Shang dynasty

The Shang dynasty (Chinese: 商朝; pinyin: Shāngcháo) or Yin dynasty (殷代; Yīndài), according to traditional historiography, ruled in the Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, succeeding the Xia dynasty and followed by the Zhou dynasty. The classic account of the Shang comes from texts such as the Book of Documents, Bamboo Annals and Records of the Grand Historian. According to the traditional chronology based on calculations made approximately 2,000 years ago by Liu Xin, the Shang ruled from 1766 to 1122 BC, but according to the chronology based upon the "current text" of Bamboo Annals, they ruled from 1556 to 1046 BC. The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project dated them from c. 1600 to 1046 BC.

The Shang dynasty is the earliest dynasty of traditional Chinese history supported by archaeological evidence. Excavation at the Ruins of Yin (near modern-day Anyang), which has been identified as the last Shang capital, uncovered eleven major royal tombs and the foundations of palaces and ritual sites, containing weapons of war and remains from both animal and human sacrifices. Tens of thousands of bronze, jade, stone, bone, and ceramic artifacts have been found.

The Anyang site has yielded the earliest known body of Chinese writing, mostly divinations inscribed on oracle bones – turtle shells, ox scapulae, or other bones. More than 20,000 were discovered in the initial scientific excavations during the 1920s and 1930s, and over four times as many have been found since. The inscriptions provide critical insight into many topics from the politics, economy, and religious practices to the art and medicine of this early stage of Chinese civilization.[2]


16th century BC–c. 1046 BC
Remnants of advanced, stratified societies dating back to the Shang period have been found in the Yellow River Valley.
Remnants of advanced, stratified societies dating back to the Shang period have been found in the Yellow River Valley.
CapitalYin (near modern Anyang)
Common languagesOld Chinese
Chinese folk religion
Historical eraBronze Age
• Established
16th century BC
• Zhou conquest
c. 1046 BC
1122 BC est.[1]1,250,000 km2 (480,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Xia dynasty
Zhou dynasty
Today part ofChina
Shang (Chinese characters)
"Shang" in oracle bone script (top left), bronze script (top right), seal script (bottom left), and modern regular (bottom right) Chinese characters
Hanyu PinyinShāng
Alternative Chinese name
Hanyu PinyinYīndài
Literal meaningYīn era

Traditional accounts

Many events concerning the Shang dynasty are mentioned in various Chinese classics, including the Book of Documents, the Mencius and the Zuo Zhuan. Working from all the available documents, the Han dynasty historian Sima Qian assembled a sequential account of the Shang dynasty as part of his Records of the Grand Historian. His history describes some events in detail, while in other cases only the name of a king is given.[3] A closely related, but slightly different, account is given by the Bamboo Annals. The Annals were interred in 296 BC, but the text has a complex history and the authenticity of the surviving versions is controversial.[4]

The name Yīn (殷) is used by Sima Qian for the dynasty, and in the "current text" version of the Bamboo Annals for both the dynasty and its final capital. It has been a popular name for the Shang throughout history. Since the Records of Emperors and Kings by Huangfu Mi (3rd century AD), it has often been used specifically to describe the later half of the Shang dynasty. In Japan and Korea, the Shang are still referred to almost exclusively as the Yin (In) dynasty. However it seems to have been a Zhou name for the earlier dynasty. The word does not appear in the oracle bones, which refer to the state as Shāng (商), and the capital as Dàyì Shāng (大邑商 "Great Settlement Shang").[5] It also does not appear in securely-dated Western Zhou bronze inscriptions.[6]

Course of the dynasty

Sima Qian's Annals of the Yin begins by describing the predynastic founder of the Shang lineage, Xie (偰) — also appearing as Qi (契) — as having been miraculously conceived when Jiandi, a wife of Emperor Ku, swallowed an egg dropped by a black bird. Xie is said to have helped Yu the Great to control the Great Flood and for his service to have been granted a place called Shang as a fief.[7]

Sima Qian relates that the dynasty itself was founded 13 generations later, when Xie's descendant Tang overthrew the impious and cruel final Xia ruler in the Battle of Mingtiao. The Records recount events from the reigns of Tang, Tai Jia, Tai Wu, Pan Geng, Wu Ding, Wu Yi and the depraved final king Di Xin, but the rest of the Shang rulers are merely mentioned by name. According to the Records, the Shang moved their capital five times, with the final move to Yin in the reign of Pan Geng inaugurating the golden age of the dynasty.[8]

Di Xin, the last Shang king, is said to have committed suicide after his army was defeated by Wu of Zhou. Legends say that his army and his equipped slaves betrayed him by joining the Zhou rebels in the decisive Battle of Muye. According to the Yi Zhou Shu and Mencius the battle was very bloody. The classic, Ming-era novel Fengshen Yanyi retells the story of the war between Shang and Zhou as a conflict where rival factions of gods supported different sides in the war.

After the Shang were defeated, King Wu allowed Di Xin's son Wu Geng to rule the Shang as a vassal kingdom. However, Zhou Wu sent three of his brothers and an army to ensure that Wu Geng would not rebel.[9][10][11] After Zhou Wu's death, the Shang joined the Rebellion of the Three Guards against the Duke of Zhou, but the rebellion collapsed after three years, leaving Zhou in control of Shang territory.

Descendants of the Shang royal family

After Shang's collapse, Zhou's rulers forcibly relocated "Yin diehards" (殷頑) and scattered them throughout Zhou territory.[12] Some surviving members of the Shang royal family collectively changed their surname from the ancestral name Zi (子) to the name of their fallen dynasty, Yin. The family retained an aristocratic standing and often provided needed administrative services to the succeeding Zhou dynasty. The Records of the Grand Historian states that King Cheng of Zhou, with the support of his regent and uncle, the Duke of Zhou, enfeoffed Weiziqi (微子啟), a brother of Di Xin, as the Duke of Song, with its capital at Shangqiu. This practice was known as 二王三恪 ("enfeoffment of three generations for two kings"). The Dukes of Song would maintain rites honoring the Shang kings until Qi conquered Song in 286 BC. Confucius was possibly a descendant of the Shang Kings through the Dukes of Song.[13][14][15]

The Eastern Han dynasty bestowed the title of Duke of Song and "Duke Who Continues and Honours the Yin" (殷紹嘉公) upon Kong An (孔安 (東漢)) because he was part of the Shang dynasty's legacy.[16][17] This branch of the Confucius family is a separate branch from the line that held the title of Marquis of Fengsheng village and later Duke Yansheng.

Another remnant of the Shang established the vassal state of Guzhu (located in present-day Tangshan), which Duke Huan of Qi destroyed.[18][19][20] Many Shang clans that migrated northeast after the dynasty's collapse were integrated into Yan culture during the Western Zhou period. These clans maintained an élite status and continued practicing the sacrificial and burial traditions of the Shang.[21]

Both Korean and Chinese legends, including reports in the Book of Documents and the Bamboo Annals, state that a disgruntled Shang prince named Jizi, who had refused to cede power to the Zhou, left China with a small army. According to these legends, he founded a state known as Gija Joseon in northwest Korea during the Gojoseon period of ancient Korean history. However, scholars debate the historical accuracy of these legends.

Early Bronze Age archaeology

Major archaeological sites of the second millennium BC in north and central China

Before the 20th century, the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) was the earliest Chinese dynasty that could be verified from its own records. However, during the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD), antiquarians collected bronze ritual vessels attributed to the Shang era, some of which bore inscriptions.[22]

Yellow River valley

In 1899, several scholars noticed that Chinese pharmacists were selling "dragon bones" marked with curious and archaic characters.[22] These were finally traced back in 1928 to a site (now called Yinxu) near Anyang, north of the Yellow River in modern Henan province, where the Academia Sinica undertook archeological excavation until the Japanese invasion in 1937.[22]

Archaeologists focused on the Yellow River valley in Henan as the most likely site of the states described in the traditional histories. After 1950, the remnants of the earlier walled settlement of Shang City were discovered near Zhengzhou.[22] It has been determined that the earth walls at Zhengzhou, erected in the 15th century BC, would have been 20 m (66 ft) wide at the base, rising to a height of 8 m (26 ft), and formed a roughly rectangular wall 7 km (4 mi) around the ancient city.[23][24] The rammed earth construction of these walls was an inherited tradition, since much older fortifications of this type have been found at Chinese Neolithic sites of the Longshan culture (c. 3000–2000 BC).[23]

In 1959, the site of the Erlitou culture was found in Yanshi, south of the Yellow River near Luoyang.[23] Radiocarbon dating suggests that the Erlitou culture flourished ca. 2100 BC to 1800 BC. They built large palaces, suggesting the existence of an organized state.[25] In 1983, Yanshi Shang City was discovered 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) north-east of the Erlitou site in Yanshi's Shixianggou Township. This was a large walled city dating from 1600 BC. It had an area of nearly 200 hectares (490 acres) and featured pottery characteristic of the Erligang culture.

The remains of a walled city of about 470 hectares (1,200 acres) were discovered in 1999 across the Huan River from the well explored Yinxu site. The city, now known as Huanbei, was apparently occupied for less than a century and destroyed shortly before the construction of the Yinxu complex.[26][27]

Chinese historians were accustomed to the notion of one dynasty succeeding another, and readily identified the Erligang and Erlitou sites with the early Shang and Xia dynasty of traditional histories. The actual political situation in early China may have been more complicated, with the Xia and Shang being political entities that existed concurrently, just as the early Zhou, who established the successor state of the Shang, are known to have existed at the same time as the Shang.[21] It has also been suggested the Xia legend originated as a Shang myth of an earlier people who were their opposites.[28]

Other sites

The Erligang culture centred on the Zhengzhou site is found across a wide area of China, even as far northeast as the area of modern Beijing, where at least one burial in this region during this period contained both Erligang-style bronzes and local-style gold jewelry.[21] The discovery of a Chenggu-style ge dagger-axe at Xiaohenan demonstrates that even at this early stage of Chinese history, there were some ties between the distant areas of north China.[21] The Panlongcheng site in the middle Yangtze valley was an important regional center of the Erligang culture.[29]

Accidental finds elsewhere in China have revealed advanced civilizations contemporaneous with but culturally unlike the settlement at Anyang, such as the walled city of Sanxingdui in Sichuan. Western scholars are hesitant to designate such settlements as belonging to the Shang dynasty.[30] Also unlike the Shang, there is no known evidence that the Sanxingdui culture had a system of writing. The late Shang state at Anyang is thus generally considered the first verifiable civilization in Chinese history.[5]

In contrast, the earliest layers of the Wucheng site, pre-dating Anyang, have yielded pottery fragments containing short sequences of symbols, suggesting that they may be a form of writing quite different in form from oracle bone characters, but the sample is too small for decipherment.[31][32][33]

Genetic studies

A study of mitochondrial DNA (inherited in the maternal line) from Yinxu graves showed similarity with modern northern Han Chinese, but significant differences from southern Han Chinese.[34]

Absolute chronology

The earliest securely dated event in Chinese history is the start of the Gonghe Regency in 841 BC, early in the Zhou dynasty, a date first established by the Han dynasty historian Sima Qian. Attempts to establish earlier dates have been plagued by doubts about the origin and transmission of traditional texts and the difficulties in their interpretation. More recent attempts have compared the traditional histories with archaeological and astronomical data.[35] At least 44 dates for the end of the dynasty have been proposed, ranging from 1130 BC to 1018 BC.[36]

  • The traditional dates of the dynasty, from 1766 BC to 1222 BC, were calculated by Liu Xin during the Han dynasty.[37]
  • A calculation based on the "old text" of the Bamboo Annals yields dates of 1523 BC to 1027 BC.[37]
  • David Pankenier, by attempting to identify astronomical events mentioned in Zhou texts, dated the beginning of the dynasty at 1554 BC and its overthrow at 1046 BC.[37]
  • The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project identified the establishment of the dynasty with the foundation of an Erligang culture walled city at Yanshi, dated at c. 1600 BC.[38] The project also arrived at an end date of 1046 BC, based on a combination of the astronomical evidence considered by Pankenier and dating of arcaeological layers.[39]

Late Shang at Anyang

Oracle bones pit
Oracle bones pit at Yin

The oldest extant direct records date from approximately 1200 BC at Anyang, covering the reigns of the last nine Shang kings. The Shang had a fully developed system of writing, preserved on bronze inscriptions and a small number of other writings on pottery, jade and other stones, horn, etc., but most prolifically on oracle bones.[40] The complexity and sophistication of this writing system indicates an earlier period of development, but direct evidence of that development is still lacking. Other advances included the invention of many musical instruments and observations of Mars and various comets by Shang astronomers.[41]

Their civilization was based on agriculture and augmented by hunting and animal husbandry.[42] In addition to war, the Shang also practiced human sacrifice.[43] Crania of sacrificial victims have been found to be similar to modern Chinese ones (based on comparisons with remains from Hainan and Taiwan).[44][45] Cowry shells were also excavated at Anyang, suggesting trade with coast-dwellers, but there was very limited sea trade since China was isolated from other large civilizations during the Shang period.[46] Trade relations and diplomatic ties with other formidable powers via the Silk Road and Chinese voyages to the Indian Ocean did not exist until the reign of Emperor Wu during the Han dynasty (206 BC–221 AD).[47][48]

Court life

Shang dynasty inscribed tortoise plastron
Oracle shell with inscriptions.
Tomb Fu Hao YinXu
Bronzewares from the excavated tomb of Fu Hao

At the excavated royal palace of Yinxu, large stone pillar bases were found along with rammed earth foundations and platforms, which according to Fairbank, were "as hard as cement".[22] These foundations in turn originally supported 53 buildings of wooden post-and-beam construction.[22] In close proximity to the main palatial complex, there were underground pits used for storage, servants' quarters, and housing quarters.[22]

Many Shang royal tombs had been tunneled into and ravaged by grave robbers in ancient times,[49] but in the spring of 1976, the discovery of Tomb 5 at Yinxu revealed a tomb that was not only undisturbed, but one of the most richly furnished Shang tombs that archaeologists had yet come across.[50] With over 200 bronze ritual vessels and 109 inscriptions of Lady Fu Hao's name, Zheng Zhenxiang and other archaeologists realized they had stumbled across the tomb of King Wu Ding's most famous consort, Fu Hao, who is mentioned in 170 to 180 Shang oracle bone inscriptions, and who was also renowned as a military general.[51] Along with bronze vessels, stoneware and pottery vessels, bronze weapons, jade figures and hair combs, and bone hairpins were found.[52][53][54] Historian Robert L. Thorp states that the large assortment of weapons and ritual vessels in her tomb correlate with the oracle bone accounts of her military career and involvement in Wu Ding's ritual ancestral sacrifices.[55]

The capital was the center of court life. Over time, court rituals to appease spirits developed, and in addition to his secular duties, the king would serve as the head of the ancestor worship cult. Often, the king would even perform oracle bone divinations himself, especially near the end of the dynasty. Evidence from excavations of the royal tombs indicates that royalty were buried with articles of value, presumably for use in the afterlife. Perhaps for the same reason, hundreds of commoners, who may have been slaves, were buried alive with the royal corpse.

A line of hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of northern China, and Shang troops fought frequent wars with neighboring settlements and nomadic herdsmen from the inner Asian steppes. The Shang king, in his oracular divinations, repeatedly showed concern about the fang groups, the barbarians living outside of the civilized tu regions, which made up the center of Shang territory. In particular, the tufang group of the Yanshan region were regularly mentioned as hostile to the Shang.[21]

Apart from their role as the head military commanders, Shang kings also asserted their social supremacy by acting as the high priests of society and leading the divination ceremonies.[56] As the oracle bone texts reveal, the Shang kings were viewed as the best qualified members of society to offer sacrifices to their royal ancestors and to the high god Di, who in their beliefs was responsible for the rain, wind, and thunder.[56]


Shang bronze masks, 16-14th
Chinese Shang dynasty bronze face masks, 16th–14th century BC

Shang religious rituals featured divination and sacrifice. The degree to which shamanism was a central aspect of Shang religion is a subject of debate.[57][58]

There were six main recipients of sacrifice: (1) Di, the High God, (2) nature powers like the sun and mountain powers, (3) former lords, deceased humans who had been added to the dynastic pantheon, (4) pre-dynastic ancestors, (5) dynastic ancestors, and (6) dynastic ancestresses such as the concubines of a past emperor.[59]

The Shang believed that their ancestors held power over them and performed divination rituals to secure their approval for planned actions.[59] Divination involved cracking a turtle carapace or ox scapula to answer a question, and to then record the response to that question on the bone itself.[57] It is unknown what criteria the diviners used to determine the response, but it is believed to be the sound or pattern of the cracks on the bone.

The Shang also seem to have believed in an afterlife, as evidenced by the elaborate burial tombs built for deceased rulers. Often "carriages, utensils, sacrificial vessels, [and] weapons" would be included in the tomb.[60] A king's burial involved the burial of up to several hundred humans and horses as well to accompany the king into the afterlife, in some cases even numbering four hundred.[60] Finally, tombs included ornaments such as jade, which the Shang may have believed to protect against decay or confer immortality.

The Shang religion was highly bureaucratic and meticulously ordered. Oracle bones contained descriptions of the date, ritual, person, ancestor, and questions associated with the divination.[57] Tombs displayed highly ordered arrangements of bones, with groups of skeletons laid out facing the same direction.

Bronze working

Bronze square ding (cauldron) with human faces
Shang dynasty bronze vessel ding

Chinese bronze casting and pottery advanced during the Shang dynasty, with bronze typically being used for ritually significant, rather than primarily utilitarian, items. As far back as c. 1500 BC, the early Shang dynasty engaged in large-scale production of bronze-ware vessels and weapons.[61] This production required a large labor force that could handle the mining, refining, and transportation of the necessary copper, tin, and lead ores. This in turn created a need for official managers that could oversee both hard-laborers and skilled artisans and craftsmen.[61] The Shang royal court and aristocrats required a vast number of different bronze vessels for various ceremonial purposes and events of religious divination.[61] Ceremonial rules even decreed how many bronze containers of each type a nobleman or noblewoman of a certain rank could own. With the increased amount of bronze available, the army could also better equip itself with an assortment of bronze weaponry. Bronze was also used for the fittings of spoke-wheeled chariots, which appeared in China around 1200 BC.[56]

Dinastia shang, tipode ding biansato, xiii-xii sec. ac

A Shang dynasty bronze ding vessel


The Shang dynasty Houmuwu Ding is the heaviest piece of bronze work found in China so far.

Liu Ding

A late Shang dynasty bronze ding vessel with taotie motif

Gu wine vessel from the Shang Dynasty

Bronze ritual wine vessel

La Tigresse, bronze vessel to preserve drink. Hunan, 11th BC. Cernuschi museum

A Shang dynasty bronze vessel to preserve drink


CMOC Treasures of Ancient China exhibit - bronze battle axe
A bronze axe of the Shang dynasty

Bronze weapons were an integral part of Shang society.[62] Shang infantry were armed with a variety of stone and bronze weaponry, including máo (矛) spears, yuè (鉞) pole-axes, (戈) pole-based dagger-axes, composite bows, and bronze or leather helmets.[63][64]

The chariot first appeared in China around 1200 BC, during the reign of Wu Ding. There is little doubt that the chariot entered China through the Central Asia and the Northern Steppe, possibly indicating some form of contact with the Indo-Europeans.[65] Recent archaeological finds have shown that the late Shang used horses, chariots, bows and practiced horse burials that are similar to the steppe peoples to the west.[66] These influences led Christopher I. Beckwith to speculate that Indo-Europeans "may even have been responsible for the foundation of the Shang Dynasty", though he admits there is no direct evidence.[67] Oracle bone inscriptions suggest that the Shang used chariots in royal hunts and in battle only as mobile command vehicles.[68] In contrast, the western enemies of the Shang, such as the Zhou, began to use limited numbers of chariots in battle towards the end of the Shang period.[69]

Although the Shang depended upon the military skills of their nobility, Shang rulers could mobilize the masses of town-dwelling and rural commoners as conscript laborers and soldiers for both campaigns of defense and conquest.[70] Aristocrats and other state rulers were obligated to furnish their local garrisons with all necessary equipment, armor, and armaments. The Shang king maintained a force of about a thousand troops at his capital and would personally lead this force into battle.[71] A rudimentary military bureaucracy was also needed in order to muster forces ranging from three to five thousand troops for border campaigns to thirteen thousand troops for suppressing rebellions against the Shang dynasty.


The earliest records are the oracle bones inscribed during the reigns of the Shang kings from Wu Ding.[72] The oracle bones do not contain king lists, but they do record the sacrifices to previous kings and the ancestors of the current king, which follow a standard schedule that scholars have reconstructed. From this evidence, scholars have assembled the implied king list and genealogy, finding that it is in substantial agreement with the later accounts, especially for later kings.[73] According to this implied king list, Wu Ding was the twenty-first Shang king.[73]

The Shang kings were referred to in the oracle bones by posthumous names. The last character of each name is one of the 10 celestial stems, which also denoted the day of the 10-day Shang week on which sacrifices would be offered to that ancestor within the ritual schedule. There were more kings than stems, so the names have distinguishing prefixes such as 大 (greater), 中 Zhōng (middle), 小 Xiǎo (lesser), 卜 (outer), 祖 (ancestor) and a few more obscure names.[74]

The kings, in the order of succession derived from the oracle bones, are here grouped by generation. Later reigns were assigned to oracle bone diviner groups by Dong Zuobin:[75]

Generation Older brothers Main line of descent Younger brothers Diviner group
1 大乙 Dà Yǐ[i] [ii]
2 大丁 Dà Dīng[iii]
3 大甲 Dà Jiǎ 卜丙 Bǔ Bǐng[iv]
4 [v] 大庚 Dà Gēng 小甲 Xiǎo Jiǎ[vi]
5 大戊 Dà Wù 呂己 Lǚ Jǐ[vii]
6 中丁 Zhōng Dīng[viii] 卜壬 Bǔ Rén
7 戔甲 Jiān Jiǎ 祖乙 Zǔ Yǐ
8 祖辛 Zǔ Xīn 羌甲 Qiāng Jiǎ[ix]
9 祖丁 Zǔ Dīng 南庚 Nán Gēng[x]
10 象甲 Xiàng Jiǎ 盤庚 Pán Gēng 小辛 Xiǎo Xīn 小乙 Xiǎo Yǐ
11 武丁 Wǔ Dīng I
12 [xi] 祖庚 Zǔ Gēng 祖甲 Zǔ Jiǎ II
13 廩辛 Lǐn Xīn[xii] 康丁 Gēng Dīng III
14 武乙 Wǔ Yǐ IV
15 文武丁 Wén Wǔ Dīng
16 帝乙 Dì Yǐ[xiii] V
17 帝辛 Dì Xīn[xiv]


  1. ^ The first king is known as Tang in the Historical Records. The oracle bones also identify six pre-dynastic ancestors: 上甲 Shàng Jiǎ, 報乙 Bào Yǐ, 報丙 Bào Bǐng, 報丁 Bào Dīng, 示壬 Shì Rén and 示癸 Shì Guǐ.
  2. ^ There is no firm evidence of oracle bone inscriptions before the reign of Wu Ding.
  3. ^ According to the Historical Records and the Mencius, Da Ding (there called Tai Ding) died before he could ascend to the throne. However in the oracle bones he receives rituals like any other king.
  4. ^ According to the Historical Records, Bu Bing (there called Wai Bing) and 仲壬 Zhong Ren (not mentioned in the oracle bones) were younger brothers of Dai Ting and preceded Da Jia (also known as Dai Jia). However the Mencius, the Commentary of Zuo and the Book of History state that he reigned after Da Jia, as also implied by the oracle bones.
  5. ^ The Historical Records include a king Wo Ding not mentioned in the oracle bones.
  6. ^ The Historical Records have Xiao Jia as the son of Da Geng (known as Tai Geng) in the "Annals of Yin", but as a younger brother (as implied by the oracle bones) in the "Genealogical Table of the Three Ages".
  7. ^ According to the Historical Records, Lü Ji (there called Yong Ji) reigned before Da Wu (there called Tai Wu).
  8. ^ The kings from Zhong Ding to Nan Geng are placed in the same order by the Historical Records and the oracle bones, but there are some differences in genealogy, as described in the articles on individual kings.
  9. ^ The status of Qiang Jia varies over the history of the oracle bones. During the reigns of Wu Ding, Di Yi and Di Xin, he was not included in the main line of descent, a position also held by the Historical Records, but in the intervening reigns he was included as a direct ancestor.
  10. ^ According to the Historical Records, Nan Geng was the son of Qiang Jia (there called Wo Jia).
  11. ^ The oracle bones and the Historical Records include an older brother 祖己 Zǔ Jǐ who did not reign.
  12. ^ Lin Xin is named as a king in the Historical Records and oracle bones of succeeding reigns, but not those of the last two kings.[76]
  13. ^ There are no ancestral sacrifices to the last two kings on the oracles bones, due to the fall of Shang. Their names, including the character 帝 "emperor", come from the much later Bamboo Annals and Historical Records.[77]
  14. ^ also referred to as Zhòu (紂), Zhòu Xīn (紂辛) or Zhòu Wáng (紂王) or by adding "Shāng" (商) in front of any of these names.

See also



  1. ^ Turchin, Peter; Adams, Jonathan M.; Hall, Thomas D. (December 2006). "East-West Orientation of Historical Empires and Modern States". Journal of World-Systems Research. 12 (2): 219–229. ISSN 1076-156X.
  2. ^ Keightley (2000).
  3. ^ Keightley (1999), pp. 233–235.
  4. ^ Keightley (1978b).
  5. ^ a b Keightley (1999), p. 232.
  6. ^ Keightley (1978a), p. xiv.
  7. ^ Keightley (1999), p. 233, with additional details from the Historical Records.
  8. ^ Keightley (1999), p. 233.
  9. ^ 邶、鄘二國考 Archived 17 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine (Bei, Yong two national test)
  10. ^ 周初"三监"与邶、鄘、卫地望研究 (Bei, Yong, Wei – looking at the research)
  11. ^ "三监"人物疆地及其地望辨析 ——兼论康叔的始封地问题 Archived 9 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine (breaking ground on Kangshu problem)
  12. ^ 一 被剥削者的存在类型 (Expoited by the presence of...)
  13. ^ Xinzhong Yao (2000). An Introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0521644305. Confucius is believed to have been a descendant of the royal house of the Shang Dynasty and his family lived in the state of Song until his grandfather was forced to move to the state of Lu.
  14. ^ Xinzhong Yao (1997). Confucianism and Christianity: A Comparative Study of Jen and Agape. Sussex Academic Press. p. 29. ISBN 1898723761.
  15. ^ Lee Dian Rainey (2010). Confucius & Confucianism: The Essentials. John Wiley & Sons. p. 66. ISBN 1405188413.
  16. ^ Rafe de Crespigny (28 December 2006). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). BRILL. pp. 389–. ISBN 978-90-474-1184-0.
  17. ^ 《汉书·杨胡朱梅云传》:初,武帝时,始封周后姬嘉为周子南君,至元帝时,尊周子南君为周承休侯,位次诸侯王。使诸大夫博士求殷后,分散为十余姓,郡国往往得其大家,推求子孙,绝不能纪。时,匡衡议,以为“王者存二王后,所以尊其先王而通三统也。其犯诛绝之罪者绝,而更封他亲为始封君,上承其王者之始祖。《春秋》之义,诸侯不能守其社稷者绝。今宋国已不守其统而失国矣,则宜更立殷后为始封君,而上承汤统,非当继宋之绝侯也,宜明得殷后而已。今之故宋,推求其嫡,久远不可得;虽得其嫡,嫡之先已绝,不当得立。《礼记》孔子曰:‘丘,殷人也。’先师所共传,宜以孔子世为汤后。”上以其语不经,遂见寝。
  18. ^ 中国孤竹文化网 Archived 1 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine (Chinese Guzhu Cultural Network)
  19. ^ 解开神秘古国 ——孤竹之谜 (unlocking the ancient mystery of Guzhu)
  20. ^ 孤竹析辨 (Guzhu analysis identified)
  21. ^ a b c d e Sun (2006).
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Fairbank & Goldman (2006), p. 33.
  23. ^ a b c Fairbank & Goldman (2006), p. 34.
  24. ^ Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 43.
  25. ^ Fairbank & Goldman (2006), pp. 34–35.
  26. ^ Harrington, Spencer P.M. (May – June 2000). "Shang City Uncovered". Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. 53 (3).
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  35. ^ Lee (2002), pp. 16–17.
  36. ^ Lee (2002), p. 32.
  37. ^ a b c Keightley (1999), p. 248.
  38. ^ Lee (2002), p. 28.
  39. ^ Lee (2002), pp. 31–34.
  40. ^ Qiu (2000), p. 60.
  41. ^ A Short History of China.
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  48. ^ Chen (2002), pp. 67–71.
  49. ^ Thorp (1981), p. 239.
  50. ^ Thorp (1981), p. 240.
  51. ^ Thorp (1981), pp. 240, 245.
  52. ^ Thorp (1981), pp. 242, 245.
  53. ^ Li (1980), pp. 393–394.
  54. ^ Lerner et al. (1985), p. 77.
  55. ^ Thorp (1981), p. 245.
  56. ^ a b c Ebrey, Walthall & Palais (2006), p. 14.
  57. ^ a b c Chang (1994).
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  60. ^ a b Smith (1961).
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  63. ^ Wang (1993).
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  65. ^ Shaughnessy (1988), p. 190.
  66. ^ Mair (2011), p. 100.
  67. ^ Beckwith (2009), pp. 43–48.
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  71. ^ Sawyer & Sawyer (1994), p. 34.
  72. ^ Wilkinson (2013), p. 684.
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  74. ^ Smith (2011), pp. 3–5.
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Works cited

  • Allan, Sarah (1991), The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art, and Cosmos in Early China, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-9449-3.
  • Bagley, Robert (1999), "Shang archaeology", in Loewe, Michael; Shaughnessy, Edward L. (eds.), The Cambridge History of Ancient China, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 124–231, ISBN 978-0-521-47030-8.
  • Beckwith, Christopher I. (16 March 2009). Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton University Press. ISBN 14008-29941. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  • Chang, Kwang-Chih (1994), "Shang Shamans", in Peterson, Willard J. (ed.), The Power of Culture: Studies in Chinese Cultural History, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, pp. 10–36, ISBN 978-962-201-596-8.
  • Chen, Yan (2002), Maritime Silk Route and Chinese-Foreign Cultural Exchanges, Beijing: Peking University Press, ISBN 978-7-301-03029-5.
  • Cheung, Kwong-yue (1983), "Recent archaeological evidence relating to the origin of Chinese characters", in Keightley, David N.; Barnard, Noel (eds.), The Origins of Chinese Civilization, trans. Noel Barnard, University of California Press, pp. 323–391, ISBN 978-0-520-04229-2.
  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley; Walthall, Anne; Palais, James B. (2006), East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 978-0-618-13384-0.
  • Fairbank, John King; Goldman, Merle (2006), China: A New History (2nd ed.), Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-03665-9.
  • Keightley, David N. (1978a), Sources of Shang History: The Oracle-Bone Inscriptions of Bronze Age China, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-02969-0. A 1985 paperback 2nd edition is still in print, ISBN 0-520-05455-5.
  • ——— (1978b), "The Bamboo Annals and Shang-Chou Chronology", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 38 (2): 423–438, JSTOR 2718906.
  • ——— (1998), "Shamanism, Death, and the Ancestors: Religious Mediation in Neolithic and Shang China (ca. 5000–1000 B.C.)", Asiatische Studien, 52 (3): 763–831, doi:10.5169/seals-147432.
  • ——— (1999), "The Shang: China's first historical dynasty", in Loewe, Michael; Shaughnessy, Edward L. (eds.), The Cambridge History of Ancient China, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 232–291, ISBN 978-0-521-47030-8.
  • ——— (2000), The Ancestral Landscape: Time, Space, and Community in Late Shang China (ca. 1200–1045 B.C.), China Research Monograph, 53, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, ISBN 978-1-55729-070-0.
  • ——— (2004), "The Making of the Ancestors: Late Shang Religion and Its Legacy", in Lagerwey, John (ed.), Chinese Religion and Society: The Transformation of a Field, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, pp. 3–63, ISBN 978-962-99612-3-7.
  • Lee, Yun Kuen (2002), "Building the chronology of early Chinese history", Asian Perspectives, 41 (1): 15–42, doi:10.1353/asi.2002.0006, hdl:10125/17161.
  • Lerner, Martin; Murck, Alfreda; Ford, Barbara B.; Hearn, Maxwell; Valenstein, Suzanne G. (1985), "Asian Art", Recent Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art): 72–88, JSTOR 1513695.
  • Li, Chu-tsing (1980), "The Great Bronze Age of China", Art Journal, 40 (1/2): 390–395, JSTOR 776607.
  • Mair, Victor H. (2011), "Religious formations and intercultural contacts in early China", in Krech, Volkhard; Steinicke, Marian (eds.), Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe: Encounters, Notions, and Comparative Perspectives, Brill, pp. 85–110, ISBN 978-90-04-22535-0.
  • Qiu, Xigui (2000), Chinese writing, trans. by Gilbert L. Mattos and Jerry Norman, Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China and The Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, ISBN 978-1-55729-071-7. (English translation of Wénzìxué Gàiyào 文字學概要, Shangwu, 1988.)
  • Sawyer, Ralph D.; Sawyer, Mei-chün Lee (1994), Sun Tzu's The Art of War, New York: Barnes and Noble, ISBN 978-1-56619-297-2.
  • Shaughnessy, Edward L. (1988), "Historical Perspectives on The Introduction of The Chariot Into China", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 48 (1): 189–237, JSTOR 2719276.
  • Smith, Adam Daniel (2011), "The Chinese Sexagenary Cycle and the Ritual Origins of the Calendar", in Steele, John M. (ed.), Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and time in the ancient and medieval world, Oxbow Books, pp. 1–37, ISBN 978-1-84217-987-1.
  • Smith, Howard (1961), "Chinese Religion in the Shang Dynasty", International Review for the History of Religions, 8 (2): 142–150, doi:10.1163/156852761x00090, JSTOR 3269424.
  • Sun, Guangqi (1989), 中国古代航海史 [History of Navigation in Ancient China], Beijing: Ocean Press, ISBN 978-7-5027-0532-9.
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  • Wilkinson, Endymion (2013), Chinese History: A New Manual, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ Asia Center, ISBN 978-0-674-06715-8.

Further reading

External links

Preceded by
Xia dynasty
Dynasties in Chinese history
ca. 1600–ca. 1047 BC
Succeeded by
Zhou dynasty
Bu Bing

Bu Bing or Wai Bing (Chinese: 外丙) was a Shang dynasty King of China.

In the Records of the Grand Historian, he was listed by Sima Qian as the second Shang king, succeeding his father Tang (Chinese: 汤), following the earlier death of his elder brother Tai Ding. He was enthroned in the year of Yihai (Chinese: 乙亥), with Yi Yin as his prime minister and Bo (Chinese: 亳) as his capital.

He ruled for about 2 years before his death. He was given the posthumous name Wai Bing and was succeeded by his younger brother Zhong Ren.Oracle script inscriptions, on bones unearthed at Yinxu, alternatively record that he was the fourth Shang king, the second son of Da Ding, given the posthumous name "Bu Bing" (Chinese:卜丙), and succeeded by Da Geng.

Erligang culture

The Erligang culture (Mandarin: [ɑɻligɑ̃(ŋ)]) is a Bronze Age urban civilization and archaeological culture in China that existed from approximately 1510 to 1460 BC. The primary site, Zhengzhou Shang City, was discovered at Erligang, within the modern city of Zhengzhou, Henan, in 1951.

Investiture of the Gods

The Investiture of the Gods or The Creation of the Gods, also known by its Chinese names Fengshen Yanyi (Chinese: 封神演义; pinyin: Fēngshén Yǎnyì; literally: 'Investiture of Gods Dramatization of Doctrines') and Fengshen Bang, is a 16th-century Chinese novel and one of the major vernacular Chinese works in the gods-and-demons (shenmo) genre written during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Consisting of 100 chapters, it was first published in book form between 1567 and 1619. Another source claims it was published in 1605. The work combines elements of history, folklore, mythology, legends and fantasy.The story is set in the era of the decline of the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC) and the rise of the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC). It intertwines numerous elements of Chinese mythology, including deities, immortals and spirits. The authorship is attributed to Xu Zhonglin.

Jiao Ge

Jiao Ge (Chinese: 膠鬲 (胶鬲); Pinyin: Jiāo Gé) was an official of Shang dynasty.

King Wen of Zhou

King Wen of Zhou (Chinese: 周文王; pinyin: Zhōu Wén Wáng; 1112 – 1050 BC, the Civilizing King) was count of Zhou during the late Shang dynasty in ancient China. Although it was his son Wu who conquered the Shang following the Battle of Muye, Count Wen was posthumously honored as the founder of the Zhou dynasty and titled King. A large number of the hymns of the Classic of Poetry are praises to the legacy of King Wen. Some consider him the first epic hero of Chinese history.

King Wu of Zhou

King Wu of Zhou (Chinese: 周武王; pinyin: Zhōu Wǔ Wáng) was the first king of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China. The chronology of his reign is disputed but is generally thought to have begun around 1046 BC and ended three years later in 1043 BC.King Wu's ancestral name was Ji (姬) and given name Fa (發). He was the second son of King Wen of Zhou and Queen Taisi. In most accounts, his older brother Bo Yikao was said to have predeceased his father, typically at the hands of King Zhou, the last king of the Shang dynasty; in the Book of Rites, however, it is assumed that his inheritance represented an older tradition among the Zhou of passing over the eldest son. (Fa's grandfather Jili had likewise inherited Zhou despite two older brothers.)

Upon his succession, Fa worked with his father-in-law Jiang Ziya to accomplish an unfinished task: overthrowing the Shang dynasty. In 1048 BC, Fa marched down the Yellow River to the Mengjin ford and met with more than 800 dukes. He constructed an ancestral tablet naming his father Chang King Wen and placed it on a chariot in the middle of the host; considering the timing unpropitious, though, he did not yet attack Shang. In 1046 BC, King Wu took advantage of Shang disunity to launch an attack along with many neighboring dukes. The Battle of Muye destroyed Shang's forces and King Zhou of Shang set his palace on fire, dying within.

King Wu – the name means "Martial" – followed his victory by establishing many feudal states under his 16 younger brothers and clans allied by marriage, but his death three years later provoked several rebellions against his young heir King Cheng and the regent Duke of Zhou, even from three of his brothers.

A burial mound in Zhouling town, Xianyang, Shaanxi was once thought to be King Wu's tomb. It was fitted with a headstone bearing Wu's name in the Qing dynasty. Modern archeology has since concluded that the tomb is not old enough to be from the Zhou dynasty, and is more likely to be that of a Han dynasty royal. The true location of King Wu's tomb remains unknown, but is likely to be in the Xianyang-Xi'an area.

Wu is considered one of the great heroes of China, together with Yellow Emperor and Yu the Great.

King Zhou of Shang

King Zhou (; Chinese: 紂王; pinyin: Zhòu Wáng) was the pejorative posthumous name given to Di Xin (Chinese: 帝辛; pinyin: Dì Xīn), the last king of the Shang dynasty of ancient China. He is also called Zhou Xin (紂辛; Zhòu Xīn). He may also be referred to by adding "Shang" (商 Shāng) in front of any of his names. In Chinese, his name Zhòu (紂) also refers to a horse crupper, the part of a saddle or harness that is most likely to be soiled by the horse. It is not to be confused with the name of the succeeding dynasty which has a different character and pronunciation.

Lin Xin

Lin Xin (廩辛) was king of the Shang dynasty of China. His name by Bamboo Annals is Feng Xin (冯辛), another book The Historic People of Han Book (汉书, 古今人表) also called him Feng Xin.

He got his throne in the year of Gengyan (庚寅). His capital was at Yin (殷).

According to Bamboo Annals, he ruled 4 years, but the Records of the Grand Historian says 6 years.

Mei Bo

Mei Bo (Chinese: 梅伯; Pinyin: Méi Bó) was an official of Shang dynasty and was killed by Di Xin, King Zhou of Shang.

Oracle bone

Oracle bones (Chinese: 甲骨; pinyin: jiǎgǔ) are pieces of ox scapula or turtle plastron, which were used for pyromancy – a form of divination – in ancient China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty. Scapulimancy is the correct term if ox scapulae were used for the divination; plastromancy if turtle plastrons were used.

Diviners would submit questions to deities regarding future weather, crop planting, the fortunes of members of the royal family, military endeavors, and other similar topics. These questions were carved onto the bone or shell in oracle bone script using a sharp tool. Intense heat was then applied with a metal rod until the bone or shell cracked due to thermal expansion. The diviner would then interpret the pattern of cracks and write the prognostication upon the piece as well. Pyromancy with bones continued in China into the Zhou dynasty, but the questions and prognostications were increasingly written with brushes and cinnabar ink, which degraded over time.

The oracle bones bear the earliest known significant corpus of ancient Chinese writing and contain important historical information such as the complete royal genealogy of the Shang dynasty. When they were discovered and deciphered in the early twentieth century, these records confirmed the existence of the Shang, which some scholars had until then doubted.

Oracle bone script

Oracle bone script (Chinese: 甲骨文) was the form of Chinese characters used on oracle bones—animal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromantic divination—in the late 2nd millennium BCE, and is the earliest known form of Chinese writing. The vast majority were found at the Yinxu site (in modern Anyang, Henan Province). They record pyromantic divinations of the last nine kings of the Shang dynasty, beginning with Wu Ding, whose accession is dated by different scholars at 1250 BCE or 1200 BCE. After the Shang were overthrown by the Zhou dynasty in c. 1046 BCE, divining with milfoil became more common, and very few oracle bone writings date from the early Zhou.The late Shang oracle bone writings, along with a few contemporary characters in a different style cast in bronzes, constitute the earliest significant corpus of Chinese writing, which is essential for the study of Chinese etymology, as Shang writing is directly ancestral to the modern Chinese script. It is also the oldest known member and ancestor of the Chinese family of scripts, preceding the bronzeware script.

Shang Rong

Shang Rong (Chinese: 商容; Pinyin: Shāng Róng) was a high official of Shang dynasty. He is also a major character featured in the classic Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi.

Tang of Shang

Tang (Chinese: 湯; c. 1675 – 1646 BC) or Cheng Tang (成湯), recorded on oracle bones as Da Yi (大乙), was the first king of the Shang dynasty in Chinese history. He overthrew Jie, the last ruler of the Xia dynasty.

Wen Ding

Wen Wu Ding or Wen Ding (Chinese: 文丁) was a king of the Shang dynasty of China from 1112 to 1102 BC.

Wen Zhong (Investiture of the Gods)

Wen Zhong (Chinese: 闻仲; pinyin: Wén Zhòng) is a character in the classic Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi. Wen Zhong had been the top ranked official under King Da Yi since the times of old. Following the death of Da Yi, Wen Zhong would crown Zi Shou as the new king of the Shang Dynasty. In short time, Wen Zhong would head out on his great dragon to subdue rebelling demons within the North Sea (an action that would take over fifteen years).

Throughout Wen Zhong's fifteen years of battle, he would be destined to play a very large role in the schemes of Heaven. By decree of the Jade Emperor himself, Wen Zhong would attain a third eye atop his forehead. This third eye could see through any level of disillusion and falsehood. Upon Wen Zhong's arrival at the Noon Gate, he would greet his colleagues and see the absurdness of the situation; immediately Wen Zhong would order the king to come before him. After listening to the king's bickering, and easily seeing through to his true deluded idiocy, Wen Zhong would invite his allies to attend to the situation.

Wen Zhong was appointed as the deity of Puhua Tianzun (普化天尊) in the end.

Wu Ding

Wu Ding (Chinese: 武丁) was a king of the Shang dynasty in ancient China, whose reign lasted from approximately 1250–1192 BC. According to the traditional chronology, his reign was 1324–1266 BC.Wu Ding is the earliest figure in the histories of the Chinese dynasties who has been confirmed by contemporary records. The annals of the Shang dynasty compiled by later historians were long thought to be little more than legends until oracle script inscriptions on bones dating from his reign were unearthed at the ruins of his capital Yin (near modern Anyang) in 1899.

Wu Yi of Shang

Wu Yi (Chinese: 武乙) was king of the Shang dynasty of ancient China from 1147 to 1112 BC. His given name was Qu (瞿). According to the Bamboo Annals, his capital was at Yin. He was a son of his predecessor Geng Ding and father of King Wen Ding.

In the 21st year of his reign, the Zhou leader Koufu (口父) died.

In the 24th year of the regime of Wu Yi, Zhou attacked Cheng (程) at Bi (毕) and defeated Bi.In the 30th year, Zhou attacked Yiqu (义渠) and captured the king of Yiqu. According to Sima Qian, the King of Yiqu has two sons by different mothers; after the king died, they fought each other for throne only to have Zhou defeat them both and absorb the territory of Yiqu.In the 34th year of Wǔ Yǐ’s reign, King Ji of Zhou came to the capital to worship and was rewarded with 30 pieces of jade and 10 horses.

In the 35th year of Wǔ Yǐ’s reign, Ji attacked the Guirong (鬼戎) at Xiluo (西落). According to Sima Qian, he captured 20 kings of that tribe. In the same year, Wu Yi went hunting between the Yellow and Wei Rivers and was killed by lightning. According to the Book of Documents, this was blamed on Wu Yi’s grave impiety. Once, he was supposed to have carved a wooden statue of "the God of Heaven" and had one of the priests to represent it 令人為行. He played liubo with the idol and had it lose three times in a row, then destroyed it. Another time, he filled a leather bag with blood and hung it high in the air, then shot it with arrows; he called this "shooting Heaven". He then blasphemed by saying the god of thunder and lightning was nothing.

Xiao Xin

Xiao Xin (Chinese: 小辛) was a Shang dynasty King of China.

In the Records of the Grand Historian he was listed by Sima Qian as the twentieth Shang king, succeeding his older brother Pan Geng. He was enthroned in the year of Jiawu (甲午) with Yin as his capital. He ruled for 3 years, was given the posthumous name Xiao Xin and was succeeded by his younger brother Xiao Yi.Oracle script inscriptions on bones unearthed at Yinxu alternatively record that he was the nineteenth Shang king.


Yinxu (modern IPA: [ín.ɕý]; Chinese: 殷墟; literally: 'Ruins of Yin') is the site of one of the ancient and major historical capitals of China. It is the source of the archeological discovery of oracle bones and oracle bone script, which resulted in the identification of the earliest known Chinese writing. The archeological remnants (or ruins) known as Yinxu represent the ancient city of Yin, the last capital of China's Shang dynasty which existed through eight generations for 255 years, and through the reign of 12 kings. Yinxu was discovered, or rediscovered, in 1899. It is now one of China's oldest and largest archeological sites, and has been selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yinxu is located in northernmost Henan province near the modern city of Anyang, and near the Hebei and Shanxi province borders. Public access to the site is permitted.

Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinShāng
Gwoyeu RomatzyhShang
Tongyong PinyinShang
Yue: Cantonese
Yale RomanizationSēung
Southern Min
Hokkien POJSiong
Old Chinese
Baxter (1992)*hljang
Baxter–Sagart (2014)*s-taŋ
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinYīndài
Bopomofoㄧㄣ   ㄉㄞˋ
Gwoyeu RomatzyhInday
Tongyong PinyinYindài
RomanizationIn de
Yue: Cantonese
Yale RomanizationYāndoih
Southern Min
Hokkien POJÛn-tāi
Old Chinese
Baxter–Sagart (2014)*ʔər lˤək-s
Kings of the Shang dynasty
Early Shang
Yin period

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