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Zhang Changshou. 2000. A Comparative Study of the Ding Bronze Vessels from Xin'gan.
This study by Zhang Changshou entails a comparative analysis of the ding bronze vessels from the Central Plains with those from Xin’gan in Southern China. This is after the discovery of numerous vessels and objects in a large tomb in Xin’gan in Dayangzhou, Jiangxi Province during 1989. Some of the equipment that was discovered included pottery, weapons, bronze tools and jades. A large percentage of the ding vessels discovered were made of bronze giving an indication of the huge significance of Xin’gan bonze assemblage, a feature connecting it to the southern bronze tradition during the Shang period. For instance, some of the ding tetrapod and tripod vessels like the round and the flat-legged ding as well as the rectangular tetrapod from Xin’gan were similar to those that were found in the Zhengzhou Cache and the Fu Hao tomb burials in the Central Plains region. This evaluative analysis was therefore particularly important to help in determining the date of the ding vessels in Xin’gan as well as to give a further understanding of the typical features of the Southern bronze culture.
Some of the most significant vessels found in Xin’gan were the fang dings, the flat-legged and the round dings. On comparison of the Xin’gan and Fu Hao flat legged dings, it was discovered that the Xin’gan examples had a larger variety of shapes. Some had either deep or shallow bodies or vessel legs in the shape of kui- dragons, fish or tigers with most of the flat-legged dings having a bird or a reclining tiger shape at the top of their handles (Zhang 2000). Most of the vessels from Xin’gan furthermore had a large number of animal mask motifs with upward curling tails. Flat legged dings from the Central Plains on the other hand, had much simpler decorations and design forms. This led to the discovery that the Xin’gan finds had a much closer relationship to examples from Zhengzhou linked to the Early Yinxu Period. The late Yinxu period on the other hand which had more ding vessels with bird shaped legs on the other hand, bore a closer relationship to the vessel finds in Fu Hao tomb and hence much more stylistically distant from the Xin’gan examples (Zhang 2000).
Scholars have therefore interpreted the Southern style flat-legged ding vessels in Xin’gan as being modeled after the shallow bodied flat-legged ding vessels in the shape of kui-dragons from the Central Plains. However, there are numerous other scholars who have argued that the flat-legged tiger shaped dings are only found in Jiangxi Province and must therefore have originated from there. These two theories have been conflicting with the first traditional model theory emphasizing on the influence of the Central Plains bronze cultures to those of the Southern areas (Zhang 2000). The second theory on the other hand which is more insightful, has always insisted the originality and authenticity of the Southern style vessels, claiming that the flat-legged dings from the Central Plains are in-fact products of influence from the south.
A.P. Derevianko. 2008, Paleoenvironment. The Stone Age. Archaeology and Ethnology of
Eurasia 33/1: 2-32
In his Paleoenvironment study, Derevianko explores the different discoveries on the Bifacial Technique in China that supports its occurrence in the Early Paleolithic of the East and Southeast Asia. This is in contradiction to the initial hypothesis by Movius, who during the 1940s had put forward the hypothesis that the East and Southeast Asian zones were characterized more by chopping/ pebble chopper tools as compared to the rest of Eurasia that was largely comprised of hand axes. In response to the speculation, he highlights some of the significant findings of hundreds of Paleolithic sites with the handaxe-type as well as bifacially worked tools from East and Southeast Asia and hence an inference of the different lithic industries from the region.
The bifacial technique of stone working originated from the East and Southeast Asia during an early period. It is the research findings over the last 60 years identifying the unique differences in the features of the Paleolithic of East and Southeast Asia from those of the Paleolithic of Eurasia that is covered in the text. Derevianko therefore works to establish the time of appearance of these tools in China and to compare their techno-typological features with the hand axes from the rest of Eurasia basing conclusions on the available stratigraphic and chronological data (Derevianko 2008). This is together with comparative analyses of the different industries of the Early Paleolithic in China and the Acheulian of Eurasia and Africa as a whole rather than as separate artifacts. This is pursued on the basis of bifacially worked tools including hand axes, picks, cleavers and spheroids in some of the Paleolithic complexes in China.
Recent research work published in the field has discovered numerous sites with bifacially worked tools that range from the Early to the Late Paleolithic in China. Most especially, studies done by Huang Weiwen (1987) have reviewed bifaces from Early Paleolithic techno complexes in China drawing conclusions that the tools of this category have numerous features in common with the bifaces from Europe and Africa. This has hence reduced the borderline existing between the lithic cultures of the West and East and hence suggesting the probability of contacts between Western and Eastern cultures in the Early Paleolithic (Derevianko 2008).
There was also the Levallois strategy of stone knapping that was practiced by an in-migration of human populations that did not venture eastwards to the Paleolithic site in East or Southeast Asia. This strategy had a different bifacial technique from Acheulian handaxes in terms of both manufacturing and morphology technique.
The study however does not establish a clear identification of the transition from the Middle Paleolithic to the Upper Paleolithic in China as compared to the other regions of Eurasia. The Middle Paleolithic industry of the China-Malaysia zone was therefore concluded to be different from that in Eurasia with its local middle Upper Pleistocene collections characterized by increases in the proportions of tools made on fakes like those fashioned on small spalls.
Li, Liu & Hong, Xu. 2007, Rethinking Erlitou: legend, history and Chinese archaeology. Academic Research Library, 81, 314: 886.
In their article, Li, Liu & Hong, Xu combine the textual history of Erlitou with the up dated archeological research findings to describe, date and explain its history, culture and legend. This is as compared to its initial explanation investigated through dynastic succession of the Xia and Shang. As the primary center of the Erlitou culture, the Erlitou site was the main archeological area explored in the study, an archaic city that has represented one of the largest urban settlements in the history of China. Discoveries from excavations within its confines have unearthed a complex civilization that lived in palatial residential areas with elaborate burial sites and workshops for making turquoise, pottery, bronze, jade and ceramic objects and artifacts. The Erlitou site has however continuously provoked debates concerning its historical and ethnical identity and most especially, its relationship with the Shang and the Xia dynasties, believed to represent different dynasties (Li and Hong 2007). There have similarly been numerous debates on the historical identity of the Erlitou on whether or not it was the capital city of either the Shang or the Xia dynasties.
The main important issue being explored in the text is the use of dynastic chronology for the Chinese archaeological investigations and interpretations as blueprints. Different studies have used different chronologies with hypothetical statements with one of them being most accurate. The authors therefore respond to this type of archeological investigation as lacking the needed precision which poses a major threat to the reliability of the data. This is because some of the prehistoric royal genealogies are derived from an oral chronology history rather than the more reliable historical written chronicles. From their analysis they explain that this controversy impeding unity in the field is because the written chronology have a more accurate representation of the temporal sequences of the different historical events whereas the oral chronology lacks absolute reference to time since they only developed, designed and transmitted events that were perceived as important with little or no consideration given to absolute dating (Li and Hong 2007). The paper therefore surrounds all these speculations in the dynastic affiliations of the Erlitou culture as it attempts a paradigm shift on the appropriate research method for accurately studying this elusive field of archaeology.
Even after the Xia Shang Zhou chronology project, there have still been debates on the significance of the data to studies on the different dynasties. The Xia dynasty was for instance classified to have existed between 2070 through 1600 BC and the Shang dynasty between 1600 and 1046 BC. The Erlitou culture on the other hand was placed between the 1880 and 1520 BC. This has therefore been the source of numerous other controversial discussions on which phase of the Erlitou culture represented the Xia-Shang transition and on which archaeological culture corresponded most to the early Xia dynasty. This is because from the dating the early Erlitou culture cross cuts both the Xia and the Shang dynasties. Unfortunately, the disunity is furthermore enhanced since all the four different phases of the Erlitou culture are identified with the Xia Shang transition (Li and Hong 2007). Dominant opinions from most of the Chinese archaeologists however identify the period between the third and the fourth Erlitou history phases as closer to the historical change over. The phase IV has also been marked as the period for the dynastic collapse judging from the general decline in the population as well as the abandonment of the palatial and complex structures. Erlitou phase I and II on the other hand have been inferred to be characterized by initial in migration that led to a rapid growth and expansion and start of prosperity for the culture (Li and Hong 2007).
Yuan, Guangkuo. 2013, The discovery and Study of the Early Shang Culture. A Companion to
Chinese Archaeology: 323-342
This article explores two significant periods in the Shang Dynasty, the early and the late. A lot of knowledge concerning the early Shang period has been discovered from the excavations by archaeologists over the past couple of years with important sites from the different regions dated back to the four sub-phases discovered. Apart from the identification of these phases, the article also explores the different regional settlement patterns, the functions of the settlements, craft production, social stratification as well as evidence for symbolic communication. The early Shang culture was initially discovered at Erligang in the modern day Zhengzhou city. The Hunei, Henan and the Shangxi Provinces were discovered to house most of the Shang settlements. Most fieldwork on these sites have been situated in large ‘cities’ judging from the rammed-earth walls present around the massive sites (Yuan 2013). Most of the extensive work has particularly taken place in the large Zhengzhou city together with the well-preserved city of Yanshi. Yuan in his article therefore identifies some of the significant changes in the patterns of settlement over time as well as the variation in the functions of the different sites. It is from the excavated caves and settlement data received that archaeologists are identifying a highly stratified society with well-developed artistic expression and economic systems. This therefore demonstrates that the early Shang period was important as it helped to establish the late Shang period.
Archaeologists like Zou Heng (1956 ) have used the knowledge gained from the excavation of the Erligang site to propose inferences that the Zhengzhou site might be have an earlier dating as compared to Yinxu at Anyang and could therefore represent the origin of Yinxu culture. On the nature of the settlements in Zhengzhou Shang city, different scholars have proposed different capital cities based on its dating and position, as either Ao du, Bo, Zheng Bo or the West Bo in a variety of historical documents (Yuan 2013).
Yuan makes a number of findings in his study. For instance, from the striking similarities of artifacts and chronological data, he concludes that Huanbei was a significant component of the Shang site. The four phases of the early Shang culture are also able to be identified from intensive archaeological research that classifies the early Shang culture between 1600 BC through 1300 BC.
The different types of settlements in the Chinese historical text explain the difference in the size of the Shang period. The varied settlement tiers identified the different social hierarchical social cultures at the time that included the regional capitals, auxiliary capitals, military towns as well as small cities functioning as common settlements and military strongholds. These different cities therefore served as centers for defense, political organization and economic activities (Yuan 2013).
On transportation and communication, most of the Shang cities relied on the Suoxu and Jialu rivers which provided them with enough water for their daily use for transportation and protective barriers to the city. On the economic front in the early Shang period had a diversification of economic developments that ranged from animal husbandry, farming and craft production. In addition to shells, bones and stone, people began use bronze. This well-developed economic as well as ceremonial system boosted the development of symbolic communication especially through arts (Yuan 2013). Special forms of art and decorative techniques were used as a signifying the birth of civilization. Most of their artifacts revealed high levels of bronze-casting technology as well as artistic expression most specifically during the early Shang Period.
Wang, Lixin. 2013, the Lower Xiajiadian Culture of the Western Liao River Drainage System. A
Companion to Chinese Archaeology: 81-98
This article by Wang, Lixin discusses the different types of sites in the Lower Xiajiadian Culture of the Western Liao River Drainage system together with its internal settlement organization, evidence for ritual, economic activities and social hierarchy as well as its regional settlement patterns. The nature of residential remains in the region indicates that two basic levels of social organization in the Lower Xiajiadian region that includes the extended also called clan and the nuclear family. Village organization was likely based on the blood ties between the different households with unique patterns specific to different regions. Above the single level villages, there were small and large-scale settlement clusters that were formed to fulfill the needs of intermarriage, defense against enemies and collaborative development of regional resources.
Even with the huge differences in the sizes of the settlements, the variation in degrees is not significant as compared to other areas in early China.
Furthermore, there were also little evidences for the presence of large-scale palaces as well as temple architectural features. The Lower Xiajiadian society involved a lot of conflicts and contradictions judging from the presence of the widespread fortifications of abundant stone as well as bone weapons together with the frequency of the sacrificial pits that contained human remains and hence giving an indication of unnatural deaths (Wang 2013). This pre-state therefore had a complex society which suffered from unrest and a lack of a unifying political structure.
However, although the society had been stratified and had some semblance of protocol that protected the rank order, it did not have a completely solidified ritual system.
The Lower Xiajiadian culture also had a well-developed agricultural system that exploited arable land to its unprecedented level. It also had a well- organized craft production system that had already attained the stage that involved labor division at the familial level. The cultural, political as well as the technological organization had however not attained the level of the contemporary and slightly earlier cultures in the middle Yellow river valley. This was however exceptional in northeast China with its neighboring regions, however, it was exceptional (Wang 2013).
Originally, most of the Chinese scholars believed that the Lower Xiajiadian culture had a very large distribution area that consisted of the Western Liao river drainage system, the region north of the Hai River, north of the Yan Mountains and south of the Yan Mountains together with the Luan river valley. There have been numerous debates concerning the origins of the Lower Xiajiadian culture with different scholars attempting to trace the source areas as well as the cultural traditions for the specific cultural traits in the region including the ceramic form and decoration. These were therefore linked to various features originating from the cultural groups in northeast China like the Hongshan together with areas further south (Wang 2013).
Interactions between the people of the Lower Xiajiadian Culture with those from various contemporary, external cultures led to the transfer of the Lower Xiajiadian culture of scapulimancy practices like divination with the use of scapulae of large mammals to the Shang culture and hence leading to the renewal of their oracle-bone divination techniques. Furthermore their contact with people from the Erlitou culture impacted the appearance of some of their artifacts explaining the stylistic similarities to the Erlitou bronze. Private ownership in the region was similarly very strong as indicated by the presence of numerous houses built on top of each other at the same place (Wang 2013). Some of the significant parameters that were used in the study were the distribution pattern of the sites, the settlement archaeology and the nature of their concentration which also helped to analyze their large social organization.
2008 Paleoenvironment: The Stone Age. Archaeology and Ethnology of Eurasia
Li, Liu, and Hong, Xu
2007 Rethinking Erlitou: legend, history and Chinese archaeology. Academic Research Library, 81: 314-886.
2013 The Lower Xiajiadian Culture of the Western Liao River Drainage System. A Companion to Chinese Archaeology: 81-98
2013 The discovery and Study of the Early Shang Culture. A Companion to Chinese Archaeology: 323-342
2000 A Comparative Study of the Ding Bronze Vessels From Xin'gan. Journal of East Asian Archaeology 2(1): 251-272.
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