This essay, one of the two parts of my research on Shang militarism, focuses on Shang military rituals and war preparations. I tackle issues such as the Shang king’s way of decision-making in regard to battles and military actions, the Shang communications system and logistics network, and the details of how the Shang produced grains and meats. Finally, I argue that careful scrutiny of the excavated buildings at Yanshi city, an early Shang capital before Anyang, strongly suggests that the Shang excelled at defense as well. In contrast to the first part of my research, which relied on secondary materials published by modern Chinese scholars, in the present essay I utilize published collections of oracle bone inscriptions. I have analyzed more than one hundred inscriptions and also discuss several individual graphs in order to ground my arguments.
GaoJueReconstructing Fourth Century B.C.E. Chu Religious Practices in China: Divination, Sacrifice, and Healing in the Newly Excavated Baoshan Manuscripts2008Ph.D. diss. University of Wisconsin Madison.
KeightleyDavid N.Working for His Majesty: Research Notes on Labor Mobilization in Late Shang China (ca 1200-1045 B.C.)2012Berkeley, CAInstitute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Zhao1990324. Zhao provides additional examples of this type of graph with two contradictory meanings. They appear frequently in inscriptions regarding warfare and are mentioned later in this essay. They are hu 乎 which means to call on some subject or appeal to the High God; deng 登 which means “to summon/collect” or “to offer” and ni 逆 which means “to approach” or “to resist.” The graph hu is translated as “to give an order” when it refers to an individual in higher political position such as the king who issued an order to his subjects. It can also be translated as “to appeal” as when the king appealed to the High God to grant a wish. The graph deng refers to the king summoning troops or offering sacrifices to his ancestors. The graph ni is used both on occasions when the Shang king welcomed or received victorious troops with war captives and when he went out to fight invaders.
Nivison1989. For detailed debates and discussions of this issue see Gao 2008 92-111. For detailed description regarding Shang divination see Keightley 1988 367-97.
Wang and Xu2006199.
Cited from Guo19937no. 10. Here the graph yun 允 means definitely or surely.
Liu200030. The graph shows that the Shang wagon could also be powered by men.
Two horses drew one chariot: see Liu2003187and Sawyer 2011 356. One or two men operated one chariot: see Guo Yanli 2008 153. But Yang Hong claims that Shang chariots were powered by two to four horses and operated by one to three men. Yang 2003 421. Guo and Liu argue that the capacity of Shang chariots was too small to support that claim.
Wen and Yuan1983292.
Shi1964334. In a more recent survey of all bronze ritual vessels weapons and tools found in Shang excavations there are no stirrups mentioned. Xu 2003.
Yu1955108. Song Zhenhao understands that the graph zhi as referring to relay stations (HJ 667 正/ZJ 25). Song 2010 319. Cai Zhemao deciphers and translates the graph zhi as speedy (su 速). Cai 2013 180. I concur with Cai and believe that the graph zhi depicts an action rather than a passive state. The graph can imply that the messenger had arrived or gone to a place.
Qi1990106. Song Zhenhao however claims that ji served as state guest-houses and hostelries not as relay stations. Song 2010 316.
Wen and Yuan1983289-92.
Wen and Yuan1983290-91. The following OBI are cited from no. 130 and no. 136.
LZ p. 1195(HJ 12020). Lin Xiaoan however claims that generals from the non-royal Zi 子 clan such as Wang Cheng Zhi Guo and Wu were not allowed to participate in royal ancestral sacrifices. In contrast General Bi who was a royal member appears as Zi Qin 子禽 in OBI and he enjoyed the privilege of attending the ceremony due to his many victorious campaigns. Lin 1983 290 and 294.
For information on Zhi Guo see Wu201238and Han 2008.
Luo2010376. Three high officials appointed by the Shang king as troop commanders stood in a hierarchy of shi 師 ya 亞 and shi 史. For the role of the shi 師 see Sawyer 2011 216-19; and for the function of the shi 史 see Sawyer 2011 213-14.
Zhang1982213. Yang Shengnan and Ma Jifan believe that the ren were in fact residents of the settlements. Yang and Ma 2010 74. But they do not explain if the ren were from the Great Settlement Shang or other lineage settlements.
Wang and Xu2010211-17.
For this inscription see Wu201245.
Meng1983220. Meng argues that field hunts were originally to eliminate animals that could harm the harvest. This claim is groundless and unsupported by any evidence.
Shen19901. Yang Shengnan claims that King Wu Ding commanded six shi and that each shi had ten thousand men. Yang 1982 352. Yang’s argument is out of date.
Yang1982367. His claim poses a problem of anachronism because he relies on documents written much later.
Lin1998b151. Zhong Bosheng mentions that it was also possible that the king did not own the three-part shi armies instead expanding them into six armies which would concur with the Zuo zhuan. This raises a problem of anachronism.
Yang and Ma2010139. Zhang Zhenglang claims that xie tian did not refer to working in the field but rather to a sacrificial ceremony. Zhang 1983 5. In his dictionary Ma Rusen includes three explanations: collective work in the fields sacrifices and wind gods. Ma 2008 308-09.
Yang and Ma2010157. Modern scholars are not certain in deciphering these plants. My translations rely on their transcriptions. Rice (米 mi) is not clearly identified. See also Zhao 2011 209 and 210. If the graph mi refers to rice then the Shang king once demanded its delivery as a tribute: 癸巳貞王其登米 (“On guisi day divined. The king shall demand rice to be delivered.”) (HJ 34591/ZJ 782)
Yang and Ma2010107. I believe however that the term gao mai can also be understood as the Shang king offering wheat to gods when he performed rituals.
Sun and Lin201046-47.
Gao et al.1995467.
Sun and Lin2010183196 200.
Sun and Lin201063.
Yang and Ma2010202. Chang Yuzhi recognizes these graphs as animals raised with special attention because they were destined for sacrificial ceremonies. Chang 2010 14. Peng Bangjiong however claims that the Shang grazed horses oxen and sheep outdoors only. Peng 1988 228.
Wang and Xu2011178.
Sun and Lin2010360-61.
Liu2003188and Yang 2003 422.
Sawyer2011365. Sawyer states that the war chariots could also have served as means of transport throughout the several days typically required to reach the battlefield.