had not yet been developed.

The Shang Dynasty inherited the tradition of astronomical phenomena observation. Many inscriptions on animal bones and tortoise shells discovered in Yin ruins record astronomical phenomena, including the description of the solar and lunar eclipses, stars, and the earliest record of new stars in the world.

Square Zun with the design of four sheep heads on four sides
Based on the Xia calendar, the Shang used a lunar calendar that was combined with the solar year through the addition of an intercalary month once every few years to make up the difference between a year of 12 lunar months and a solar year. The number of days in a month was fixed at 30 for a long month and 29 for a short one. The intercalary month was added at the end of the year as a 13th month. This is the origin of an intercalary month in Chinese history, which laid down the foundation for the traditional Chinese calendar. Compiling calendars had since experienced many changes and the calculations have become increasingly exact.

Sets of musical instruments have been unearthed in the Yin ruins, including pottery Xun (an egg-shaped wind instrument), stone Qing (chime stone), copper bell, copper cymbals and drum. One big stone Qing with an embossment of a staring tiger was discovered in a tomb in Wuguan Village in Anyang of Henan Province. It is the earliest existing large musical instrument and also a piece of sculpture with high artistic value.