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Zhou Dynasty

The Zhou Dynasty (1122-221 BC) is supposedly the dynasty that reigned for the longest period not just throughout the Chinese dynasties, but of the whole world. The Zhou time was also the time where there were a hundred schools of philosophers and thinkers. Important Confucian classical writings began in this historical stage.

How did Zhou Dynasty emerge?

The Zhou Dynasty originated from the Zhou clan whose existence stretches back into history. It began as a semi-nomadic tribe that lived to the west of the Shang kingdom. Then they settled in the Wei River valley, where they became inhabitants of the Shang.

By the 11th Century BC, the Zhou Clan had become increasingly powerful and had extended throughout the present Shaanxi and Gansu Provinces. The Zhou Clan's mightiness increasingly menaced the Shang Dynasty and the conflict between the two groups intensified.

Zhou Dynasty

The Zhou eventually became stronger than the Shang, and in about 1040 B.C they defeated the Shang in warfare. Zhou built their capital in Hao, near today’s Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province.
The founders of the Zhou Dynasty, the Kings Wen and Wu, and the Prince Regent Duke Dan of Zhou, were seen as the ideal monarchs as well as being patrons and inventors of every kind of arts. The Confucianists venerated these rulers as guided by morality, humanity and righteousness.
Traditional Chinese history says that the Zhou were able to take over the Shang because the Shang had deteriorated morally. Part of this belief may have been caused by the Zhou themselves, who are credited with the idea of the Mandate of Heaven. The Zhou used this idea to validate their takeover and subsequent ruling of the former Shang kingdom.
The Mandate of Heaven says that Heaven (tian), places the mandate (tianming) to rule on any family that is morally worthy of the responsibility. Also, the only way to know if the Mandate of Heaven had been removed from the ruling family was if they were overthrown. If the ruler is overthrown, then the victors had the Mandate of Heaven..

What were the three periods of Zhou Dynasty?
Si Mu Wu Ding

The Western Zhou Period (1046-771 BC)
The Zhou ruling dynasty was founded by King Wen, and solidified by his successor King Wu, who conquered the Shang Dynasty. During this period, the Zhou was based along the Weihe River in Shaanxi Province. It ruled much of the Wei and Yellow River valleys as well as portions of the Yangzi and Hanjiang River systems. The rulers were kin-based, and the society was strictly tiered with a strong aristocracy in place.

The Eastern Zhou Period (711-221BC)


a) Spring and Autumn Period (771-481 BC)

About 771 BC, the Zhou leaders were forced eastward out of their previous strongholds near Mount Qi and into a reduced area near their capital city of Luoyang. This period is also called the Spring and Autumn Period (Chunqiu), after a history of that name which documented the Eastern Zhou dynasties. The Eastern Zhou rulers were autocratic, with a centralized administration and a ranked bureaucracy. Taxation and corvee labor were present.

b) Warring States (481-221 BC)

About 481 BC, the Zhou Dynasty split up into separate kingdoms, the Wei, Han and Zhao kingdoms. During this period, iron working became available, the standard of living rose and the population grew. Currency was established enabling far-flung trading systems. China was entering feudal society in the period of time. The Warring States period ended when the Qin dynasty reunited China in 221 BC.

What were the achievements of Zhou Dynasty?

Zhou Dynasty is considered the classical age. It was a time of great philosophers. This cultural flowering is called the One Hundred Schools Period. Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism developed during this time.

One of the major contributions of the Zhou Dynasty was the introduction of the ideas of a Chinese philosopher, Confucius. He started Confucianism, which was more of a guide to morality than a religion since it did not have a god or a perspective on a life after death. Confucianism emphasizes sincerity in one's personal and public duty. character.


It teaches men to be gentlemen-- men of dignity and good moral.A gentleman also must study continuously and practice self-discovery. Confucianism also emphasizes the "Golden Rule" which states: "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."


The Zhou society was based on agricultural production. The Zhou dynasty put field grid patterns into use, which promoted efficient use of the land and systematic irrigation allowing fields to be properly watered.

Agricultural techniques were also advanced causing agricultural food products to be the main food source for the Chinese. Fertilization became common, as did crop rotation, which allows a field to go unused so that it can restore its lost nutrients. Animal-drawn plows and farm tools were advanced by using iron for the tools which made plowing and cultivating more effective.

These advances initiated a huge agricultural expansion, to the point where there was practically no more room for grazing animals. Hunting also turned from being a necessity to being a sport, as it was not needed as much due to the increases in agriculture.

Iron Technology

Iron technology also increased significantly in Zhou Dynasty. This technology became so well-developed that the Chinese knew how to produce cast iron a full millennium before the same technique of producing cast iron was discovered in Europe. Today, many iron deposits have been discovered throughout China. The advanced iron technology greatly improved the development of agriculture and the national arm force. Thus the population exploded and cities became bigger.


The Zhou Dynasty contributed a lot to literature. It was one of the first dynasties to start collecting books including some famous works such as Zhou Li (Zhou Rituals), which became a description of how the early Zhou government was organized and the conduct of a gentleman. Another famous work is the Book of Documents, which is a history of the Zhou dynasty.

Chinese Poem

The Classic of Poetry is the earliest existing collection of hinese poems and songs. It comprises 305 poems and songs, some possibly from as early as 1000 BC. It forms part of the Five Classics. They include basic human problems such as love, marriage, work, and war. Others include court poems, and legendary accounts praising the founders of the Zhou dynasty.

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