Ao, Anyang and Yin
Historical capitals of China
Tradition records that they often moved the site of their capital, probably because of natural disasters or invasions.
Xibo, near Erlitou and Xian, is said to have been founded in 1557, Ao (in Zhengzhou) in 1399, Bo (Shandong province) in 1321 and Yin (Anyang) in 1299.
Ao, Zhengzhou, lies in the centre of China where mountain passes and rivers attracted human life from the Neolithic period (Dahe village in northern Zhengzhou).
In 1955 a site was discovered that had a defensive wall, houses, wells, graves, and areas for working bronze, clay and bone and dated to around 1500. Although Ao was only briefly a Shang capital it continued to be inhabited and was later used by the Zhou dynasty.
The last Shang capital has produced the most remarkable finds. It lies to the east, near Anyang. Caves show that the area had long been inhabited. Its growing prominence from around 1300 coincides with the establishment of Yin or Yinxu.
The Ruins of Yin
This huge site, given World Heritage status in 2006, has palaces, ritual places, workshops and tombs. The discovery of 100,000 inscribed bones in 1899 had already secured its special place in Chinese history.
Yin, 'oracle bone' pit
On the bones of animals and the shells of tortoises characters in an early form of Chinese writing were incised, or less often painted. Since they seem to have been used in a type of divination ritual that required burning they have been called 'oracle bones'.
Among the inscriptions on the oracle bones was the name of Wu Ding, once thought legendary, but now documented as a real Shang king.
'Oracle bone' tortoise shell with inscriptions
The breastbone of a tortoise with incised inscriptions.
The Ruins of Yin museum, chariot burials
The wealth and importance of Yin is also revealed by six pits, each with two horses and a chariot. Two are seen here inside the museum.
Yin chariot burials
The earliest chariot burials yet known to us have been found to the north east (Andronovo culture, Tobol River) and have been dated to around 2000.
Excavating an undisturbed royal Shang grave
Anyang, reconstruction of structure above tomb 5
A structure like this is thought to have been erected over her grave.
Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology, p. 163
In the grave were wonderful gifts such as three ivory goblets with decoration inlaid in turquoise.
This bronze owl was one of the many bronzes. The zun was used for ritual drinking.
Bronze bu wine vessel
'Lady Hao's' jade
This jade is thought to have been an heirloom.
Inscriptions on this bronze vessel identify her as Fu Hao.
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