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In Mandarin Chinese, the country is known as `Zhongguo” meaning `central state’ or `middle empire’.
This practice led to highly sophisticated rituals dedicated to appeasing the spirits of the ancestors which eventually included ornate burials in grand tombs filled with all one would need to enjoy a comfortable afterlife.
The king, in addition to his secular duties, served as chief officiate and mediator between the living and the dead and his rule was considered ordained by divine law.
Because he was so remote and so busy, however, the people seem to have required more immediate intercessors for their needs and so the practice of ancestor worship began.
When someone died, it was thought, they attained divine powers and could be called upon for assistance in times of need (similar to the Roman belief in the ).
Prior to the Shang, the people worshipped many gods with one supreme god, Shangti, as head of the pantheon (the same pattern found in other cultures).
Shangti was considered `the great ancestor’ who presided over victory in war, agriculture, the weather, and good government.
While it is commonly accepted that human beings originated in Africa and then migrated to other points around the globe, China’s paleoanthropologists “support the theory of `regional evolution’ of the origin of man” (China.org) which claims an independent basis for the birth of human beings.
“The Shu Ape, a primate weighing only 100 to 150 grams and being similar to a mouse in size, lived [in China] in the Middle Eocene Epoch 4.5 to 4 million years ago.
What is known is that he was the ruler, or at least a very important personage, in the kingdom of Shang who, around 1600 BCE, led a revolt against Jie and defeated his forces at the Battle of Mingtiao.
The extravagance of the Xia court, and the resultant burden on the populace, is thought to have led to this uprising.