With the rapid social and economic growth and the gradual maturity of state mechanism, the civilization during the Shang and Zhou made a great leap, mainly indicated through the development of cities, inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells and bronze ware, etc.
The capital of the Shang covered an area of 30 million sq m, and boasted a population of 140,000 and a thriving commercial sector with "nine markets," The Western Zhou had 3 million citizens nationwide and saw even more development in urban cities, traffic, accommodations. and post services.
Ghosts and gods worship was popular in the Shang Dynasty. The nobles always cast lots in cases of sacrifices, wars, fishing and hunting, diseases and others. They engraved the results, i.e. "oracle inscriptions," on tortoise shells or bones.
The ancient characters used in oracle inscriptions are called Jiaguwen (inscriptions on bones or tortoise shell). Since the 19th century, more than 150,000 pieces of bones and shells with inscriptions have been unearthed from such places as the Yin Ruins in Henan indicating the wide use of Jiaguwen in the Shang Dynasty. The application of Jiaguwen also marked the start of China's recorded history.
More characters cast on bronze ware from the Western Zhou Dynasty are preserved, which are called Jinwen (inscriptions on bronze). Jiaguwen and Jinwen had incorporated six kinds of character-shaping principles including pictography, pictophonetic compounds, ideography, logical aggregates, and associative transformation and borrowing, paving the way for the development of the Chinese characters. A total of 4,500 jiaguwen characters have been found so far. While the number of Jinwen characters increased greatly, so did the passage lengths. For example, a long inscriptionwith nearly 500 words has been found. Jiaguwen and Jinwen are the only ancient words with vitality. Chinese characters used today were developed based on Jiaguwen and Jinwen The extensive application of characters is a symbol of social development reaching a higher stage. It goes beyond time and space, recording the thoughts, languages and experiences of humans as well as intricate natural and social phenomena. That enabled the communication of culture and tradition and greatly drove cultural development forward.
3 The bronze casting industry
The development of the bronze casting industry during the Shang and Zhou dynasties greatly improved social production and living quality. About 10,000 pieces of bronze ware cast in the Shang Dynasty have so far been unearthed. More than 5,000 pieces of bronze ware were excavated from the tombs of Guo Kingdom of the Western Zhou Dynasty alone. The bronze ware unearthed were mainly ritual ware,weapons like daggers, spears, battle-axes and arrowheads and tools like knives and axes, as well as a few fittings for carriages and farm tools.
The bronze mining, smelting and casting techniques were rather mature in the Shang Dynasty. The site of an ancient bronze mine from the Western Zhou Dynasty, located in Tonglv Mountain, Daye, Hubei, covers an area of around 2 sq km, with the mine as deep as 60 m. Various ways to excavate for silos, inclined alleys and flat valleys were adopted. Drainage systems were built and ventilation inside the mine was primarily solved as well. The residue from the ancient mine contains a bronze content of only 0.7 percent. The craftsmen of the Shang Dynasty could accurately prepare the proportion between bronze and tin and made bronze ware of different hardness.
The bronze ware of the Shang and Zhou dynasties were famous not only for their great number and diverse categories, but for their spectacular shapes and superb craftsmanship. Simuwu Ding, unearthed in the Yin Ruins, is grand in size and exquisite in pattern. As the largest extant bronze ware in the world, it is 133cm high and weighs more than 800kg. Its output and casting technology reflect the power of a country. The majestic bronze Ding is a symbol of the brilliant civilization of the Shang and Zhou dynasties.
Ancient Egypt, ancient Babylon and the Harappan Culture in the Indus River Valley, which once coexisted with China's Xia and Shang dynasties, successively declined after creating splendid civilizations. However, the rise and fall of the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties accumulated the successive genes of Chinese culture, in terms of production technology with bronze ware, and the culture structure with Jiaguwen as the carrier. The gradually maturing political system, social structure and ritualism of the early countries had a profound influence on later generations.