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Anyang / An Yang / Yinxu

The Records of the Grand Historian states that the Shang Dynasty moved its capital six times. The final (and most important) move to Yin in 1350 BCE led to the dynasty's golden age. The term Yin Dynasty has been synonymous with the Shang dynasty in history, although it has lately been used to specifically refer to the latter half of the Shang Dynasty. Anyang in modern day Henan has been confirmed as the last of the Shang's nine capitals (c 1300–1046 BCE).

Anyang, one of the eight Chinese ancient capitals, is a famous historical city with glorious civilization. In about 1300 BC the 20th Emperor of the Shang Dynasty, Pangeng, established his capital here. Anyang, the ancient city, has a history of 3300 years till now. At the Pre-Qin times 3000 years ago, the ancient Chinese had developed agricultural economy here and established an oriental metropolis here.

Western scholars are often hesitant to associate settlements contemporaneous with the Anyang settlement with the Shang dynasty. For example, archaeological findings at Sanxingdui suggest a technologically advanced civilization culturally unlike Anyang. The evidence is inconclusive in proving how far the Shang realm extended from Anyang. The leading hypothesis is that Anyang, ruled by the same Shang in the official history, coexisted and traded with numerous other culturally diverse settlements in the area that is now referred to as China proper.

Around 1200 BC begins the historical period of Anyang, the actual site of the Shang house (by older archeologists called Yin Xu, "Wastes of Yin"). The first ruler whose name appears in the oracle bone inscriptions is Wu-ding. He ruled over a large, unwalled city and was buried with great pomp. Unfortunately his tomb was plundered, but the burial site of his consort Fuhao (Fu Hao) was unearthed wholly intact. The two tombs - like all the tombs sited in a wide graveyard-like area - contained not only a multitude of burial offerings like bronze vessels, jade and chariots (that must have been imported from the steppe peoples) but also dozens of in some cases beheaded sacrificial human and animal victims.

The bloodiness of Shang burial rites can be compared with the Aztec sacrificial slaughter, but they left no trace in the memory of the following Zhou Dynasty. In the Zhou moralist's eyes, the last depraved rulers of the Shang have been lustful, not bloody. The tradition to slaughter slaves, concubines, servants and captives as a burial offering for a deceased ruler was still intact during the Spring and Autumn Period, and the most famous example of human offerings is the tomb of the First Emperor of Qin.

The Huanbei Shang city-site, dated to the Middle Shang period, was discovered in 1999. It is the largest walled Shang city in the current archaeological map. The Huanbei site is located north of the Huan River in the northern suburb of the modern city Anyang, Henan. About 19 km to the west is the eastern foothill of Taihang Mountains, to the north low-relief hills, and to the east and south the broad alluvial flood plain. The general topography of the site is relatively flat, slightly higher in elevation in the northwestthan in the southeast. This walled urban site situates immediately northeast of the limit of Yinxu, the well-known capital site of Late Shang period, with a slight overlapping.

As early as in 1960, it was the first time to find some artifacts, dated to the Middle Shang period, within the limit of the walled Huanbei site identified later. The major advance toward the discovery of the Shang city site at Huanbei was not made until 1997 when the work of systematic regional archaeological survey along the Huan River was initiated. The presence of a pounded earth wall and the massive size of the site would assure a political status of central urban settlement during the Middle Shang period.

The walled area of the Huanbei site is approximately square, measuring about 470 hectares, 2,150 m east-westby 2,200 m north-south. The enclosed wall is oriented about 13 degrees northeast, characteristic of many architectural buildings of Shang culture, such as city walls, palace-temples, residential houses, and tombs of different sizes.

For scale compariton, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois USA preserves the central section of the largest prehistoric Native American city north of Mexico. Occupied from 700 to 1400 AD, the city grew to cover 4,000 acres [about 1600 hectares], with a population of between ten and twenty thousand at its peak around 1100. The site is dominated by the hundred-foot-tall Monks Mound, the largest prehistoric earthen mound in the Americas. One of the greatest cities of the world, Cahokia was larger than London was in AD 1250.

The city wall of the Huanbei site might not have been completed before this urban settlement was abandoned. It is traditionally believed that the city wall was usually built later than initial civic and residential buildings. Collapse deposit of burned walls and roofs were found overlying most building remains, strongly suggesting that this cluster of buildings might have been destroyed by a fire that might essentially lead to the abandonment of the whole city. Evidence of sacrifice can also be seen inassociation with the construction of buildings. An example is the sacrificial child burial. Child sacrifice was a common practice employed in architectural construction, particularly for those large public architectures.

Besides the world-famous Jiaguwen, inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty (16th—11th century B.C), the bronze wares of the Shang Dynasty, Anyang boasts of well known historical views such as the caves of primitive people 25,000 years ago, the mausoleum of two far ancient emperors, the ancient city of Youlicheng which is the origin of the Eight Diagrams, Yecheng,a city rich in culture, the ancient watercourse where Ximen Bao (a famed government official), had made contribution to the water-control, the native place of famous loyal general Yue Fei of the South Song Dynasty, who had devoted himself to the nation and so on.

Lying in the north of Henan Province, Anyang borders Shanxi, Hebei and Shandong Provinces. It has The Taihang Mountains to the west and the North China Plain to the east. The Huanshui River originating in the east foot of the Taihang Mountains goes through the City. As to the latitude, Anyang has similar latitude with Tokyo, Yokohama of Japan and San Francisco of US, covering 7,354.11 square kilometers. The continental monsoon climate of medium latitudes here blesses Anyang with four distinct seasons and comfortable weathers with abundant rainfall and sunshine.

Besides, Anyang boasts numerous beautiful natural sceneries such as the Xiaonanhai, the Pearl Spring Scenic Areas and the Taihang Mountains, which have attracted tourists from home and abroad. Of them, the aviation sports land has become the favorite of parachute jump and air-glide fans for its unique style and advantageous natural conditions. Another famous attraction is Hongqiqu (the Red Flag Canal) which is laurelled as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.

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Page last modified: 02-07-2012 18:29:12 ZULU