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Zhou and Shang’s Political Development Essay Sample

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Zhou and Shang’s Political Development Essay Sample

The Zhou and the Shang differed and compared in many intricate ways through the division of power and social classes throughout their states, the division of labor, as well as the technological advancements. The Shang Dynasty had many remarkable advancements in bronze metallurgy while the Zhou mastered more intricate designs and founded iron metallurgy. The two dynasties had different rivers their society’s depended on, and similar geographical locations.

The Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 B.C.E.) had a prosperous state in China that evolved from their Xia predecessors. The Shang had a single ruler, or monarch, that controlled the land. The kings claimed large portions of the agricultural production and used it to support military forces, political allies, and anyone that could help them maintain their rule. However, the Zhou Dynasty (1122-256 B.C.E.) had much larger state than the Shang. The state was so large, that Zhou rulers had to use decentralized administration: giving power and authority to a subordinate in return for allegiance, tribute, and military support.

The Shang had a very simple social structure. It consisted of two basic people, Nobility and the Commoners. Nobility were the nobles, or upper class to the society (wealthy individuals) while the commoners were the farmers, craftsmen, and common workers. The Zhou has a much more developed social structure. Their social structure consisted of the Nobles, the warriors, the craftsmen and merchants, and the peasants. Nobles would provide warriors with food, shelter, and weapons in return for a promise to fight for them. The nobles would also give peasants small plots of land to work and live on in return for a percentage of the food they produced each year. There were also independent craftsmen and merchants producing and selling their products.

The Shang produced some of the first to make fittings for their horse-drawn chariots out of bronze. The chariots used wheels, spokes, and axles, derived from the Indo-Europeans. The Shang managed to monopolize bronze in the Yellow River valley, which helped their military forces grow stronger, and provided arms greater than that of stone and bone weapons produced by their rivals. The Shang also built two foundries out of bronze, and put bronze masterpieces in lavish tombs that were made for the Kings. The Zhou also used bronze for things such as wine vessels, but found a cheaper, stronger, and more abundant metal; iron. Iron was so abundant, that the Zhou could not monopolize it, and stockpiled their armies with iron weaponry. Bronze became somewhat scarce and more in demand since the Shang had such a monopoly over it, and it was valued by elites. Elites consumed bronze in very large quantities building tombs, and decorative objects.

The religious differences are quite noticeable between the two states. The Zhou were polytheistic, but unlike the Shang, the supreme god was called Tian, or heaven. Tian demanded that all people display right and good behavior, especially the king. If a king was a good and just ruler then he would receive Tian’s support or the “Mandate of Heaven”. If the ruler was evil, he would not have Tian’s support, and would be overthrown. The Zhou used many different gods to explain natural events such as lightning and earthquakes. The Shang used Oracle Bone reading to give answers to important events while the bronze vessels and burial offerings show how the former people have been venerated. The Shang was a medium sized state that expanded from the fallen Xia Dynasty. Its main focus depended on the Huang He river, also called the Yellow River due to its yellow tint which is caused by the soil. The Shang used this river for agricultural purposes, as well as trading purposes. The Zhou was a very large state that toppled the Shang around 1122 B.C.E. and expanded from it. The Zhou used most in its feudal states such as the Yangzi River and the Yellow River as well.

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