The idea of the Mandate of Heaven was important for the Zhou Dynasty as a way to justify their rule. The advisor Yin argued in our last reading that the Shang Dynasty lost the Mandate of Heaven and the right to rule China because they did not follow the example of their ancestors. Because of this, Heaven sent down disasters on the Shang Rulers.
Next we are going to examine a secondary source about the fall of the Shang Dynasty written by a modern day historian. Read through the passage below. Look for the answers to the following questions:
1. Does the author of the secondary source give any similar reasons for why the Zhou fell as the author of the primary source?
2. Why do you think that these authors would interpret events like natural disasters differently?
Post your answer in the discussion thread below. After you post your answer, you will be able to see other student's responses. Reply to one of them following our expectations for discussion responses.
Reading 2-Shang Dynasty (Secondary Source)
The Shang dynasty (商朝) came to rule the Yellow River valley about 1700 BC, after they conquered the Xia dynasty.
The Shang dynasty is the earliest recorded dynasty of traditional Chinese history. Excavation near modern-day Anyang, the last Shang capital, has 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.
During their rule, the Shang improved peasant life by introducing a series of public works such as irrigation systems and canals for transportation. These improved irrigation systems, increased farming and food supply; which led to a rise in population (approximately 30 million). The Shang also developed bronze as a more durable metal for weapons and other tools such as farming equipment. Tens of thousands of bronze, jade, stone, bone, and ceramic artifacts have been found near Anyang.
The Anyang site has the earliest known Chinese writing, suggesting that they developed a more complex writing system and literacy. Most of the writing has been found on turtle shells, ox horns, or other bones. The Shang rulers used taxes from the farmers and peasants to pay for their large army that guarded the kingdom from outside attackers.
Overtime, droughts made the tax payments too difficult for the farmers to pay. Furthermore, as the population began to grow, arable land for farming also became less and less. This problem was made worse as the peasant rebellions only increased the need for more soldiers and higher taxes. Eventually, Shang rule was ended by the Zhou dynasty which came from further up the Huang He or Yellow river. The Zhou emperor, King Wu claimed he defeated the Shang because he held “The Mandate of Heaven.”