Research Article

Shang ritual animals: colour and meaning (part 1)

Wang Taoa1

a1 School of Oriental and African Studies, University College London, email:


This paper (to be published in two parts in subsequent issues of BSOAS) aims to explore the meaning of colour in Shang rituals. Operating within an established framework of Shang religion and archaeology, it offers a detailed analysis of the evidence found in oracle bone inscriptions. The oracle bone inscriptions from Yinxu, the late capital of the Shang dynasty, can be divided into different diviner schools and subgroups. Part 1 of the paper will examine the inscriptions of the various diviner groups under the kings' school, and will reveal regular patterns in the use of colour.