The archaeological site of Yin Xu, close to Anyang City, some 500 km south of Beijing, is an ancient capital city of the late Shang Dynasty (1300 - 1046 BC). It testifies to the golden age of early Chinese culture, crafts and sciences, a time of great prosperity of the Chinese Bronze Age. A number of royal tombs and palaces, prototypes of later Chinese architecture, have been unearthed on the site, including the Palace and Royal Ancestral Shrines Area, with more than 80 house foundations, and the only tomb of a member of the royal family of the Shang Dynasty to have remained intact, the Tomb of Fu Hao. The large number and superb craftsmanship of the burial accessories found there bear testimony to the advanced level of Shang crafts industry. Inscriptions on oracle bones found in Yin Xu bear invaluable testimony to the development of one of the world’s oldest writing systems, ancient beliefs and social systems.
Yin Xu is an ancient capital city that rose in the late Shang Dynasty, a time of prosperity of Chinese Bronze Age. Around the 17th century BC, the Shang tribe, an important branch of the Chinese nation, beat the Xia Dynasty and established a slave dynasty in central China, the second of its kind in Chinese history. The territory of this new dynasty extended to the great ocean in the east, the present-day Sichuan in the west, the Liaohe River Basin in the north, and the Dongtinghu Lake in the south. It was one of the most powerful states in the East Asia during the Bronze Age.
In about 1300 BC, Pan Geng, the king of the Shang Dynasty, removed his capital from Yan to Yin Xu and built the latter into a magnificent capital city. Since then, this capital city continued being built by 12 kings in eight generations of the Shang Dynasty during 255 years. It remained the political, economic, military and cultural centre of China during the prime of its bronze age. Around the year 1046 BC, King Wu sent a punitive expedition against King Zhou, the last ruler of the Shang Dynasty. Yin was deserted and the city was turned into ruins, hence the name Yin Xu (the ruins of Yin) in historical sources.
During the Qin and Han dynasties (221 B.C. to AD 23), references to Yin Xu were made frequently in history books. Epigraphy became popular during the Song and the Yuan Dynasties (AD 10th to 14th century). The frequent unearthing of bronzes around Xiaotun village aroused the attention of educated people. This city was then thought to be Xiang, the residence of the 12th king of the Shang Dynasty. In 1899, Wang Yirong, an epigrapher of the last years of the Qing Dynasty, discovered and proved that oracle bone inscription was the language used in the Shang Dynasty. After verification and exploration by many other scholars, Xiaotun of Anyang where oracle bone inscriptions were unearthed came to be established as the site of Yin Xu as recorded in Chinese classics.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
Between 1928 and 1937, the Institute of History and Philology of the then Academia Sinica carried out 15 large-scale excavations at Yin Xu, and discovered the Palace and Ancestral Shrines Area, the Royal Tombs Area and large numbers of other cultural remains. As a result, this capital city of the Shang Dynasty has gradually come to be known, and its position as China's first ancient capital, proven by written documents, has been firmly established. The excavations were completed after the Second World War. In 1995, Anyang City established the Yin Xu Management Department to take charge of conservation and daily management of Yin Xu.