Theses Doctoral

The Bronze Economy and the Making of the Southern Borderlands under the Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 BCE)

Wu, Dongming

This dissertation examines the vital role of bronze in the political, economic, and cultural interactions in the southern borderlands during the period of the Zhou dynasty (1045-256 BCE) in present-day Hubei province, China. It shows how the bronze economy – the production, exchange, and consumption of bronze goods – transformed the borderlands landscape. It adopts a bottom-up perspective and argues that instead of controlling the redistribution of metal, the Zhou state competed and negotiated with the local powers on the acquisition of metal resources. The regional states and indigenous polities were not passively acculturated to the Zhou center but developed local bronze culture and casting technology.

Through the economic perspective, this dissertation examines social interaction not in the traditional binary of center and periphery or the royal domain and regional states but in politico-economic zones transcending political boundaries. Based on textual, archeological, and paleographical evidence, it discusses how the indigenous people in the southeastern Hubei mining region joined a transregional economic network. It also traces metal exchange, bronze production, and technology innovation in the Sui-Zao Corridor, the crossroads connecting north and south throughout the Zhou dynasty.

This dissertation uses archaeometallurgical method to examine the circulation of bronze-smelting knowledge between Sujialong and other mining societies. Statistical analysis of the Sifangtang cemetery makes it possible to reconstruct the changing societal organization at the Tonglüshan mines under different political powers. This dissertation argues that the bronze economy led to unique ways of social interaction and created transregional social networks, and thus shaped the southern borderlands of the Zhou dynasty.

Geographic Areas


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2027-08-16.

More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Li, Feng
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 24, 2022