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Zhou dynasty

King Cheng of ZhouKing Cheng of ZhouThe Shang dynasty was overthrown in about 1050 BC by a people from the valley of the River Wei, a tributary of the Yellow River (Huang He). They founded the Zhou dynasty which lasted for about 800 years—longer than any other dynasty in Chinese historyalthough full political and military control of the region by the Zhou dynasty lasted only until 771 BC. After that, China descended into chaos with wars frequently breaking out between rival states. This later part of the Zhou dynasty was also a period when Chinese scholars began to study philosophy, the meaning of life. The most important Chinese philosophers of the time were Laozi, the founder of Taoism, and Confucius.

 Bu coins (spade money) of the Zhou dynasty Bu coins (spade money) of the Zhou dynasty

Western Zhou

Zhou dynasty rulers held power in China until 771 BC. The dynasty, called the Western Zhou, slowly lost control over its fiefdoms, ruled by increasingly powerful nobles. Eventually, it was driven out of the Wei valley. Their capital was moved eastwards to Wangcheng, modern-day Luoyang, marking the beginning of the Eastern Zhou period.

China during the Spring and Autumn periodChina during the Spring and Autumn period

Spring and Autumn period

From about 771 BC, Zhou authority over the various states it ruled over continued to decline, but the king’s importance allowed the Zhou dynasty, called the Eastern Zhou, to remain for another five centuries. This began with what is known as the Spring and Autumn period.

The states defied the Zhou king, but also began to wage war amongst themselves. Eventually, in around 475 BC, one of the most powerful of these states, the Jin, split into three, the Han, Zhao and Wei, which were then each controlled by a rival family.

Linzi, capital of Qi during the Zhou dynastyLinzi, capital of Qi during the Zhou dynasty

The philosopher Confucius, who lived in China during Zhou times, was the originator of the famous saying: "Do not do to others what you would not have done to yourself"

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