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This article is part of theHistory of China series.
In the Chinese historical tradition, the rulers of the Zhou displaced the Shang and legitimized their rule by invoking the mandate of heaven. The Zhou dynasty was founded by the Ji family and had its capital at Hao, near the city of Xi'an, or Chang'an, as it was known in its heyday in the imperial period. Sharing the language and culture of the Shang, the early Zhou rulers, through conquest and colonization, gradually sinicized, that is, extended Shang culture through much of China Proper north of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River).
The term feudal has often been applied to the Zhou period because the Zhou's early decentralized rule invites comparison with medieval rule in Europe. At most, however, the early Zhou system was proto-feudal, being a more sophisticated version of earlier tribal organization, in which effective control depended more on familial ties than on feudal legal bonds. Whatever feudal elements there may have been decreased as time went on. The Zhou amalgam of city-states became progressively centralized and established increasingly impersonal political and economic institutions. These developments, which probably occurred in the latter Zhou period, were manifested in greater central control over local governments and a more routinized agrarian taxation.
Initially the Ji family was able to control the country firmly. In 771 BC, after King You had replaced his queen with a concubine Baosi, he was then sacked by the joint force of the queen's father, who was the powerful Marquess of Shen, and the barbarians. The queen's son Ji Yijiu was proclaimed the new king by the nobles from the states of Zheng, Lu, Qin and the Marquess of Shen. The capital was moved eastward in 722 BC to Luoyang in present-day Henan Province.
Because of this shift, historians divide the Zhou era into Western Zhou (西周, pinyin Xī Zhōu) from late 10th century BC to late 9th century up until 771 BC and Eastern Zhou (traditional Chinese character: 東周 simplified Chinese character: 东周, pinyin Dōng Zhōu) from 770 up to 221 BC. The beginning year of Western Zhou has been disputed - 1122 BC, 1027 BC and other years within the hundred years from late 12th century BC to late 11th century BC have been proposed. Chinese historiographers take 841 BC as the first year of consecutive annual dating of the history of China, based on the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian. Eastern Zhou divides into two subperiods. The first, from 722 to 481 BC, is called the Spring and Autumn Period, after a famous historical chronicle of the time; the second is known as the Warring States Period.
With the royal line broken, the power of the Zhou court gradually diminished; the fragmentation of the kingdom accelerated. From Ping Wang onwards, the Zhou kings ruled only symbolicly, with true power being held in the hands of powerful nobles. Towards the end of Zhou Dynasty, the nobles did not bother to obey the Ji family, even symbolically and declared themselves to be kings. They wanted to be the king of the kings. Finally, the dynasty was obliberated by Qin Shi Huangdi's reunification of China in 221 BC.
|Posthumous names||Chinese names||Period of Reigns|
|Chinese Convention: "Zhou" + posthumous name + "wang"|
|Note: all dates are approximate until 841 BC when the first accurate dating of Chinese history began.|
|Western Zhou up to 771 BC|
|Wu (武 wu3)||Ji Fa (姬發 ji1 fa1)||1122 BC-1115 BC|
|Cheng (成 cheng2)||Ji Song (姬誦 ji1 song4)||1115 BC-1078 BC|
|Kang (康 kang1)||Ji Zhao (姬釗 ji1 zhao1)||1078 BC-1052 BC|
|Zhao (昭 zhao1)||Ji Xia (姬瑕 ji1 xia2)||1052 BC-1001 BC|
|Mo (穆 mo4)||Ji Man (姬滿 ji1 man3)||1001 BC-946 BC|
|Gong (共 gong1)||Ji Yihu (姬繄扈 ji1 yi1 hu4)||946 BC-934 BC|
|Yi (懿 yi4)||Ji Jian (姬囏 ji1 jian1)||934 BC-909 BC|
|Xiao (孝 xiao4)||Ji Pifang (姬辟方 ji1 pi4 fang1)||909 BC-894 BC|
|Yi (夷 yi2)||Ji Xie (姬燮 ji1 xie4)||894 BC-878 BC|
|Li (厲 li4)||Ji Hu (姬胡 ji1 hu2)||878 BC-841 BC|
|gonghe (共和) 841 BC-827 BC|
|Xuan (宣 xuan1)||Ji Jing (姬靜 ji1 jing4)||827 BC-781 BC|
|You (幽 you1)||Ji Gongsheng (姬宮湦 ji1 gong1 sheng1)||781 BC-771 BC|
|Eastern Zhou 770 BC-256 BC|
|Ping (平 ping2)||Ji Yijiu (姬宜臼 ji1 yi2 jiu4)||770 BC-720 BC|
|Huan (桓 huan2)||Ji Lin (姬林 ji1 lin2)||719 BC-697 BC|
|Spring and Autumn Period 722 BC-481 BC'''|
|Zhuang (莊 zhuang1)||Ji Tuo (姬佗 ji1 tuo2)||696 BC-682 BC|
|Li (釐 li2)||Ji Huqi (姬胡齊 ji1 hu2 qi2)||681 BC-677 BC|
|Hui (惠 hui4)||Ji Lang (姬閬 ji1 lang4)||676 BC-652 BC|
|Xiang (襄 xiang1)||Ji Zheng (姬鄭 ji1 zheng)||651 BC-619 BC|
|Qing (頃 qing3)||Ji Renchen (姬壬臣 ji1 ren2 chen2)||618 BC-613 BC|
|Kuang (匡 kuang1)||Ji Ban (姬班 ji1 ban1)||612 BC-607 BC|
|Ding (定 ding4)||Ji Yu (姬瑜 ji1 yu2)||606 BC-586 BC|
|Jian (簡 jian3)||Ji Yi (姬夷 ji1 yi2)||585 BC-572 BC|
|Ling (靈 ling2)||Ji Xiexin (姬泄心 ji1 xie4 xin1)||572 BC or 571 BC-545 BC|
|Jing (景 jing3)||Ji Gui (姬貴 ji1 gui4)||544 B.C-520 B.C|
|Dao (悼 dao4)||Ji Meng (姬猛 ji1 meng3)||520 BC|
|Jing (敬 jing4)||Ji Gai (姬丐 ji1 gai4)||519 BC-476 BC|
|Yuan (元 yuan2)||Ji Ren (姬仁 ji1 ren2)||475 BC-469 BC|
|Zhen Ding (貞定 zhen1 ding4)||Ji Jie (姬介 ji1 jie4)||468 BC-441 BC|
|Ai (哀 ai1)||Ji Quji (姬去疾 ji1 qu4 ji2)||441 BC|
|Si (思 si1)||Ji Shu (姬叔 ji1 shu2)||441 BC|
|Kao (考 kao3)||Ji Wei (姬嵬 ji1 wei2)||440 BC-426 BC|
|Wei Lie (威烈 wei1 lie4)||Ji Wu (姬午 ji1 wu3)||425 BC-402 BC|
|Period of the Warring States 403 BC-221 BC|
|An (安 an1)||Ji Jiao (姬驕 ji1 jiao1)||401 BC-376 BC|
|Lie (烈 lie4)||Ji Xi (姬喜 ji1 xi3)||375 BC-369 BC|
|Xian (顯 xian3)||Ji Bian (姬扁 ji1 bian3)||368 BC-321 BC|
|Shen Jing (慎靚 shen4 jing4)||Ji Ding (姬定 ji1 ding4)||320 BC-315 BC|
|Nan (赧 nan3) or Yin (隱 yin3)||Ji Yan (姬延 ji1 yan2)||314 BC-256 BC|
|Note: nobles of the Ji family proclaimed King Hui of Eastern Zhou (Dong Zhou Hui Wang) as the successor to the dynasty after Luoyang fell to Qin. However the resistance did not last long when Qin army advanced southwards. So King Nan of Zhou (Zhou Nan Wang) is conventionally considered as the last emperor of Zhou.|