The Zhou Dynasty here includes three different stages of his- torical development, i. e . the Zhou Clan, the Zhoufang State and the Western Zhou Dynasty, formed in Shaanxi Porvince in the 21st B.C..
The Zhou Clan was formed by several small tribes that resided along the banks of Jinghe and Weihe rivers during the later period of Longshan Culture. The Zhou Clan was apt at farming. Archae- ologists call the cultural ruins of this period the Early Zhou Culture. Here on display are cultural relics of the Early Zhou period. They were mostly unearthed in Wugong and Changwu counties.
This oracle bone is a well-preserved scapula of an ox. Divina- tion had to be practised at that time in preparation for all major ac- tivities without any exceptions. The way to practise divination was to chisel holes in tortoise-shells or animal bones holes, twisted mug- wort into thread and applied the burning thread fo the holes on the back, The tortoise-shells or animal bones would crack under heat. The diviner would interpret the crackles in the bones according to their shapes and directions, so as to decide whether it was luck or ominous to do certain things. A record of the divination was then cut omo the tortoise-shells or animal twisted mugwort into thread and applied the burning thread to the bones, which formed China's earliest written language known today as "oracle bone inscriptions".
In the 16th century B. C. , the Zhou Clan, to avoid the no- madic tribe's invasion and harassment, and settled down in the pre- sent-day Fufeng and Qishan counties, where it established a capi- tal, an official ranking system and a governing body. It was also ac- knowledged by the Shang Dynasty and appointed as "Feng State". The capital of the Zhoufang State is the well-known Zhouyuan City. Here on display are building materials unearthed at Zhouyuan, such as hollow bricks, plain tiles, roll roofing tiles, tile -ends, pottery sewer pipes and so on.
In the llth century B. C. , the Shang Dynasty died and the Western Zhou Dynasty came into existence instead. It established its capital in Feng and Hao, which were separated by the Fenghe River. This marked the emergence of the ancient city of Xi'an.
The development of China's bronze culture reached its peak during the Western Zhou. The number of bronze vessels unearthed in Shaanxi so far has reached to more than 3,000, two thousand out of which are now collected in the Shaanxi History Museum. On display here are exhibited ceremonial and musical instruments, im- plements for living production and fighting weapons as well.
These are what are called chime bells, a sort of Chinese ancient musical instrument. They are a set of bells of different sizes, scales and numbers (several to a few scores) arranged in order to hanging from a supporter. During a performance, the musician taps the small bells with a wooden or metal hammer, and striked the big ones with wooden or metal bars. On these chime bells, not only classical tunes can be played, but also some modern folk composi- tions can be enjoyed as well. The bronze vessels were also the system of rites. That is they are the symbol of power and social strata.
These are called "ding" (tripod), a cooking utensil of ancient times, for boiling meat. Bronze tripods were derived from the pottery ones in the primitive society. During the long historical period of the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, bronze tripods were a kind of ritual ware only pos- sessed by slave owners and aristocrats, and used on sacrificial occa- sions or at banquets. Legend goes that King Yu of the Xia Dynasty once had nine tripods made, symbolizing the state power over the nine administrative divisions in ancient China. Therefore, a success- ful seize of political power was referred to as "Inquiring ding" after- wards. Because of a strict caste system, ding was a symbol of privi- leged identity in Western Zhou. Bronze utensils made in this period were elaborately shaped, with magnificent decorative patterns. Some have written characters cast on them, known as "epigraphs", some of which were as long as 500 characters. They are the valu- able data for the study of the history of the Western Zhou Dynasty.
With development of agriculture and handicraft, exchange of goods was on the increase. This sort of "shell" was used as a medi- um in trade, "shell money" was the earliest form of currency in kind. Therefore, many Chinese characters symbolizing valuable things have been constructed with the character "shell" (?) as their radicals.
The designs and patterns carved on the bronze vessels are a very important part of the study of the art of bronze ware. The dec- orations on the bronze ware can be classified into two major cate- gories: animal designs and geometric patterns. Both of them gener- ally look mysterious and weird, and difficult to understand. This is because the vessel makers intended to use these vessels to offer sac- rifices to Heaven, Earth, Gods and Ancestors. Making them diffi- cult for the ordinary people to understand proves the success of the makers' artistic conception.
The Prehistoric Age
The Qin Dynasty (221--206 B. C. )
The Han Dynasty (206B. C. --220A. D. )
The Wei, Jin, South & North Dynasties (220--581 A. D. )
The Sui and Tang Dynasties (5817-907 A. D. )
The Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties (960--1840 A. D. )