Ancient China Zhou Dynasty

A Glance at the History of Ancient China's Extensive Zhou Dynasty

The Zhou dynasty, that ruled for the longest time in China, was primarily a nomadic tribe. They came to power after defeating the Shang tribe.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Dec 09, 2017
Zhou dynasty, which reigned China for the longest period, came to power after the Shang dynasty. The Zhous were primarily nomads. This helped them learn a lot about the different cultures, people and dialects in those times. They came to power by 1040 BC, after defeating the Shangs in the gruesome war. The Zhous believed that the loss of the Shangs was because of their devious morals.
The Zhou dynasty preached 'Mandate of Heaven', which meant worshiping of 'Tian' or heaven and not 'Di', as the Shangs worshiped. The Mandate of Heaven preached that the Heavens would bless the just ruler. If the ruler ever turned tyrannical, then the Heavens would withdraw their mandate.
Zhou lifestyle was quite similar to that of the Shang people. As Shang artisans were used to build the buildings, the architecture remained the Shangs. In spite of having the Shang artisans to build the houses, there still existed a great divide amongst the people of both the dynasties. The way of writing, conducting rituals and the administration, remained closely the same for both the dynasties.
Zhou dynasty followed the feudal system of governing. The son came to power after father, unlike in the Shang dynasty where the younger brother headed the kingdom after the elder brother. The Zhou dynasty did not believe in human sacrifice and totally ruled the ritual out of the kingdom. The worship of the sun and the stars was very popular amongst the Zhou clan, in addition to the Mandate of Heaven. Some of the deities from Shang dynasty found a place in the Zhou form of worshiping, as lesser gods.
Despite the scattering of the clan, the agricultural activities were very intensely developed. As there was a feudal system, the fiefs gave a piece of land to the farmers to cultivate, with a portion of it to be given to the fiefs as a token. During the Zhou dynasty, the use of bronze accelerated. Bronze smelting and making bronze tools for farming, became an important industry. Irrigation and hydraulic engineering was seen in the Zhou dynasty.
The Western period of Zhou dynasty had the greatest political and military effect on ancient China. The clan had clear divisions of the West and the East. The Western Zhou has left a deep impression on the Chinese history. It came to power in 771 BC. The clan commanded 14 standing royal armies and were at a constant war with the barbarians. During their campaign along the Han River, their ruler, King Zhao was killed on the battlefield and the army was totally torn apart. His son, who was saved, escaped to the east to form the Eastern Zhou; the capital of which was at Loyang. The Eastern Zhou was further divided into two eras namely, the Spring and the Autumn Period and The Warring States Period.
After the death of King Zhou, the Qin dynasty began rising and finally took power by ending the Warring States Period. As their downfall neared, the Zhou kings became nominal rulers. The power that was left, was taken over by noble men, who until that time had refused to acknowledge the presence of the Zhou clan. The dynasty which made a long-lasting impact, saw its end in 256 BC, when the Zhou princes did not even claim the nominal titles anymore.