Western Zhou 西周 (11th cent – 770 BC)
Eastern Zhou 東周 (770-221 BC)
– Spring and Autumn Period 春秋時代 (770-475/452/403 BC)
– Warring States Period 戰國時代 (475/452/403-221 BC)
The Zhou Dynasty is probably the dynasty that reigned for the longest period not only of all Chinese dynasties, but of the whole world. Of course, such a long period contributed to a certain image of the Zhou rulers and their institutions as the guideline for all later people. The founders of the Zhou Dynasty, the Kings Wen and Wu (abbreviated to the couple Wen Wu 文武), and the Prince Regent Duke Dan of Zhou 周公旦, were seen as the ideal monarchs and even as patrons and inventors of every kind of arts. The Confucianists venerated these rulers as guided by morality, humanity and righteousness. But 900 years of history were also times of profound changes that took place. The first kings of Zhou enfeoffed their fellowship and relatives with large domains that later developed to kingdoms themselves: the central government lost its authority, the “feudal system” (fengjian zhidu 封建制度) similar to the Western Middle Age system of enfeoffment disintegrated. The once venerated kings of Zhou, people like King Cheng 成王 and Kang 康王, lost their central position as the Heaven-approved sacrosanct ruler and were challenged by feudal lords that overtook the leadership of the Chinese world. The Zhou kings had to flee from their western capital to the east, forced by “barbarian” tribes that invaded the Zhou territory. This was the begin of Eastern Zhou period. It is divided into the Spring and Autumn period, called following the seasonal recordings of the annals, and the Warring States period when the six most powerful kings fought against each other. Only the state of Qin was to defeat her enemies. The Zhou time was also the time of the hundred schools of philosophers and thinkers. The important Confucian classical writings find their beginnings also in this historical epoch.