The earliest archaeological evidence of chariots in China, a chariot burial site discovered in 1933 at Hougang, Anyang in Henan province, dates to the rule of King Wu Ding of the late Shang Dynasty (c. 1200 BC). Oracle bone inscriptions suggest that the western enemies of the Shang used limited numbers of chariots in battle, but the Shang themselves used them only as mobile command vehicles and in royal hunts.
During the Shang Dynasty, members of the royal family were buried with a complete household and servants, including a chariot, horses, and a charioteer. A Shang chariot was often drawn by two horses, but four-horse variants are occasionally found in burials.
Jacques Gernet claims that the Zhou dynasty, which conquered the Shang, made more use of the chariot than did the Shang and "invented a new kind of harness with four horses abreast". The crew consisted of an archer, a driver, and sometimes a third warrior who was armed with a spear or dagger-axe. From the 8th to 5th centuries BC, the Chinese use of chariots reached its peak. Although chariots appeared in greater numbers, infantry often defeated charioteers in battle.
Massed chariot warfare became all but obsolete after the Warring-States Period (476–221 BC). The main reasons were increased use of the crossbow, the adoption of standard cavalry units, and the adaptation of mounted archery from nomadic cavalry, which were more effective. Chariots would continue to serve as command posts for officers during the Qin and Han dynasties, while armored chariots were also used during the Han Dynasty against the Xiongnu Confederation in the Han–Xiongnu War, specifically at the Battle of Mobei.
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