The Shangreich was annihilated around 1045 by the Zhou dynasty, subordinate to the Shang rulers, who ruled over the loess areas of southern Shaanxi. The campaign was prepared by King Wen, victoriously led to an end by his son, King Wu, the rule finally secured by his brother, the Duke of Zhou, regent of the still underage second ruler Cheng (Ch’eng). Later Confucian tradition elevated these three to ideal rulers of a golden age. The Zhou’s breach of allegiance to their overlord was justified in the claim that heaven had withdrawn the degenerate Shang’s mandate and passed it on to the Zhou. Since then, this Chinese version has become the Translatio Imperii was always used when it came to legitimizing a change of dynasty. It appears that the replacement of the Shang dynasty was not accompanied by a far-reaching cultural break. Rather, archaeologists didn’t see it until the late 10th or early 9th century BC. Chr. One u. A. “ritual revolution” manifested in the decor of (bronze) sacrificial vessels.
After the Shang was ousted, the new masters distributed the conquered territory as a fiefdom to family members and followers. Even members of the defeated ruling clan received a share in the east of the empire, surrounded and monitored by liege holders from the Zhou clan. The ruling family kept the ancestral lands in the valley of the Wei, where the residence was. Initially comprising only a few dozen, the number of these fiefs increased in the course of time through further conquests and sub-fiefs, some of which consisted only of a single walled settlement with the surrounding land, and finally comprised a few hundred. The obligations of the feudal bearers to the ruler consisted in the delivery of tributes, the army succession and regular appearances at court. The blood ties of kinship and loyalty were later replaced by local ties and self-interest. Even the Duke of Zhou had struggled to put down a revolt by his brothers.
841 BC , according to Abbreviationfinder, the first exact and undisputed historical date in Chinese history, the tyrannical King Li was forced to flee by an uprising; afterwards two ministers took over the reign for 14 years until Li’s son came to power. In 771, a prince, together with non-Chinese allies who had invaded China several times, drove the ruling family from their home countries to the east (capital Luoyang) forever. The period before 771 is therefore referred to as the Western Zhou Period, and the period after that as the Eastern Zhou Period. According to the sources, the entire epoch of the Zhou is divided into an early Zhou period (11th century to 722), the period from 722 to 481, that of Confucius attributed chronicle Chunqiu (Ch’un-ch’iu; German spring and autumn) is spanned, and in the period of the Warring States (Zhanguo, Chan-kuo, 481-221) until the founding of the unitary state of the Qin (Ch’in).
While the house of the Zhou, deprived of most of its crown land, sank to a mere ceremonial kingship after 771, some principalities expanded at the expense of smaller and weaker neighbors. The external principalities of Qi (Ch’i) in Shandong, Jin (Chin) in Shanxi, Qin (Ch’in) in Shaanxi and Chu (Ch’u) in Hubei became area states. In the 7th century, thanks to the tight control of the vassals and financed by the income from the salt and iron monopoly, and then Jin, after a military reform, rose to power at irregular princes’ meetings in interstate and domestic affairs for the royal family took on the role of referee.
The main purpose of the loose princes’ alliance was, in addition to the defense against non-Chinese peoples in the north, to contain the expansion of the only half-Sinized southern state of Chu, which had existed since the end of the 8th century BC. Chr. Threatened the independence of the inner principalities. In the 6th and 5th centuries, Chu himself had to deal with the neighboring states of Wu (now Suzhou) and Yue (Yüeh, now Hangzhou) struggled for its existence before it again ruled southern China on its own from 333 onwards. At the same time, the westernmost state of Qin seized the core areas of Jin, which had fallen apart from internal disputes, while in the eastern state of Qi a strong ruling clan again ruled after the extermination of the powerful nobility at the beginning of the 4th century. These three empires, whose rulers – like the rest of them – assumed the title of king at the end of the 4th century, fought for the inheritance of the powerless Zhou.
Under the emerging princely “absolutism” the peasants changed from taxable servants of their landlord to free, landed tax citizens of the landlord. The colonization of newly conquered areas and the recruitment of settlers accelerated this development. However, the free peasant class not only became a permanently calculable source of income for the state, but also, through compulsory military service, a previously untapped potential. The former small armies of aristocratic warriors with chariots gave way more and more to the mass armies of peasant infantry in the late Zhou period. The sovereignty of the princes was also based on the gradually growing class of “servants” (Shi, Shih), who were recruited from the disenfranchised nobility, the younger sons of the nobility excluded from inheritance and the ascended commons. From their ranks came from the prince paid administrative or military experts who were loyal to him.
The class of the servants was the real ferment of the spiritual and social dynamic of the time of the Eastern Zhou, which was unique in Chinese history. From the answers of these experts, most of whom came from the weaker inner states, to the pressing questions of the time, the competing socio-ethical systems of teaching emerged, which began with Confucius at the end of the 6th century (Chinese philosophy and religion). The legalists (Fajia, Fa-chia), the advocates of the raison d’être, bureaucratic institutions and abstract and established law, which no longer knew any classes, were the first to win. The western state of Qin, which in the 7th century had already occupied newly conquered areas with officials from the headquarters and no longer with vassals, pursued this centralization of administration and the defeudalization of society most decisively. Armed in this way, Qin 256 was able to oust the Zhousippe and in a single assault run first Han (230), Wei (225) and Chu (223), then Zhao (Chao, 222) and Yan (Yen, 222) and finally Qi (221) destroy.