Key figures and events: After the defeat and murder of You of Zhou his son Xuan Jiu with loyal elite moved to the East. They established new capital in Luoyi todays Luoyang of Henan province. With this step rule of Eastern Zhou started. Their rule was much longer and they had more kings than their Western ancestors but this period was much more unstable with too many civil wars and different states fighting for stronger role. Second period of Eastern Zhou is known as Warring States Period about which I will speak in next chapter. Most of data about this period comes from chronicles that were written by State of Lu. It was oldest written evidence of Chinese history. Their annals were known as “Annals of Spring and Autumn”.  Because of  that  name this period got such name.  From these writings its known that during this period kings from Eastern Zhou were not so powerful and needed a lot of allies in order to survive. They founded a capital on territory of strong Zheng state which gave them small territory to control. Zheng state recognized primary authority of Zhou.  There existed over 140 different states named according to dynasty which ruled them. Some of states were stronger some were weaker and often weaker had to unite with those stronger or were annexed but other strong states. Defeated states had to acknowledge the victorious state and pay taxes to it and recognize its authority as primary one. Four Great powers appeared and they were Qin, Jin, Qi and Chu. They were rivals but used low scale wars or diplomacy to solve disputes. Zhou dynasty remained just a nominal ruler which was powerless but kept good reputation of previous achievements in culture, science and arts. If some state was recognized by Zhou it meant that it is part of Chinese culture and civilized world and was sign of prestige. Tittle of king could hold only Zhou rulers while from other states highest tittle could be duke and this meant nominal recognition of Zhou supremacy.


Qi was the first one to be recognized by house of Zhou. Qi occupied areas of todays Shandong province. Its known that Qi state was very multiethnic and that official policies towards non-Chinese were constructive. That was reason why this state succeeded for long time. Jin state was located on some former territories of Western Zhou. It was only dynasty that had direct family ties with Zhou clan. Qin was also a powerful state with very centralized feudal system located also on the Western Zhou lands. Its believed that because of so centralized system Qin state was very successful in later years of unification. Both Jin and Qin were states that respected Zhou tradition and Chinese culture. Chu state was forth great power of that time. In the valley of Yangtze river Chu state was located. It was largest by territory state and mostly non-Chinese state. Some evidence says that it was formed by barbarian former nomadic tribes from the West. This was only of 4 great powers whose culture significantly differed from the Chinese one. Also they didn’t recognize superiority of Zhou tradition and didn’t respect them. Because of that their rulers didn’t hold official tittle of Duke like those which recognized Zhou had but they had tittle of King. Other less powerful states were Lu( todays Shandong areas), Yan( todays Beijing and Hebei), Song, Chen, Wu, Cao…

During 8th century 4 major states were balancing. But during 7th century and beginning of 6th century each of mentioned state plus one more state which power increased peaked and held dominant role in their relations. Its known from “Spring and Autumn Annals” as period of 5 hegemons and it lasted between 685BC and 591BC. First state whose power grew rapidly was Qi and it had hegemony which legitimacy was based on protecting the  ruler Hui of Zhou and having mandate from Hui of Zhou to be dominant.  Period of Qi hegemony lasted from 685BC until 643BC during rule of Duke Huan. Duke of Huan with help of his minister Guan Zhong centralized state and created strong army. Because of holding good geographical location they could wage a war easily. Duke Huan gathered on his side Lu, Zheng, Chen and Song states who recognized his dominance. Thanks to that Hui of Zhou granted him with tittle of hegemon. Hegemon Huan recognized supremacy of Zhou and its culture and tradition. He fought against nomads from north and west who were invading Yan state. He also intervened in power struggle in Lu state. After his death power of Qi rapidly declined and it lost status of hegemon.

Next comes unofficially recognized or better said attempted hegemony of Song state between 643BC until 637BC. Duke Xiang declared hegemony as he considered himself as ancestor of Shang dynasty and on that he tried to form legitimacy. He used either negotiation and peaceful resolution with states that wanted to cooperate and coercion against states that opposed him.  House of Zhou never recognized him as hegemon. Duke Xiang of Song wanted to prove his power and attacked much more powerful Chu state and was defeated in battle of Hong in 638BC. Soon he died and his successors didn’t attempt anymore to act as aggressive state. Between 636BC and 628BC Duke Wen of Jin was hegemon.  He centralized power in his state and  he annexed several smaller states and cooperated with Qin and Qi. In alliance with Qin and Qi Duke Wen won war against Chu and was awarded as hegemon by House of Zhou. After his death like in all other cases of hegemon states Jin state declined.  Between 628BC and 621BC Duke Mu of Qi declared himself as hegemon and fought wars against barbaric tribes. He was never recognized by House of Zhou as official hegemon. Last of 5 hegemons was King Zhuang of Chu. But he was never recognized as hegemon because he never took care of tradition of Zhou. Chu state between 621BC and 591BC fought wars on north and threatened to conquer and destroy Zhou capital. But instead of that King Zhuang attacked Zheng state.

Next period is known as Late Spring and Autumn period. During this period civil wars and disputes within major states occurred. Aristocratic families fought for dominance within states of Jin, Qi, Qin and Chu appeared. Especially power declined in Jin state where ministers gained more power than dukes and gathered parts of loyal armies between themselves. Each of these states now had 4-5 fractions of army who supported specific ministers. Reputation of Zhou becomes less important and nobody cared much about respecting their nominal supremacy. States more focused on gaining own power as  much as possible. 4 states organized peace conference in 579BC and it was one of first peace conferences in history of China. However peace was not long lasting. During 6th century new centers of power appear such as Wu and Yue state and they declared Kingdoms.  Wu state exercised hegemony under King Helu( between 506BC and 496BC) who defeated both Chu and Qin states. Later Wu state was defeated and conquered by state of Yue which was ruled by King Guojian in 473BC.and dominance of Yue lasted until 465BC. Appearance of new kingdoms shows decline of Zhou authority. In Jin state large civil war occurred and state was dissolved on Wei, Han and Zhao states. Appearance of Wu and Yue and dissolution of Jin mark end of Spring and Autumn period. In total during this period 480 wars occurred, 52 vassal states defeated and 36 kings were killed. Next period of Warring States comes which was even more turbulent where Zhou tradition wasn’t important anymore and where in state of Qi appeared another strong clan House of Tian that challenged rule of Qi.  It will be discussed in next article.

Society and culture: Spring and Autumn Period was golden age of economy, science, philosophy, literature and other arts despite many wars and instabilities. We will speak here about major great powers whose social system was identical.

Political and social system was following. On the top was Duke of each state. Other aristocratic tittles ordered hierarchically were marquis, count, viscount and baron.  Each of this ranks had amount of army that controlled part of bigger or smaller part of state territory with aim to secure order. Other social strata as classified by Confucius were following “4 types of people or 4 occupations” as they were called by Confucius. Those were a) shi b)nong , c) gong, d) shang.. Shi category were intellectuals and military. Intellectuals and military officers belonged to aristocracy. Usually their sons inherited their position by high education and they were also part of civil service. Intellectuals examined new students who became future elite and part of civil service of king and later emperor. Military officers were supposed to be always on alert.  Because of this contribution they had important social status. Nong were peasants. Despite that they were serfs peasants were considered as highly contributive part of society. It was like that because of their hard work despite fact that they were poor. Craftsmen and artisans belong to third gong category. Here were painters, writers, poets, architects and musicians. They were free citizens but still on third rank because it was believed that their work is less contributive for basic needs of society. Their hard work and creativity was acknowledged but was considered as less contributive to maintenance of society. Their knowledge was transferred from father to son. Generally moving from category to category was forbidden. And marriage between different classes wasn’t acceptable in order to keep this social order. Last category were shang and to this category merchants and bankers belonged. They were also free citizens and much wealthier than peasants but were considered as lowest part of society because of lowest contribution. Were often considered as greedy and with low ethics because of wish for money. It was believed that they only wish to contribute to themselves and they earned only for them. That’s reason why their role was considered as minor. This was mostly based on system of Western Zhou.

Economy was really blossoming during that time. Major production was agricultural one. It was feudal system. According to  Confucius it was called Well-field System found in Western Zhou. According to that system farm was divided on 9 parts. Central field was public ownership in hands of feudal landowner and every other field was in ownership of one peasant family. So each family could harvest own field and full product went to its hands. While all 8 families harvested public field and products went in hands of aristocrat and part of that went to hands of Zhou king as tribute. Inheriting land went from father to son. If father didn’t have son than land was given to another owner. Later by end of Warring States period this system was abolished and aristocrat owned all farm. This feudal system and division of land and inheriting land by Confucius was named Fengjian. During this period basic hydraulic mechanisms were made for purpose of agricultural production.

Iron started to be main material of which tools were made. Trade bloomed too and was expanded across China and even further. Main commodity that China exported was silk. It exported silk to Central Asian nations, Persia and Egypt. It was precursory of Silk Road about which will be spoken later.  Pottery was produced widely as well.

Arts, literature and philosophy were developing. Jade and porcelain were more processed and with higher quality. Chinese music also develops but is mostly focused on bells and drums which were used on ceremonies. It was rare to play music for entertainment mostly it was used on various ceremonies during this time. But in later period of Eastern Zhou entertaining music appears in circles of aristocracy. Traces of music educational system were found too. Architecture also develops. Lu Ban is considered as founding father of Chinese traditional architecture. His style determined future of Chinese classic architecture. Lu Bans concepts were used in building grand and rich palaces for wealthy circles of elite. Large evidence of poetry also exists and its mostly recitation used on ceremonies of worship. Except poetry in spiritual circle folk songs also existed during this period.  Literature also experiences flourishing. Major work was as it was mentioned “Annals of Spring and Autumn.” Also among major literature classics is “Book of Songs” that consists of more than 300 poems that date between 7th and 3rd century BC.  It was book that contained ceremonial chants, aristocratic and folk poetry.

Philosophy also develops during Spring and Autumn Period. Two core philosophies of China appeared during this period. One of them is Taoism and another Confucianism. I wrote many times in my travel writing for Guangming Online Chapter 5 ( Paradise on Earth) about Taoism and Chapter about Tai Chi. Also I wrote about Taoism in Articles on Walltrek Forum article Religion in China, Martial Arts of China and Beijing Little Guide 1 article. This time I wont write details about Taoism and values deeply but I will speak about basic ideas of Lao Tzu, his life and development of Taoism. Lao Tzu was core person in conceptualizing Taoist teaching. He lived between 601BC and some believe he died in 531BC.  Lao Tzu collected previous ideas about nature, worship, way of living and called it Dao. It is believed that he wrote book Tao Te Ching. It can be translated as Classic Way of Power. Tao Te Ching is collection of his main ideas and views on nature, time, actions, love, competition, spirituality, morality, justice,  contrasts and their balance, harmony with nature, power of mind, balance between people in way of harmony,  and many other things. His main values are simplicity( spontaneity, no competing, wisdom, tranquility, peaceful mind,) , patience( stillness) and compassion( kindness).  He considers Tao as Way with no name and no shape but that it can be personified in way of harmony and path of wisdom. Its known very little about his life actually. Its believed that he was born in state of Chu, in  present day  Luoyi Henan province. His personal name was Li. Lao Tzu actually means Old Master. There is legend that he was held in mothers womb for 82 years and that he was born with long beard and large eyebrows or in other words old and wise. Other legends suggest that he lived for 129 years.  There are suggestions that he worked as historian on royal court of Zhou dynasty. Annals of Sima Quan suggest that Lao Tzu was married and had one son Zong who later became legendary warrior. Traces of his burial site do not exist as it was believed that he went to the West somewhere far completely alone. Even origin of Tao Te Ching is mystery as there are suggestions that he actually didn’t wrote it but that book was written by his followers and that its collection of things that he taught them. Oldest found examples of Tao Te Ching date only from 4th century BC.  Also some historians think he never actually existed but that his idea and work are product of many more scholars. Legend says that he wanted to leave some trace before he disappears and left the collection of his wisdoms to the border security guard. He left only few followers behind him. Systematized Taoism and its followers during this period still didn’t function as organized association but several centuries later. Later it became organized and systematized teaching. It never became official state philosophy but deeply influenced life of people.

Lao Tzu, source:

Another great philosopher of this time was Confucius. In Chinese he is called Kong Qui. He was born in Lu state in 551BC near todays Qufu of Shandong province. I wrote about Confucian teaching in 7th chapter ( In middle of Beijing again) of my writing for Guangming and in travel advices in Walltrek Forum, article( Beijing Little Guide 1 and religion in China. Here I will speak more about Confucius himself and development of his teaching. Confucius served on royal court of Zhou. Confucius worked as governor of one town of Lu state and later became Minister of Crime. When he was disappointed with irresponsibility and immorality of Duke of Lu he left his home country and traveled a lot across Wei, Cai, Song and Chen states. He served there on royal courts as advisor and taught dukes how to govern countries. Confucius saw Zhou way of ruling as ideal one and its society and tried to promote it everywhere. He believed that basis for happiness is ideal family in which younger give respect to older and women are submissive to men. Such concept was considered by Confucius to be inevitable for functioning of society where morality must dominate and where you should be subordinated to those who are more superior. He stresses focus on yourself and self-perfection by education and respecting moral principles. Confucius stressed that rulers of state should be moral and honest and not to oppress people. He considered that each ruler and member of society must think about his own behavior, morality and educate himself in order of perfection. In order to get respect leader must be self-disciplined and to respect others too. He believed that you must be compassionate and positive to motivate others to follow law. By education he believed you can achieve higher status and respect in society and only if you have high morality and are self-disciplined.  Confucius idealized concept of 4 professions and their contribution to society. Hierarchy, respect, self-discipline are a must according to him. Confucius emphasized highly on worship of Heaven and ancestors and with aim to keep order worship must be highly detailed. Which chants and when, number of vessels and all steps of ritual had to be according to some order done. Kong Qui considered major arts: computing, calligraphy, music, ritual, archery and chariot driving. He believed that they require strict self-discipline and hard working and therefore are contributive. Confucius believed that such concept of state and organization of society leads to harmnonius society. Confucius died in his hometown in 479BC As a highly respected person he was buried on grand ceremony and state mourning was declared. He never left book behind him but his followers gathered his main ideas into few books and it will be written later when we will speak about periods when they appeared.  On his principles Chinese state and society functioned for 2000 thousand years. During life of Confucius his idea never became official state philosophy but just after some time. About that will be in other chapters.

Confucius, source:

Sun Tzu( 544BC-496BC) was main military strategist of that time. He was oldest known Chinese military strategist who wrote about  how to conduct warfare, how to win, relation to enemy  and offered best strategies. His book “Art of War” was later written by followers of his school.  However some historians doubt his existence because of unclear data and consider that this book is a collection of ideas of more army strategists. Further will be spoken about other literature development.

When its about beliefs of people they were mostly spiritual and more related to worshiping several deities and nature and attention on own spirit and spirit in places in nature. People worshiped Heaven,  deities,, ancestors, stars, moon, sun, water, forest,  mountains,  earth, rivers…  People worshiped various humanlike or animallike deities.  Humanlike deities were of both genders. Animallike deities were legendary animals such as dragons and phoenixes. Also other mythical beings were worshipped. Deities were perceived as good while on another side existed evil spirits that were perceived as evil.  In prayers people usually used vessels, chants, drums and incense. Also sacrificing was very common. Especially often were sacrificed bulls and goats. Rarely especially with aim to calm evil spirits humans were sacrificed. Later after Warring States Period human sacrifice was completely prohibited and animal sacrifice was done only in special occasions among people and on imperial level on Spring Festival only. Mountains were seen as place of connection between two opposites Heaven and Earth and people paid annual pilgrimages. Most famous was Mount Tai in Shandong province. Even Confucius himself climbed the Taishan on his trip home to State of Lu. Zhou and other rulers of that period went there personally to worship Heaven.. Spiritual beliefs and worship were not unique across whole China. Some regions worshiped one thing or deity others some other deity or object. All this were predecessor of Taoism( philosophic and religious teaching) which was developing and later unified all these beliefs and teachings.  Since we have reviewed Spring and Autumn Period we can move to next interesting Warring States Period.



Mount Tai road for pilgrims, source:




                 Confucius, Maliyavin 2002, 


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