Today, we’re continuing with our exploration of the ancient capital of the Shang Dynasty. Back in 1954, a villager in Zhengzhou stumbled upon a round, rusting metal container. It was later shown to be several thousand years old, and to have been the property of a Shang-dynasty aristocrat. The find prompted local archaeologists to launch a full-blown excavation of the site where the container had been discovered. The excavation eventually led to one of the greatest discoveries of the twentieth century - the remains of a Shang-dynasty Capital. However, a dispute soon arose, concerning precisely when the city was built.
The dispute between the scholars who maintained that the first Shang capital was Xibo, and those who thought it was Ao, went on for over twenty year. It finally ended in September 2000, with the publication of the “Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties Chronology Project”.
A series of discoveries made in and around Zhengzhou since the middle of last century, point to the city being the site of the ancient Shang Dynasty capital. Based on these discoveries, archaeologists have been able to get a general idea of what the buildings there looked like, three thousand six hundred years ago.
Zhengzhou, with its strategic location between the Loess Plateau and the North China plain, has long been a key link between China’s north and south, east and west. For centuries, its favourable location attracted merchants from all across the country, who reached the city by land and water. The products they traded included lacquer, gold and silver, as well as salt and seafood. As a result of all this burgeoning commercial activity, Zhengzhou became a very prosperous city. Well, in our next programme, we’ll investigate further into the city’s origins as a centre of commerce. Please join us then. And thank you for staying with us on today’s Journeys in Time. I’m Dang Bing in Beijing. See you soon.