- Alternative meaning: Zhou Dynasty (690 CE - 705 CE)
The Zhou Dynasty (周朝; Wade-Giles: Chou Dynasty) (late 10th century BC to late 9th century BC - 256 BC) followed the Shang (Yin) Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty in China.
In the Chinese historical tradition, the rulers of the Zhou displaced the Yin and legitimized their rule by invoking the Mandate of Heaven. The Zhou dynasty was founded by the Ji family and 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 (Yin), the early Zhou rulers, through conquest and colonization, gradually sinicized, that is, extended Shang (Yin) culture through much of China Proper north of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River).
Western Zhou civilisation.
In Western histography, feudal has often been applied to the Zhou period because the Zhou's early decentralized rule invites comparison with medieval rule in Europe. At most, however, the early Zhou 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 Zhou amalgam of city-states became progressively centralized and established increasingly impersonal political and economic institutions. These developments, which probably ocrawwiki_inboundred in the latter Zhou period, were manifested in greater central control over local governments and a more routinized agrarian taxation. In Chinese Marxist histography, the Zhou dynasty marks the began of the feudal phase of Chinese history, a period which is said to extend to the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911.
Initially the Ji family was able to control the country firmly. In 771 BC, after King You had replaced his queen with a concubine Baosi, the capital was then sacked by the joint force of the queen's father, who was the powerful Marquess of Shen, and the barbarians. The queen's son Ji Yijiu was proclaimed the new king by the nobles from the states of Zheng, Lu, Qin and the Marquess of Shen. The capital was moved eastward in 722 BC to Luoyang in present-day Henan Province.
Because of this shift, historians divide the Zhou era into Western Zhou (西周, pinyin Xī Zhōu) from late 10th century BC to late 9th century up until 771 BC and Eastern Zhou (traditional Chinese character: 東周 simplified Chinese character: 东周, pinyin Dōng Zhōu) from 770 up to 221 BC. The beginning year of Western Zhou has been disputed - 1122 BC, 1027 BC and other years within the hundred years from late 12th century BC to late 11th century BC have been proposed. Chinese historiographers take 841 BC as the first year of consecutive annual dating of the history of China, based on the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian. Eastern Zhou divides into two subperiods. The first, from 722 to 481 BC, is called the Spring and Autumn Period, after a famous historical chronicle of the time; the second is known as the Warring States Period.
With the royal line broken, the power of the Zhou court gradually diminished; the fragmentation of the kingdom accelerated. From Ping Wang onwards, the Zhou kings ruled in name only, with true power lying in the hands of powerful nobles. Towards the end of the Zhou Dynasty, the nobles did not even bother to acknowledge the Ji family symbolically and declared themselves to be kings. They wanted to be the king of the kings. Finally, the dynasty was obliterated by Qin Shi Huang's unification of China in 221 BC.
Zhou dynasty kings
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