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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2014

7 - The creation of paradigm: Zhou bureaucracy and social institutions

Summary

The Western Zhou dynasty saw the rise of a core part of classical literature that has been passed down to our days. On the other hand, there are literally thousands of bronze vessels with inscriptions whose number has been steadily growing over the past half century due to archaeological excavations and uncontrolled looting by tomb robbers. Unlike the Shang oracle-bone inscriptions whose number is very limited outside of Anyang, inscribed bronzes have been found all over North China and a part of South China from cemeteries or residential sites of the Zhou or non-Zhou elites. This makes the Western Zhou one of the most important periods for the spreading of literacy in Chinese history. Also different from the Shang divinatory records that are often fragmentary and almost always inconsequential, a core group of several hundred Western Zhou bronze inscriptions are remarkably lengthy. It is true that a large number of inscribed bronzes were used in the religious context of ancestral worship; however, the historical events they record are almost always unrelated to the ancestral ritual in which their material bronzes were used. Instead, they record a wide range of topics such as military merit, official performance, royal orders, marriage, lineage genealogy, economic deals, diplomatic exchange, legal treaties, and so on. Certainly, the actual use of bronzes in Western Zhou society was not confined to the religious scene either. The improvement in the quality of the written evidence available to us allows for a much better, or more consistent, understanding of the political and ritual institutions as well as social conditions of the Western Zhou than of Shang.

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Selected Reading
Li, Feng, Bureaucracy and the State in Early China: Governing the Western Zhou (1045–771 BC) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Li, Feng, Landscape and Power in Early China: The Crisis and Fall of the Western Zhou, 1045–771 BC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
Hsu, Cho-yun, and Linduff, Katheryn, Western Chou Civilization (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988).
Shaughnessy, Edward L., Sources of Western History: Inscribed Bronze Vessels (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).
Loewe, Michael (ed.), Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1993).
Pulleyblank, Edwin, “Ji and Jiang: the Role of Exogamic Clans in the Organization of the Zhou Polity,Early China 25 (2000), 1–27
von Falkenhausen, Lothar, Chinese Society in the Age of Confucius (1000–250 BC): The Archaeological Evidence (Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, 2006), pp. 64–70
Creel, , The Origins of Statecraft in China, vol. 1, The Western Chou Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), pp. 81–100
Hsu, Cho-yun and Linduff, Katheryn, Western Chou Civilization (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), pp. 101–111
Eno, Robert, The Confucian Creation of Heaven (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), pp. 181–189
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Kern, Martin, “Bronze Inscriptions, the Shijing and the Shangshu: The Evolution of the Ancestral Sacrifice during the Western Zhou,” in Lagerwey, John and Kalinowski, Marc (eds.), Early Chinese Religion, Part 1, Shang through Han (1250 BC–220 AD) (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 156–164
Shaughnessy, Edward L., Sources of Western History: Inscribed Bronze Vessels (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 199–201
Vogt, Nick, “Between Kin and King: Social Aspects of Western Zhou Ritual” (Ph.D. dissertation: Columbia University, 2012), pp. 35–48, 67
Feng, Li, Bureaucracy and the State in Early China: Governing the Western Zhou (1045–771 BC) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 42–95
Rawson, Jessica, “Western Zhou Archaeology,” in Loewe, Michael and Shaughnessy, Edward L. (eds.), The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 414–434
von Falkenhausen, Lothar, “Late Western Zhou Taste,” Études chinoises 18 (1999), 155–164
Feng, Li, “Literacy and the Social Contexts of Writing in the Western Zhou,” in Feng, Li and Branner, David (eds.), Writing and Literacy in Early China: Studies from Columbia Early China Seminar (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011), pp. 271–301
Shaughnessy, Edward L., “A First Reading of the Shanghai Museum Bamboo-Strip Manuscript of the Zhou Yi,” Early China 30 (2005–6), 1–24
Loewe, Michael (ed.), Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1993), pp. 216–228, 376–389, 415–423
Feng, Li, Landscape and Power in Early China: The Crisis and Fall of the Western Zhou, 1045–771 BC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 193–232