Cylindrical water vessel made from elephant bone and decorated with relief in bands depicting stylized animals and decorative motifs.

A decorated pitcher made from an elephant limb bone found in Royal Tomb No. 1001, Anyang, China. Image provided by the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

The King and His Industries:

Archaeology of Craft Production at the Shang Capital Anyang

Yung-ti Li

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

This lecture will take place in person at ISAW.

Registration is required at THIS LINK.

Anyang, the last capital of the Shang dynasty (ca. 1200 to 1000 BCE), is one of the most important Bronze Age sites in China. While it is known for the inscribed oracle bones and the royal cemetery, the site also provides invaluable information on craft production in Bronze Age China. Excavations and research over the past ninety years demonstrate not only the advanced skills of the Shang craft workers but also the scale and capacity of the craft industries of the time.

This talk examines the material remains, the technology, and especially the production organization of the Anyang craft industries, focusing in particular on bronze casting and bone working, among other crafts. It also discusses the relationship between craft production, managerial control, and political authority at the last Shang capital.

Yung-ti Li is a visiting research scholar at ISAW. He is also associate professor in East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago. Li's research interests focus on the archeology of Bronze Age China, including topics in craft specialization and production, especially bronze casting and bone working technologies, the rise of social complexity, inter-regional interaction, and state formation in ancient China. He currently has research and field projects in Taiwan and China. Li is the author of Kingly Crafts: The Archaeology of Craft Production in Late Shang China (2022, Columbia University Press, New York), and the editor of Periphery and Center: Archaeological Research of Anyang and the Surrounding Regions (2016, Academia Sinica, Taipei), Gems of Yinxu: Catalogue of Selected Artifacts from Anyang in the Institute of History and Philology (2009, Academia Sinica, Taipei) and Archaeologia Sinica Number Four: Ta Ssu K'ung Ts'un --- Settlement and Cemeteries of the Yin-Shang and Eastern Chou Periods at Anyang, Honan (2008, Academia Sinica, Taipei).

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