During the Bronze Age (2205-256 BC) in China, the Chinese worshipped many gods and spirits. One of the most important deities during the Shang Dynasty was Ti. Ti means "Deity Above," or "the Lord on High." He was believed to punish people who offended him and reward those who pleased him.
The Chinese had spirit gods that represented things found in nature, from specific mountains and streams to the stars in the sky. There were also two gods of the earth, "the God of the Soil," and "Sovereign Earth." They were subject to Ti.
Only the noble Chinese who died could become objects of worship. This meant that only the nobility had ancestors to whom they could pray, while the dead of the poor were simply forgotten. However, the Chinese saw worship not as an individual exercise, but one performed for the good of the entire society. For this reason, the poor also enjoyed the benefits of the ancestors' intercession.
The ancient Chinese also had people on earth who acted as mediums for communication between the divine and human beings. Among these intermediaries were priests, who did a number of jobs, from reading prayers to conducting sacrifices or funerals. Priests were highly specialized. Some knew the specific ceremonies performed for hunters before leaving on an expedition. Other priests knew ceremonies for sacrificing to a certain god.
Another type of intermediary in ancient Chinese religion was the augur. An augur asked questions of the gods on behalf of humans, and then used various techniques of divination, such as oracle bones, to find the answers. The augur would ask a question about the future, such as how the harvest would turn out or who was going to win a battle. He would then punch holes in certain places of a tortoise shell or the shoulder-bone from an ox. Then the bone was held over a fire for a short time, until the bone cracked from the heat. Ink was rubbed on the bone to make the cracks more evident, and allow the augur to read the...