A History of China eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 559 pages of information about A History of China.
been to the western borders of the Shang state.  As in Western Asia, a Shang-time chariot was manned by three men:  the warrior who was a nobleman, his driver, and his servant who handed him arrows or other weapons when needed.  There developed a quite close relationship between the nobleman and his chariot-driver.  The chariot was a valuable object, manufactured by specialists; horses were always expensive and rare in China, and in many periods of Chinese history horses were directly imported from nomadic tribes in the North or West.  Thus, the possessors of vehicles formed a privileged class in the Shang realm; they became a sort of nobility, and the social organization began to move in the direction of feudalism.  One of the main sports of the noblemen in this period, in addition to warfare, was hunting.  The Shang had their special hunting grounds south of the mountains which surround Shansi province, along the slopes of the T’ai-hang mountain range, and south to the shores of the Yellow river.  Here, there were still forests and swamps in Shang time, and boars, deer, buffaloes and other animals, as well as occasional rhinoceros and elephants, were hunted.  None of these wild animals was used as a sacrifice; all sacrificial animals, such as cattle, pigs, etc., were domesticated animals.

Below the nobility we find large numbers of dependent people; modern Chinese scholars call them frequently “slaves” and speak of a “slave society”.  There is no doubt that at least some farmers were “free farmers”; others were what we might call “serfs”:  families in hereditary group dependence upon some noble families and working on land which the noble families regarded as theirs.  Families of artisans and craftsmen also were hereditary servants of noble families—­a type of social organization which has its parallels in ancient Japan and in later India and other parts of the world.  There were also real slaves:  persons who were the personal property of noblemen.  The independent states around the Shang state also had serfs.  When the Shang captured neighbouring states, they resettled the captured foreign aristocracy by attaching them as a group to their own noblemen.  The captured serfs remained under their masters and shared their fate.  The same system was later practiced by the Chou after their conquest of the Shang state.

The conquests of late Shang added more territory to the realm than could be coped with by the primitive communications of the time.  When the last ruler of Shang made his big war which lasted 260 days against the tribes in the south-east, rebellions broke out which lead to the end of the dynasty, about 1028 B.C. according to the new chronology (1122 B.C. old chronology).


Chapter Three

THE CHOU DYNASTY (c. 1028-257 B.C.)

1 Cultural origin of the Chou and end of the Shang dynasty

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A History of China from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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