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CHINA: HISTORY-ARCHAEOLOGY
Neolithic Period

ca. 10,000 to 2,000 BCE
Video Unit Origin Stories [Open Learning Initiative, Harvard Extension School]
Lecture 2 of 37 from the Harvard Open Learning Initiative course, China: Traditions and Transformations. This 50-minute lecture presentation, with an accompanying slide presentation that can be controlled separately, is part of an introductory course on China for undergraduates at Harvard. Taught by two of the leading scholars of the China field — professors Peter Bol and William Kirby — the presentations provide background for teachers and students alike. Suitable for secondary school classrooms, especially AP-World History courses. (The link above leads to the main course page listing all 37 lectures. Scroll to Lecture 2: Origin Stories and select a connection type to view or listen to this lecture.)

Printable Map Maps of Chinese Dynasties: Neolithic Era [The Art of Asia, Minneapolis Institute of Arts]
Color map showing land occupied during China's neolithic period relative to present-day political boundaries. Can be downloaded as a .pdf file.

Interactive MapNeolithic Period, ca. 8000-ca. 2000 B.C. [Princeton University Art Museum]
A detailed introduction to Neolithic China. Discusses the Yangshao (ca. 4800-ca. 3000 B.C.), Majiayao (ca. 3800-ca. 2000 B.C.), Dawenkou (ca. 4300-ca. 2400 B.C.), Qijia (ca. 2200-ca. 1800 B.C.), and Longshan (ca. 2600-ca. 2000 B.C.) cultures. With two related objects, both with lengthy descriptions, and an interactive map with an excellent COMPARE feature that allows the user to select any two dynastic periods in Chinese history and compare them by moving from one map to the other.

Neolithic Period in China [Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
A short introduction, with images of three artifacts in the museum's collection.

ca. 4,300 to 1,900 BCE
The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology: Late Prehistoric China [National Gallery of Art]
Teaching materials developed in conjunction with the exhibition The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology: Celebrated Discoveries from The People's Republic of China. Organized into four sections, each with images and descriptions of 4 to 6 related objects. This section discusses late neolithic China and pottery and jade objects from four cultures: Hongshan (ca. 4700-2920 BCE), Henan Yangshao (ca. 3500-3000 BCE), Liangzhu (ca. 3300-2200 BCE), and Taosi Longshan (ca. 2500-1900 BCE).

2,300 BCE
Ancient Tombs: Neolithic Tomb at Dawenkou [A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, University of Washington]
A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, prepared by University of Washington history professor Patricia Buckley Ebrey, is an excellent resource, with images, questions for discussion, timelines, maps, and suggested readings throughout. This particular unit discusses five archaeological sites, one of which is a neolithic Dawenkou culture (4300-2500 BCE) tomb, discovered in present-day Shangdong province.

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Xia, Shang, and Western Zhou Dynasties

Video Unit Bronzes, Oracle Bones, and the Legitimation of Power [Open Learning Initiative, Harvard Extension School]
Lecture 3 of 37 from the Harvard Open Learning Initiative course, China: Traditions and Transformations. This 50-minute lecture presentation, with an accompanying slide presentation that can be controlled separately, is part of an introductory course on China for undergraduates at Harvard. Taught by two of the leading scholars of the China field — professors Peter Bol and William Kirby — the presentations provide background for teachers and students alike. Suitable for secondary school classrooms, especially AP-World History courses. (The link above leads to the main course page listing all 37 lectures. Scroll to Lecture 3: Bronzes, Oracle Bones, and the Legitimation of Power and select a connection type to view or listen to this lecture.)

Overview Maps Dynasties of China [The Genographic Project: Atlas of the Human Journey, NationalGeographic.com]
Eight small maps displayed together, showing China's eight major dynasties from the Shang to the Qing. The maps are very small, but shown together and with text summarizing the history of all eight dynasties, they effectively provide an excellent overview of China's history from ca. 1750 B.C.E. to today. Site removed at NGS temporarily; check back.

TimelineTimeline of Chinese History and Dynasties [Asia for Educators]
An overview of Chinese history through its major dynasties. Includes a dynasty timeline, a chronological outline with short descriptions of key dynasties, and a "dynasties song" to help students remember the major Chinese dynasties in chronological order.

ca. 2,000 to 771 BCE
Printable Map Maps of Chinese Dynasties: Shang Dynasty [The Art of Asia, Minneapolis Institute of Arts]
Color map showing land ruled by China's Shang dynasty relative to present-day political boundaries. Can be downloaded as a .pdf file.

Printable Map Maps of Chinese Dynasties: Chou (Zhou) Dynasty [The Art of Asia, Minneapolis Institute of Arts]
Color map showing land ruled by China's Zhou dynasty relative to present-day political boundaries. Can be downloaded as a .pdf file.

Interactive MapShang/Zhou Dynasty, ca. 1600-256 B.C. [Princeton University Art Museum]
A detailed introduction to Shang and Zhou China. With four related art objects, all with lengthy descriptions and two with a 360-degree rotate view, and an interactive map with an excellent COMPARE feature that allows the user to select any two dynastic periods in Chinese history and compare them by moving from one map to the other.

The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology: Bronze Age China [National Gallery of Art]
Teaching materials developed in conjunction with the exhibition The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology: Celebrated Discoveries from The People's Republic of China. Organized into four sections, each with images and descriptions of 4 to 6 related objects. This section discusses the Xia, Shang, and Western Zhou dynasties and an oracle bone and bronze objects from the Shang and Western Zhou.

Shang and Zhou Dynasties: The Bronze Age of China [Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
A discussion of material culture during China's Bronze Age, which began around BCE 2000. Bronze production is discussed at length, along with jade carving. With nine related artworks.

The Shang Dynasty, 1600 to 1050 B.C. [PDF] [SPICE Digest, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University]
A brief overview of the Shang and its contributions.

Treasures from a Lost Civilization: Ancient Chinese Art from Sichuan [Seattle Art Museum]
Online presentation of a 2001 exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. Select Sanxingdui, Zhou, or Han at the top of the page for information about each, including a gallery of related objects and "Things to Consider" for each topic.

1,200 BCE
Ancient Tombs: Shang Tomb of Fu Hao [A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, University of Washington]
A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, prepared by University of Washington history professor Patricia Buckley Ebrey, is an excellent resource, with images, questions for discussion, timelines, maps, and suggested readings throughout. This particular unit discusses five archaeological sites, one of which is a royal tomb from the Shang dynasty(ca. 1600-1050 BCE) -- that of Fu Hao, the consort of King Wu Ding.

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LANGUAGE
Oracle Bones and Early Chinese Writing

Translated oracle bone inscriptions can be found in the Religion/Philosophy/Thought, Society, and Military and Defense sections of this page.

ca. 1,300 to 1,050 BCE
Oracle Bone, Shang Dynasty [C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University Libraries Special Collections]
"An image of this bone is seen in countless textbooks as an example of the earliest Chinese writing. ... Questions of moment to the ruler and his people, about weather related to agriculture, about marriages of importance to the state, and about sacrifices important to the order of the world, were scratched onto the surfaces of bones or shells." Image enlarges to show writing in detail.

Oracle-bone Fragment, Tortoiseshell, Shang Dynasty [The Art and Archaeology of Ancient China: A Teacher's Guide, The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution]
Select "Part II" under "The Art and Archaeology of Ancient China" to go to page 41 of this PDF guide, which features a small image of an inscribed tortoiseshell fragment and descriptive text, including translated inscriptions from other oracle bones.

Ancient China: Writing [The British Museum]
A unit that examines "the nature and uses of writing in ancient China." The "Explore" section of this unit "presents examples of writing from ancient China, including oracle bones, inscribed bronze vessels, wooden slips and money. This section could be used to examine how writing was used in ancient China, what types of objects writing appeared on, the importance of writing on particular types of objects and the materials used in writing." Select the "Staff Room" link at left for a teacher's guide to this website and its contents.

Chinese Writing: Traditions and Transformations [Asia Society]
A background essay about the history of Chinese writing. Select "Images of very early Chinese writing" near the top of the article for photographs of inscribed ox scapula fragments (oracle bones) that date to the Shang dynasty.

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RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY, THOUGHT
Ancestral Rites and Divination

Primary Source w/DBQs Oracle Bone Inscriptions of the Late Shang Dynasty [PDF] [Asia for Educators]

Religion and World View in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, ca. 1600-256 BCE [Asia Society]
Background reading about Chinese traditions of ancestral rites and divination.

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TECHNOLOGY, INVENTIONS, SCIENCE
Bronze Casting

The Great Bronze Age of China [Asia for Educators]
A reproduction of the teacher's guide and student reading to an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City that offers a good overview of the Bronze Age in China. Useful on its own or as an addition to a museum field trip.

Creating a Bronze Vessel [Princeton University Art Museum]
An excellent interactive unit that illustrates, step by step, the ancient methods by which bronze vessels were cast.

Ritual Wine Container and Focus on Bronze Casting [The Art and Archaeology of Ancient China: A Teacher's Guide, The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution]
Select "Part II" under "The Art and Archaeology of Ancient China" to go to pages 42 and 43 of this PDF guide for information about bronze casting and to see an example of a Shang dynasty bronze vessel.

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MILITARY AND DEFENSE
Warfare

Primary Source w/DBQs Oracle Bone Inscriptions of the Late Shang Dynasty: On Warfare [PDF] [Asia for Educators]

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SOCIETY
Women: Childbearing
ART
Bronzes and Jades

The Neolithic Age: The Beginning of Civilization (pre-1600 BCE) [National Palace Museum]
A brief introduction plus one-page guide to cultural production during China's neolithic age. With four related objects (three jade and one pottery).

Ancient Chinese Bronzes [The Art of Asia, Minneapolis Institute of Arts]
A short introduction to ancient Chinese bronzes, featuring 33 objects, all with descriptions.

Chinese Bronzes of the Shang and Zhou Periods [The Collection in Context, Asia Society]
A short introduction to Chinese bronzes of the Shang and Zhou periods, featuring eight objects, all with descriptions.

Find more art-related resources for China, 4000-1000 BCE
at OMuRAA (Online Museum Resources on Asian Art)

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© 2009 Asia for Educators, Columbia University