Zhou Tomb of Count of Yu

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Diagram of the three burials associated with the Count of Yu   source

In about 1050 BC the Shang dynasty was defeated in battle by armies from Zhou, a rival state to the west, which seems both to have inherited cultural traditions from the Neolithic cultures of the northwest and to have absorbed most of the material culture of the Shang.  The conquerors retained their homeland in the Wei River valley in present-day Shaanxi province and portioned out the rest of their territory among their relatives and local chiefs, creating a number of local courts or principalities. 


The culture of the early Zhou is known to us not solely through archaeological evidence, but also through transmitted texts, such as the Book of Documents (Shujing), which describes the Zhou conquest of the Shang as the victory of just and noble warriors over a decadent and dissolute king.  In these texts and bronze inscriptions alike, the rule of the Zhou kings was linked to heaven, conceived of as the sacred moral power of the cosmos.  A king and a dynasty could rule only so long as they retained heaven's favor.  If a king neglected his sacred duties and acted tyrannically, heaven would display its displeasure by sending down ominous portents and natural disasters.  

Zhou rulers, like their Shang predecessors, devoted considerable resources to tombs.  The tomb we examine here dates from the earliest years of the Zhou dynasty.  It is Rujiazhuang Tomb 1, dated around 950-900 BC and located in present-day Shaanxi province (review map).  Based on inscriptions found on bronze vessels, scholars believe that Tomb 1 belonged to a Count of Yu and his wife, Jing Ji.  They also surmise that the occupant of Tomb 2, partly overlapping Tomb 1, was Count Yu's concubine, but this is less certain.  The pit of Tomb 1 is 12.2 meters deep and measures 8.4 meters by 5.2 meters at the bottom.  Within it are two wooden chambers, both with coffins.  One human sacrifice was placed at the entry of the tomb, and six others between the tomb wall and the chambers.  Burial goods were placed both inside and outside the chambers.  Outside were three chariot wheels and some pottery containers.  Inside were bronze vessels, weapons, and tools.  Textile imprints were found within the chambers as well.  Most of the jade objects were placed on the dead.


What do you notice about the number of human sacrifices compared to Fu Hao's tomb?  What do you think might account for this difference?




Altogether the tomb of the count contained:


Over 2,700 bronze objects, including 33 vessels and 13 weapons

4 musical instruments

over 100 chariot parts

11 pieces of pottery

over 280 jade and stone objects

The tomb of his wife Jing Ji contained:

10 bronze vessels

over 280 jade and stone objects


Why would chariot parts and weapons be included in tombs?





Go on to view some of the objects from this tomb:

Bronze Objects

Jade Objects