Category: shang dynasty

Shang-era bronze wine container, with a “taoti…

Shang-era bronze wine container, with a “taotie” decor. It’s particularly notable because the container’s lid survives. Circa 1100 BCE

Courtesy of the Harvard Art Museum

When Does A Duck Ride A Tiger?

When the tiger is a Shang Dynasty drinking vessel, of course!

Circa 1600 BCE – 1046 BCE.

The “nine familial exterminations” or “nine kinship exterminations” was the…

The “nine familial exterminations” or “nine kinship exterminations” was the most extreme punishment someone could receive in ancient China. Our first record of this punishment comes from a history of the Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty. Apparently it was common for military officers to threaten before battle that if a subordinate disobeyed orders, all their family would be killed.

This eventually evolved into an elaborate, and legal, method of punishment. The nine familial exterminations varied by dynasty, and how often it was used varied as well. Generally, those to be executed included:

  • the criminal’s living parents
  • their living grandparents
  • all children over a certain age (which varied) and all their children’s spouses
  • all grandchildren over a certain age, and all their grandchildren’s spouses
  • siblings and their sibling’s spouses
  • the criminal’s uncles and aunts, as well as their spouses
  • cousins (in Korea, this could go to second and third cousins)
  • nieces and nephews, and their spouses
  • the criminal’s spouse
  • the criminal’s spouse’s living parents
  • the criminal

The Chinese ideogram for home or family was originally a pig…

The Chinese ideogram for home or family was originally a pig under a roof. The character first appeared more than 3,000 years ago on Shang dynasty bronzes. Having a pig in the house indicated it was a place where people lived, not just a barn. The ideogram has slowly come to mean more and more related ideas, including home, occupation, and identity.