Zhou Dynasty China – Ancient Chinese History

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metal pot standing on three feet - Zhou Dynasty China

A Zhou Dynasty bronze tripod

Chariots in Zhou Dynasty China

The Zhou conquered the Shang Dynasty about 1100 BC (the traditional date is 1122 BC). The Zhou said that the reason they were able to conquer the Shang was that Heaven was on their side. According to Chinese stories, backed up in some points by oracle bones, the first really independent king of the Zhou Dynasty was King Wu. According to the stories, King Wu led a big army with chariots down the south bank of the Yellow River. In 1046 BC King Wu crossed the Yellow River and conquered the Shang Dynasty at the Battle of Muye. Many of the Shang soldiers went over to King Wu’s side, because the Shang emperor, Di Xin, was unpopular.

The beginnings of feudalism

Historians call the first period of Zhou rule the Western Zhou, because the capital city, Haojing, was in the west. China was divided up into about 200 little kingdoms, and then each of these kings was under the Zhou emperor. Under each king were lesser lords, who had less power. These lords gave out land to individual farmers. In exchange, the lords collected some of the food as taxes.

The Zhou emperors’ strong armies

During the Western Zhou dynasty, the emperors ruled from great walled cities like those of the Shang Dynasty. Western Zhou emperors relied on big strong armies to stay in power. These armies learned from Central Asia how to use a lot of chariots all together to win battles. The emperors led the armies out on campaigns almost every year, either fighting Central Asian invaders or keeping their kingdom together by preventing revolts. (Compare the Assyrians at the other end of Asia about the same time.)

Did you find out what you needed to know about the Zhou Dynasty in China? Don’t miss our articles on the Eastern Zhou, Zhou art, and Zhou architecture!

Learn by doing – comparing the Western Zhou to the Assyrians
Eastern Zhou
Zhou Art
Zhou Architecture

Bibliography and further reading about the Zhou Dynasty:

Eastern Zhou (771-221 BC)
Qin Dynasty
Ancient China
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By | 2017-12-31T17:57:55+00:00 June 6th, 2017|China, History|2 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Zhou Dynasty China – Ancient Chinese History. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 6, 2017. Web. January 20, 2018.

About the Author:

Karen Carr
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. Unknown December 7, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

    Can there be more to read Please!!!!

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