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  • Cited by 10
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  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: March 2008

8 - The Spring and Autumn Period

Summary

This chapter is an account of various transformations that took place during the Spring and Autumn period (770–481 B.C.). It covers the transition from a Zhou feudal system to a multistate system; from the expansion of the Zhou into the Yellow River drainage to the ancient China that spanned the Yellow and Yangzi Rivers and the highlands in the north and the west; from an economy based on manorial management to a market economy; and from a family-based society to one based upon great social mobility. The most significant development in this period was a major break through in the intellectual sphere, in which the moral values of Confucius provided an innovative reinterpretation of feudal ethics. This break through brought Chinese culture into a Jaspersian “Axial Age” of civilization. Thereafter, intellectuals served not only as officials in government but, of more profound impact, also as cultural carriers who interpreted the meaning of life and ideals of society. This new condition in the intellectual sphere continued beyond the Spring and Autumn period, remaining characteristic through out Chinese history. In other words, this break through initiated in the Spring and Autumn period would eventually lead China to develop a persistent, collective identity – Chinese civilization.

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The Cambridge History of Ancient China
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053709
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521470308
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