Anyang Archaeology in the 21st Century: New Perspectives in the Search for the Shang Civilization

TANG JIGEN (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) presents the twenty-third Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture in Chinese Archaeology and Art

Saturday, November 06, 2010
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Lenart Auditorium
Fowler Museum of Cultural History
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Shang (ca 1600 BC-1046 BC) is the earliest state to have left written records in Chinese history. Anyang, located some 500 kilometers south of Beijing, is known to be the site of the last capital of Shang China. Since 1928, archaeologists have devoted great efforts to the study of Shang by excavating its buried remains. In the first ten years of the twenty-first century, archaeological work in Anyang--by adopting new fieldwork strategies and research methods--has greatly increased our understanding of this once-mysterious state.

This lecture discusses the latest archaeological knowledge of the Shang. It focuses on Anyang's residential layout and social organization. It also explores the association between the loss of cultural diversity and the collapse of Shang state.

UNESCO has declared the site of the Shang capital to be a cultural heritage site. That site, covering approximately 30 square kilometers, is located in and around what is today the village of Xiaotun, west of Anyang, in Henan province. This cite is commonly called Yinxu (literally, "the ruins of Yinz" by historians and archaeologists.

The World Heritage website of UNESCO describes the Shang capital in these words:

A number of royal tombs and palaces, prototypes of later Chinese architecture, have been unearthed on the site, including the Palace and Royal Ancestral Shrines Area, with more than 80 house foundations, and the only tomb of a member of the royal family of the Shang dynasty to have remained intact, the Tomb of Fu Hao. The large number and superb craftsmanship of the burial accessories found there bear testimony to the advanced level of Shang crafts industry. Inscriptions on oracle bones found in Yinxu bear invaluable testimony to the development of one of the world's oldest writing systems, ancient beliefs and social systems.

Visit the World Heritage website for interactive maps of Yinxu and a gallery of images >>


Tang Jigen (PhD, University College London, 2004) is a Professor of Archaeology in the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In recent years he has directed the excavation at Yinxu in Anyang and has conducted research on the area's importance in the Bronze Age. In 2005, Professor Tang organized the construction of the Yinxu Museum and was the principal architect of the new museum's overall exhibition strategy. He is also the creator of a database on Anyang and the Shang, the Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project, at the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Among Professor Tang's publications in English are "Ceramic Production in Shang Societies of Anyang," Asian Perspectives 48 (2009); "The True Face of 'Antiquity': Shang Sacrificial Remains in Anyang and the Dark Side of 'Three Dynasties Civilization,'" in Chinese Archaeology and Palaeoenvironment (M. Wagner, ed.; 2009); "Yinxu Museum: An Illustration of Shang Civilization," in International Museums (UNESCO, 2008); "The Space Configuration of Shang China," in Proceedings of the International Symposium of the Visual World of China (C. Marechal and Yau Shuchiu, eds.; 2005); "Construction of an Archaeological Chronology for the History of the Shang Dynasty of Early Bronze Age China," Review of Archaeology 22 (2001); and (co-authored) "The Largest Walled Shang City Located in Anyang, China," Antiquity 74 (2000).


Free and open to the public. A reception will follow Professor Tang's talk.


For more information: (310) 825-8683;

fowler map


Enter UCLA from Sunset Blvd. at Westwood Plaza. Drive straight ahead into Parking Structure 4. Take the elevator at the southeast end of Parking Structure 4 or the stairs at the northeast end, closest to the museum. Parking is $10.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies, Fowler Museum at UCLA