Archive for December, 2008
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In the Shang Dynasty (about 2000 BC), the earliest period we know much about, people in China worshipped a lot of different gods – weather gods and sky gods – and also a higher god who ruled over the other gods, called Shang-Ti. People who lived during the Shang Dynasty also believed that their ancestors – their parents and grandparents – became like gods when they died, and that their ancestors wanted to be worshipped too, like gods. Each family worshipped their own ancestors.
Around 1500 BC, people began to use written oracle bones to try to find out what was going to happen in the future. By the time of the Chou Dynasty (about 1100 BC), the Chinese were also worshipping a natural force called t’ien, which we usually translate as Heaven. Like Shang-Ti, Heaven ruled over all the other gods. Heaven also decided who would be the Emperor or Empress of China. The emperor or empress could only rule as long as he or she had the Mandate of Heaven (as long as Heaven wanted him or her to rule). You knew when the emperor or empress had lost the Mandate of Heaven because he or she would then be overthrown by somebody else who would become the new emperor or empress.