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In the following sentence, what does 上的 mean?

中国历史学上的夏、商、周属于考古学上的青铜时代。

I translated it as "Archaeologists know the Xia, Shang and Zhou collectively as the Bronze Age." I think I have the gist of it, but I don't understand how 上的 is functioning.

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You have made a wrong pause in the sentence……

It should be "中国历史学上的|夏、商、周|属于|考古学上的|青铜时代。".

It is "in Chinese history". "in Chinese history" = "中国历史学上的"

  • the emoji works great here. – AGamePlayer May 28 '15 at 5:24
  • 中国历史学上的 more closely matches "in the historiography of China", not "in Chinese history". This corresponds to "in archaeology" later in the sentence. Both refer to academics, 学, not the subject of which was studied. – Yang May 29 '15 at 10:19
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It can be roughly translated to "in" in English. 夏商周 in history belongs to the bronze age in archeology.

上 here means based on some theory / academic field.

  • Thank you. I knew it would be something really simple but I started over thinking it. – liao May 28 '15 at 4:37
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历史上 means 'in history'. The full sentence translates as:

The Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties in Chinese history all belong to the Bronze Age in archeology.

Another example: 历史上最大的帝国 The largest empire in history

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You can regard "A 上的 B" as "B in the field of A"
This may help you understand how the sentence is organised and find a proper translation.
Example:
技术上的问题=Problem in the field of technique=technical problem.

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__ 上的 can be translated into different word under different context, but the general idea is that it confines or narrows our discussion. ...上 means on the topic of ... or in the sense of ...

考古學上的發現 - archaeological findings
生物學上的實驗 - biological experiments
物質生活上的快樂 - material happiness
精神上的體驗 - spiritual experience
理論上而言 - theoretically speaking
基本上 - tasically
金錢上的報酬 - monetary reward
科技上的發展 - technological advancement 

We use ...上的 especially when talking about some subject of study or science. You insert pretty much anything that is a field of science or study before 上的:文學上的、科學上的、哲學上的、心理學上的、物理學上的、化學上的、地質學上的、地理學上的......

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In the sentence "中国历史学上的", "上的" means "in the scope" of previous mentioned domain. In your case, "中国历史学上的" means "in the scope of Chinese Historiography".

However, this is only the translation of the meaning. Depending of the context, it could be translated in a better way.

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