Zhou Dynasty | Definition, Dates, & Facts

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Ancient China was governed by the Zhou Dynasty from 1045 BC to 256 BC. In Chinese history, it was the dynasty with the longest reign.

Creation of the Dynasty

The Shang Dynasty had the country of Zhou as a subordinate kingdom. Wen Wang, a ruthless Zhou leader, started making plans to overthrow the Shang Dynasty. After many years, Wu Wang, the son of Wen Wang, finally led an army across the Yellow River to overthrow the Shang Dynasty king. A new dynasty, the Zhou Dynasty, was founded by King Wu.


The concept of the “Mandate of Heaven” was first presented by the early Zhou Dynasty rulers. According to this theory, rulers received their power from the gods. They held that the Shang Dynasty was overthrown by the Zhou because the Shang had grown into despots and the gods had permitted their downfall.

The feudal system served as the foundation for the Zhou’s government. The emperor divided the country into fiefs, which were typically governed by his kin. Farmers who farmed their farms were essentially owned by the lords who controlled the fiefs.


Confucianism and Taoism, two of the most influential Chinese philosophies, both emerged in the latter Zhou Dynasty. Confucius was a Chinese philosopher who lived from 551 to 479 BC. Throughout the remainder of Ancient China’s history, many of his sayings and teachings had an effect on the culture and system of government. Lao Tzu, another well-known philosopher, introduced taoism. The idea of yin and yang was introduced by him.


China made a number of technological advancements during this time. The creation of cast iron was one. This made it possible to produce iron tools and weapons that were robust and long-lasting. Crop rotation, which allowed for more effective use of the land, and the inclusion of soybeans as a major crop were other significant innovations.

Zhou, Western and Eastern

The Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou periods of the Zhou Dynasty are frequently separated. The Western era comprises the first half of the Zhou Dynasty. It was a period of largely tranquility. The Zhou ruler lost control of portions of his lands around 770 BC. Many of his lords staged a coup and seized control of the capital. However, the Zhou king’s son made his way to the east and established a new capital. The Eastern Zhou is the name of the dynasty that reigned from the new eastern capital.

Period of Spring and Autumn

The Spring and Autumn period is the name given to the initial phase of Eastern Zhou. The lords of the states grew more independent during this time and stopped closely following the king. They acted as they pleased and frequently quarreled with one another. By the conclusion of this time, there were only seven major states left after many of the lords had defeated one another.

Period of Warring States

This time frame spanned from roughly 475 BC to 221 BC, when the Zhou dynasty came to an end. The empire was down to seven large states. It was obvious that they would battle until only one remained. The ruler of the Qin state, Qin Shi Huang, overthrew the other six states at the end of this time period and proclaimed himself the first emperor of a united China.

Facts worth knowing about the Zhou Dynasty:

During this time, a lot of the bronze vessels were inscribed in great detail. These inscriptions have provided archaeologists with a wealth of information about the Zhou.

The Book of Songs, a collection of poems, was among the most well-known works in literature.

The “rules” by which battles between the states were typically conducted were very rigid. The soldiers of the era were regarded as chivalrous and engaged in honorable combat.

Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, a famous book on warfare, at this time.

The Zhou are well known for their work with bronze, despite the fact that iron was invented during this time.

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