Eastern Zhou Dynasty
Spring and Autumn Period (770B.C-476B.C)
In 770B.C, King Ping of the Zhou moved capital eastward to Louyi (present-day Luoyang), Eastern Zhou Dynasty came into being. It could be divided into Spring and Autumn Period (770B.C.-476B.c.) and Warring States Period (475B.C.-221B.C.). The term "Spring and Autumn Period" was derived from a historical book of Lu State "The Spring and Autumn Annual", which is a records of history of this period.
In the Western Zhou Dynasty period, the king maintained his suzerainty. He forbade the vassal states to attack and annex each other. After King Ping of Zhou moved capital to Luoyi east of Hao, the royalty became so weak that it could no longer control the vassal lords. The royalty still exist, but all the vassal states didn’t take orders from King of Zhou any more, didn't pay tribute to King of Zhou any more, and hadn't an audience with King of Zhou regularly any more. Instead, they went on punitive expeditions at will, contending for the control of the empire. In this way, the formalities and rites collapsed, the original political order was thrown into confusion. Because of different social and economic conditions, some vassal states became powerful, some of them went to ruin. The wars broke out among vassal states for land, power and overlord. Who won in the war, who the overlord would become.
After King Ping's removal eastward, the western area was owned by Qin Vassal State which became a power in the west after its annexation of some Rong tribes or states. Jin State in today's Shanxi, Qi State and Lu State in Shandong, Chu State in Hubei, Yan State in Beijing and northern Hebei, and Wu State and Yue State that rose from the downstream area of the Yangtze River valley, all became strong and powerful after annexing their neighboring smaller states. Therefore, wars often broke out among these states in history.
Duke Huan of Qi State was the first to establish his hegemony. He designated a statesman named Guan Zhong to carry out reforms so that his state power increased dramatically. He also adopted Guan Zhong's strategy of invoking the slogan of "resisting the hostile tribes for loyalty to the King of Zhou". In this way, he succeeded in uniting Yan to defeat Northern Rong, in uniting other states to prevent the harassment of the Di tribes, and in protecting Xing and save Wei. In 656 B.C., Qi State and the allied forces of Lu, Song, Zheng, Chen, Wei, Xu, and Cao State invaded Cao State and attacked Chu State by calling it to account for not having paid tribute to the King of Zhou. Powerful enough to have attacked Zheng for years, Chu pleaded for peace in order to save its strength. Thereafter, in 651B.C, Duke Huan held a conference with the vassal states at Kuiqiu (today's Lankao, Henan Province), the King of Zhou sent his officer to attend these rallies and reward them. Thus Duke Huan of Qi became the first overlord in the Central Plains area.
Meanwhile, Chu Vassal State was expanding its influence to the east. In Qi, Duke Huan's death caused the power strife to surface, so Qi began its decline. This made it possible for Chu to expand northward. Duke Xiang of Song State wanted to inherit the overlord of Duke Huan and fought against Chu but he lost. The original allies of Qi, namely, Lu, Song, Zheng, Chen, Cai, Xu, Cao, and Wei State, had now turned toward Chu State.
While Chu was thinking of dominating the Central Plains area, Jin rose. Duke Wen of Jin State straightened out the state affairs and strengthened his army, tried to become the next overlord. Just at that moment, King Xiang of Zhou was driven to exile by Prince Dai who colluded with the Di tribes. So he, in alliance with other dukes, defeated Prince Dai and brought King Xiang back to the capital Luoyi. In 632 B.C., the Jin State united the Qin State and Qi State to rescue Song State with the determination to seek hegemony over the Central Plains against Chu State. They defeated Chu State at Chengpu. Afterwards, Duke Wen met other dukes in Jiantu. The King of Zhou attended the meeting and bestowed on Duke Wen of Jin the title of "Houbo" (overlord). But after the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period, after several times war, in 546B.C, Song State invoked the Jin and Chu ally to "stop fighting". Ten more states joined the truce. At this conference, they agreed that small states thereafter should pay tribute to both Jin State and Chu State. Thus Jin State and Chu State shared the overlord with each other.
While Jin State and Chu State fought for the overlord in the Central Plains area, in the downstream area of the Yangtze River, Wu State and Yue State rose. In order to counter Chu, Jin made Wu its ally. So quite a few battles took place between Wu and Chu. In 506 B.C, Wu attacked Chu on a large scale, winning one victory after another, and reached Chu's capital. As a result, Chu's strength was drastically weakened. While Jin allied with Wu to restrain Chu, Chu united with Yue to constrain Wu. Frequent battles occurred between Wu and Yue. Duke Helu of Wu, was killed in a battle. His son Fuchai sought revenge and defeated Duke Goujian of Yue. Then Fuchai led his troops to the north to meet other lords at Huangchi in an attempt to seize hegemony from the Jin. At this moment, Goujian accumulate strength. When Duke Fuchai of Wu, was in the north contending for hegemony, Goujian saw the opportunity and led his army to attack and occupied Wu's capital. Fu Chai hurried back and pled for peace. Later, Yue destroyed Wu. Goujian then went north to confer with the lords at Xuzhou and got the hegemony.
Spring and Autumn Period is a transitional period in which the slave society was moving toward a feudal society. This is also the time when people of different nationalities in China first came together to form a nation. This period witnessed fast social and economic development. But because of the uneven political and economic development in various states, a number of more powerful ones competed fiercely with each other for supremacy.
Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought
Science and Technology
Science and technology were also developing fast at this time with the introduction of iron. Ore mining was conducted on quite a large scale. What is more astonishing is that the Chinese were able to observe the Halley Comet in July 613B.C. In 655 B.C. people in China were able to divide the year into 365 days.
Warring States Period (476B.C.-221B.C)
Annexation and struggle among states in Spring and Autumn Period expedited social and economic development in all these regions and sped up the contact and mixing of different tribes and nationalities. After a period of drastic upheavals, reshufflings and regroupings, the several hundred states were reconstituted into seven big states. They were Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin vassal states. These seven vassal states contended with one another for supremacy (hegemony). China entered the Warring States Period.
The Chu was located in the south, the Zhao in the north, the Yan in the northeast, the Qi in the east, the Qin in the west, and the Han and the Wei in the centre. Among them, the three mega-states - the Qin, the Wei and the Qi - from west to east along the Yellow River basin - had the power to take the situation in hand at the early stage.
Han never grew strong. Yan was the weakest one among the seven vassal states.The Wei was the most powerful overlord in the Central Plains area from the reign of Marquis Wen to mid-4th century B.C. The expansion of the Wei's power worried the Han, the Zhao, and the Qin. This brought about frequent conflicts between the Wei and these three mega-states. So, in 354 B.C., the Wei sent troops to attack the Zhao's capital Handan (Hebei). Zhao had to ask for help from the Qi who, in response, sent General Tian Ji to save the Zhao. To carry out Sun Bin's strategy, Tian Ji besieged the Wei capital Daliang. This forced the Wei troops to withdraw from Handan, which they had conquered, and come back to defend their capital. But unfortunately, the Wei troops got defeated by the Qi army at Guiling. The following year, the Wei, united with the Han, succeeded in taking revenge on the Qi. In 342 B.C. when the Wei attacked the Han who asked the Qi for help, the Qi again appointed General Tian Ji to be the commander and Sun Bin, the adviser. The Qi army entrapped the Wei army at Maling and stormed them with arrows. The Great General Pang Juan of the Wei killed himself and the Heir-Prince Shen of the Wei fell captive. This Battle at Maling resulted in an equal share of the hegemony in the east between the Qi and the Wei.
In 356B.C, Duke Xiao of Qin vassal state put Shang Yang in charge of many reforms with emphasis on farming and military arts. After the Shang Yang Reform, the Qin became the strongest of the seven mega-states and further expanded its power towards the east. It first defeated Sanjin and captured all the land of the Wei on the western bank of the Yellow River. Then it expanded its territories to the west, the south, and the north. By the end of 4th-century B.C., its territories had become nearly as large as the Chu.
While the Qin was fighting against the Han, the Zhao and the Wei, the Qi was expanding its power in the east. In 315 B.C., the Qi, taking advantage of the Yan's internal turmoil caused by its King Kuai's "abdication" of his throne to the prime minister's son, attacked and captured the Yan's capital. But later, the Qi army was forced to withdraw because of the strong resistance by the Yan people. At that time, the Qi was the only mega-state strong enough to resist the Qin. And the struggle between the Qin and the Qi focused on who would have won over the Chu.
Since the Chu failed to carry out thorough reform, it remained weak in power. But the Chu enjoyed vast territories and had a large population. In 318B.C. The Chu and The Qi formed an alliance to attack Qin. However, the Qin sent Zhang Yi to persuade the Chu to abandon the Qi and be friend of the Qin for a compensation of 600 li of land in Shangyu. The covetous King Huai of the Chu broke off alliance with the Qi. But the Qin went back on its word when the Chu sent an envoy to ask for the promised piece of land. In 312B.C, King Huai of the Chu sent troops to attack the Qin but was defeated. In 278B.C, General Bai Qi of Qin seized Chu's capital so that Chu had to move its political power and got weak.
In 284B.C, the Qin united with the Han, the Zhao, the Wei and the Yan to attack and vanquish the Qi. The Yan army, led by General Yue Yi, took this opportunity to capture the Qi capital Linzhi as well as more than seventy other cities and towns. King Min of the Qi fled. From then on the Qi forever lost its status as a mega-state and the Qin began its quick expansion to the east.
In 246 B.C., King Zheng of the Qin (later the First Emperor) ascended the throne. He appointed capable statesmen like Wei Liao and Li Si and quickened his pace of unification. On the one hand, he bought over the powerful officials of the other six mega-states to disrupt their plans and, on the other, he launched marches to the east year after year. After years of war, from 230 B.C. when the Qin destroyed the Han, to 221 B.C. when the Qin conquered the Qi, the six mega-states in the east were successively subdued by and integrated into the Qin, which turned out to be the first unified, multi-nationality, autocratic and power-centralized state in Chinese history.
The unification of the Qin was the inevitable result of social development since the Spring and Autumn Period. In the Eastern Zhou, productivity underwent further development. Various new techniques appeared in the industries of mining, metallurgy, and founding. The appearance of iron tools, especially their wide use in agriculture and handicraft industries, after the late Warring States Period, effectively spurred the development of social production. The more specific labour division and the prosperity of various industries brought about a great advance in the production and circulation of commodities and, hence, very active business activities. The appearance of the new landlord class and the feudal production relations outdated the traditional or slavery mode of production and liberated the social productive forces. However, the separatist state and tangled warfare caused by the enfeoffment policy did great harm to the social economy and caused large number of casualties and deaths. Barriers established among states hindered social development and cultural exchange. Only by unification could society develop more rapidly. All peasants, handicraftsmen, businessmen and landlords looked forward to unification. Although it was achieved after years of wars and battles in which the people paid a high price - a price, nevertheless, for historical progress and for the establishment of a new system. Qin Shi Huang's (the First Emperor) annexation of the six mega-states is a significant historical event in ancient Chinese history. He replaced the enfeoffment system with the prefecture-county system and established a complete pyramid-like autocratic system of state administration extending from the central court to the local levels. Also, the First Emperor took measures to have the written language and weights and measures standardised. All these had a long-lasting influence on the later Chinese feudal societies. The unification of the Qin turned a new page in Chinese history.