Yin Shang: A dynasty hidden in the fog
China Newsweek reporter/Li Jing
Published in the 2023th issue of China Newsweek magazine on June 6, 12
In the early morning of Jiazi Day in February 1046 BC, after nearly three months of long journey, the vanguard of the Zhou army and the allied army finally arrived at Muye on the southern outskirts of Yindu, which was the core area of the Shang Dynasty - the vast grassland where the royal family raised cattle and sheep, and the terrain was flat, which was simply a godsend battlefield. In this rainy winter, King Shun was already facing a dead end, although his army numbered 3,70 people, more than ten times the Zhou people, and "the journey of Yin Shang would be like a forest". But his army had no fighting spirit, and was cut by the Zhou army like tofu, and even many people did not resist, but directly turned the spear and killed the army of King Cheng.
After witnessing the collapse of the army, King Shun fled back to Chaoge, ascended the deer platform that was rumored to be "three miles in size and a thousand feet high", covered with precious jade, and set himself on fire, according to the religious concept of the merchants, this was a supreme sacrifice, and sacrificed himself to his ancestors.
However, a few hours later, when the faint sunlight penetrated the morning mist and spilled on the corpses on the battlefield of Makino, the Shang Dynasty, which ruled for nearly 600 years and had 17 generations and 31 monarchs, ended and disappeared into history, on the morning of Koshi Day, which the ancients regarded as the star of Jupiter (Jupiter), which was closely related to the fate of the country. In the wind and sand of more than 3000,1928 years, history became legends, legends became myths, and it was not until <>, when Dong Zuobin, an archaeologist from the Institute of History and Philology of the Academia Sinica, dug the first shovel of Chinese scientific archaeology at the site of Yinxu in Xiaotun Village, northwest of Anyang, that the Shang Dynasty appeared from legends and became a history of letters.
A century has passed, and generations of archaeologists have bowed in the fields, hooked and hidden, and relayed in pursuit of the back of that confusing dynasty. But there are still many unsolved mysteries. What is Dayi Shang? Where did the carriage that suddenly appeared come from? Who is buried in the tomb of King Yin Wu found today? Why did the last monarch, Di Xin, lose Shang? They want to cut through the fog to find the mystery, but it is bound to be a long and arduous process. He Yuling, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and deputy station manager of the Anyang Workstation, who has worked in Yin Wu for more than 20 years, once lamented: "I don't know much more about Yin Wu than I know." ”
The mystery of the origin of "Dayi Shang"
"Looking closely, this side should have been a pit, and its fill color is darker, and the color of raw soil that has never been disturbed is different." On a mid-April morning, when there was silence at the site of the Yinxu Tomb, Wang Di, an associate researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Newsweek how to distinguish the exposed soil layer of the archaeological site with the naked eye. "Finding soil in the soil", this is the daily life of archaeologists, and it is also the basic skill. Inside the ditch, members of the Anyang team of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences are scraping the soil little by little with a shovel, and the soil that has been cleaned up has to be sifted by mechanics, "in case there is something missing inside." Wang Di explained.
Archaeological exploration of the Shang King Mausoleum and its surrounding areas, which began in August 2021, revealed more than 8 new sacrificial pits, and found two eastern and western ditches around the tomb, which have been determined to belong to the divine moat surrounding the Shang King Mausoleum (the dry ditch that defines and guards the cemetery is usually only found in the Wang Mausoleum). These discoveries have changed the pattern of the Shang King Mausoleum, will promote the research on the Shang Dynasty mausoleum system and even Shang culture and history, and will be rated as one of the top ten new archaeological discoveries in the country in 460.
The north bank of the Huan River, with the tomb of the Shang King as the core, is an important part of the entire Yinxu "Dayi Shang" capital. Why "Dayi Shang"? It's a puzzle that the archaeological community has debated for decades. In the oracle bone text, these three words appear many times: "Wang Jin entered Dayi business", "Wang Cai entered Dayi business", "sued Yuzi Dayi business"... Their reference is believed to be the exact area of the location, sometimes to the Wanggi region, that is, the area directly under the jurisdiction and control of the Shang royal family, and sometimes to the capital of Yin. However, in the documents of later Zhou people, "Dayi Shang" also refers to the Shang Dynasty, such as the Western Zhou bronze He Zun that first recorded the word "China", and the inscription clearly mentioned "King Wu Ke Dayi Shang".
He Yuling, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and deputy director of the Anyang Workstation, told China Newsweek that these are only the mainstream views of the academic community, and there are more "non-mainstream" views and explanations, and the current understanding of "Dayi Shang" cannot form a definite meaning, which can represent the Shang dynasty regime, or represent the entire royal power control area, or indicate the political center. From an archaeological point of view, even if "Dayi Shang" only refers to the capital city, that is, Yin Wu, the real environmental appearance, settlement layout, social organization structure, personnel composition, production and life mode at that time... Scholars are still exploring.
The first phase of the excavation of the Yin ruins, which began in 1928, was mainly concentrated in the palace area and the royal tomb area. After 1950, the archaeological team discovered some noble residential areas, workshop areas, burial areas and urban road systems around the palace area and the royal tomb area. In recent years, in addition to the traditional understanding of Huanbei Mall and Yinxu areas, there have been new important archaeological discoveries.
In 2016, 10 kilometers away from the Yinxu Palace area, the Xindian ruins with an area of 100 million square meters were newly discovered. An ancient clan with the name "Ge" lived here, mainly engaged in bronze casting, and was buried here after his death. In 2021, the Taojiaying site was discovered, located about 4 kilometers north of Huanbei Shangcheng and covering an area of nearly 20,<> square meters. Taojiaying, Xindian and other ruins are like different levels of "satellite cities" guarding the Yin ruins, and their discoveries have greatly broken through the traditional understanding of the scope of Yin ruins, which contains a larger range of Yin ruins containing many "satellite cities", perhaps the "Dayi merchants" in the oracle bone and golden texts.
But there are still too many mysteries.
For example, how many secondary settlements of the scale of the Xindian ruins are there outside the traditional Yin ruins? Add small and medium-sized sites with tertiary settlements, what is the number and density of their distribution? What is the internal structure of these settlements of different sizes, is it a single ethnic settlement, or is it the "work, residence, and burial" model speculated by some scholars? Moreover, until today, the city wall has not been discovered in Yin Wu like other capitals, and the area of 36 square kilometers of Yin Wu is still only a conservative estimate. "We couldn't find the walls." He Yuling said, "Or if there was no city wall at that time, then the 'Dayi Shang' gave us a state where the research boundary was infinitely open." ”
If you go one step further to the source, don't say "Dayi Shang", what is "Shang"? There are still many differences. Nearly 4000,<> years ago, Cheng Tang, who founded the country in Xia, had to give his new country a national name. As a result, he chose "Shang". Why Shang? This is also a question that generations of scholars have been asking constantly.
A few years ago, Liu Xu, a professor at Peking University's School of Archaeology and Museum, asked Tang Jigen, who had served as the captain of the Yin Wu archaeological team, a question when he was seriously ill: "Why is the Shang Dynasty called Shang?" Why is it also called Yin Shang? ”
People in later generations, because merchants are good at exchange, trading, transliterate the meaning of merchants into businessmen, but this is far from the original meaning of business. Some literary scholars have sought the original meaning of the Shang character from the glyph of the oracle bone Shang character, believing that the "Shang" character is like a certain artifact more than 3000,<> years ago, such as zhang, such as zhang, ru man, such as staff, such as cymbal, and ruzun, some people say that the upper part of the "Shang" character is a bird's crown, the lower part is a "C" shaped pedestal, and some people say that the upper part of the "Shang" character is an inverted cymbal, and the lower part is a pedestal...
There is also a group of historians who examine the character Shang by tracing the context and usage of the word "Shang" in ancient documents—in ancient documents, although the word Shang has many uses, it is mainly used as a dynasty, star, and place name. For example, in the first year of the Zhao Gong and the ninth year of the Xianggong in the Zuo Chuan, both explicitly say that Shang is a star, calling it "Shang Xing" or "Great Fire". The "Shiji Yin Benji" records it as a place name: "The contract is long and Zuoyu has meritorious service in curing water... Sealed in business. Therefore, Wang Guowei wrote in the article "Say Shang": "The name of the country of Shang is based on the name of the place. The modern paleography scholar Chen Mengjia also supported the view that Shang was a place name in his "Survey of Yin Wu Bu Zhi", arguing that "Shang" is in present-day Shangqiu.
Based on ancient documents, oracle bone writing rules, and archaeological discoveries in the 30 years of Yin Wu, Tang Jigen has his own ideas. At an international symposium in March 2022, he released his research results for the first time – the original meaning of Shang is the sound of striking, symbolizing the sound of the solemn temple. In an era when people generally believed in the Mandate of Heaven and sacrifice was a frequent daily act, Shang Zi was undoubtedly one of the words with the best sound meaning.
Since Chengtang adopted this word when it was founded, it gradually became the name of the country. Later, the people of the Shang Dynasty incidentally imbued their capital with sacred colors, calling it "Dayi Shang" and "Tianyi Shang". As for the later name of the Shang Dynasty as Yin or Yin Shang, Tang Jigen told China Newsweek, "From the founding of Chengtang to the loss of the kingdom, the Shang Dynasty has always been the Shang Dynasty. In the early years of the Western Zhou Dynasty, King Wu of Zhou was still known as the former dynasty, and the famous bronze inscriptions such as Liguan and He Zun were recorded. During the reign of Duke Fu of Zhou, he gradually transitioned from 'Shang' to 'Yin', and became more and more accustomed to using 'Yin' to be called 'Shang'. The original meaning of Yin was to hold things to cure diseases, and later the Zhou people used the negative meaning of the original meaning of Yin to refer to the former dynasty as Yin instead of Shang, somewhat with negation and contempt for the former dynasty. Tang Jigen believes that the sound of striking is the original meaning of Shang, and that when Tangtang was called "Shang", it should only have chosen the word, and when the word "Shang" was created still needs to be studied.
The mystery of Shang's "brutality"
Walking in the gallery of the Yin Wu Museum full of exquisite bronzes, there are two pieces of copper rhizoma (yǎn), which are not delicate and ornate in themselves as vessels used to steam things 3,000 years ago, and are unique in that they contain human skulls.
One of them was discovered in 1999. At that time, the Anyang Yin Market archaeological team led by Tang Jigen found a bronze urn in a large tomb, which actually contained a human head. Seeing this, he faintly felt familiar. Tang Jigen remembered that in 1984, when archaeologists excavated the sacrificial pit in the Wangling area, they also found a copper skull containing a human skull. At that time, because it was an isolated case, scholars did not care, thinking that it may have been accidentally dropped by the head of a martyr during the sacrifice. After moving it back to the archaeological team, it was treated as a case, and no further research was conducted. After more than a decade, seeing this phenomenon again, the archaeological team cleaned up the cultural relics and put them together with the one unearthed in 1984. Faced with these two bronzes, they realized that this was by no means an accident, but a phenomenon worth studying.
Later, these two bronze artifacts became the most well-known representatives of the "human sacrifice" relics related to Yin Shang, and they showed another picture of the Bronze Civilization era - our ancestors' understanding of life was very different from today. These cultural relics are intertwined with the myths and legends created by people's complex emotions in the changes of time and space, and from the perspective of modern people, it is inevitable to have a brutal and terrifying impression of the Shang Dynasty.
In Tang Jigen's view, this history of sacrificing ancestors with humans and animals did exist. In the development history of the entire human civilization for thousands of years, it can be regarded as a special stage in the development of human society - businessmen believe in ghosts and gods, and their national politics, social life and other aspects are centered on ghosts and gods, and everything is decided by the "concept of destiny". "Murderous sacrifice, on the one hand, is to sacrifice to ghosts and gods and ancestors for blessing, and on the other hand, it is also a gesture, expressing that one's power comes from ancestors and heaven, and embodies the legitimacy of obtaining power through sacrifice." Tang Jigen said.
Some scholars believe that the obvious political feature of the Shang Dynasty was the unity of theocracy and royal power, that is, the unity of sacrifice and government, and the Shang King himself was both a political leader and the leader of the witches. The historian Xu Xusheng wrote in his 1960 book "The Legendary Age of Ancient Chinese History" that the Shang nation was still a religious group, and that the Shang king was essentially a religious master. The monopoly on religious sacrifice was the main means by which the Shang king maintained his political power.
This is not a unique phenomenon in ancient China, but a stage experienced by most peoples in the development of civilization around the world. In Mesoamerica, human sacrifice occupies an extremely important position. Many cultures, including the Maya and Aztecs, believed that "human sacrifices" nourished the gods, and without them, the sun would stop rising and the world would come to an end. "All premodern societies offered some form of worship." John Verano, a bioarchaeologist at Tulane University who studies human sacrifice, said, "In many societies, the most valuable tribute is human life. ”
The early human world was closely related to the gods, and human blood sacrifices were the greatest devotion to the gods, who claimed the gifts of the gods with their lives. However, even if this was a stage in the course of civilization, not every generation of kings in the entire Shang Dynasty was keen to use the "human sacrifice" He Yu to lament, and the changes in sacrifice during the more than 500 years of Shang Dynasty rule were not noticed by many people.
"Can I sacrifice with five hundred servants?" After three thousand years, today we can glimpse this question of the Shang king in the oracle bone text numbered 56. Turning to the back, the turtle shell is engraved: "Wang Guyu." This means that after observing the divination and observing the signs, the king decided to say, "It works!" As a result, 500 "human animals" were sent to the sacrificial pit. The diviner was the Shang king Wu Ding, the twenty-second monarch of the Shang Dynasty who created the "Wuding Zhongxing" era in the late Yin Shang period.
According to Li Shuo, a historian who wrote the book "The Merchants of Zhou", Daji, who died of notoriety, did not bother to murder King Wen of Zhou, and may even have helped Bo Yi Kao meet Di Xin, and ordered eunuchs to visit King Wen of Zhou, which was the key to King Wen's eventual release from prison. Because after Zhou destroyed Shang, King Wu appointed Su Xinsheng, the king of the small state of Su, a vassal of the Shang Dynasty, as the commander of the Zhou Dynasty, and Daji was precisely from the Su state, and Su Xinsheng may be Daji's brother. The Zhou clan took care of Daji's kindness and reused her family.
Real history may always be very different from the legends of later generations. The modern Chinese historian Gu Jiegang once wrote "The Occurrence of the Seventy Evil Incidents", starting with the "Book of Shang", listing and analyzing the records of the evil of Di Xin one by one according to the year of appearance. He found that with the Warring States as the boundary, Di Xin's image changed significantly - the Di Xin portrayed in the two-week era was generally a "confused monarch" who was confused and greedy, unable to unite his subordinates and appoint women. After arriving in the Warring States, his image gradually became a tyrannical and lustful, murderous courtier, indiscriminate murder, and extreme extravagance.
From an archaeological point of view, Ho Yuling prefers to describe him as "a failed reformer." "He initiated changes in the sacrificial system and religious system, but did not properly handle the relationship with his courtiers, and more importantly, did not maintain enough vigilance against the rise of the Zhou people, and did not balance the strategy well - he placed the core combat power in the rebellious east, and after 'releasing the tiger back to the mountain' of King Wen of Zhou, he handed over to him the power to pacify some rebellious small countries, causing the Zhou people to rise in the West."
Both reform and strategy failed. I don't know how he viewed his defeat when he burned himself after the Battle of Makino, and later stories like to see this self-immolation as a desperate act after his fiasco, in fact, it was a sacrifice of the highest level - Di Xin gave himself to heaven and ancestors, and the founder of the Shang Dynasty, Cheng Tang, tried to do this, and it was not until the last king Di Xin that he first really practiced it.
The mystery of the carriage and horse
Bypassing the fenced ditch that is being cleaned up at the site of the tomb of the King of Yinxu, in the Che Ma Keng Exhibition Hall in the southeast of the site, I vaguely heard the explanation say to the tourists who visited: "These unearthed carriages and horses, many things are still unexplained..."
"That's right." Wang Di, an associate researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Newsweek, "According to the current archaeological excavations, the people who use the carriage and horse are usually princes and nobles, and if we find that a tomb has two tomb roads, it is a 'middle' shape, and the identity of the tomb owner is usually a large nobleman in the Shang and Zhou Dynasty, then we must pay attention to the fact that there may be car and horse pits around." But there are too many mysteries about the carriages and horses of the Shang Dynasty themselves. ”
In the early spring of 1935, Xia Nai, who later became one of the founders of modern Chinese archaeology, was participating as an intern in the excavation of the Yin ruins under Liang Siyong, the eleventh excavation in Anyang, and Shi Yu used almost all the power at his disposal. In the pit labeled M1136-M1137 not far from the earliest royal tomb in the northwest gang tomb of Yinxu, Xia Nai used three rulers to form a coordinate network to measure, jam, and draw relics and signs of different materials with different pens and paints. Today, the excavation archive itself has become a precious artifact, because M1136 and M1137 are special car and horse pits that have not appeared in the archaeological history of Yin Wu so far, and this is the only case.
Chang Huaiying, associate researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and deputy director of Xia Shangzhou's research office, told China Newsweek that at least 30 cars were buried in this car and horse pit, which is different from other car and horse pits in Yin Wu, and the car and horse pits later found by Yin Wu buried up to two cars at the same time. In addition, the magnificence of the vehicles unearthed by M1136 and M1137 is unique in the archaeological history of the Yin ruins or the Chinese pre-Qin dynasty - "These more than 30 cars may have different decorations for each car, but the same car uses the same decoration in different parts." By today's understanding, about every car is "exclusive haute couture."
In the 30s of the last century, when the country was in trouble, and limited by funds, technical conditions and other factors, scholars at that time did not have the ability to weed out the complete vehicle, and this significant car and horse pit was only cleaned for ten days, and then the relics were hurriedly taken away, and later brought to Taiwan, China. According to the "Selection of Excavated Artifacts of Yin Wu" published in Taiwan, China in 2009, it can be seen that those carriage and horse tools that were unearthed with gray protrusions, after X-ray treatment, their copper components show different patterns of turquoise inlay, which is extremely exquisite.
Koji Mizoguchi, a professor at Kyushu University in Japan, and Junko Uchida, a Japanese scholar in Taiwan, have argued that these dozens of carriages belonged to King Wuding of Shang, but they have not been widely recognized by academics, and in fact, none of the tombs in the tombs of King Shang has yet to confirm their owners.
A relatively accepted inference is that the two carriage and horse pits may be the earliest carriage and horse pits in Yin Wu, because the unearthed stirrups are the most primitive form, and then the most mainstream stirrups evolved from the late Shang period to the early Western Zhou Dynasty. The primitive form of the stirrup provided an idea for the source of the Shang Dynasty carriage - to go to the Eurasian steppe to find it. Regarding the origin of the carriage, there are two theories in the mainstream archaeological community, one is that it was invented by merchants in the late Shang period; Another theory is that after merchants saw the cars driven by ethnic groups in the north, and even people from farther afield, they began to copy them and slowly build cars. Chang Huaiying believes that the second statement is undoubtedly more reliable, but the archaeological community is not yet able to give answers to more "whys". For example, where did the Shang Dynasty's car come from? How did it come about?
According to incomplete statistics, hundreds of horse-drawn carriages have been unearthed in Yin Wu so far. According to the relics and relics that have been unearthed, the Shang Dynasty carriage has a horse head, the person who seals the horse's mouth has a cage mouth, the one who drives the horse has a strategy, the one who stops the horse has a title, the one who indicates the direction has left and right ribs, the one who leads the way has the reins, the horse leads the car forward through the components and leather belts of the car, and the car is pressed up or the car is stable and backward, this driving method is called "yoke driving method", which is the most advanced horse driving method in the ancient world.
Unlike human-powered vehicles and ox-drawn carts, light vehicles that are towed by two horses and run at high speed require a high manufacturing process. Not only that, but the techniques of taming horses and driving are also very complex. In the early and middle Shang period, no trace of the carriage was found, and half a century after the migration of Pangeng to Yin, during the reign of King Wuding, a mature two-horse dragging two-wheeled carriage suddenly appeared, and carriages also appeared frequently in oracle bone speeches. It can be said that the appearance of the carriage in the late merchant was very sudden, and it seems that from the beginning, the technology was fully mature. However, even technology transplantation requires a certain amount of time to learn and accumulate, and this process may take tens or even hundreds of years.
Some scholars have mentioned that the early merchant site Zhengzhou Mall may have found a car, because a piece of pottery found in Zhengzhou Mall is likely to be used to make a car wheel, a cast of a copper component on the car. Chang Huaiying told China Newsweek: "Later, the academic community found that it was not a casting model of the car wheel, and this evidence has been ruled out." ”
At the beginning of this year, the Xinjiang Archaeological Work Report Conference announced that more than 40 sets of wooden wheels and components were unearthed from the Gaotai site of the Jirentai Goukou site in Xinjiang, which is the earliest, largest number and most complete preserved wooden wheel physical data in China so far, more than 100 years earlier than the car in Yin Wu. Some scholars speculate that the carriages of the Shang Dynasty may have been imported from Xinjiang, but there is no evidence to support them.
Chang Huaiying sighed: "The mature carriage suddenly appeared in the late Yin Shang period, and there is no more explanation yet. "Not only that, but where are the horses in the pit raised? Also still a mystery. "Because raising horses is a specialized technology, and there must be a pasture, it is not the same as feeding a pig, is Yin Wu's horse raised in Anyang?" There is no way to answer this question. ”
Around the carriage, there is a more interesting thing - the rut marks seen in Yin Wu at present, the maximum spacing is only about 1 meter 8 to 2 meters, and it cannot reach the distance between the two wheels of the car found by Yin Wu (2.2~2.4 meters), how to explain this problem? Chang Huaiying replied: "There is still no good explanation. This scholar, who has long been concerned about the study of pre-Qin carriages and horses, tried to give two possibilities: one is that the car used in the actual driving in Yin Wu is a relatively small car body, and the vehicle used for burial in the tomb is specially made and the car body is relatively large, so their rut distance is different. It is also possible that the rut marks currently being excavated may be a sign of a special formation, not a rut mark.
The carriage may have played an important role in the Battle of Makino, which eventually led to the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, a famous example in Chinese history of winning more with less, preemptively attacking. There were many reasons for Di Xin's defeat, but many analysts believe that one of the most likely factors was King Wu of Zhou's chariot soldiers. The "Records of History" records that King Wu of Zhou led "300 chariots, <>,<> tigers, and <>,<> soldiers". Chariots, undoubtedly have a strong charging ability, and the tigers, as the personal army of King Wu of Zhou, are equipped with expensive bronze weapons, and they are elite hoplites who closely follow the chariots to fight. And Di Xin's elite troops have been transferred to the east, and the improvised army is just a rabble. When <> chariots rush to the front of the battle like cross-era troops, the end of the war seems to be predetermined.
"I guess the imagination is that a car fight or a chariot must be like a tank car, or like in an Egyptian movie where the two sides drive each other, right? But current materials do not prove this. Chang Huaiying said that archaeologists only speak based on evidence, "There should have been chariots in the late Shang Dynasty, or vehicles in the army." This was true in both the late Shang Dynasty and the early Western Zhou Dynasty. But these vehicles in the army or on the march do not amount to direct hedging in vehicle battles. ”
The Book of Shangshu described the war as extremely cruel, with many people dying in battle and "bleeding to the ground", and later, the Confucian Mencius thought that this war was easy, he believed that "the benevolent are invincible", and Mencius said, "It is better to believe in the book than to have no book". In the end, how that strange surprise attack happened, and how the winner was decided in such a quick way, the mystery of the story and the cruel, unrestrained, fantasy and scientific and technological rationality of the Shang civilization in history remained forever in the early morning of that Jiazi Day more than 3,000 years ago. Since then, the dynasty has ended, the sound of ritual music has begun, and the most drastic political and cultural transformation in Chinese history has begun.
References: "Jade Shang" by Li Shuo, "Xia Shang Annual Table"
China Newsweek, Issue 2023, 21
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