Today, we’re continuing with our series about the Shang Dynasty Capital, the site of which has been identified in the modern city of Zhengzhou. Shang was one of the first dynasties in Chinese history, with its origins 3,600 years ago. In the Chinese language, the character Shang also refers to a merchant and merchandise. And this meaning of the name is no coincidence. It indicates just how important was trade at the time of the Shang Dynasty. Historical records point to the fact that the Shang Dynasty was founded on trade, handicrafts and commerce-something that has been verified by a number of significant archaeological finds.
The ordinary people of Shang, since they mostly had their specialist trades, needed a sophisticated system of exchange to obtain the things they needed. Much of this exchange would be done at the local market. There, people acquired goods through barter or by spending cowry shells, the Shang currency.
The Tang tri-colour glazed pottery was made by adding metallic oxides to the coloured glaze. During the firing, these would produce different colours, namely the predominant yellow, brown and green. As for their form, pieces tended to be round and full, conforming to the aesthetic tastes of the time. Tri-colour glazed pottery was primarily made and used in Xi’an and Luoyang, the capital cities of the Tang Dynasty.
Zhengzhou, at the time of the Sui, Tang and early Song Dynasties, stood at the end point of the New Bian Canal, a key link between the Yellow River and the northwest. Along it, vast quantities of porcelain produced in Gongyi（巩义）were shipped either to Tianjin（天津）in the north, or down to Yangzhou（扬州）in the south. From these two ports, the porcelain was exported to Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and as far afield as the Middle East and Europe. This explains how large quantities of Tang tri-colored glazed pottery and porcelain came to be discovered in Yangzhou.
In the next edition of our programme, we’ll continue to explore the fascinating history of the Shang Dynasty Capital, focusing on its modern development.