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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: March 2017

1 - HISTORICAL SETTING AND APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF AN ANCIENT STATE IN WARRING STATES CHINA

Summary

THE STATE OF ZHONGSHAN IN HISTORY

In the middle of the eleventh century BCE, King Wu of Zhou led an allied force out of the Jing and Wei river valley in Shaanxi Province and fought a decisive battle with the Shang near its capital at Anyang in northern Henan Province; the once powerful and dominant Shang was defeated. After the conquest of Shang, King Wu and his successors, mainly the young King Cheng and his regent Duke Zhou, took over large territories in the east, north, and south through military force, and established local states ruled directly by members of the Zhou royal lineage and its meritorious affiliates. During the ensuing centuries, the large colonizing local states steadily grew stronger, and the Zhou court gradually lost control of these large states far away from its capital located in the Zhou ancestral land in the Wei river valley, close to the western edge of the Zhou domain. Meanwhile the Zhou heartland was constantly threatened by peoples located to its north and west. Finally, internal strife and external pressure made Zhou easy prey to the invasion of the Quan Rong 犬戎 tribes in 771 BCE; King You was killed, but King Ping was able to re-establish the Zhou court at the eastern capital, Chengzhou 成周 in modern-day Luoyang. These events mark the division between the Western Zhou Period (c.1046–771 BCE) and the Eastern Zhou period (770–256 BCE).

The first, and slightly longer, half of the Eastern Zhou period is the Chunqiu 春秋, or Spring and Autumn Period (770–477 BCE), named after the Spring and Autumn annals of the state of Lu. Since the end of the Western Zhou Period, the authority and power of the Zhou king was irreversibly in decline, and throughout the Spring and Autumn Period the Zhou regional states were by and large independent polities. The powerful states competed fiercely to take the leadership role (ba 霸, or hegemon) among the Zhou states. Externally, the large states adopted expansionist policies toward small Zhou states and non-Zhou polities, annexing their territories and incorporating their populations to strengthen their own power. Internally, power struggles between competing heirs to the throne and between rulers and their ministers grew increasingly more frequent and violent.

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Material Culture, Power, and Identity in Ancient China
  • Online ISBN: 9781316460177
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316460177
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