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China, Chou or Zhou Dynasty of

The Chow Dynasty in China is officially known as the Zhou and it is China’s oldest ruling line in the history of this nation. The Zhou Dynasty ruled from 1046 to 256 B.C.   It appears on the  Biblical Timeline with World History in the Chinese section during this time. This ruling class helped to shape and influence Chinese culture for thousands of years.

The Zhou Dynasty began to rule China after they defeated the Shang Dynasty which preceded them. Once they established their authority they backed it up by claiming that their right to be in control came from heaven. They came up with a document that gave them the authority to rule it also helped to transform their religious practices. Ancestor worship was a strong component and part of life for the Shang Dynasty and the Zhou wanted to separate from this old regime. So they decided that ancestor worship would become a more universalized process as opposed to worshipping individual family ancestors.

A somewhat mythical emperor named Ku is credited with starting the Zhou Dynasty. He settled his people near the Wei River valley in west-central China. Ku had led a large army across the Yellow River in China to defeat Shang King Di Xin and Zhou rule was established. When the Zhou had originally established their power they formed a centralized government. This type of government didn’t last long when the various princes began to fight and war among themselves for control. Internal strife caused the empire to split into two parts. The Eastern and Western Zhou Empire was the result of the split.

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map of Zhou

The Eastern Zhou Empire continued to divide and separate until there were many independent states that formed the empire. The Western Zhou remained unified after the split had occurred.

Zhou society was agrarian based and it was similar to Europe’s feudal system. There were the Chinese versions of lords, nobles, warriors, serfs and peasants. Each of these rulers was subject to the emperor. A class of scholars emerged during the 4th century B.C. and Confucius was the most prominent member during this era. He tried to establish a system of government that was based on the virtue between the rulers and servants. Many of the contemporary rulers didn’t want this style of leadership and preferred the old order which allowed those in charge to dominate by authority and force. Confucius works were so prominent that they still influence China in modern times. The rulers and nobles lived in wall cities instead of palaces and many villages were protected inside of these city walls as well. Iron was introduced into China during the reign of the Zhou. This allowed their agrarian society to increase food production and to focus on developing the arts, sciences, and the various philosophies.

Zhou society went into decline in the 2nd century B.C. when the royal line was broken due to problems with the leadership. Many of the noble and lords within the Zhou empire separated themselves into independent states and didn’t try to unify into one government. Qin Shi Huang of the Qin Empire unified China under his rule in 221 B.C. and the Zhou never again rose to power.