|This pottery three-legged cooking vessel is called a li. It has hollow legs that allow the liquids in the pot to have more surface area exposed to the fire and thus heat more quickly. It was made during the pre-dynastic Zhou period (1238 - 1140 BC). The li was discovered at a site in Zhengjiapo, Wugong County. Wugong is to the west of Xi'an.
The Zhou culture developed to the southwest of the Shang culture. The Shang culture and dynasty were centered around present day Anyang and extended to include most of the eastern Yellow River region. The designation pre-dynastic Zhou refers to the fact that the Zhou culture developed in parallel to the Shang culture. I am not sure how the Shaanxi History Museum decides which items to designate as Shang Dynasty period versus pre-dynastic Zhou, but it appears to be roughly decided on the basis of age. The Shang Dynasty era items on the previous pages were excavated at sites in Zhou territory.
There were similarities between the two cultures, but there were differences that made the break between the Shang and the Zhou a significant cultural event. The Zhou was a loosely organized set of tribes centered around the Ji family. The tribes were distributed along the Wei River and would eventually make their first capital at a site near Xi'an, but that was later. The pre-dynastic Zhou were masters of bronze. The mountains in their territory gave them ready access to raw materials and the infrastructure and organization needed to support specialization was transferred from pottery making and applied to forging bronze ware.
Last update: March 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2010