Eastern Zhou Dynasty
| Zhou Dynasty |
Population concentration and boundaries of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1050–771 BC) in China
|Religion||Chinese folk religion, Hundred Schools of Thought|
|-||c. 1046–1043 BC||King Wu|
|-||781–771 BC||King You|
|-||770–720 BC||King Ping|
|-||314–256 BC||King Nan|
|-||Battle of Muye||c. 1046 BC|
|-||Relocation to Chengzhou||771 BC|
|-||Fall to Qin||256 BC|
|-||273 BC est.||30,000,000|
|-||230 BC est.||38,000,000|
|Currency||Mostly spade coins and knife coins|
History of China
|3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors|
|Xia Dynasty c. 2100–c. 1600 BCE|
|Shang Dynasty c. 1600–c. 1046 BCE|
|Zhou Dynasty c. 1045–256 BCE|
|Spring and Autumn period|
|Warring States period|
|Qin Dynasty 221 BCE–206 BCE|
|Han Dynasty 206 BCE–220 CE|
|Three Kingdoms 220–280|
|Wei, Shu and Wu|
|Jin Dynasty 265–420|
|Western Jin||16 Kingdoms|
| Southern and Northern Dynasties|
|Sui Dynasty 581–618|
|Tang Dynasty 618–907|
|(Second Zhou 690–705)|
| 5 Dynasties and
| Liao Dynasty|
| Song Dynasty
|Northern Song||W. Xia|
|Yuan Dynasty 1271–1368|
|Ming Dynasty 1368–1644|
|Qing Dynasty 1644–1911|
|Republic of China 1912–1949|
|Republic of |
China on Taiwan
The Zhou Dynasty (c. 1046–256 BC; Chinese: 周朝; pinyin: Zhōu Cháo; Wade–Giles: Chou1 Ch'ao2 [tʂóʊ tʂʰɑ̌ʊ]) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji (Chinese: 姬) family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as the Western Zhou.
During the Zhou Dynasty, the use of iron was introduced to China, though this period of Chinese history produced what many consider the zenith of Chinese bronze-ware making. The dynasty also spans the period in which the written script evolved into its modern form with the use of an archaic clerical script that emerged during the late Warring States period.
- 1 History
- 2 Culture and society
- 3 Kings
- 4 Zhou in astronomy
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
According to Chinese mythology, the Zhou lineage began when a consort of the legendary Emperor Ku miraculously conceived Qi (lit. "the Abandoned One") after stepping into a divine footprint. Qi was a culture hero credited with surviving three abandonments by his mother and with greatly improving Xia agriculture, to the point where he was granted lordship over Tai and the ancestral name Ji by his own Xia king and a later posthumous name (Houji, "Lord of Millet") by the Shang king Tang. He even received sacrifice as a harvest god.
Qi's son Buzhu abandoned his position at court and either he or his son Ju abandoned agriculture entirely, living a nomadic life in the manner of their Rong and Di barbarian neighbors. Ju's son Duke Liu, however, led his people to prosperity by restoring agriculture and settling them at a place called Bin,[lower-alpha 1] which his descendants ruled for generations. Old Duke Danfu later led the clan from Bin to Zhou, an area in the Wei River valley of modern-day Qishan County.
The duke passed over his two elder sons Taibo and Zhongyong to favor Jili, a warrior who conquered several Rong tribes as a vassal of the Shang kings Wu Yi and Wen Ding before being treacherously killed. Taibo and Zhongyong had supposedly already fled to the Yangtze delta, where they established the state of Wu among the tribes there. Jili's son King Wen bribed his way out of imprisonment and moved the Zhou capital to Feng (within present-day Xi'an). Around 1046 BC, King Wen's son King Wu and his ally Jiang Ziya led an army of 45,000 men and 300 chariots across the Yellow River and defeated King Zhou of Shang at the Battle of Muye, marking the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty.[lower-alpha 2]
King Wu maintained the old capital for ceremonial purposes but constructed a new one for his palace and administration nearby at Hao. Although Wu's early death left a young and inexperienced heir, the Duke of Zhou assisted his nephew King Cheng in consolidating royal power. He quelled rebellious Zhou princes, feudal rulers, and Shang partisans; countered Zhou's crisis of legitimacy by expounding the doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven while accommodating important Shang rituals at Chengzhou; and set up the fengjian system to maintain Zhou authority over its greatly-expanded territory.
Over time, this decentralized system became strained as the familial relationships between the Zhou kings and the regional dynasts thinned over the generations. Peripheral territories developed local power and prestige on par with that of the Zhou. When King You demoted and exiled his Jiang queen in favor of the beautiful but common Bao Si, the disgraced queen's father the Marquis of Shen joined with Zeng and the Quanrong barbarians to sack Hao in 771 BC. With King You dead, a conclave of nobles met at Shen and declared the Marquis's grandson King Ping. The capital was moved eastward to Chengzhou, marking the end of the "Western Zhou" (西周, p Xī Zhōu) and the beginning of the "Eastern Zhou" dynasty (東周, p Dōng Zhōu).
The Eastern Zhou was characterized by an accelerating collapse of royal authority, although the king's ritual importance allowed over five more centuries of rule. The Confucian chronicle of the early years of this process led to its title of the "Spring and Autumn" Period. The partition of Jin in the mid-5th century BC initiated a second phase, the "Warring States". In 403 BC, the Zhou court recognized Han, Zhao, and Wei as fully independent states; in 344 BC, the first Duke Hui of Wei claimed the royal title of king for himself. A series of states rose to prominence before each falling in turn, but Zhou was a minor player in these conflicts.
The last Zhou king is traditionally taken to be Nan, who was killed when Qin captured the capital Chengzhou in 256 BC. A "King Hui" was declared, but his splinter state was fully removed by 249 BC. Qin's unification of China concluded in 221 BC with Qin Shihuang's annexation of Qi.
The Eastern Zhou, however, is also remembered as the golden age of Chinese philosophy: the Hundred Schools of Thought which flourished as rival lords patronized itinerant shi scholars is led by the example of Qi's Jixia Academy. The Nine Schools of Thought which came to dominate the others were Confucianism (as interpreted by Mencius and others), Legalism, Taoism, Mohism, the utopian communalist Agriculturalism, two strains of Diplomatists, the sophistic Logicians, Sun-tzu's Militarists, and the Naturalists. Although only the first three of these went on to receive imperial patronage in later dynasties, doctrines from each influenced the others and Chinese society in sometimes unusual ways. The Mohists, for instance, found little interest in their praise of meritocracy but much acceptance for their mastery of siege warfare; much later, however, their arguments against nepotism were used in favor of establishing the imperial examination system.
Culture and society
Feudalism and the rise of Confucian bureaucracy
There were many similarities between the decentralized systems. When the dynasty was established, the conquered land was divided into hereditary fiefs (諸侯, zhūhóu) that eventually became powerful in their own right. In matters of inheritance, the Zhou dynasty recognized only patrilineal primogeniture as legal. According to Tao (1934: 17-31), "the Tsung-fa or descent line system has the following characteristics: patrilineal descent, patrilineal succession, patriarchate, sib-exogamy, and primogeniture" The system, also called "extensive stratified patrilineage", was defined by the anthropologist Chang Kuang-chih as "characterized by the fact that the eldest son of each generation formed the main of line descent and political authority, whereas the younger brothers were moved out to establish new lineages of lesser authority. The farther removed, the lesser the political authority". K.E. Brashier writes in his book "Ancestral Memory in Early China" about the tsung-fa system of patrilineal primogeniture: "The greater lineage, if it has survived, is the direct succession from father to eldest son and is not defined via the collateral shifts of the lesser lineages. In discussions that demarcate between trunk and collateral lines, the former is called a zong and the latter a zu, whereas the whole lineage is dubbed the shi. [...] On one hand every son who is not the eldest and hence not heir to the lineage territory has the potential of becoming a progenitor and fostering a new trunk lineage (Ideally he would strike out to cultivate new lineage territory). [...] According to the Zou commentary, the son of heaven divided land among his feudal lords, his feudal lords divided land among their dependent families and so forth down the pecking order to the officers who had their dependent kin and the commoners who "each had his apportioned relations and all had their graded precedence""
There were five peerage ranks below the royal ranks, in descending order with common English translations: gōng 公 "duke", hóu 侯 "marquis", bó 伯 "count", zǐ 子 "viscount", and nán 男 "baron". At times, a vigorous duke would take power from his nobles and centralize the state. Centralization became more necessary as the states began to war among themselves and decentralization encouraged more war. If a duke took power from his nobles, the state would have to be administered bureaucratically by appointed officials.
Despite these similarities, there are a number of important differences from medieval Europe. One obvious difference is that the Zhou ruled from walled cities rather than castles. Another was China's distinct class system, which lacked an organized clergy but saw the Shang Zi-clan yeomen become masters of ritual and ceremony known as Shi (士). When a dukedom was centralized, these people would find employment as government officials or officers. These hereditary classes were similar to Western knights in status and breeding, but like Western clergy were expected to be something of a scholar instead of a warrior. Being appointed, they could move from one state to another. Some would travel from state to state peddling schemes of administrative or military reform. Those who could not find employment would often end up teaching young men who aspired to official status. The most famous of these was Confucius, who taught a system of mutual duty between superiors and inferiors. In contrast, the Legalists had no time for Confucian virtue and advocated a system of strict laws and harsh punishments. The wars of the Warring States were finally ended by the most legalist state of all, Qin. When the Qin Dynasty fell and was replaced by the Han Dynasty, many Chinese were relieved to return to the more humane virtues of Confucius.
The early Western Zhou supported a strong army, split into two major units: "the Six Armies of the west" and "the Eight Armies of Chengzhou". The armies campaigned in the northern Loess Plateau, modern Ningxia and the Yellow River floodplain. The military prowess of Zhou peaked during the 19th year of King Zhao's reign, when the six armies were wiped out along with King Zhao on a campaign around the Han River. Early Zhou kings were true commanders-in-chief. They were in constant wars with barbarians on behalf of the fiefs called guo, which at that time meant "statelet" or "principality".
King Zhao was famous for repeated campaigns in the Yangtze areas and died in his last action. Later kings' campaigns were less effective. King Li led 14 armies against barbarians in the south, but failed to achieve any victory. King Xuan fought the Quanrong nomads in vain. King You was killed by the Quanrong when Haojing was sacked. Although chariots had been introduced to China during the Shang Dynasty from Central Asia, the Zhou period saw the first major use of chariots in battle.
Mandate of Heaven
In the Chinese historical tradition, the Zhou defeated the Shang and oriented the Shang system of ancestor worship towards a universalized worship, away from the worship of Shangdi and to that of Tian or "heaven". They legitimized their rule by invoking the "Mandate of Heaven," the notion that the ruler (the "Son of Heaven") governed by divine right and that his dethronement would prove that he had lost the Mandate. Disasters and successful rebellions would thus show that the ruling family had lost this Mandate.
The doctrine explained and justified the demise of the Xia and Shang dynasties and, at the same time, supported the legitimacy of present and future rulers. Before conquering Shang, Zhou was a state in Shaanxi. Gernet (1996:51) describes the Zhou state as a "city" which was in contact with the barbarian peoples of the western regions and more warlike than the Shang. The Zhou dynasty was founded by the Ji family and operated from four capitals throughout its history. Sharing the language and culture of the Shang, the early Zhou rulers, through conquest and colonization, established a large imperial territory wherein states as far as Shandong acknowledged Zhou rulership and took part in elite culture. The spread of Zhou bronzes, though, was concurrent with the continued use of Shang-style pottery in the distant regions, and these states were the last to recede during the late Western war. The mandate of heaven was based on rules. The emperor was granted the right to rule by heaven.
During the Zhou Dynasty, the origins of native Chinese philosophy developed, its initial stages beginning in the 6th century BC. The greatest Chinese philosophers, those who made the greatest impact on later generations of Chinese, were Confucius, founder of Confucianism, and Laozi, founder of Taoism. Other philosophers, theorists, and schools of thought in this era were Mozi, founder of Mohism; Mencius, a famous Confucian who expanded upon Confucius' legacy; Shang Yang and Han Fei, responsible for the development of ancient Chinese Legalism (the core philosophy of the Qin Dynasty); and Xun Zi, who was arguably the center of ancient Chinese intellectual life during his time, even more so than iconic intellectual figures such as Mencius.
Established during the Western period, the Li traditional Chinese: 禮; simplified Chinese: 礼; pinyin: lǐ) ritual system encoded an understanding of manners as an expression of the social hierarchy, ethics, and regulation concerning material life; the corresponding social practices became idealized within Confucian ideology.
The system was canonized in the Book of Rites, Zhouli, and Yili compendiums of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), thus becoming the heart of the Chinese imperial ideology. While the system was initially a respected body of concrete regulations, the fragmentation of the Western Zhou period led the ritual to drift towards moralization and formalization in regard to:
- The five orders of Chinese nobility.
- Ancestral temples (size, legitimate number of pavilions)
- Ceremonial regulations (number of ritual vessels, musical instruments, people in the dancing troupe)
Agriculture in the Zhou Dynasty was very intensive and, in many cases, directed by the government. All farming lands were owned by nobles, who then gave their land to their serfs, a situation similar to European feudalism. For example, a piece of land was divided into nine squares in the well-field system, with the grain from the middle square taken by the government and that of surrounding squares kept by individual farmers. This way, the government was able to store surplus food and distribute it in times of famine or bad harvest. Some important manufacturing sectors during this period included bronze smelting, which was integral to making weapons and farming tools. Again, these industries were dominated by the nobility who directed the production of such materials.
China's first projects of hydraulic engineering were initiated during the Zhou Dynasty, ultimately as a means to aid agricultural irrigation. The chancellor of Wei, Sunshu Ao, who served King Zhuang of Chu, dammed a river to create an enormous irrigation reservoir in modern-day northern Anhui province. For this, Sunshu is credited as China's first hydraulic engineer. The later Wei statesman Ximen Bao, who served Marquis Wen of Wei (445-396 BC), was the first hydraulic engineer of China to have created a large irrigation canal system. As the main focus of his grandiose project, his canal work eventually diverted the waters of the entire Zhang River to a spot further up the Yellow River.
Defang ritual bronze vessel
Dake bronze ritual vessel
You bronze ritual vessel
Qizhong Hu bronze vessel
Bronze mirror holder c. 1000 BC (Hainan Provincial Museum)
Spring and Autumn period
Dou vessel with a hunting scene
A bo bell of the Duke of Qin
Pu vessel with dragon designs
bronze ding vessel
bronze musical bell
bronze vessels (rightmost from Western Zhou)
A square bronze hu vessel
bronze bird-shaped wine server
Western Zhou Dynasty musical bronze bell
Silk painting of a man railing a dragon, 6th century BC
Warring States period
bronze ritual food vessel (ding) with lacquer design, 5th-4th century BC
embroidered silk gauze garment from a 4th-century BC tomb at Mashan, Hubei province
bronze and silver canteen
The rulers of the Zhou dynasty were titled Wang (王) like the Shang rulers before them. The position is normally translated into English as "king". In addition to these rulers, King Wu's immediate ancestors Danfu, Jili, and Wen are also referred to as "Kings of Zhou", despite having been nominal vassals of the Shang kings.
NB: Dates in Chinese history before the first year of the Gonghe Regency in 841 BC are contentious and vary by source. Those below are those published by Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project and Edward L. Shaughnessy's The Absolute Absolute chronology of the Western Zhou Dynasty.
|Personal name||Posthumous name||Reign period|
|發||Fa||周武王||King Wu of Zhou|| 1046 BC–1043 BC |
1045 BC-1043 BC
|誦||Song||周成王||King Cheng of Zhou|| 1042 BC–1021 BC |
1042/1035 BC-1006 BC
|釗||Zhao||周康王||King Kang of Zhou|| 1020 BC–996 BC |
1005/1003 BC-978 BC
|瑕||Xia||周昭王||King Zhao of Zhou|| 995 BC–977 BC |
977/975 BC-957 BC
|滿||Man||周穆王||King Mu of Zhou|| 976 BC–922 BC |
956 BC-918 BC
|繄扈||Yihu||周共王/周龔王||King Gong of Zhou|| 922 BC–900 BC |
917/915 BC-900 BC
|囏||Jian||周懿王||King Yi of Zhou|| 899 BC–892 BC |
899/897 BC-873 BC
|辟方||Pifang||周孝王||King Xiao of Zhou|| 891 BC–886 BC |
872 BC?-866 BC
|燮||Xie||周夷王||King Yi of Zhou|| 885 BC–878 BC |
865 BC-858 BC
|胡||Hu||周厲王/周剌王||King Li of Zhou|| 877 BC–841 BC |
857/853 BC-842/828 BC
|共和||Gonghe Regency||841 BC–828 BC|
|靜||Jing||周宣王||King Xuan of Zhou||827 BC–782 BC|
|宮湦||Gongsheng||周幽王||King You of Zhou||781 BC–771 BC|
|End of Western Zhou / Beginning of Eastern Zhou|
|宜臼||Yijiu||周平王||King Ping of Zhou||770 BC–720 BC|
|林||Lin||周桓王||King Huan of Zhou||719 BC–697 BC|
|佗||Tuo||周莊王||King Zhuang of Zhou||696 BC–682 BC|
|胡齊||Huqi||周釐王||King Xi of Zhou||681 BC–677 BC|
|閬||Lang||周惠王||King Hui of Zhou||676 BC–652 BC|
|鄭||Zheng||周襄王||King Xiang of Zhou||651 BC–619 BC|
|壬臣||Renchen||周頃王||King Qing of Zhou||618 BC–613 BC|
|班||Ban||周匡王||King Kuang of Zhou||612 BC–607 BC|
|瑜||Yu||周定王||King Ding of Zhou||606 BC–586 BC|
|夷||Yi||周簡王||King Jian of Zhou||585 BC–572 BC|
|泄心||Xiexin||周靈王||King Ling of Zhou||571 BC–545 BC|
|貴||Gui||周景王||King Jing of Zhou||544 BC–521 BC|
|猛||Meng||周悼王||King Dao of Zhou||520 BC|
|丐||Gai||周敬王||King Jing of Zhou||519 BC–476 BC|
|仁||Ren||周元王||King Yuan of Zhou||475 BC–469 BC|
|介||Jie||周貞定王||King Zhending of Zhou||468 BC–442 BC|
|去疾||Quji||周哀王||King Ai of Zhou||441 BC|
|叔||Shu||周思王||King Si of Zhou||441 BC|
|嵬||Wei||周考王||King Kao of Zhou||440 BC–426 BC|
|午||Wu||周威烈王||King Weilie of Zhou||425 BC–402 BC|
|驕||Jiao||周安王||King An of Zhou||401 BC–376 BC|
|喜||Xi||周烈王||King Lie of Zhou||375 BC–369 BC|
|扁||Bian||周顯王||King Xian of Zhou||368 BC–321 BC|
|定||Ding||周慎靚王||King Shenjing of Zhou||320 BC–315 BC|
|延||Yan||周赧王||King Nan of Zhou||314 BC–256 BC|
Nobles of the Ji family proclaimed Duke Hui of Eastern Zhou as King Nan's successor after their capital, Chengzhou, fell to Qin forces in 256 BC. Ji Zhao, a son of King Nan, led a resistance against Qin for five years. The dukedom fell in 249 BC. The remaining Ji family ruled Yan and Wei until 209 BC.
Zhou in astronomy
Zhou is represented by two stars, Eta Capricorni (周一 Zhōu yī, "the First Star of Zhou") and 21 Capricorni (周二 Zhōu èr, "the Second Star of Zhou"), in "Twelve States" asterism. Zhou is also represented by the star Beta Serpentis in asterism "Right Wall", Heavenly Market enclosure (see Chinese constellation).
- Family tree of the Zhou Dynasty
- Four occupations
- Historical capitals of China
- Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng
- Works cited
|Commons has media related to Zhou Dynasty.|
- Chaos.UMD.edu, History of the Zhou Dynasty, Army Area Handbook on China, Rinn-Sup Shinn and Robert L. Worden, compiled by Leon Poon
- Age of Feudal States, Feudal States of the Zhou Dynasty, Jiang Yike
- Chinese Text Project, Rulers of the Zhou states – with links to their occurrences in pre-Qin and Han texts.
- ChinaWorld Heritage Encyclopedia.com, History of China
|Dynasties in Chinese history
1046 – 256 BC
| Succeeded by|