Yinxu Ruins of Shang Dynasty, Anyang – Ticket, Opening Hours, Location, and Highlights

yinxu ruins of shang dynasty 1

Yinxu Ruins (殷墟), located in present-day Anyang, Henan Province, China, is the archaeological site of the late capital of the Shang Dynasty, recognized as the earliest verified capital in Chinese history. Its discovery and excavation rank as the premier among China’s “100 Major Archaeological Discoveries of the 20th Century.” Centered around the village of Xiaotun, Yinxu spans approximately 30 square kilometers. Known as Beimeng in the later Shang period, it was also referred to as Yin. It served as the capital from the time of King Pan Geng’s relocation in the 14th century BCE until the fall of King Zhou, encompassing eight generations and twelve kings over a span of 273 years. After the Zhou Dynasty overthrew the Shang, King Zhou’s son Wu Geng was enfeoffed there. However, following Wu Geng’s rebellion and subsequent death, the people of Yin gradually abandoned the area, leading to its eventual decline into ruins, hence its name, Yinxu.

Yinxu has yielded a wealth of artifacts of significant historical value (now housed in Yinxu Museum), including bronze vessels like the monumental “Simuwu Ding,” weighing 875 kilograms, and oracle bones inscribed with early Chinese script, known as oracle bone script, which predates the Chinese characters. The discovery of oracle bone script revolutionized Chinese archaeology by advancing the credible recorded history of China back to the Shang Dynasty.

Table of Contents

Basic Information

Estimated Length of Tour2 – 3 hours
Ticket Price70 RMB
Opening Hours8.00 – 18.00; Last admission: 17.30
Telephone Number0086-0372-3161022

Location and Transportation

Yinxu is situated in the northwestern outskirts of Anyang City, Henan Province, along both banks of the Huan River, with Xiaotun Village at its heart, covering an area of approximately 30 square kilometers. The specific address is No. 1 Yinxu Road, Yindu District, Anyang City. Visitors can take a high-speed train to Anyang Railway Station and then transfer to Bus 106 or a taxi to cover the remaining 5 kilometers to reach the site.

Highlights of Yinxu Ruins of Shang Dynasty

Palaces and Temples

Places and temples in yinxu ruins of shang dynasty

The architectural remains of palaces and temples in Yinxu are primarily situated in the northeast of Xiaotun Village in Anyang, covering an area approximately 1 kilometer long from north to south and 0.65 kilometers wide from east to west, totaling about 0.65 square kilometers. Over nearly 90 years of excavation, more than 80 large building foundations from the late Shang Dynasty have been unearthed. Most of these large building foundations in Yinxu are of the courtyard-style architecture. In 1937, the Institute of History and Philology of the Academia Sinica excavated 54 palace building foundations in the northern and northeastern parts of Xiaotun Village, classified into three groups: Group A, Group B, and Group C. Group A, located in the northern part of the palace area, is known as the “Back Court”, while Group B, situated in the central part of the palace and temple area, is grand in scale and meticulously laid out, representing the “Front Court”. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, numerous palace foundations were subsequently discovered.

Of particular note is that some of the large palaces had bronze pillars as their foundations. Remarkably, there was evidence of human sacrifices for the foundation laying. After the construction of the palace’s rammed earth platform, rectangular vertical pits were dug into the platform, and individuals designated for sacrifice were wrapped in mats and placed into these pits before being covered with soil and compacted. Most of these sacrificial victims were prisoners of war or slaves.

Royal Tombs

royal tombs in yinxu ruins of shang dynasty

The royal tomb site is located on the northern bank of the Huan River, between Houjiazhuang and Wuguan Village in Anyang City, Henan Province. It stretches about 450 meters from east to west and approximately 250 meters from north to south. Thirteen large tombs and comparatively large tombs, along with over 2500 sacrificial pits, have been discovered here. Among these, twelve large tombs and over 1400 sacrificial pits have been excavated. The royal tomb area is divided into two sections: East and West. The West section mainly consists of eight large tombs, while the East section is dominated by sacrificial pits, primarily distributed in the southern and northern segments of the East section. These tombs are orderly arranged and densely distributed. While there are isolated instances of disruptions between tomb passages, there is never any overlapping of burial chambers, indicating meticulous planning in the positioning of the 13 tomb locations.

A prominent feature of the royal tombs in Yinxu is the prevalence of the system of human and animal sacrifices. Each group of sacrificial pits contains varying numbers of pits, with some having dozens of pits. Pits within the same group are likely associated with the same sacrificial activity and can be categorized based on their contents into human pits, animal pits, and artifact pits.

Huabei Shang City

huabei shang city in yinxu ruins of shang dynasty

Located in the northern outskirts of Anyang City, Huabei Shang City, named for its position on the northern bank of the Huan River, overlaps with the traditional Yinxu ruins. The site is square-shaped, surrounded by rammed earth walls, with a length of 2200 meters from north to south and a width of 2150 meters from east to west, covering a total area of approximately 4.7 square kilometers. It is oriented at 13 degrees east of north. The palace and temple area lies in the southern section along the central axis of the site. Within this area, dozens of rammed earth foundations have been uncovered, with the largest covering an area of 16,000 square meters, making it the largest single architectural foundation from the Shang Dynasty discovered in China. Surrounding the palace area are extensive residential sites, particularly in the northwest, where excavations have revealed numerous house foundations, wells, and pits. Some burial sites have also been found around these residential areas.

Fu Hao’s Tomb

fu hao's tomb in yinxu ruins of shang dynasty

Within the palace and temple ruins lies the tomb of Fu Hao, the consort of King Wu Ding, which is the most intact tomb of a Shang royal member discovered to date. It is also the only tomb that can be definitively linked to oracle bone inscriptions, providing insights into its age, occupant, and identity. Fu Hao’s tomb, measuring 7.5 meters deep, yielded a vast array of burial goods totaling 1928 items, including over 400 bronze artifacts, more than 750 jade objects, over 560 bone items, as well as stone tools, ivory products, pottery, shells, and shellfish. Of particular significance are the bronze artifacts inscribed with the name “Fu Hao”, including weaponry bearing her name.

Among the burial goods, alongside exquisite bronze and jade artifacts, there were also cubicles containing human skeletons, indicative of sacrificial practices. These skeletons comprised 16 human remains and 6 dog remains. Of the human remains, 4 were male, 2 were female, and 2 were children. The gender of the remaining skeletons couldn’t be determined as they had been dismembered. These individuals were likely slaves who were sacrificed during the burial rituals.

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