Zhou dynasty

Zhou dynasty
or Chou dynasty

(1046–256 BC) Ancient Chinese dynasty that gave China its historically identifying political and cultural characteristics.

The period before 771 BC is known as the Western Zhou; the period from 771 BC on is called the Eastern Zhou and is further divided into the Spring and Autumn period (770–476) and the Warring States period (475–221). During the Zhou dynasty, iron, ox-drawn plows, crossbows, and horseback riding were introduced; large-scale irrigation projects were instituted; the Chinese writing system was further developed; and the great Chinese philosophers of antiquity, including Confucius, Mencius, and Zhuangzi, lived and taught. Pottery and bronzework expanded on the traditions of the earlier Shang dynasty, as did work in jade and lacquer.

* * *

▪ Chinese history
 (1046–256 BC), dynasty that ruled ancient China for almost a millennium, establishing the distinctive political and cultural characteristics that were to be identified with China for the next 2,000 years. The beginning date of the Zhou has long been debated. Traditionally, it has been given as 1122 BC, and that date has been successively revised as scholars have uncovered more archaeological evidence. The most recent findings have placed the outright start of the dynasty at 1046 BC.

      The Zhou coexisted with the Shang (Shang dynasty) for many years, living just west of the Shang territory in what is now Shaanxi province. At various times they were a friendly tributary state to the Shang, alternatively warring with them. One of the Zhou ruling houses devised a plan to conquer the Shang, and a decisive battle was fought, probably in the mid-11th century. Before the whole Shang territory could be consolidated by the Zhou, a rebellion broke out. The fighting went on for three years before the rebellion was put down, and finally the Zhou solidified their reign over all of China. An array of feudal states was created within the empire to maintain order and the emperor's hold on the land. The original Zhou capital had been located near present-day Xi'an on the Wei River above its confluence with the Huang He (Yellow River). To support the empire in the east and its loyal feudal rulers, an eastern capital was built at Luoyang on the middle reaches of the Huang He.

      It was some 200 years before the stability of this arrangement began to collapse with the increasing local interests of the 20 or more feudal lords, and in the 8th century BC the political system, which had essentially consisted of a network of extended family, began to weaken seriously. With the decline of the feudal king's power, de facto power fluctuated among various of the feudal chiefs as they were able to make themselves overlords.

      The period before 771 BC is usually known as the Xi (Western) Zhou dynasty, and that from 770 is known as the Dong (Eastern) Zhou dynasty. The Dong Zhou itself is often further subdivided into the Spring and Autumn (Spring and Autumn Period) (Chunqiu) period (770–476 BC), when China consisted of many small squabbling states, and the Warring States (Zhanguo) period (475–221 BC), when the small states consolidated into several larger units, which struggled with one another for mastery. Finally, one of these small kingdoms, Qin (from which derives modern China's name), succeeded in conquering the rest of the states and establishing the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC).

      The visual arts of the Zhou dynasty reflect the diversity of the feudal states of which it was composed and into which it eventually broke up. The arts of the early Xi Zhou were essentially a continuation of those of the Shang dynasty. This was especially true of works in bronze, in which there was an accelerated deterioration of the variety of shapes, the decoration, and the craftsmanship of casting. It was not until the Dong Zhou and the classical age of Confucius and Laozi that unique local traditions became apparent. The range of applied decoration for the first time included pictorial subjects—for example, hunting scenes and chariots and horsemen.

      As the empire was breaking up, arts and culture were flowering in the various component states, encouraged and stimulated by the very localized interests that fed the impulse toward independence of the empire. The remains of many of the feudal capitals during the Zhou period have been uncovered and reveal great buildings with rammed-earth floors and walls; there were also two-story buildings and observation towers, and Laozi mentions a nine-story tower.

      Although (with the exception of a few works on silk) no painting survives from the Zhou, written descriptions of paintings evidence their themes, including figures, portraits, and historic scenes. Lacquerware including gold and silver inlay became finely developed, and bronzework carried on from the great legacy of the Shang. Jade ornaments and objects were used lavishly for funerary and ritual purposes, and ornamental carvings reflected superb craftsmanship. Pottery continued Shang traditions and expanded greatly in variety of shapes and finishes during the Warring States period.

      During the Zhou dynasty, China underwent quite dramatic changes. Iron, ox-drawn plows, crossbows, and horseback riding were all introduced; large-scale irrigation and water-control projects were also instituted for the first time, greatly increasing the crop yield of the North China Plain. The communication system was also greatly improved through the construction of new roads and canals. Trade was increased, towns grew up, coinage was developed, chopsticks came into use, and the Chinese writing system was created out of its primitive beginnings in the Shang period.

      There was also a great philosophical flowering: the schools of Confucianism, Daoism, and legalism developed in this period. Literature flourished with Confucius and other great Chinese philosophers. Later generations of Chinese have regularly studied the Zhou dynasty for information regarding the origin of their civilization.

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать реферат

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Zhou Dynasty — For other uses, see Zhou Dynasty (disambiguation). Zhou Dynasty 周朝 Kingdom ← …   Wikipedia

  • Zhou dynasty —    A Chinese dynasty which lasted c. eleventh century 256 BCE.    The Zhou dynasty can be further divided into the Western Zhou (c.1050 771 BCE) and the Eastern Zhou (771 256 BCE). Even further, the Eastern Zhou can be divided into the Spring and …   Glossary of Art Terms

  • Zhou Dynasty (disambiguation) — The Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC–256 BC) was a Chinese dynasty split into two eras, Western and Eastern. Zhou Dynasty may also refer to several other Chinese dynasties of shorter duration: Northern Zhou (557–581), during the Southern and Northern… …   Wikipedia

  • Zhou dynasty — noun the imperial dynasty of China from 1122 to 221 BC; notable for the rise of Confucianism and Taoism • Syn: ↑Zhou, ↑Chou, ↑Chou dynasty, ↑Chow, ↑Chow dynasty • Hypernyms: ↑dynasty …   Useful english dictionary

  • Later Zhou Dynasty — Infobox Former Country native name = 周 conventional long name = Zhou common name = Later Zhou Dynasty| continent = Asia region = China country = China era = Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period status = Empire status text = empire = government… …   Wikipedia

  • Family tree of the Zhou Dynasty — This is a family tree from which King Nan of Zhou, the last king of the Zhou Dynasty was a descendant of the first founder Duke Wu of Zhou who overthrew the last Shang ruler Di Xin. Ruling from 1046 BC to 256 BC of Zhou rule, it is remarked as… …   Wikipedia

  • Zhou Xing (Tang Dynasty) — Zhou Xing (周興) (d. 691? [All traditional historical sources stated that Zhou Xing was killed by his enemies on the way to exile, implying that the death was in the same year as his exile, but did not conclusively establish the date as such.] )… …   Wikipedia

  • Zhou (surname) — Zhou Family name 周; Zhōu Meaning Zhou Dynasty Zhōu is the Hanyu Pinyin transliteration of the Chinese family name 周 …   Wikipedia

  • Zhou — can refer to:*Zhou Dynasty a Chinese Dynasty split into two eras, Western and Eastern (1027 221bce) *Northern Zhou a Chinese Dynasty (557 581) *Wu Zhao, the only Empress of China *Zhou (country subdivision), a political/administrative division of …   Wikipedia

  • Zhou Yunyuan — (周允元) (d. January 29, 695 [ [http://www.sinica.edu.tw/ftms bin/kiwi1/luso.sh?lstype=1 yy=695 mm=1 dd=29 兩千年中西曆轉換 ] ] ), courtesy name Ruliang (汝良), was an official of Wu Zetian s Zhou Dynasty, briefing serving as chancellor.It is not known when… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”