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2010 Lecture

Anyang Archaeology in the 21st Century: New Perspectives in the Search for the Shang Civilization

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Shang is the earliest state to have left written records in Chinese history. Anyang, located some 500 kilometers south of Beijing, is known as the last capital site of Shang China. Since 1928, archaeologists have devoted great efforts to the study of Shang by excavating its buried remains. In the first ten years of the twenty-first century, archaeological work in Anyang has brought us a deep understanding of the mysterious state by adopting new fieldwork strategies and research methods. This lecture discusses the latest archaeological knowledge on the Shang. It focuses on Anyang's residential layout and social organization. It also strives to explore the association between the loss of cultural diversity and the collapse of Shang state.

UNESCO has declared the site of the Shang capital to be a cultural heritage site. That site, covering approximately 30 square kilometers, is located in and around what is today the village of Xiaotun, west of Anyang, in Henan province. This cite is commonly called Yinxu (literally, "the ruins of Yinz" by historians and archaeologists.

The World Heritage website of UNESCO describes the Shang capital in these words:
A number of royal tombs and palaces, prototypes of later Chinese architecture, have been unearthed on the site, including the Palace and Royal Ancestral Shrines Area, with more than 80 house foundations, and the only tomb of a member of the royal family of the Shang dynasty to have remained intact, the Tomb of Fu Hao. The large number and superb craftsmanship of the burial accessories found there bear testimony to the advanced level of Shang crafts industry. Inscriptions on oracle bones found in Yinxu bear invaluable testimony to the development of one of the world's oldest writing systems, ancient beliefs and social systems.

Tang Jigen (PhD, University College London, 2004) is a Professor of Archaeology in the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In recent years he has directed the excavation at Yinxu in Anyang and has conducted research on the area's importance in the Bronze Age. In 2005, Professor Tang organized the construction of the Yinxu Museum and was the principal architect of the new museum's overall exhibition strategy. He is also the creator of a database on Anyang and the Shang, the Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project, at the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Among Professor Tang's publications in English are "Ceramic Production in Shang Societies of Anyang," Asian Perspectives 48 (2009); "The True Face of 'Antiquity': Shang Sacrificial Remains in Anyang and the Dark Side of 'Three Dynasties Civilization,'" in Chinese Archaeology and Palaeoenvironment (M. Wagner, ed.; 2009); "Yinxu Museum: An Illustration of Shang Civilization," in International Museums (UNESCO, 2008); "The Space Configuration of Shang China," in Proceedings of the International Symposium of the Visual World of China (C. Marechal and Yau Shuchiu, eds.; 2005); "Construction of an Archaeological Chronology for the History of the Shang Dynasty of Early Bronze Age China," Review of Archaeology 22 (2001); and (co-authored) "The Largest Walled Shang City Located in Anyang, China," Antiquity 74 (2000).

The Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture Series features a yearly lecture and seminar presented by leading scholars on Chinese art and archaeology.
Event Information
  • Lecture
    Saturday, November 6, 2010
    2:00 PM
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