The Chinese Bronze Age had begun by 1700 B.C. in the kingdom of the Shang dynasty along the banks of the Yellow River in northern China. At times the Shang kings ruled even larger areas.
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The Chinese Bronze Age started relatively early, c. 3100 BCE with the , located around the modern provinces of and , roughly between Mongolia and Tibet. It is interesting that the Bronze Age should have appeared in such a remote north-western region, along what would become the Silk Road, and in direct continuity of the Tarim basin.
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Bronze metallurgy in China originated in what is referred to as the Erlitou (also Erh-li-t’ou) period, which some historians argue places it within the range of dates controlled by the Shang dynasty. Others believe the Erlitou sites belong to the preceding Xia (also Hsia) dynasty. The U.S. National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the “period between about 2000 BC and 771 BC,” a period which begins with Erlitou culture and ends abruptly with the disintegration of Western Zhou rule. Though this provides a concise frame of reference, it overlooks the continued importance of bronze in Chinese metallurgy and culture. Since this is significantly later than the discovery of bronze in Mesopotamia, bronze technology could have been imported rather than discovered independently in China.
Feasting & Sacrifice in the Chinese Bronze Age | Dissertation Reviews