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Ref ID: 36667
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Li, Haichao
O'Sullivan, Rebecca
Title: Diachronic change in the Shang dynasty ritual package
Date: 2020
Source: Archaeological Research in Asia
Notes: Article number 100210
Abstract: The ritual system of China’s Late Shang dynasty is commonly described as ‘mature’ in Mainland Chinese scholarship, meaning that the leading role of bronze vessels in ancestral rites is recognisably similar to the practices of later dynasties. Such an assumption depicts ritual artefacts—particularly those from mortuary contexts—from the Early and Middle Shang periods as precursors to the Late Shang ones in a predictable evolutionary framework. This paper examines changes in the use of ceramic and bronze across the Shang period, showing that ceramics—specifically proto-porcelain and hard pottery—played more of a key role in Early and Middle Shang ritual, though the types of vessels required were not yet strictly formalised. By contrast, the huge number of bronzes in the Late Shang corresponds to an apparent emphasis on quantity and conspicuous consumption in a ritual economy. This occurred despite the Late Shang’s theoretical loss of territory in the west and south, which necessitated exchange networks with neighbouring polities, particularly those south of the Central Plains, be adapted.
Volume: 23