Shagi / Steps the Journal of the SASH


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Shang state elites in onomastic perspective: A preliminary quantitative analysis

T. A. Safin
Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, Moscow), The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (Russia, Moscow)

DOI: 10.22394/2412-9410-2022-8-4-10-31

Keywords: Oracle bone inscriptions, jiaguwen, Ancient China, Bronze Age China, Chinese excavated texts, early China, Chinese history

Abstract: This study investigates the overlap of personal names used within different groups of elites in oracle bone inscriptions (1311 cent. BC, ancient Chinese Shang state). Eight groups are examined: zi (princes), hou (lords), bo (chiefs), xiao-chen (minor servants), quan (kennelmen) shu (guards), Qiang people (or clan), and royal diviners. Firstly, I present updated registers of personal names, with 213 unique names including 48 cases of repeated names. The numbers of repeated and unique names vary in different groups, as does the overall number of names in each group. The task was to find out which pairs of groups share repeated names more often than expected, given their size. It transpired that four pairs of groups share names more often than expected, namely: zi and Qiang; quan and shu; xiao-chen and hou; shu and diviners. Further research is needed to understand whether or not this phenomenon indicates actual connections between these groups of people. The analysis has also revealed two subgroups to be mutually exclusive: the first includes bo and Qiang, and the second includes hou, xiao-chen, quan, shu, and diviners,. Such isolation probably indicates ethnic (Shang and non-Shang) or social (nobility and gentry) boundaries. On the other hand, zi names can be found in both of the subgroups, suggesting ethnic or social heterogeneity of the princes.

To cite this article: Safin, T. A. (2022). Shang state elites in onomastic perspective: A preliminary quantitative analysis. Shagi/Steps, 8(4), 1031. (In Russian). https://doi.org/10.22394/2412-9410-2022-8-4-10-31.