Eastern Zhou Dynasty - Ancient China
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Eastern Zhou Dynasty

April 2016 - In 771 BC, skillful fighters from the northwest invaded China; they may have been the ancestors of the Huns. These Central Asians had figured out how to ride horses in war, and wanted to use their new cavalry to conquer northern China. The Zhou emperors retreated and made a new capital at Luoyang, further east. So this period is called the Eastern Zhou.

People call the first three hundred years of the Eastern Zhou period the Spring and Autumn period because it was a good time for China. Many philosophers, like Confucius and Lao-Tzu, were working in China at this time. Farmers invented the mold-board for their plows. Tool-makers in China learned how to use iron to make tools at this time; they probably learned from iron-workers in West Asia, maybe by way of India or Central Asia.

But iron also made good weapons, and the 200 little states began to fight each other all the time. The period from 481 to 221 BC is called the Warring States period. By this time, Chinese armies had learned from the Central Asians how to ride horses into battle. But they had trouble breeding good horses in China, where the climate wasn't right for it. Chinese armies bought most of their horses from Sogdian traders. Chinese spinners and weavers - mainly women - started to produce a lot more silk cloth in order to trade it to the Sogdians for the horses, and for high-quality iron. So Silk Road trade became much more important to China during the Warring States period.

By about 300 BC, there were only seven big states left. Soon after that, in 256 BC, the Zhou emperors lost power, and the only rulers of China were the kings of the seven states. These kings fought among themselves until the king of Ch'in, the strongest state, succeeded in making himself emperor and established the Ch'in Dynasty.

How well did you understand the Zhou Dynasty? Take this quiz and see!
Go on to the Ch'in Dynasty (221-206 BC)

Bibliography and further reading about the Zhou dynasty:

Ch'in Dynasty (221-206 BC)
Ancient China
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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