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The Trace of The Xia And Shang Dynasty

In the 21st century B.C., China entered into a civilized historical era. Xia, the first dynasty that carried out the hereditary political system, was established. The south of Shanxi, known as the ruins of Xia Dynasty, abounds with cultural relics. The discovery of Dongxiafeng site makes clear that the south of Shanxi used to be one of the Xia culture centers.

Following Xia Dynasty was Shang Dynasty, from which onward China began to have a recorded history in writing. At that time, the state system became more sophisticated and the material cultures are more diversified. The bronzes as well as ruins of Shang cities unearthed in the south of Shanxi, show that this area used to be of great importance, both politically and militarily of that period.

  During the period of Xia and Shang Dynasty, the mid-western areas of Shanxi along the Lvliang Mountain developed a number of tribal allies who had interacted with the Central Plains. Their cultures were unique with regional features. But a complete historical picture of these cultural manifestations is still awaited. However, the traces they left on the Loess Plateau, even though not consecutive chronologically, are still clearly discernible.


  Southern Shanxi used to belong to Jizhou, one of the nine administrative divisions depicted in the ancient book Shangshu Yugong, and it is also the site of several ancient places such as Tang, Daxia, and Xia ruins mentioned in ancient documents. So far 160 over sites featuring Xia culture have been discovered in this area. Of these sites, the most famous is Dongxiafeng Site in Xia County, which is basically identical to and at once somewhat different from the central dynastic area in Henan Province in terms of cultural connotation. As for those sites discovered in Central Shanxi like Dongtaibu Culture, Baiyan Site & Youyao Site, they are typical of strong local features as well as Xia culture in some respects and hence may be regarded as the sites of those states existent in the same period as Xia Period.


  In the Shang Dynasty, southern Shanxi fall within the royal-controlled territory and retained a close relationship with the imperial court. It is said that the maternal relatives of Qi, the first king of the Shang Dynasty, once lived in Yongji, and another  king Yi once moved the capital to Geng, where the present Hejin city of Shanxi is located. Fu Yue (a slave ) “built walls around Fuyan, and later Wuding appointed him Prime Minister. In addition, in places including the southern gate of the ancient city of Yuanqu County and Dongxiafeng in Xia County has been also discovered the site of early Shang Dynasty. All these sites which were located in the  northern bank of the Yellow  River, used to be of military importance in securing the western frontier areas of Shang Dynasty.  The fact that these districts had close relationship with the Shang Dynasty can be better illustrated by the excavation of bronze weapons in Pinglu County, Zhangzi County, etc.


  According to many records in inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty, there once existed many local states in Mid-western Shanxi along the Lvliang Mountain and the Yellow River, which were believed to maintain a lukewarm relationship with the Shang Dynasty. In places including Lingshi, Shilou, Liulin, and Baode large quantities of bronze articles of late Shang Dynasty have been excavated, of which containers are mostly identical to those discovered in Southern Shanxi while small articles like swords, daggers and knives are quite different in style with a distinct characteristic of nomadic cultures in the north and make an outstanding class of the splendid bronze culture of Shang Dynasty.

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