From Ancient China to Modern Uganda

At a recent library book sale I picked up a lovely little hardback book on Chinese Emperors by Ma Yan.  It really is beautiful.  It’s lushly illustrated, with stunning images on nearly every single page.  It’s not enough to make a stand alone resource for Chinese history, but it’s an exquisite little jewel of a supplement.   I’m delighted with it and quite grateful to the son-in-law who happened to choose to go to that sale at the last minute and brought me along with him.  We only had about half an hour to browse, which didn’t give me a lot of time to really choose carefully, so I am odiously pleased with myself for spotting this one and slipping it in my totebag.

One of the earliest of the Chinese empires was the Shang, who ruled during the Bronze age.

According to this website, they were the first to have written records, and they set the tone for culture in subsequent dynasties.  They developed beautiful craftsmanship in silks, metallurgy, and more.

The little book I brought home says, “The Shang was one of the more developed of the many tribes that lived downstream of the Yellow River.  They were more advanced in husbandry compared to other tribes….

From the bronze artifacts of the Shang period and the earliest form of Chinese characters inscribed on bones and turtle shells, we can conclude that the Shang already grasped many skills such as animal taming, fish farming, and land cultivation for survival.  While the green bronze works mark the level of the Shang industrialization, stone sculptures found in Anyang reveal glimpses of the Shang lifestyle at the time: masters of slaves are shown, wearing thin hats, pointed shoes, robes and long skirts tied with white belts.  Music and dance were appreciated in court….”

According to the website: “The Shang Dynasty was the peak of the slavery trade among the three ancient Chinese dynasties. The ruling class consisted of slaveholders….”

This remarkably advanced civilization with a strong penchant for the arts and a highly developed set of skills in multiple crafts also practiced human sacrifice, and slaves were often sacrificed.  The practice of human sacrifice either began or intensified during the final two centuries of the dynasty.  During those two hundred years, over 13,000 human beings were ritually slaughtered. When this dynasty fell, much like the Aztecs thousands of years later, it was partially because the slaves joined a rebellion and fought those masters of slaves.  More here, where we read that:

“Anyang is the name of a modern city in Henan Province of eastern China that contains the ruins of Yin, the massive capital city of the late Shang Dynasty (1554 -1045 BC.”

The Ruins of Yin in Anyang are a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage attraction and a museum area.

I found this all interesting partly just because I am curious and interested in all kinds of things related to Asia these days.  But also because of the brouhaha in the last year or two when the author of a Y.A. novel was hounded by her fellow culture warriors in the cancel culture wars because she depicted slavery in a world where dark skinned equivilants of Africans were *not* the slaves, and many of those in cancel culture were apparently unaware that slavery had ever existed in any other culture but North America’s during the 17th thru 19th centuries or that any other culture but African culture had been enslaved by outsiders.

Most of the human sacrifices in Anyang were outsiders, based on research on their bones and diets, and they were slaves, according to the city’s written records.  And I find it interesting because in spite of the fact that the culture and city were built on the backs of slavery and human sacrifice, it’s a world cultural heritage site and Antifa types are not rioting to burn down the tributes to this culture.

I suspect that pre-industrialization, it was next to impossible to build any kind of lasting cultural dynasty only possible when a leisure class is possible, and this would require some form of slavery and servitude, somewhere.

Slavery didn’t end in Korea until 1930, although reforms and other efforts to reduce its numbers had been occuring over the previous 200 years.  It exists now,again, in North Korea.

It hasn’t ended, because human labour in some areas is cheaper than dirt, and human greed and depravity exist in every era and area.

Migrants from West AFrican countries are openly sold in slave markets in Libya.

Women and girls are bought in Uganda and enslaved in the Middle East.  If they are murdered by their ‘owners’ there, sometimes the owner will inform their families back in Uganda that if they want to bury their loved one, they must buy their bodies back again.

International Justice Mission estimated that roughly 40.3 million individuals are currently in some form of slavery, and that of those, 1 in 4 of the victims is a child.


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