Zhou Dynasty (10th century BC - 256 BC)
In the years around 10 th century BC, after defeating the last Shang ruler, King Wu with a family name of Ji founded the Zhou Dynasty, making Haojing his capital city, near the present city of Xi'an in Shanxi Province. As a semi-nomadic tribe, the Zhou learned how to communicate with people of different cultures and gain the allegiance of disaffected city-states.
The Zhou adopted much of the Shang lifestyle. In order to utilize the knowledge of the Shang artisans, they often imported Shang families or communities to the new towns they built. The Zhou also adopted much of the Shang writing system, rituals, and administration techniques. Agriculture in Zhou Dynasty was more intensive. All farming lands were owned by nobles, who then gave their land to their serfs, a piece of land was divided into nine squares in the shape of the character jing, with the grain from the middle square taken by the government and that of surrounding squares kept by individual farmers. This way, the government was able to store surplus food and distribute them in times of famine or bad harvest. Some important manufacturing sectors during this period include bronze making, which was integral in making weapons and farming tools. Again, these industries were dominated by the nobility who direct the production of such materials.
Historians divide the Zhou era into Western Zhou from late 10th century BC to late 9th century up until 771 BC and Eastern Zhou 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 historians 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. From the beginning of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty to the unification by Qin , China was marked by disunity and continuous conflicts. Historically, this is recorded as two periods: the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period.
The Spring and Autumn Period occurred from about 770-476 B.C. During this period, power became decentralized. This period was filled with battles and annexation of some 170 smaller states. The slow crumbling of nobility resulted in widespread literacy; increasing literacy encouraged freedom of thought and technological advancement.
This time period of the Warring States is considered the classical age, it was a time of great philosophers. This cultural flowering is sometimes called the One Hundred Schools Period. Confucianism (elaborated by Mencius), Taoism (elaborated by Zhuang Zi), Legalism (formulated by Han Feizi) and Mohism (formulated by Mozi) . Some of the most memorable poetry and prose were also written during this time. Other advances included the writing down of the laws, an increase in market places, and a money economy. The development of iron, and tools made of iron, greatly increased agriculture and thus population exploded. This was also around the time legendary military strategist Sun Zi wrote The Art of War which is recognized today as the most influential, and oldest known military strategy guide.
During the hundreds years of Spring and Autumn and Warrior States , the power of the Zhou court gradually diminished; the fragmentation of the kingdom accelerated. Towards the end of the Zhou Dynasty, the nobles did not even bother to acknowledge the Jin family symbolically and declared themselves to be kings. Finally, the dynasty was obliterated by Qin Shi Huang's unification of China in 221 BC.