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Exhibition

The great sage Confucius once lavishly praised the Western Zhou dynasty, saying "How culture flourished! I follow Zhou." The Western Zhou (1046 B.C.E. – 771 B.C.E.) developed a magnificent civilization upon the legacies of the Xia and Shang dynasties. It would exert a profound influence over the following millennia of political and cultural development, and ultimately shape the norms, morals, and customs of ancient China and the countries of East Asia.

The Zhou were adept at farming, and had well established themselves in the Shaanxi Guanzhong area by the twelfth century B.C.E., around Qishan, Zhouyuan, and the Jing and Wei rivers. Building up their strength, the Zhou eventually brought together a coalition of tribes to launch an expeditionary force that overthrew the Shang dynasty around 1046 B.C.E. The Zhou King Wen established his capital, Fengjing, on the west bank of the Feng River in what is now Xian City in Shaanxi. The Zhou King Wu moved his capital, Haojing, to the east bank of the river, where it went on to become "Zong Zhou", the political capital of Western Zhou. The Zhou gradually expanded to the lower reaches of the Yellow River and the mid-regions of the Yangtze, laying the foundation for an 800-year dynasty spanning the Western and Eastern Zhou periods.

After overthrowing the Shang dynasty, the Zhou proposed the "Mandate of Heaven", forging the basis for a moral code of ethics that served to check and balance the power of rulers. In order to effectively govern their vast territories, the Zhou adopted the feudal system, granting fiefdoms and establishing systems for defense and administration. Manifested in the sacrificial worships held at the ancestral temples, the clear hierarchy and complex rites of the patriarchal system served to regulate the smooth execution of rights and duties dictated by the feudal system. By the middle to late Western Zhou, sets of bronze and jade ritual artifacts designated for specific hierarchical ranks, and bronze vessels with long engraved texts extolling the virtues of particular clans and families, all bore witness to the maturity and stability of the Zhou ritual system.

Heavily populated with Zhou nobles and graced with the presence of innumerable ancestral temples, the Shaanxi Guanzhong area is where people pay tribute to the cultural grandeur of the Western Zhou dynasty. In order to showcase the contributions made by the Western Zhou to Chinese history and culture, this exhibition has coordinated the lease of many rare and important artifacts from the archaeological and conservational institutions of Shaanxi, including the collections of the Wei and Shan clans, the funerary artifacts of the Yu and Ruei states, and articles recovered from the Zhougongmiao site. Oracle bones, jade artifacts, and vast numbers of bronze vessels with long engravings support the lineage and history outlined in historical texts such as the Shiji, Shangshu, Shijing, and Guoyu, in addition to offering insights into the concepts and merits of the Zhou patriarchal and ceremonial systems. The bronzes, gold ornaments, jade and stone artifacts, glassware, pottery, and porcelain displayed in the exhibition are not merely daily utensils, luxurious ornaments, or ritual vessels for the summoning of gods and spirits and the preparation of offerings and sacrifices; they represent a living testimony to the craftsmanship, technology, and aesthetic achievement of the Western Zhou dynasty.