Chou Dynasty, China Culture

In 771 B.C. the Chou court was sacked, and its king was killed by invading barbarians who were allied with rebel lords. The capital was moved eastward to Luoyang in present-day Henan Province. Because of this shift, historians divide the Chou era into Western Chou (1027-771 B.C.) and Eastern Chou (770-221 B.C.). With the royal line broken, the power of the Chou court gradually diminished; the fragmentation of the kingdom accelerated. Eastern Chou divides into two subperiods. The first, from 770 to 476 B.C., is called the Spring and Autumn Period, after a famous historical chronicle of the time; the second is known as the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.  ).

China Culture

The last Shang ruler, a despot according to standard Chinese accounts, was overthrown by a chieftain of a frontier tribe called Chou, which had settled in the Wei Valley in modern Shaanxi Province. The Chou dynasty had its capital at Hao, near the city of Xi'an, or Chang'an, as it was known in its heyday in the imperial period. Sharing the language and culture of the Shang, the early Chou rulers, through conquest and colonization, gradually sinicized, that is, extended Shang culture through much of China Proper north of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River). The Chou dynasty lasted longer than any other, from 1027 to 221 B.C. It was philosophers of this period who first enunciated the doctrine of the "mandate of heaven" (tianming), the notion that the ruler (the "son of heaven") governed by divine right but that his dethronement would prove that he had lost the mandate. The doctrine explained and justified the demise of the two earlier dynasties and at the same time supported the legitimacy of present and future rulers.

Chou Dynasty, China

The Chou conquered the Shang Dynasty about 1100 BC (the traditional date is 1122). The Chou said that the reason they were able to conquer the Shang was that Heaven was on their side.


The first period of Chou rule is called the Western Chou, because at this time the Chou only ruled the western part of modern China. China was divided up into about 200 little kingdoms, and then each of these kings was under the Chou emperor.


This is the same time when the Indo-Europeans were settling in India. Further away, the kingdoms of West Asia, Egypt, and Greece were collapsing at the end of the Bronze Age. In terms of the Bible, Moses would probably be leaving Egypt about this time. Zoroastrianism was just getting started.


The term feudal has often been applied to the Chou period because the Chou's early decentralized rule invites comparison with medieval rule in Europe. At most, however, the early Chou system was proto-feudal, being a more sophisticated version of earlier tribal organization, in which effective control depended more on familial ties than on feudal legal bonds. Whatever feudal elements there may have been decreased as time went on. The Chou amalgam of city-states became progressively centralized and established increasingly impersonal political and economic institutions. These developments, which probably occurred in the latter Chou period, were manifested in greater central control over local governments and a more routinized agricultural taxation.


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