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Fu Hao  

Anthony Barbieri-Low

(d c. 1200 bc).

Chinese consort to Wu Ding, the fourth Shang king to rule from the last capital of the dynasty, at a site near modern Anyang in Henan Province. The oracle bone inscriptions found at Anyang reveal a glimpse of Fu Hao’s life and career, but her tomb, discovered in 1976, reveals much more about the power of the Shang and the skill of its artisans. The tomb of Fu Hao is the only royal Shang tomb found intact and the only Shang tomb which can be ascribed to a specific individual name in the oracle bone records. Her tomb surrendered more than 1600 kg of bronze objects and the largest number of jades ever to come from a single tomb.The small but unplundered tomb of Fu Hao provides a helpful indication of what once lay in the much greater, yet thoroughly looted, ‘royal’ tombs at Anyang.

In life, Fu Hao seems to have played many roles in the Shang royal enterprise. Besides bearing at least three children for the king and leading some state rituals, she was apparently a military leader who marshalled thousands of troops and led them on far-flung expeditions. The oracle bone inscriptions also provide information about Fu Hao’s illnesses, toothaches and even her dreams....

Article

Carol Michaelson

The first Chinese dynasty for which there is both archaeological and historical evidence, dating from c. 1600 bc to c. 1050 bc. Established by a tribal chieftain, Shang culture was centred on the Yellow River plain and at times controlled modern northern Henan Province and parts of modern Shandong, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces. Twentieth-century archaeology has provided much detail about the dynasty, retrieving it from the legendary period. Great advances in bronzeworking and other technologies were made in the Shang, leading to a high level of civilization. Remains of sacrifices and fighting accoutrements are particularly pertinent to the aristocratic class; inevitably, much less is known about the lower classes.

Shang life revolved around religion and ancestor worship, as evidenced by the huge numbers of animals and humans sacrificed. Kings claimed ancestry from Shangdi (‘Lord on High’) and believed that they were destined to be masters of their people and gods after death. Divination was practised by royalty, together with a college of specialists. Divinations covered all aspects of life, including rain and harvests, war and health, and were conducted using inscribed animal bones and tortoise-shells known as oracle bones (...

Article

Carol Michaelson

[Hsia]

Traditional but unverified first Chinese dynasty, supposed to date from the early 2nd millennium bc and to precede the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1050 bc). The Xia dynasty is said to have lasted about 439 years, beginning with the ruler Yu and ending with the degenerate Jie. Arguments about Xia culture generally stem from Zhou period (c. 1050–256 bc) texts, in which the Xia are described as having controlled an area in the middle Yellow River valley; some scholars contend that these texts are euhemerized histories. There are no contemporary writings corresponding to the Shang oracle bones ( see China, People’s Republic of §IV 2., (i) ), nor have discoveries identified a corresponding archaeologically defined culture. The Xia’s supposed dates cover the early part of the bronze-producing Erlitou culture that existed in Henan Province, and the site of Erlitou in Yanshi County, Henan Province, may be Xia. Erlitou ceramics seem to have evolved from ...