Oracle Bone

Topics: Shang Dynasty, Religion, Divination Pages: 3 (961 words) Published: September 30, 2010
Religion in Shang Dynasty
Religious practice has always been an essential part of Chinese Culture. Even in the period of the Three Augusts and Five Kings, religious practices occurred. However, it is not until the Shang Dynasty when actually records of spiritual communication were founded. Oracle Bones were recorded of communication between human and spirits. The ritual of cracking oracle bones told what ancient Chinese concerned the most – the relationship between spirits and nature. The intricate Oracle Bones not only reveal the religious aspect of the Shang Dynasty, but also relate the cultural and political system in ancient China.

During the Shang Dynasty, Kings were granted the power to communicate with spirits. Mostly importantly, spirits informed kings about the unknowns. When Shang kings have questions regarding the future and their relationship with spirits, they assigned priests and shamans to become medium between human and spirits. When shamans were asked to foretell for the king, they drill hollows in shells and apply red-hot poker to these shells. They believed this ritual would attract spirits who were nearby to answer kings’ questions asked by shamans. Shamans’ main task was to interpret spirits’ respond through the different cracks on shells. These kinds of predictions were said to be legitimate the kings were the ultimate representative of the spirit. Most of the time, kings requested to perform oracle bones divination to learn from spirits regarding the success of harvest, outcomes of battles, and schedule of sacrifices to spirits. For example, the King asked: “Will Di order rain sufficient for harvest?” (Eno 46). During earlier years of Shang Dynasty, the outcomes of harvests were more important to the people. Nevertheless, by the end of the Shang Dynasty, a large portion of divinations were performed to know the schedule and proper scarifications to spirits and ancestors. There were scarifications everyday for different ancestors and...

Cited: Eno, Robert. “Deities and Ancestors in Early Oracle Inscriptions.”
Religions Of China In Practice. Donald S. Lopez Jr. New Jersey:
Princeton University Press. 41-51
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