A Thermodynamic Interpretation of History
PART TWO: The Origin of Women's Oppression

CHAPTER 8. 2: The Origin of Classical Patriarchy in Noosphere Consumption and the Interaction Sphere: the Case of China (the Eastern Ecumene)
ACADEMY | previous section | Table of Content | next section | GALLERY

Copyright © 2005, 2006 by Lawrence C. Chin. All rights reserved.

The transition from matrilineal semblance of egalitarianism to patrilineal, “patriarchal” hierarchy

In terms of the evolution of agricultural technology in China, the authors of The History of Chinese Civilization (Vol. 1; 中華文明史)1 propose the following division: from 8,000 to 6,000 B.C., slash-and-burn (刀耕火种农业), the most immature stage, early Neolithic. From 6,000 to 3,000 B.C, the Middle Neolithic period – this is where Yang-Shao culture belongs – when hoes and spades were in use and soil turned over before seed-sowing (p. 108), and long-term sedentization in villages started (p. 112; 锄耕农业). But this had still not gone beyond the stage of “extensive agriculture” or “horticulture.” (Kwang-Chih Chang on the other hand sees Yang-Shao as still practicing slash-and-burn and shifting and repetitive settlement; Archaeology of Ancient China, 4th ed., p. 114.) Domestication of animals (mostly pigs and dogs) had also started. From 3,000 to 2,000 B.C., the Late Neolithic period: Lung-shan culture; when agriculture became fully developed (p. 113; 锄耕农业和犁耕) with plows (犁), irrigation, draft animals and tractors, etc., and so the domestication of animals started including oxen, lamb, and horses (p. 114). This was the beginning of “intensive agriculture.” After that we enter into the historical period, the Three Dynasties, the Bronze Age.

An exemplary village layout of Yang-shao culture is provided by the sites at Pan-p’o (半坡) and Chiang-chai. The Chiang-chai village “consisted of three components: dwelling area, cemetery, and kilns. The dwelling area, composed of more than a hundred houses (associated with over two hundred hearths and over three hundred storage pits) and a central plaza (about 4,000 square meters, with a depressed center), was separated from the burial areas to the east and south by segments of ditches, which were probably joined by palisade-style fences. The kilns were in separate area in the southwest. The houses clustered in five groups arranged around the plaza, each group headed by a large house, with the entrances of all the houses facing the plaza, and the burials were grouped in three discrete sections.” (Chang, ibid., p. 116 – 7. See Figure 1 and 2.) The smaller houses around the large ones were divided into small and medium size (The History of Chinese Civilization, p. 209). “The houses are similar to those at Pan-p’o: they were round or square, semisubterranean, with wattle-and-daub walls and thatched roof. The largest house…, 11.70 by 10.55 meters, was rectangular and built upon unleveled ground.” (Chang, ibid., p. 117 – 8. Figure 3.)

Fig. 1: Layout of Yang-shao village at Chiang-chai (Chang, ibid., p.118)

Chang notes elsewhere that in such layout “[t]here is no evidence of marked social or political divisions, or of institutionalized violence.” But three items can be noted of the people of Yang-shao on the basis of this plan. First, “[a]ccording to cross-cultural study of village layouts and social composition [K. C. Chang, “Study of the Neolithic Social Grouping: Examples from the New World,” American Anthropologist 60 (April 1958): 298 – 334], such a ‘planned,’ segmented village layout strongly suggests that the houses sheltered members of unilinear kin groups…. Second, the possible existence of clans and lineages during the Yang-shao period is strengthened by the fact that there are potters’ marks on many pottery vessels of the Yang-shao culture at many sites, including both Pan-p’o and Chiang-chai… [Figure 4.] [Instead of being taken as earliest examples of Chinese writing, t]hey are better viewed as clan and lineage emblems, like many Shang and Chou characters cast on ritual bronze vessels… [Third, p]ottery basins found at Pan-p’o display a recurrent decorative motif painted in black or dark brown on a red surface: a human face with a fish design at each ear… [Figure 5.] Marilyn Fu has suggested that these faces might be those of shamans and that the wearing of fishes might be compared with the wearing of snakes by the shamans described in Shan Hai Ching [The Mountain and Sea Classics].” (Art, Myth, and Ritual: The Path to Political Authority in Ancient China, Harvard University Press, 1983; p. 112 – 4.) Of course a tribal people can be expected to be “intrawordly religious” such as being engaged in shamanistic praxes. But as yet the kind of connection between shamanism and political authority – the derivation of the latter from the monopolization of shamanistic power – found later in Lung-shan cultures and the Three Dynasties was absent.

Yang-shao village
Fig. 2: View of the village (p. 119)

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

According to the authors of The History of Chinese Civilization the Yang-shao village was matrilineal. In this perspective, the large, medium, and small houses of the village had different functions. “The small houses were the habitats for the couple-life of those adult females in the matrilineal kin group; this sort of ‘family’ was a unit of living [i.e. consumption] and not of production, hence it possessed no independent property.” In these small houses adult females received their “partners” (p. 25). “The mid-size houses were for the use of a family kin group. The female village chief, elders, and children lived here. Hence not only did this housing unit have a hearth inside, but it also included a certain area for conference and performance of rituals” (p. 209). We disagree with the authors here in the assertion that this matrilineal village was headed by females, but subscribe to the more typical view that, women’s influence therein in the affairs of the collective notwithstanding, matrilineal organization was nonetheless headed by males (Figure 6: see comparison with Iroquois below). In any case, it is in the mid-size houses that mothers reared under-aged children (p. 24). “The sleeping spaces were divided among two areas, located on either side of the entrance. It is estimated that males and females slept separately. The small houses of the couple-families surrounded the houses of the family kin group. The large houses were for the use of the [unilinear] kin group. Its spacious interior, usually about 100 square meters in area, allowed many people to gather, discuss, or perform celebratory activities” (p. 209). It was also where adult males lived (p. 24). Hence “it is not difficult to surmise that the primitive village of Chiang-chai consisted of five [unilinear] kin groups.” (Ibid.)

Fig. 6:
a Yang-shao village chief (Chiang-chai)
The authors like to compare this Yang-shao village with the (matrilineal) Naxi minorities in the Yunnan province in the south (during the pre-communist era). They formed a kin group around an elder mother as the kernel. The elder mother lived in the central large house with under-aged children. This large house was also where the entire kin group ate and held conference. Women of marriage age lived in the small quarters around or in the small rooms upstairs. At night they received their “boy-friends” in these small rooms. The second day the boy-friends returned to their own kin group. “What is interesting is that men did not have their own houses; if there were no girl-friends to receive them, they would have to sleep amidst the straws” (p. 25). The authors affirm the same of Chiang-chai. “Matrilineal societies practiced ‘pair-bond marriage.’ This sort of marriage was not stable; the man and the woman did not have [definitive] economic ties, but instead belonged to their respective kin groups. Often, at sun-set the man went to the woman’s place to sleep, but at dawn returned to his own kin group to labor. Children were raised by the mother['s family], and recognized only the mother and not the father” (p. 24).

We can see that this extensive agricultural community of Naxi's entirely replicates the matrilineal organization, based on female sexual solidarity, of the extensive hunting-gathering communities which was the immediate aftermath of the sex-strike situation ("... women... remained with their kin and received visits from their spouses in the early years of marriage -- the norm among [extensive, formative] hunter-gatherers almost throughout the world..."; Chris Knight, Blood Relations, p. 142 - 3). We have already seen the material reason for this replication: as the area-intensive (hunting-and-gathering) mode gives way once again to area-extensive (formative agricultural) mode, patriliny shifts back to matriliny. Although the Chinese commentators follow an indigenously developed Marxist-Engelsian schema for the evolution of society, which is anachronistic at many points, their conjecture here about Yang-shao's being of the same type might contain some truth in it. The loose social organization of the Naxi was not necessarily a primitive relic but may have been the result of a recent adaptation resulting in the revival of old forms. But the Yang-shao matrilineal organization (or organization of female sexual solidarity) may be understood in more detail through a comparison with the Iroquois. Among the Iroquois, matrilineality and uxorilocality are “general norm suffering exceptions, compromises, and modifications… An individual was of the lineage of his mother and the son-in-laws came most often from different residential units, so that the same Long-House became generally the haven for one or more related maternal lineages, sheltering women who were closely related genetically and men of several origins who claimed themselves to be of other maternal lineages.”2 This both characterizes (roughly) the Naxi and serves as a better index of the Chiang-chai condition. The Long-House of the Iroquois would correspond to the large house in each of the five residential groupings of Chiang-chai. The Long-House among the Iroquois was at the center of each matrilineal segment (which Engels calls “gens,” following Morgan [Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staats, Ch. III, “Die irokesische Gens”]). In the Seneca tribe, for example, “there are eight gentes, named after animals: (1) Wolf, (2) Bear, (3) Turtle, (4) Beaver, (5) Deer, (6) Snipe, (7) Heron, (8) Hawk.” (See Figure 8.) The symbols found on Yang-shao pottery would then correspond either to the animal names of the segments or to the names of village or nation (below). The unilinear matrilineal kin group localized in one of the five residential groupings at Chiang-chai constituted the “segment” or gens here. Each Senecan segment is an exogamous unit; “no members is permitted to marry within the gens.” The five residential groupings of Chiang-chai, each headed by a “Big House”, would then constitute five exogamous segments or “gens” that together made up the village or “clan” – or perhaps only three, since the burials were divided into three groups: among the Iroquois, “[each] gens has a common burial place… It exists still among other Indians - for example, among the Tuscaroras, who are closely related to the Iroquois; although they are Christians, each gens has a separate row in the cemetery; the mother is therefore buried in the same row as her children, but not the father [who belongs to a different gens under matrilineality]. And among the Iroquois also the whole gens of the deceased attends the burial, prepares the grave, the funeral addresses, etc.”

It is very possible that the Yang-shao segments or clans also named themselves by animal names. We know from Chinese legends that, during the late Lung-shan period, the tribal units of the confederacies in the western part of the Northern China plain frequently designated themselves by the names of snakes, and those in the eastern part, by the names of sea-birds. (While Hsia and Western Zhou were formed out of the tribes in the west, the Shang people came from the east.) We have already seen how Chris Knight has traced the universal Dragon-Serpent symbolism back to its original mythic source, the Stream-Serpent as the first mythic creature symbolizing the sacred and women’s synchronous menstruation as well. The sea-bird of course is probably also of such serpentine origin, via the same transformation as that characterizing the “bird-nester” story in Lévi-Strauss’ Mythologiques (Blood Relations, Ch. 14, “The Dragon Within”, esp. p. 494 – 513). These two main “totemic” symbols (as Chinese commentators like to call them) from late Neolithic China are probably the Chinese reflexes of this primordial human symbolism, and we note that they eventually got transformed into the dragon and the phoenix that in later history and today serve as the national symbols of the “Middle Kingdom.”

However, underlying the gens of Iroquois was originally the moiety system (which, remember, was the immediate consequence of the female sex-strike). “Among very many Indian tribes with more than five or six gentes, we find every three, four, or more gentes united in a special group, which Morgan, rendering the Indian name faithfully by its Greek equivalent, calls a ‘phratry’ (brotherhood). Thus the Senecas have two phratries: the first comprises gentes 1 to 4, the second gentes 5 to 8. Closer investigation shows that these phratries generally represent the original gentes into which the tribe first split up; for since marriage was prohibited within the gens, there had to be at least two gentes in any tribe to enable it to exist independently. In the measure in which the tribe increased, each gens divided again into two or more gentes, each of which now appears as a separate gens, while the original gens, which includes all the daughter gentes, continues as the phratry. Among the Senecas and most other Indians, the gentes within one phratry are brother gentes to one another, while those in the other phratry are their cousin gentes-terms which in the American system of consanguinity have, as we have seen, a very real and expressive meaning. Originally no Seneca was allowed to marry within his phratry, but this restriction has long since become obsolete and is now confined to the gens. According to Senecan tradition, the Bear and the Deer were the two original gentes, from which the others branched off. After this new institution had once taken firm root, it was modified as required; if the gentes in one phratry died out, entire gentes were sometimes transferred into it from other phratries to make the numbers even [starben Gentes einer Phratrie aus, so wurden zuweilen zur Ausgleichung ganze Gentes aus andern Phratrien in jene versetzt.]. Hence we find gentes of the same name grouped in different phratries in different tribes.” (Engels, ibid.) This makes the odd number of the segments (gentes) at Chiang-chai (whether three or five) rather suspicious (perhaps there were four?).

The “households” (foyers) of the Iroquois gens, where the coupling occurred between women of this gens to which the household in question belonged and men from the opposite gens, would then correspond to the small housings in the Chiang-chai village. Within the segment (or gens), the mothers of the coupling women were all designated by the common term of “Grand-Mother” (from the perspective of these women’s children) – so for a married woman the sister of her mother would be “mother,” the brother of her mother, “uncle,” the brother of her father, “father” and the sister of her father, “aunt” – and the oldest among these grand-mothers would be the “matron” of the whole segment. In this respect the Long-House covered (“ruled,” so to speak) over all the households within the segment – these foyers of married women who were all “sisters” to each other, as maternal cousins were all classed as “sisters” – under the direction of one “matron.” The lineage of the mothers was traced eventually to the original Long-House. (Rousseau.) This is entirely consistent with the system of matrilineality or female sexual solidarity prevalent among extensive (formative) hunter-gatherers. Such condition must have prevailed as well among the people of Chiang-chai (and in this respect the Chinese commentators are not far off). But the sachem and war-chiefs among the Iroquois were men. “The gens elects its sachem (head of the gens in peace) and its chief (leader in war). [Often it is the matrons who elect them.] The sachem had to be chosen from among the members of the gens, and his office was hereditary within the gens, in the sense that it had to be filled immediately as often as a vacancy occurred; the military leader could be chosen from outside the gens, and for a time the office might even be vacant. A son was never chosen to succeed his father as sachem, since mother- right prevailed among the Iroquois and the son consequently belonged to a different gens; but the office might and often did pass to a brother of the previous sachem or to his sister's son. All voted in the elections, both men and women. The election, however, still required the confirmation of the seven remaining gentes, and only then was the new sachem ceremonially invested with his office by the common council of the whole Iroquois confederacy…. The authority of the sachem within the gens was paternal, and purely moral in character; he had no means of coercion. By virtue of his office he was also a member of the tribal council of the Senecas and also of the federal council of all the Iroquois. The war-chief could only give orders on military expeditions.” (Engels.)

Yang-shao culture differed from the Iroquois nations in that there was as yet no evidence of warfare here, so that there could not have been “war-chiefs.” But there the clan chief was probably also a male, though either elected by people in common or by the matrons. The Yang-shao clan chief would also exercise mere “paternal” authority. In fact, the Iroquois confederation of nations was formed out of the necessities of war, i.e. under the pressure of intergroup competition and warfare; in this regard it is remarkable that the Iroquois people managed to maintain a matrilineal, uxorilocal, non-hierarchical and roughly egalitarian society wherein women in general still held proportional influence in the affairs of the political entity. As those villages in the Chinese sphere came, during the late Yang-shao and early Lung-shan period (at the turn of 3,000 B.C.) firstly into intensive farming, and secondly probably on the basis of that to form tribal confederacies under the same pressure of intergroup competition and warfare (see Figure 9), the matrilineal and egalitarian system disintegrated in favor of patriarchal hierarchy. This difference in result was probably produced by, in the Chinese realm, more advanced (or more productive) agriculture, the greater amount of luxurious (ritual art) objects flowing through the area, the greater complexification of shamanism (these two obviously reinforcing each other), and the presence of more advanced war-technology (as the Chinese had by the middle of the second millennium B.C. already adopted war chariots, no doubt from the northern nomads, while the Amerindians did not even know of horses until European introduction of them). Our use of the Iroquois confederation to illuminate the evolution of the Chinese society (in special regard to gender relation) then leads us to the conclusion that the Iroquois society is an intermediate form between the Yang-shao and the Lung-shan culture in the Chinese sphere.

Below we shall take the material pre-condition for “patriarchy” as given (i.e. the intensification of agriculture) and focus in this transitional period on the Chinese Interaction Sphere. The novelties that Lung-shan culture has offered in its archaeological records Chang lists:

Fig. 10
External warfare and trade between village-units as singular units, i.e. with their internal solidification and integration through differentiation into mutually dependent classes organized however hierarchically, and under the pressure precisely of this external competition and interaction – the inklings of “state,” together with urbanism and the artistic paraphernalia of political and religious authority (art or “wealth”, i.e. objects – in the restricted sense here – of noosphere consumption). Classical patriarchy was also beginning to take shape within this general appearance of “state.” “On the basis of a thorough analysis of a number of Neolithic burial sites in eastern coastal China, Richard Pearson concludes that ‘the sequence of burial sites in the Chinese coastal Neolithic, leading to Dawenkou [大汶口], shows increasing wealth and social differentiation and a decline in the status of women and children… The society was gradually changing to one in which males appear to have had power and wealth, and craft specialization [for the sake of the noospheric consumption of the elite minority] was beginning to emerge. Some spatial segregation of burials, into groups of men, women, and children together, suggests the increasing importance of lineage [hence the institutionalized ancestor-cult to differentiate the royal from the common lineages]’” (Art, Myth, and Ritual, ibid.).

The complexification and hierarchization of society to produce the first semblance of “state,” though begun during the late Neolithic Lung-shan period, was only able to reach fruition or climax when bronze began to be used on a massive scale, i.e. during the inception of the bronze-age proper (the Three Dynasties: Hsia-Shang-Western Zhou) starting from 2,000 years B.C. This all-important role which bronze played in the formation of the first Chinese states – and remember, of classical patriarchy as well – was however not “technological.” “The use of these [bronze and other copper] alloys for agricultural implements would indicate that technology was important for the production and accumulation of wealth. Such use, however, has not been widely found in ancient China… While agricultural implements continued to be made of stone, wood, antler, and bone during the Bronze Age… bronze was used conspicuously for the manufacturing of weapons, ritual paraphernalia (food vessels, wine vessels, and musical instruments), some ornaments, and such carpenter’s tools as the ax, adz, and chisel. The carpenter’s tools were presumably necessary for the construction of wooden chariots, which were the most formidable weapon of the Bronze Age. This pattern of use is highly distinctive of the Chinese Bronze Age, in which bronze was associated primarily with ritual and with war, ‘the two principal affairs of the state’ (Tso Chuan, entry for 579 B.C.)” (ibid., p. 108). We shall presently discuss the role of ritual in the formation of a hierarchical complex society and why bronze was so important to ritual complexification; for the moment let us comment that institutionalized violence – i.e., war as the proper affair of the state –, indexed not just by “scalped skulls and arrowheads embedded in human remains” but also by “weapons in graves,… defensive city ramparts… chariots…. [a]rrowhead factories [and] remains of soldiers buried in formation”, hanged together with the increasing societal differentiation into classes (peasants, king-and-priesthood, and artisan class manufacturing weapons and ritual art) organized hierarchically, and with the increasing intensity of interaction between the societal units in the region of the interaction sphere. While, as we have seen, in the Cold-War Interaction Sphere it is the Anglo-American flattened and fragmented model of society that has proved to be the most power-mobilizing and triumphed over the centralized hierarchy of the Soviet Union, in this Chinese Interaction Sphere of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age when the metabolic mode of the societal (supraorganismic) units involved was still largely agrarian of the late Neolithic level, and when communication technology consisted solely in human leg-power and chariots, it is the authoritarian hierarchical society which violently exploited the peasant-commoners and drafted them as foot-soldiers that would eventually prove to be the winner. Any villages that still maintained the happy egalitarianism of Yang-shao culture would immediately be conquered and subjugated in this increasingly complex and hostile environment. A “state” organized around violence – war and suppression of internal dissents – and with its hierarchical machine that exerted this violence maintained and legitimized by highly complex ritual was the inevitable outcome, given the more advanced military technology involved here (metals and chariots) than, say, among the Iroquois and their surrounding peoples. But why, a feminist may ask, would such hierarchical organization necessarily be patriarchal (in the classical style)? The preliminary answer we can give at the moment is that it is because the initiators of the Interaction Sphere were men: this elite minority endowed, perhaps hereditarily (from Yang-shao), already with a certain shamanistic “charisma,” who subsequently directed the trade and warfare with the other villages in order to obtain rare luxurious items (eventually, bronze and turtle shells, etc.) which might serve better as shamanistic instruments and with which they could therefore further increase their “charisma” and hence power – especially by a ancestor-cult that only these instruments may effect and which differentiated in terms of lineage this minority of men sharply from and above all others (of the “commoners’ lineage”), this differentiation being precisely the increase of this religious “charisma”: until this minority became so good at this charisma-increase that they directed the formation of the class of artisans who manufactured ritual objects solely in order to increase their “charisma,” and kept down, exploited, and drafted the peasant class as soldiers to rob from other villages, also in order to obtain precious resources for the making of ritual objects that would increase their “charisma.” In the process of self-differentiation this minority of men also, through male-ancestor cult, started descent-tracing through the paternal instead of maternal line, because they had to pass their “wealth” (ritual paraphernalia), on which their charisma is based, to their sons, and because males had more such shamanistic charisma than females.3 (This constitutes another difference from the Iroquois, among whom there was little wealth to leave behind after death, and inheritance was shared by members of the same matrilineal segment; “for this reason man and wife could not inherit from one another, nor children from father.” Engels.) Thus the slight preponderance of shamanistic power which the shaman possessed as regards shamaness in the otherwise egalitarian Yang-shao culture – traced back to the primordial male symbolic counter-revolution – was the foundation of the later Chinese classical patriarchy. Also we see that the entire (hierarchical) state-formation in early China was driven by the self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing charisma-increase of a small priestly minority of men. (Hence Kwang-chih Chang will emphasize below the central role of high shamanism in the formation of state in the Chinese Interaction Sphere.) These men were at the center of this beginning formation of noosphere (or aristocratic) consumption, and through them women and children, together with common peasants, were increasingly relegated to slave-like status. Let us examine this process in greater detail.

Noosphere consumption, shamanism, and the path to political authority in Bronze Age China (the Three Dynasties)

The peculiarity of Chinese history compared with others is its continuity. The criteria for political authority in China during the Three Dynasties can be extrapolated backward as already in operation during the late Neolithic period of Lung-shan. Chang writes of the “profile of those in ancient China who had great political authority and who wielded its power”:

They were born into the right clans and (especially) lineages, married the right partners, sat at the central places, were associated with the right myths, behaved in ways deserving popular support, and last but not least had access – at best, exclusive access – to the ancestral wisdom and foresight derived from ritual, art, and writing. All these factors were requisite, of course, but the last was decisive – the determining factor that tipped the balance. The crucial question for aspirants to power in ancient China was: How do I gain access to that access? The answer was: By controlling a few key resources – above all, bronzes – and by amassing the means to control them (Art, Myth, and Ritual, p. 95).

The ancestors’ wisdom, etc. means just “ancestral power”, i.e. the power of nature which was identified by tribal people throughout as the embodiment of the ancestors’ spirits after their death. Access to that power gave power to control nature (if only indirectly through the ancestors in nature), that is, to have a hand on nature’s ability to give, to nourish and to protect the clan, and so such access, on which, basically, the fate of the clan depended, inspired awe and following from members of the clan – through that shamanistic aura which Weber has termed “(magical) charisma.” We will describe elsewhere the content and the origin of this tribal, intraworld religiosity such as shamanism (“A Thermodynamic Genealogy of Primitive Religion”). Art objects, i.e. ritual vessels, which were distinguished from ordinary, “utilitarian” vessels by being made of metal (bronze), were in our restricted analysis objects of noosphere consumption, but were at first so desirable because they were believed to provide the channel through which their possessors could do things “ergonic” – e.g. sacrifice – to read and influence the will of the ancestors controlling nature. This is how the acquisition of art or ritual objects – the first type of noosphere consumption – became the most important factor in the beginning stage of the next, second stage of supraorganismic formation, and, by implication, in the foundation of classical patriarchy.

Chang cites the famous story of the nine tings as recorded in Tso Chuan (entry for 605 B.C.) to illustrate the political function of the shamanistically functioning bronze ritual vessels. The story relates how, when the army of Ch'u (a southern kingdom) arrived at the border of Zhou, the Ch'u commander asked the envoy of the king of Zhou how much the nine tings weighed. The envoy replied:

“[What is important is the virtue and not the ting tripods themselves.] In the past when the Hsia dynasty was distinguished for its virtue, the distant regions put into pictures their distinctive wu [animals], and the nine pastors sent in the metal of their provinces. The ting tripods [often taken to be nine in number] were cast, with representations on them of those wu… Hereby a harmony was secured between the high and the low, and all enjoyed the blessings of Heaven. When the virtue of Chieh [the last king of Hsia dynasty] was all-obscured, the tripods were transferred to Shang, for 600 years. Chòu [the last king] of Shang proved cruel and oppressive, and they were transferred to Chou. When the virtue is commendable and brilliant, the tripods, though small, would be heavy. When it gives place to its reverse, to darkness and disorder, though large, they would be light. Heaven blesses intelligent virtue; -- on that its favor rests. King Ch’eng fixed the tripods in Chia-ju, and divined that the dynasty should extend through 30 reigns [lit. generations] and over 700 years. Such has Heaven mandated. Though the virtue of Chou is decayed, the mandate of Heaven is not yet changed. Hence the weight of the tripods may not yet be inquired about.” [Trans. altered from Legge’s; cited, ibid., p. 96.]4

The chiu ting stories… suggest strongly that the possession of such sacred bronze vessels... served to legitimize the king’s rule. These vessels were clear and powerful symbols: they were symbols of wealth because they were wealth and possessed the aura of wealth; they were symbols of the all-important ritual that gave their owners access to the ancestors; and they were symbols of the control of metal, which meant control of exclusive access to the ancestors and to political authority (p. 97).

“Wealth” is our common way of designating these non-utilitarian objects of noospheric consumption which index the stratification of society: the inequality between the priesthood elite minority on the one hand and artisans and commoners on the other, specialization into classes, war and trade, urbanism, state, and classical patriarchy. And again, people wanted this wealth not for their exchange value or buying power – unlike modern wealth, which gives one power because it buys others’ loyalty, and others’ loyalty can be bought, finally, because everyone in modern society has become addicted to the mind-pleasure involved in the acquisition, consumption, and defecation of non-utilitarian objects (home entertainment systems, SUVs, etc., go beyond the fulfillment of the needs of the digestive tract). During this formative period of noospheric consumption (Bronze Age), wealth gave one power because it inspired awe, because, ultimately, everyone lived in the animistic world-view of primitive religion and believed in the power of the ancestors inherent in nature. Chang specifically emphasizes that the peculiarity in the rise of Chinese civilization consists in the exclusive role of high shamanism, in contradistinction to the rise of civilization in Mesopotamia which depended more on technological advancement in the form of metal tools and irrigation canals, increasing mercantile activity, and the development of territorial states “prevailing over the original clans and lineages in the regulation of interpersonal behavior” (Archaeology of Ancient China, p. 421). In early China all “the common markers of early civilizations – bronze metallurgy, writing, cities, state hierarchies, palatial structures, temples, and monumental art – and the social stratification, sanctioned by law and by military force, that enabled the production of these markers”, evolved around shamanism, “which gives these same markers special meaning” (ibid., p. 414). These markers of civilization constitute noospheric wealth. But among all the items considered “wealth” at this time,5 bronze ritual vessels were the most important for this purpose (access to Ancestral Power). The other two royal symbols of ancient China, battle-axe as sanction (it having already prematurely this function in the Yang-shao period, c.f. Figure 6 again) and flag as the assemblage of manpower (Art, Myth, and Ritual, p. 100; Figure 11), were of a lesser rang than the bronze ritual vessels because, perhaps, they were directed to the living below while the latter were to the ancestors above. As the means for sacrificing to the ancestors – giving them food to influence them – these bronze vessels were mostly food and drink instruments which constituted the central components among the wide range of paraphernalia needed for the shamanistic rituals or the ancestor-cults of the elite lineage. “In a comprehensive study… of Shang and Chou ritual bronzes, Jung Keng described and discussed in detail the major types. Under ‘food vessels’ he lists 12 types; under ‘wine vessels’ 22 types; and under ‘musical instrument’ 8 types…. Numerous other types of vessels are known only by name in classical texts; many others were made of stone, pottery, wood, basketry, and lacquer. The great variety and taxonomic complexity of ritual paraphernalia make it obvious that Shang and Chou rituals were extremely complicated affairs in which bronze ritual objects played vital roles. It becomes apparent that the performance of such elaborate and luxurious rituals and the consequent communication with ancestral spirits – essential for the art of governance – depended on the bronze vessels, with their animal art…” (p. 101; see Figure 12).

Fig. 11:
A flag ideogram from Shang
The circularity then ensues that, just as only those in possession of bronze ritual objects could acquire the “charisma” to rule, only those who thus ruled could have been in possession of the means to acquire these, for “[a]ncient Chinese bronzes were difficult and expensive to make. The process began with the mining of the ore and proceeded to smelting, transporting, alloying, casting, and finally to finishing. Both this long process and the great variety of final products called for an industrial network available only to people with great political power” (ibid.) – this power itself ensured by the “charisma” provided by the possession of these very bronzes. In short, “the wealth that produced the civilization [i.e. hierarchical society] was itself the product of concentrated political power, and the acquisition of that power was accomplished through the accumulation of wealth. The key to this circular working of ancient Chinese society was the monopoly of high shamanism, which enabled the rulers to gain critical access to divine and ancestral wisdom [power], the basis of their political authority” (Archaeology of Ancient China, p. 414 – 5). Because, then, of the incessant search for bronze which thus became all-important, that terrible side-effect of noosphere consumption, environmental degradation, began to show up also, although at this stage only very mildly, in fact inconsequential to the survival of humans and other life forms:

In a philosophical treatise of the late Chou, the philosopher-statesman Kuan Tzu (d. 645 B. C.) stated that “of mountains that yield copper there are 467, and of mountains that yield iron there are 3,609.”…

A recent account of the Chinese history of metallurgy states that even for ores rich in copper (such as malachite, which was probably the principal copper source in ancient China), three or four hundred kilograms or more of ore were needed for each one hundred kilograms of smelted copper. It may be more realistic to use a one-to-five ratio, considering that some copper ores may have been of inferior quality and that there may have been much waste and inefficiency. From the above-mentioned Shang dynasty tomb [of Fu-Hao] excavated in 1976 at Yin-hsü, 468 bronze artifacts were recovered; the excavators have estimated that their total weight was possibly 1,625 kg. Assuming that the tin yield was similar to the copper yield, we can estimate that for the bronzes buried in this one tomb alone more than eight metric tons of ore had to be mined… The search for copper and tin ore and the protection of the mines must have required the mobilization of considerable forces... (Art, Myth, and Ritual, p. 103 - 5).

The stratification (hierarchization) of society in fact became structured since the Bronze Age more and more on the one hand around the elite priestly (i.e. charisma-imbued) minority’s effort to mobilize the population for the procurement and production of bronzes – with the unsurprising result that the ancient mines eventually became completely exhausted (p. 105), and the continuous search for new mines in fact accounts for “the frequent movement of the Hsia and the Shang royal capitals. (Historical texts record nine capitals for Hsia and thirteen for Shang.)” (ibid.)6 – and on the other around their war efforts with neighboring elite-led political units. From the point of view of our thermodynamic interpretation of history, the teleology of the universe (or the Reason of History) – the formation of ever-larger open dissipative structure – is being realized for the next supraorganismic level when the entire society is being reorganized for the noospheric consumption of the “aristocrats”: Humans’ debt-paying to the second law of thermodynamics has increased when the range of the consumable is enlarged to include so much luxuries for comfort (e.g. royal palaces; below) and so much “art”; as we recall from Chapter 1 (“The Material Meaning of History”), “large amounts of trees were beginning to be cut down to build palaces, etc., copper and iron ores exploited, soil eroded, organized, large-scale systematic animal raising and slavery were being conducted; a sizable portion of earth’s resources were ‘dissipated’ into disordered waste matter in the Chinese civilizational zone starting from the second millennium B.C. when the products of transformation did not succeed in finding their way into today’s museums… [U]pon and out of the second level or order of energy-dissipation, the order of alternative thermodynamic kinetic pathways via organic chemistry-based energy cycle which the bio-sphere is, a new, third order of alternative kinetic pathways emerges, based on energy cycle rooted in inorganic or non-living organic chemistry, and which we know as ‘economy’...” The near complete exhaustion of all copper mines by the beginning of Iron Age in China (around 500 B.C., the Axial Time), as the first sign of environmental degradation in East Asia, indicates a new efficiency in thermodynamic debt-paying, and what we are trying to establish here is that classical patriarchy is a dispositif of this new efficiency – and ordained in the teleological course of the universe in this sense – just as the “liberation of women” is the dispositif for the next level of this efficiency, the third-stage of supraorganismic formation.

The process of the interaction sphere and the hierarchization of society

Chang summarizes:

Let us turn again to the earlier parts of the Neolithic. Several thousand years before the Christian era, the Chinese landscape was already dotted with farming villages whose inhabitants were grouped into clans and lineages. Membership in these groups was important enough to be, apparently, the sole reason for the first use of written symbols in that part of the world. (In other parts of the world, the first use of written symbols was often for other purposes – for example, economic transactions [as in Mesopotamia].) The ranking of members within each of these villages was presumably based on kinship relations. This archaic state of affairs was the baseline of ancient Chinese society, and subsequent progress consisted essentially in hierarchically rearranging the relationships among the villages – a process that probably began during the Lungshannoid period.

The rearrangement was accomplished via two specific processes that worked toward the same result from opposite directions. First, there was the fission of villages and the segmentation of the lineages, which resulted in an increase in the number of individual lineages. Second, there was the political subjugation of some villages by others, which resulted in a decrease in the number of independent political units. The combined result was increasing stratification in terms of political authority, both within and among the villages. At the higher end of the spectrum were people nearest the main line of lineage descent in the conquering villages; at the opposite end were people furthest away from the main lineage and people from vanquished villages. [Compare this hierarchization in the formation of tribal confederacies in China with the quite opposite democratization in the formation of Iroquois confederation of nations-tribes which even inspired the formation of American democratic federalism to some extent.]

This was not a stable system of political authority. There were many clans and lineages, and their numbers constantly increased by fission. Eventually there were so many that maintaining the relative political status of different villages, clans, and collateral lineages could not be accomplished by genealogy alone but required practical means. Of these, there were mainly three: moral authority (the carrot); coercive force (the stick); and exclusive wisdom derived from exclusive access to the spiritual world (religion and ceremonialism). [The first and the third are in fact just two faces of the same thing: (shamanistic) charisma.] By the Three Dynasties period, the shape of the ancient Chinese political system had become clear and distinctive. A small number of states were born in the several regions of China.

[Again, the aforementioned circularity.] What we call civilization [ -- and remember, classical patriarchy is just the other side of this “civilization” -- ] was both a result of and a requisite for this rise of political authority. Civilization is the manifestation of concentrated wealth [i.e. of highly developed noospheric consumption for the aristocrats only]. In China, wealth was procured primarily through political power and was, as well, a necessary condition for the acquisition and maintenance of that power. Rulers could wield political power only by first establishing political authority; and, as we have seen, the several factors that enabled rulers to establish such authority manifest themselves archaeologically as components of the civilization [i.e. as items of noosphere consumption].

In this equation, it is difficult, but not impossible, to single out the causes of change. First, let us clarify our terms. In the literature on the ancient world, we frequently encounter the words “civilization,” “urbanism,” and “state.” In the Chinese case, it is clear that all three are aspects of the same equation [to which belongs, as well, classical patriarchy]. As villages became larger and more complex, they turned into urban centers or urban networks. As they assumed new hierarchical arrangements, they organized into political units, some of which we call states. Civilization (to repeat) is the manifestation of material wealth in concentrated form, which is both a result of and a requisite for political authority. In our equation, then, we can eliminate technology per se as the primary motive force for the emergence of either civilization or state… We can also eliminate population pressure and geographic restriction as two primary causes…

What we do see in the Chinese picture is the primacy of the political culture [i.e. shamanistic charisma] in the distribution of resources. When population increased and more mouths had to be fed, groups were sent off to found new settlements, which were given support and protection by their parental polities under a system of hierarchical power and resource distribution. [This started happening, most conspicuously, during the Lung-shan period.] When settlements of different political stripes came into contact and conflict, conquest and subjugation again resulted in hierarchical systems with numerous components. Power and wealth were mutually dependent, fostering both themselves and each other. Over time, we see increasing number, increasing volumes, and increasing complexity. Between beginning and climax is a continuum of increasing complexity, and we are free to cut the continuum into segments and devise our schemes of societal evolution (p. 122 – 5).

It is however difficult to see how population factor was not involved in this process of “confederalization” of villages – hierarchically, not horizontally, in contradistinction to the Iroquois confederation. Increasing population density, due probably to the ability of intensive agriculture to sustain more people (the "material pre-condition" responsible for the first round of patrilinealization, before the second round by the institutionalization of ancestor-cult), must clearly have contributed to increasing contacts between otherwise isolated villages. These contacts resulted in trade – not, of course, of agricultural products that villages could produce for themselves, but of items of noospheric consumption (“luxury”) that one village had and that the other didn’t, because their respective different geographic regions contained different resources. We know, for example, that the Shang mostly imported from the southern nations the turtle shells so essential for their divination and on which, therefore, their entire (ancestor-cult) ritual system depended – and this ritual system was what maintained the charisma of the Shang royal lineage and kept them in power.7 Noospheric consumption was the charisma that allowed one to rule. But this is because the items of consumption here were the very means for controlling nature (or so it was believed). (This is a little different from today’s situation, as said, where rich and highly consumptive people rule mostly because others as well get to consume as a side effect of these rich people’s consumption, and not because they control the universe with their riches.) Then we see how classical patriarchy co-emerged with high noosphere consumption of the aristocrats which was at once the index of civilization, urbanism, and state.

In the beginning, as one village came into contact with another due to closer proximity than before, the village chief with his shaman(s) (remember that the chief himself was usually more endowed with mana or charisma than ordinary people) discovered that the other village had certain things which, it was believed, might serve better as instrument for relating with the spiritual world. (Eventually and ultimately those would be bronzes and turtle shells.) Through trade or raid he obtained these and increased thereby his magical charisma. We take note here of the beginning complexification of shamanism during the Lung-shan period indexed by the appearance of scapulimancy and specialized ritual potteries. The processing of these new things or resources resulted in the establishment of a special class of artisans. He who had this charisma of course was the one who got to keep the newly obtained magical wealth to further increase his charisma, and so on (self-perpetuating process). As the volume of trade and the frequency of war increased, not only did the chief-shaman “caste” accumulate so much more “(magical) wealth” than commoners, but villages formed into hierarchical confederacy and required fortification for each and better weapon technology and a standing army. The chief-shamans were those with the authority to direct these projects of fortification, mobilization of commoners as foot-soldiers, etc. The use of authority to accomplish these practical projects reinforced this authority itself. They further increased their authority by differentiating their status (lineage) absolutely from that of the commoners and artisans with the cult of their (especially male) ancestors, who were elevated as the sole efficacious spirits in the region and who were their ancestors and no one else’s. The rituals of the commoners no longer counted, and their ancestors were considered powerless or just minor spirits. The spiritual unity of the Yang-shao villages – where chief, shamans, and the rest of the villagers shared the same ancestors and so the same protecting ancestral spirits hovered over them all – was no longer. This differentiation of ancestry and ancestors worked, again, only in a patrilineal system, for in the matrilineal system of Yang-shao the father and the son belonged to different lineages (segments): the son then, when sacrificing to the father, would be doing so not within the same lineage, i.e. the lineage of ancestors listening exclusively to him. (With this replacement of matriliny with patriliny, one of the criteria which Chang lists as requisite for political authority then becomes “individual status within a kinship system of agnatic clans and segmentary lineages, organized hierarchically”; ibid., p. 107.) This intra-village differentiation process happened of course also inter-village-ly: the ritual cult, lineage, and the ancestors of the conquering village were considered more efficacious than those of the vanquished village. With the monopolization or concentration of wealth within the elite came also the monopolization and concentration of rituals within them. (In archaeology we see this in operation when discovering differentiation in burials: some massively large and well-furnished with items of noospheric consumption and others small and empty.) The commoners now relied ever more for their survival on the chief-shaman caste, whose ancestors had exclusive control of the nature around and “listened” only to their descendants, i.e., those from this caste. The invention of bronze only helped this process so much more, as ritual vessels, being made of metal, in sharp distinction from utilitarian clay pottery, could then look even more magically powerful, and elevate the ancestors of the elite which they served even further above the rest of the spirits, and the monopolization of bronzes by the chief-shaman caste increased the concentration of ritual power in its hands. By now this ruling caste farmed not, but separated itself further from commoners by directing the construction, usually near copper mines, etc., but away from commoners’ villages, of royal capital with palaces and temples therein for its exclusive use, and with the artisans’ dwellings and workshops around. This became the “urban center,” highly fortified of course, and the collection of villages under its direction, each fortified and together having a collective boundary, constituted the “state.” We are now in the Three Dynasties period. The urban center produced no food, but collected it as taxes from the villages under its control.8 (Figure 13) As said, a society of this type became organized entirely for the sake of the noospheric consumption of the elite – whose noospheric consumption itself was the basis of their elitist status – as well as for the purpose of war and defense against neighboring societies of the same type – and war and trade themselves were ultimately for the purpose of this aristocratic noosphere consumption. “Wealthy”, well-fed, respected, and able to direct people below at will, the chief-shamans, whose leader was the “king,”9 each had more than one wife, while, often, the commoner male went mateless all his life, farmed for a while, then was drafted into the army and got killed in the battle field. If we recall the two basic modes of male-domination among the higher primates -- the Cyclopean or harem system such as found among the baboons and the group-marriage system such as found among the chimpanzees -- we can see that, whereas, as said, the beginning tribal male-dominance combines the best of monogamous pair-bonding with the best of the group-marriage mode, transcending, perhaps (in Chris Knight's scheme) the Cyclopean mode, the mode of classical patriarchy such as begins to take shape in this late tribal (intensive) chiefdoms and which is to underlie the classical Eurasian civilizations -- with its aristocratic monopolization of the group's women -- approximately replicates just this Cyclopean system. (We will see later also that this revival of the Cyclopean system corresponds as well to a reversal of the sexual selection process.) Furthermore, military discipline permeated life in this (semblance of) “state,” the un-obedient being severely punished or exterminated by the ruling caste, for, remember, other collections (confederacies) of villages went through the same process of societal differentiation, urbanization, fortification, and militarization in order to not be subjugated by this one, and so a hostile environment of all guarding themselves against all others enveloped them all, so much so that all confederacies became similar in ritual style, in societal hierarchy, differentiation, and organization, and in “patriarchal” cultural climate, and became similarly militarized. (The homogenization effect of the Interaction Sphere: competition homogenizes.) A series of patriarchal states then cropped up all over the Northern and Central China plain – in the classical style: characterized by polygyny of the elite, military ethos, over-valuation of male and masculinity for its productive (farm and manufacture) and war-capacity and de-valuation of female and femininity for its inability to contribute directly to the power struggle of the state (and for its status as a mere servant or plaything for the elite males), and patriliny (associated with male-ancestor cult).

Fig. 13. A structural model of the An-yang urban network during the Shang dynasty based on archaeological loci. (Shang Civilization, p. 130)

The fortification of a village or a collection of villages is like the membrane-formation or cellularization of the first chemoautocatalytic cycle (as on the pyrite surface; later). The boundary formation of a “state” is therefore the second stage of supraorganismic formation, while the palisades which surrounded a Yang-shao village belonged more to its first stage. The formation of a parasitic, non-producing and only consuming but directing capital of the elite corresponded to the formation of the brain and the associated central nervous system in a multicellular organism. Many have wondered why male-domination was so universal, why the major ancient civilizations from China through India to Mesopotamia were all so patriarchal (i.e. in the classical manner). We see here that it is because the mode of classical patriarchy was an integral component of state- or civilization-formation, which in the Chinese sphere was driven especially by the complexification of shamanism which itself was intimately associated with, even caused by, the advancement in metallurgy and, more generally, in noosphere consumption – all within the context of an interaction sphere. Finally, as we have said, it is because (classical) patriarchy is a dispositif in the (second stage of) increased efficiency in human thermodynamic debt-paying; in fact it is the only possible dispositif given that the beginning human consciousness has to be intraworldily religiously oriented and that intraworldly religiosity revolving around the ancestral spirits has to more or less be a male affair, so that the first enlargement of consumption and defecation significantly beyond that of the digestive tract has to be based on the religiosity of a male elite caste guiding the reorganization of society to accomplish its religious consumption. What we have learned so far is that human gender relation, contrary to radical feminists’ belief that it is determined by the male-desire to dominate (out of fear and denial of femininity or whatever: their Grand Narrative principle), is guided by noosphere consumption, and so by the teleology of the thermodynamic universe (the Reason of History); and that the second stage of the enlargement of noospheric consumption (“state,” “civilization”) requires male-domination and its third stage (“industrialization,” “modernization,” “mass consumption”), eventually, the “liberation of women.” We need now to characterize the essential details of the structure of a “classical patriarchy” and try to understand why the history of the West, in respect to gender relation, has precisely been one of evolving away from the mode of classical patriarchy which was so natural to the second stage of supraorganismic formation.

housings at a Yang-shao village
Fig. 3. Reconstructed house types at the Yang-shao Culture site at Pan-p'o

structure of Iroquois society
Fig. 8. The structure of Iroquois society

Fig. 9: The Chinese Interaction Sphere: the distribution of cultures at 5,000 B.C. (left) and at 4,000 - 3,000 B.C. (right)


1. 河北教育出版社, 1989.

2. G. Barré, “Les Iroquoiens – premiers agriculteurs de la vallée de Saint-Laurent” in Dossiers de l’archéologie, 27, March – April, 1978, p. 35 – 43; cited in L. Rousseau, REL 1143 Reader, Université du Québec à Montréal, Winter 2005.

3. Thus begins the Chinese tradition of the obsession with "having a son to carry the family's name", which is common all over the "classically civilized" world, and the same as the Hebrew desire to multiply their seeds as promised by Yahweh in the Old Testament. As a feminist, Azizah Al-Hibri (in "Capitalism Is An Advanced Stage of Patriarchy", in Women and Revolution, 1981; as will be seen in more detail in 11. 1) considers this concern with the perpetuation of lineage to be the result of the males' attempt to compensate for their feelings of inadequacy with the search for immortality, of which the females share little: that aforementioned desire for a son "is one of patriarchy's ways of giving immortality to the great... great grandfather whose name was immortalized through the generations of his male descendants. A woman, of course, rarely immortalizes her own male (or even female) ancestors in our patriarchy.... Women have been characteristically less obsessed with immortality than men" (p. 169). A grain of truth this may contain, we nevertheless think that the males' seeming stronger obsession with immortality (if such there be) is better explained by the anamnesis of conservation that underlies much of the "male-version" of religion ("Thermodynamic Genealogy"), and by their greater interest in abstraction that drives them more toward this anamnesis (see next chapter); and, further, it must be noted that this "search for immortality", as we see here, is implemented (as patriliny) only when the condition of economic production (extensive vs. intensive) and supraorganismic integration permits it, and not as a result of "desire."

4. 宣公三年: 在德不在鼎。昔夏之方有德也,远方图物,贡金九牧,铸鼎象物.... 用能协于上下以承天休。桀有昏德,鼎迁于商,载祀六百。商纣暴虐,鼎迁于周。德之休明,虽小,重也。其建回昏乱,虽大,轻也。天祚明德,有所底止。成王定鼎于郏鄏,卜世三十,卜年七百,天所命也。周德虽衰,天命未改,鼎之轻重,未可问也。

5. What "wealth" is like at that time can be gleaned by considering the inventory of luxurious, royal objects buried in the tomb of Fu-Hao (the consort of King Wutin of Shang) for her use in the afterlife:

Wooden chamber and lacquered wooden coffin
16 sacrificial victims
6 sacrificial dogs
Almost 7,000 cowries
More than 200 bronze ritual vessels
5 large bells and 18 small bells of bronze
44 bronze implements (27 of them knives)
4 bronze mirrors
1 bronze spatula
130 plus bronze weapons
4 bronze tigers or tiger-heads
20 plus bronze artefacts of other descriptions
590 plus jade and jade-like objects
100 plus jade beads, discs, and pieces
20 plus opal beads
2 quartz crystal objects
70 plus stone sculptures and other stone objects
5 bone implements
20 plus bone arrowheads
490 plus bone hairpins
3 ivory carvings
4 pottery vessels and 3 clay whistles

The tomb of Fu-Hao is the only one of all the Shang royal members' tombs that has not been plundered. If “this single at most second-ranking member of the royal family was able to accumulate, in life and in death, more than 400 objects of bronze” (Shang Civilization, p. 151), how much more could a first-ranking member, like the king or his brothers?

6. C. f. also, Shang Civilization,

7. Just at An-yang, the Shang capital, “at least 160,000 pieces of turtle shells, both inscribed and uninscribed, had been unearthed”, corresponding to about 16,000 turtles. (Shang Civilization, p. 155.) All except one species of turtles “are found in the Yangtze valley and further south.” (Ibid.) Copper and tin mines are now known to be amply available in north China during the Shang period. (Ibid., p. 151.) Trade and war by the Shang kingdom could also be because of bronzes. For example, “Shih… raised the interesting possibility that the alien state known as Kung Fang, which Hu Hou-hsüan has located in northern Shensi, was a major supplier of copper ore for the Shang. Oracle bone inscriptions frequently record warring expeditions to Kung Fang, and, if Kung Fang was indeed a major copper-ore supplier, Shih wondered if these wars had anything to do with this particular important resource that the Shang must have regarded as being vital. As for tin ores, south Shensi was also a major tin region.” (Ibid., p. 153)

8. Shang Civilization, “The Upward and Centripetal Flow of Economic Resources”, p. 235 – 240. “From the perspective of An-yang… the incoming traffic of economic resources of all sorts was heavy, consisting of grain, game, and domestic animals, industrial products, and services. The outgoing flow was lighter, primarily consisting of royal gifts to provincial lords, maintenance of a military ‘umbrella,’ and ritual expressions of the king’s wishes for their well-being” (p. 236). “In fact, our balance sheets… clearly show that the flow of wealth (grains, meat, goods, and services) was vastly uneven in favor of the upper stratum of Shang society and of the large towns of the settlement network (especially the largest of them all, the capital)” (p. 237).

9. During this process of hierarchization of society during the late Neolithic and Bronze Age, shamans and “kings” had never bifurcated into two classes. “Shamans were employed by the politically powerful; in fact, the king himself [of the Three Dynasties] is known to have possessed shamanistic powers.” (Archaeology of Ancient China, p. 418.)

ACADEMY | previous section | Table of Content | next section | GALLERY