Several hundred inscribed bronze objects dating from Western and Eastern Zhou periods were commissioned for or by married women. Several dozen inscriptions are known whose commissioners called themselves sheng 生 (甥) of a number of lineages. In pre-Qin Chinese, the term sheng 甥 designated several categories of affinal relatives: paternal aunts’ sons, maternal uncles’ sons, wives’ brothers, sisters’ husbands, and sons of sisters or daughters. The wide geographical and chronological spread of female- or sheng-related vessels, as well as dedications to “many affinal relatives” (hungou 婚購) in bronze inscriptions point to the importance of marital ties in early Chinese society and politics.
Focusing on the inscriptions commissioned by sheng, the present article suggests that even when concluded at a considerable distance, marriages produced long-term mutual obligations for male members of the participating lineages or principalities. Affinal relationships represented social and political capital that could be converted in terms of individuals’ careers and prestige or benefits for their whole lineages/states. In sum, starting from the early Western Zhou period, marital alliances represented a substantial integrative factor in early Chinese politics. On the one hand, marital alliances helped to consolidate the radial network of Zhou states centered on the Zhou king. On the other hand, they facilitated the construction of decentralized regional and interregional inter-state networks. The latter guaranteed the stability of the Zhou political system even when it had a weak center. As a result, the Zhou networks did not fall apart following crises in the Zhou royal house, but continued to expand by the inclusion of new members.
兩周數百件帶銘文的青銅器是為或被婦女訂鑄的。此外, 數十件銘文的鑄造者自稱某族的 “生” (“甥”) 。 先秦文獻裡的 “甥” 字表銘以下數種姻親關係：姑之子、舅之子、妻之晜（弟）、姊妹之夫、姊妹之子或女兒之子等。與婦女或某甥有關銘文的出現時間甚長、其地理的分布甚廣，可見婚姻聯繫在中國古代社會和政治中具有重要性。專為 “婚購” 而鑄造的銅器銘文也指出此事實。
本文以與某甥有關的銘文為中心，建議婚姻關係可以激發雙方氏族或邦國間男性成員間的相互義務。因此姻戚關係成為社會與政治的資本，可用以提高個人事業成就及聲譽，並可增進其氏族邦國之福利。總之，筆者認爲邦國之間的聯昏制度為古代中國政治系統中的基本因素之一。自西周初起，婚姻聯盟一方面有助于鞏固以周王為中心的 “星形政治網絡” ，另一方面也有利于 “分散政治網絡” 的建設。後者可以——儘管中心的虛弱——保證全系統的穩定性，使得周朝可以通過許多危機，而周系政治網絡不但未崩潰、反而繼續擴張。
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