Natural disasters are not unique to the 21st century; they come without warning and often leave behind severe devastation, and they have done so throughout history. Although modern science has provided numerous technologies to track and predict storm patterns, disaster caused by inaccurate weather forecasts happens from time t o time.
If, even with great advances in modern science, humankind wondered how people of the Shang dynasty dealt with nature’s unknowns back almost 3,500 years ago. Specifically, how did changes in weather influence Shang people in their daily activities and lifestyles?
Documents and records uncovered from archaeological finds have revealed that Shang people believed heavenly gods, ancestors, and deities controlled the universe and, therefore, all aspects of their lives. It’s no wonder then that Shang people often predicted weather through divinations performed with oracle bones. By deciphering oracle bone inscriptions, we can obtain information about weather conditions from more than 3,000 years ago.
These oracle bone inscriptions recorded not only weather forecasts but also various aspects of Shang society, i.e. worship rituals, wars, farming, and hunting. Thus, we can ascertain how weather changes affected the lives of the Shang people through a study of oracle bones. Oracle bone inscriptions also give us a glimpse of how Shang people inquired about their fortune or fate, solved dilemmas, and predicted the future through the ritual of divination.
Now let's step through the portals of time and explore the mysteries of Shang dynasty weather prediction.