9. The Longshan

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Black Pottery Culture: 2500 BCE-1000 BCE

Archaeological evidence

Let us look at another Neolithic culture that seemed to emerge in coastal China with the end of the Yangshao culture. Remember that the Yangshao were located on the upper Yellow River. This culture is called the Longshan Black Pottery Culture, after a principle site and their black pottery. It seems to have originated in the lower Yellow River towards the coast, in the present day province of Shantung. It then spread north, south, and eventually westward, perhaps dooming the Yangshao culture to subjugation. Its dates are roughly set at 2500-1000 BCE.1

“Around the middle of the third millennium, the traditions among these people began to change. … Villages grew larger, more prosperous, and more socially organized. … Differences between rich and poor increased sharply. In the community livestock pens, other animals now joined the pigs; goats, sheep, cattle and chickens brought a pleasant variety to the diet of pork and millet. Longshan pottery took on a new and somewhat austere elegance.”2

Introduction of herding animals, cattle, sheep and goats

It was the Longshan culture that introduced herding animals into northern China. More specifically, cattle were rare before the Longshan arrived, while the herding animals, i.e. cattle, sheep and goats, were typical after their arrival.

These herding animals came ultimately from the west and were not indigenous to China. This indicates the foreign origin of the Longshan culture, although the Longshan people were indigenous. Like waves, culture sometimes travels independent of people.

“Most of the domesticated animals appear to have been brought ultimately from the West, although chickens, pigs, and dogs could have been local domesticates in China.”3

Before the Longshan culture, we find mainly farm implements. After they appeared, we find weaponry, warfare and huge earth works for defense. One such wall was 23 feet tall, 33 feet wide at the base, tapering to 16 feet at the top and surrounded by a large moat. Reinforcing the warlike nature of the time, archeologists have discovered mass gravesites where the individuals died violent deaths. Before the Longshan, the graves indicate very little stratification of society. After their arrival, we find a clan set up with male leadership - most likely a type of warrior-king.

Warlike culture

The relatively peaceful life of the Yangshao culture goes through fundamental changes with the emergence, or arrival, of the Longshan culture. No longer is the pottery painted. It is just black now. No longer are the villages undefended. No longer is agriculture a primary pastime; now it is warfare.

“The Longshan people seem to have adopted a more defensive posture than their predecessors. Besides the usual farm implements of flaked and polished stone, their artisans produced larger numbers of spear points and arrowheads. Around each settlement, the Longshan erected a massive barricade of stamped earth, which was probably intended as a line of defense against attack. Armed conflict seems to have been an integral part of their culture.… The Longshan methods of burial suggest that another custom followed by these people was ancestor worship. … Clan leaders emerged, men successful in battle and dominant in village affairs. Degree of influence and wealth began to separate the Longshan people into social classes, with an aristocracy holding sway over the rest. Some men fought and plundered; others raised the animals and harvested the millet.”4

Social stratification

It seems evident that a peaceful agricultural society based upon crafts was transformed into a classic military aristocracy based on war and domination. There were even two classes of men: one who fought and the other who farmed. Even the methods and locations of burial changed. The Yangshao buried their dead outside the village, while the Longshan buried them underneath and within the house, indicating possible ancestor worship.

Longshan culture, an indigenous emergence?

Did the Longshan emerge from the Yangshao or were they an alien culture that came to dominate from the outside? In the past, a typical history of China treated the whole prehistoric development as an indigenous affair. According to this viewpoint, the Yangshao culture evolved from the indigenous Chinese who lived there. The Longshan culture was merely the next social evolutionary step, a result of population pressures. They were the same Yangshao people dealing with growth. The stratification of society and emergence of warlike behavior was a natural progression based upon man’s natural greed and lust for power combined with shrinking resources.

Yangshao and Longshan overlap in middle

Because of geographical separation, overlap, and distinct cultural differences, most scholars have abandoned the idea that the Longshan derived from the Yangshao.

“The Longshan is now known to have been concentrated along the Pacific coast of China, from Shandong to Taiwan. In several locations, Longshan artifacts have been dated as early as those of the Yangshao. Thus, the derivation of the Longshan from the Yangshao, as some had proposed, is now a subject of some debate. ”5

It is now thought that the Yangshao and Longshan are separate cultures emerging in separate geographic areas. Black pottery and painted pottery of the same date have been found at the boundary area of the two cultures. This evidence provides further support for the existence of two separate cultures.

“Specimens of the Painted Pottery of the west and the Black Pottery of the east overlapped in the vicinity of Anyang.”6

Another fact that supports this hypothesis is that the Longshan culture purportedly began in the lower Yellow River Valley and moved northwest to supplant the Yangshao culture. It also spread up and down the coast of China to Manchuria in the north and Vietnam in the south.7

 It seems that this new culture emerged from the coast of China not from the upper Yellow River.

Longshan: nomadic invaders or local development?

Language and geography local

The next question that arises is: Did the Longshan culture come from outside the area or did it emerge locally. We have already mentioned that the culture seems to have originated on the lower Yellow River and spread outwards. Another fact that supports the theory of indigenous emergence is the fact that the Chinese language shows almost no influence from the languages of the nomadic cultures, the Altaic language group.

Longshan bring in herding animals

On the other side of the argument, i.e. that the Longshan were nomadic invaders from the outside, we find that prior to the Longshan herding was non-existent.

[Speaking of the dawn of Chinese civilization] “There were no herds of cattle, but domesticated dogs and pigs provided a supply of meat, which was augmented by wild game from the surrounding countryside.”8

After the Longshan, we have all the herding animals included in the pen. Cows, sheep, and goats were not indigenous to North China, and had not been in evidence for thousands of years, since the dawn of Chinese civilization. Suddenly we have the classic herding animals along with the classic warlike nomadic culture.

Longshan pottery similarities to Iranian pottery

Another piece of evidence for exterior influence is that the Longshan black pottery has precedents in Iran at an earlier time.

“As in the case of the Yangshao red ware, there are close parallels with a similar black ware made in Iran at an earlier date, around 2000 BC in this case.”9

Additionally the Longshan pottery shapes, which extended from northeast China to northern Malaya, resemble pottery shapes made 2000 years before in Western Asia.

“Several of the Longshan shapes, notably the wide dish, beaker and dish on a tall stem, resemble vessels in use from one thousand to two thousand years earlier in western Asian sites such as Tepe Hissar, Anau, and Susa, while in East Asia this type of pottery has been found in a huge arc stretching from north-east China down to Thailand and northern Malaya.”10

Again the presence of these ceramics indicates a close connection with Southeast Asia. This relationship continues throughout Chinese history, acting to enrich both cultures.

The Manchurian Soybean for balance

Furthermore, the Chinese diet went through a big change at this time, probably introduced from Manchuria. The Banpo people of the Yangshao culture were small boned. This was possibly from vitamin deficiencies due to a diet primarily based upon millet and swine. This changed with the introduction of soybeans from Manchuria in the north around the 2nd millennium.11 The soybean provided a balance nutritionally and agriculturally. The soybean was the perfect crop to alternate with millet, as the alternation maintained the fertility of the soil.

Possible Manchurian infiltration

The introduction of soybeans into the diet indicates that the people who eventually became the Longshan could have migrated down from Manchuria, across the much less imposing lowlands of the coast. However, if the people originated in Manchuria, why does the evidence indicate that the Longshan culture spread northwards into Manchuria from China?

Nomadic or agrarian cultures by themselves do not tend to produce a stratified society such as the Longshan. Civilization, as we know it, emerges most often when a nomadic culture conquers and enslaves an agrarian culture. The militarization of society has the effect of concentrating the populace into cities for defense. Plus, it produces a ruling warrior class to provide protection and a farmer class to produce the food.

Under this line of reasoning, Manchurian nomads could have come raiding from the north into the lower Yellow River Plain. Perhaps after a few raiding trips, they may have gradually decided to stay as a military aristocracy with their warlike customs. Over time, they intermixed with local cultures. The physically smaller indigenous people became the peasants who tended the land. The larger bodied invaders became the warrior-kings. The resultant culture became known as the Longshan.

China and outside influence

China regularly transformed from outside

A nomadic invasion from the north followed by cultural assimilation is a common theme throughout Chinese history. As we shall see, the Chou dynasty circa 1000 BCE, the Ch’in dynasty circa 200 BCE, and the Ch’ing Dynasty circa 1700 CE, all emerged from the outskirts of China to rule the country. Each of these invaders eventually considered themselves to be Chinese. Even the Mongol Yuan Dynasty circa 1200 CE, adopted Chinese culture, while elsewhere they obliterated the indigenous cultures including the great Persian Empire.

Our Answers

Instead of the nomads becoming rulers, could it be that the northeastern coastal Chinese, on the lower Yellow River Plain, were required to defend themselves from the Manchurian raiders from the north? In so doing, their egalitarian agricultural society could have been transformed into a stratified military culture. For defense, they began building earth walls for defense and protection. The small farming villages joined together in larger communities to become defensive compounds.

Furthermore in the centuries that transpired12 they acquired Mongolian soybeans, herding animals, i.e. cattle, goats and sheep, and a new hierarchical structure. In order to provide effective defense, the warriors became more important, providing both military prowess and necessary leadership in battles. Unfortunately, inevitably, as always, evermore, they then used these effective defensive and offensive techniques against their Chinese neighbors to the south and west, who in turn became militarized in defense. In such a way, the military culture spread outward to the perimeters of the agricultural settlements.

Few Raiders assimilated

If these nomadic raiders stayed and became rulers of Chinese communities, they used these walled cities to defend themselves from the next wave of invaders. With each new invading wave these perimeter cultures became more and more militarized for practical reasons. The nomadic raiders being few and the agricultural Chinese being many, eventually the nomadic raiders became assimilated as they frequently do13.

They probably left their nomadic heritage behind, becoming ‘civilized’ by the indigenous cultures. These early transitional communities still maintained their agricultural basis, but now became a stratified society for defense.

Universal: military pressure leads to social stratification with warrior at the top

A constant throughout history seems to be that whenever there is military pressure, stratification occurs. Whenever stratification occurs men’s status rises and women’s status falls go down. The converse is also true. Whenever military pressure lessens, the social standing of men and women tends to equalize. 14

To reiterate, the Chinese inhabitants on the frontier probably came into contact with Manchurian nomadic cultures, mixing cultures but not languages. While the more numerous Chinese eventually won out linguistically15, they were forever tainted culturally. The warrior culture of the Longshan spread up and down the coast of China, while the Yangshao culture continued on the upper Yellow River.

The following Shang culture, a continuation of Longshan

Pounded earth for dwellings and walls

The Longshan pounded earth for dwellings and defense. The historical Shang dynasty that followed also utilized piled up earth as a defensive measure. It is not certain what threat would warrant these formidable fortifications, but probably military aggression either from nomads on the perimeter or local armies. These rings of earth became even more enormous during the Shang dynasty. These massive earthworks ultimately culminated in the Great Wall, which was definitely constructed to keep the nomadic ‘barbarians’ to the north out of China proper.

Ancestor worship

Another important link between the Longshan and the Shang is ancestor worship16. Perhaps this trend indicated collective gratitude that a male leader, eventually to become an ancestor, had enabled the family culture to survive, presumably because of his martial abilities. As such, ancestor worship tends to be associated with military aristocracies. With no need for defense, it seems that the preceding Yangshao did not venerate warriors. There is also no evidence of ancestor worship.

Divination by a crack pattern on a bone

“A third [similarity between the Longshan and the Shang] is the practice of divination by means of a crack pattern produced by the application of a hot point to scraped bone.”17

Both Longshan and Shang cultures practiced this unique style of divination. Furthermore, this type of divination presumably led to the development of Chinese ideograms, the basis of Chinese writing. This was a very important link between the Longshan and Shang cultures.

Same location of the capital

As we shall see, the Shang dynasty that followed the Longshan culture was, in some ways, more a continuation and evolution of Longshan culture rather than a shift. Even the capital of the first legendary dynasty, the Xia, was located at a Longshan cultural center.

“Apparently the Xia’s imperial capital, at Erlitou in southern Shaanxi belonged to the final stages of Longshan culture and shared most of its perils and advantages.”18

It seems that the Longshan culture initiated many features of traditional Chinese culture: defensive earthworks, Chinese calligraphy, ancestor worship, and a stratified military society. Due to the many similarities, many scholars consider the Longshan culture to be the seed of Chinese civilization. Chinese myth and legend also seem to reflect this perspective, as we shall see in the next chapter.

1Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, 1997: China, history of

2TimeFrame 3000-1500 BC, p147

3 1997 Grolier Interactive Inc.: Neolithic Period, China

4TimeFrame 3000-1500 BC, p. 149

5©1997 Grolier Interactive Inc. Chinese archaeology: Neolithic in China

6©1997 Grolier Interactive Inc. Chinese archaeology: Neolithic in China

7TimeFrame 3000-1500 BC, p.147 & Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, 1997: China, history of

8The Human Dawn, p. 115

9 Munsterberg, p. 24

10The Arts of China, Michael Sullivan, University of California Press, 1973, pp. 19-20

11The Human Dawn, p. 115

12 We must always remember that a century is a long time. From the beginning of the Yangshao, approx. 5000 BCE, until the peak of the Longshan, approx. 2000 BCE, is 3000 years. Three thousand years ago, 1000 BCE, England was still in prehistoric times; the Celts had not even arrived yet. A lot of transformation can occur in that much time.

13 In more modern times, we see a similar phenomenon in the British Isles. The French speaking Normans conquered the English in 1066 CE. By 1450, less than four centuries later, the Norman rulers could no longer speak French. In approximately 400 BCE, the Celts came over from Europe to establish themselves as the overlords of the indigenous population. While they brought their warlike attitude they adopted the local structure. They did not come as an invading culture. They came just as invaders. Possibly they came as a raiding party, leaving their women behind and breeded with local girls. There is certainly plenty of precedent for that. Marc Antony and Cleopatra provide a famous example.

14 To moderate this statement, we are talking about men and women in the same family. Wives of the powerful ruling culture usually have more status than poor men from the dominated culture, while simultaneously having less status than their powerful husbands. Dominated, they dominate in turn.

15 Again looking at the British Isles for an example. Due to Roman pressure, the diverse Celtic and Pictish tribes coalesced into bigger and bigger defensive units, eventually called kingdoms. The local Celtic kings who came in contact with the Romans began adopting Roman customs and airs. In modern day Scotland, the Scots and Picts amalgamated into one country, not through conquering as is sometimes suggested, especially by the Celtic Scots, but through intermarriage. Over only about four centuries the customs of the Scottish Celts and Picts were so intermixed as to call themselves Scots to differentiate themselves from the English down south. In the attempt to sort things out, historians cannot find a homogeneity that they can safely call Pict or Scot in the later centuries of the first millennium. However, there were major differences when the Irish raiders first arrived in Dalraida about 400 CE. The eastern Picts had already adopted a defensive posture against Scandinavian attack centuries before the Picts of the West. The Picts of the West maintained a peaceful agri-culture much later, but were then submerged by their aggressive neighbors to the south and east. The point being made here is that these aggressive cultures mixed customs and cultures gradually, each adopting much of the other, while simultaneously submerging the existing peaceful cultures. Additionally the languages of the Picts and Celts stayed separate. While many place names still have Pictish roots, Pictish has completely died out replaced by the Gaelic of the Celts. In agood compassionate side. The demon knows Tripitaka’s nickname, his substantiality, and is calling him.

“A spirit like that can even possess knowledge of a person’s nickname. If he should call out, hiding in the bushes or in the fold of the mountain, a person may get by if he does not answer him, but if he does answer, the spirit can snatch away his primal soul, or he can follow that person and take his life that night.”[11]

The demon has Tripitaka’s number; he is able to push his buttons. Tripitaka’s unbalanced fire upsets the five-phase carts, creating a tremendous blaze that threatens the entire journey.

In order to control the blazing fire, Monkey is reminded by the cool-headed Sha Monk to balance it with water. Trying all types of regular water unsuccessfully, finally Monkey gets Kuan Yin to use the sweet dew in her vase to subdue the demon. She says to Monkey,

“The sweet dew in my vase is not like that unauthorized rain of the Dragon Kings; it can extinguish the samadhi fire of the monster-spirit.”[12]

We remember the sweet dew as the sweet saliva that is generated when the sexual energy