Black Shang

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Blacks in Ancient China | Blacks of XIA | Black Shang

Clyde Winters 

The decline of the Xia empire led to the rise of Shang-Li (Black Shang) as the leading state in the confederation. The clan totem of Shang was the bird. In the Yen ben Zhi, it is written that the mother of Xieh, the founder of Shang was impregnated by a Black of Xia: 

"Three persons including Jian Di went to take a bath. They saw that a black bird dropped an egg. Jian Di took and devoured it, became impregnated and gave birth to Xieh. Xieh grew up, assisted Yu in his work to control the flood with success". (Chang 1980) 

There were two Shang empires. The first Shang Dynasty we will call the Shang-Li (Black Shang) it was ruled by the li-Qiang "Black Qiang". For the last 273 years of the Shang empire the capital was situated at Anyang. The Shang empire based at Anyang was founded by the Yin nationality. We call this empire Shang- Yin. Thus we have the Shang-Li empire and the Shang-Yin empire. The Yin were classical mongoloid people related to the Thai and other small mongoloid austronesian speaking peoples situated in Southeast Asia. (Chang 1964; Winters 1986b) 

According to the Yin ben Zhi , the founding ancestor of Shang was Xieh a member of the Dzu clan. His mother was Jian Ti. 

The use of the "black bird", as the father of Xieh, relates to the "black bird" as a popular totem of black ethnic groups in China. This passage indicates that the founders of Shang were of mixed origin. The fact that the bird myths such as the one above are mainly centered on the east coast of China also suggest a black origin for the Shang since this area was the heartland of ancient China. 

The eastern coast was a major area of Black habitation in ancient times. The egret bird is one of the popular symbols of the southern Chinese ethnic groups.1 

This view is also supported by many archaeologists including K.C. Chang (1987) whose evidence indicates that the neolithic Mongoloid population of north China resembled the Oceanic- mongoloid type, but not the modern mongoloid group we find living in China and much of southeast Asia today. 

The name Shang refers to a town which was the early capital of the Shang-Li empire. According to the Shang poem Xuan Niao: "Heaven bade the dark bird/ to come down and bear Shang". (Chang 1980,p.211) The black bird who founded Shang was Di Ku or Emperor Ku(/Ju). In the oracle bone inscriptions Jian's husband was styled emperor Ku/Jun. (Allan 1981, p.313) Ku, is also considered the father of the ten 'black birds' in the Mulberry Tree tradition. (Allan 1981, p.313) According to Allan (1981,p.313) Ku was worshipped in the oracle bone inscriptions. 

These sun signs may refer to the ten clans that formed the basis of the Shang people. (Allan 1981, p.293) Allan (1981) has discussed the possibility that the myth of the Mulberry Tree from which ten suns rose probably relate to the rise of ten founding Shang clans by ten suns(/sons) which are identified as "black birds". (Allan 1981, p.294) 

In the Mulberry Tree tradition one day ten suns rose from a mulberry and the Archer Yi, shot down nine of them. These suns in reality were birds. This bird myth probably refers to the "black birds" that founded the Shang Dynasty. (Chang 1987) The fact that only one of the ten birds survived the arrows of the Archer Yi, may relate to the unification of the ten clans into the Shang dynasty. 

Both the ancient Chinese and Africans had similar naming practices. As in Africa the Shang child had both a day name and regular name. The Shang child was named according to the days of the zun, on which he was born. There were ten days in each zun. These days are called the ten celestial signs. 












The references to "black birds" in the Chinese literature relate to the African origin of the Shang rulers. The use of the term "black Bird" relates to the fact these blacks had a bird as their totem. Many of the Shang spoke a Dravidian language. 

The founders of Shang are often called Yi. Yi means "Great Bowman". The symbol for Yi in Chinese is translated dagung. This character has two parts da "great" and gung "a bow". The name Yi, and its similarity in the name Kuishuang (Kushana) and Kushshu highlight the archaeological evidence pointing to a western origin for many elements of Chinese civilization. The bird totem of Shang suggests that the Shang were predominately Dravidian speakers. (Winters 1983,1985c) 

The Dravidian speakers originally came from Nubia. They were related to the C-Group people. The Shang culture was founded by the Kushites thus the name Yi "Great Bowmen", thus corresponding to Steu, the name for the founders of Ta-Seti the first monarchy in history. 

The Yi seem to have lived in both north and south China. Fu Ssu-nien, in Yi Hsis Tunghsi Shuo, makes it clear that the Shang culture bearers remained allied to the rest of the Yi people who lived in southern China. The founders of Xia are usually referred to as Yueh, as opposed to Yi. It would appear that most of Yi were Dravidian speakers while the Yueh were Manding speakers. (Winters 1983,1985c) 

The Shang-Li capital was established at Zhengzhou. There were 30 kings of Shang. Sixteen of the rulers were Shang-Li, the other fourteen that ruled at Anyang on the Yellow river. The Anyang Shang were classical mongoloid not Yueh people. 

Artifacts discovered at Panglongzheng, Hubei, far to the south in the Yantze river Valley, show bronze vessels 'culturally homogenous' to Zengzhou in every respect. At this time China's environment was different. China was much wetter and warmer several millennia before the Christian era. Many animals found only in southeast Asia and southern China today lived in the north. In the Anyang area during the Shang period there were formerly two harvests of millet and rice. There were also elephants and rhinoceros in this area according to the oracle bone records. 

During the Shang period the li min wrote much information on bones and turtle shells. This form of writing is called oracle bone writing. This writing is analogous to the Manding, Harappan, Proto-Elamite and Proto-Sumerian syllabic scripts. 

The plants cultivated by the Shang had first been domesticated by the li min in south China and later taken northward as they colonized northern China. 

Shang society was based on totemic clans called zu. The clan signs are visible in clan emblems in bronze and oracle bone inscriptions: they were based on animal signs. The symbol of the Shang was the bird. 

In the southern world view, due to a sedentary economy, such concepts as matriarchy, monotheistic religion and totemism were the major aspects of social organization. In examining the history of the li min in ancient China we find that totemic names denoting blackness refer to the Black creators of Shang, as opposed to the mongoloid founders of the Zhou Dynasty, e.g., li min 'the black heads' or xi Qiang 'the black Qiang'. 

The first Shang king was Xuan Wang, 'Black King' (Xuan means black). He was also called the Xuan Di ,"Black Emperor".The founder of the Shang Dynasty was called Xuan Niao "Black Bird"; another Shang king was called Xuan Mu "Black Oxen". 

The Shang kingdom flourished in the Yellow river basin in the Henan province after 1766 B.C. They cultivated rice, millet and wheat. They used many metals including copper and tin. 

Each Shang town had its own king. The nobles ruling the Shang cities recognized the Shang Di (Emperor of Shang) as the head of the confederation because his powers were considered to be ordained by Heaven or God. 

The Emperor of Shang was recognized as both a religious and military leader. As a high priest the Shang Di made sacrifice and paid homage to the gods for the nation and the people. Written history begins in China with the Shang Dynasty (c.1500- 1027). The source of Shang history are references to this dynasty in ancient Chinese books, archaeology and the oracle bone inscriptions. After heating the bones of animals, the Shang priest would interpret the cracks and answer questions on various subjects relating to everyday Shang life. Other Shang records were kept on tablets of wood and bamboo. 

The Shang are best known for their work in bronze. Shang artists made fine pottery and bronze vases of different shapes, often standing on three legs. The bronze works, along with works of art made from ivory and jade illustrate the high level of Shang technology. 

During the last 273 years of the Shang dynasty, the Shang capital was moved to Anyang. This Dynasty is called Shang-Yin. It was ruled by nomadic classical mongoloid people. This view is supported by the Zhou poem Pi Kung, which talks about the Great king "who lived on the southern slopes of mount Qi/ and began to trim Shang" ,i.e., slowly conquer sections of the Shang empire and include it in Zhou. (Chang 1980)

The Shang had extensive trade relations with the Southern Chinese . The sources of Shang copper and tin were in the southern areas of China. here the southern Chinese mined metals and sold them to Shang.

The monetary system of Shang included the use of cowrie shells. The cowrie shells appear to have been introduced into northern China from the eastern seacoast.2 

For divination the li min of Shang used turtle shells. The characters written on the shells give us the earliest written records of China's first civilization. As in the case of other elements of Shang culture, the source of these shells lay in the South. 

In 1027 B.C. the Shang empire was conquered by the Zhou. The Zhou, who founded the first dynasty in China related to the contemporary Chinese people were originally nomads. A large bronze gui (bowl) , sat on square base dating to 1000 B.C., describes the Zhou defeat of the Shang: 

"King/Wu son of King Won/conquered Shang, on the morning of the day jia zi. Having seized the/Shang /ding cauldrons and vanquished the dark Shang/King /King Wu/ overthrow Shang./On the seventh day/xim wei, King/Wu/ while at Lansai reward his minister Li with bronze,/Li/ used it to make this precious vessel for/making sacrifices to his ancestor/ Tang ong". (Winters 1982, p.13; Neill 1980) 

The li min of Shang were uncooperative when the Zhou rulers came to power. The Zhou were led by the Tai clan which entered Shanxi and adopted the Shang culture. The Annals of the Bamboo Books, report that one of the Zhou Emperors: "Tai Kang was on the throne as a sham sovereign. By idleness and dissipation he obliterated his virtue, tell the black headed people all began to waver in allegiance".3 

The diverse origins of the Zhou and the li min is evident from the statements of Duke Muh of Shanxi, in the Annals of the Bamboo Books.Here Duke Muh, noted that a good minister "... would be able to preserve my descendents, and my black head people". 

Eventhough the li min were little better than slaves they contributed much to Zhou civilization. In the Chinese book the Ode Sang Yu , the Earl of Juy, mourned: "Every state is being ruined there are no black heads among the people". 

In summary the li min "black headed people" of China originally came from Iran and the Fertile African Crescent. They entered China both by land, from Iran and by Sea. Once in China these li min in the North and South were engaged in almost constant trade until the rise of the Zhou dynasty. The evidence of this early culture is evident in the artifacts recovered from the Lungshan, Yangshao, and Erlitou cultures. 

It would appear that these li min spoke related Dravidian and Manding languages which are a substratum language of Chinese. They remained disorganized in independent city-states until the members of the (Na)Kunte clan led by Hu Nak Kunte entered China from Elam in the later part of the 3rd millennium B.C. It was these li min who founded Xia, the first monarchy in China. It was from the Xia and later the Shang Dynasty that China derived its political system and government.


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Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "Further Thoughts on Japanese Dravidian Connection", Dravidian Language Association News 5, no9 (1981c) pages 1-4.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "Blacks in Ancient China, Part 1:The Founders of Xia and Shang", Journal of Black Studies 1,no.2 (1983c). 

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Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "Further Notes on Japanese and Tamil" ,International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 13, no.2 (June 1984c) pages 347-353. 

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "The Indus Valley Writing and related Scripts of the 3rd Millennium BC", India Past and Present 2, no.1 (1985b), pages 13-19. 

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "The Far Eastern Origin of the Tamils", Journal of Tamil Studies, no.27 (June 1985c), pages 65-92. 

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "Dravidian Settlements in ancient Polynesia", India Past and Present 3, no.2 (1986c) pages 225- 241.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad Winters ,"The Dravidian Origin of the Mountain and Water Toponyms in central Asia", Journal of Central Asia 9, no.2 (1986d), pages 144-148. 

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "Review of Dr. Asko Parpolas' "The Coming of the Aryans". International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 18, no.2 (1989) , pages 98-127. 

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "The Dravido Harappan Colonization of Central Asia", Central Asiatic Journal 34, nos.1-2 (1990), pages 120-144.

This article is from the Web site of Dr. Clyde Winters. It is reprinted with his permission.

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