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The Zhou[edit]

The Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC - 256 BC) followed the overthrew the Shang dynasty, proclaiming they had become corrupt and hedonistic. The mandate from heaven that gave a ruling dynasty its power was revoked when the Zhou defeated the Shang in battle. The Zhou dynasty is China’s longest lasting dynasty. During the Zhou advancements were made in writing and iron was introduced to China.

Early Zhou kings were true commanders-in-chiefs; constantly at war with barbarians on behalf of their subordinate the fiefs, principalities and mini states. Militarily the early Zhou army was split into two major field armies, “The Six Armies of the west” and “The Eight Armies of Chengzhou”. The Zhou armies didn’t just campaigning against barbarian invasions though; they also extended their rule over China and rival power Chinese powers. The Zhou reached their peak under King Zhao, conquering the central plains of China. King Zhao then invaded Southern China at the head of the Six Armies. However, he was killed when the Six Armies where wiped out by the Chu, a Southern Chinese state. The Zhou period saw the use of massed chariots in battle to an extent far exceeding the Shang Dynasty.

The power of the Zhou court gradually diminished due to internal rivalry and the growing ambition of the nobles. The kingdom fragmented into smaller states as leading nobles decided to create dynasties of their own. They no longer considered themselves vassals or dukes, but instead the heads of each dynastic family referred to himself as king. The Zhou dynasty persisted in a much reduced state through the turmoil of the following periods, Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, until finally dropping the title King of China after Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor was successful conquering the different warring states.

Warfare in China had become endemic during the Spring and Autumn Period (722 BC – 481 BC) as states broke away from the Zhou and consolidated their power. Zuo zhuan describes the wars and battles among these feudal lords turned kings. Warfare continued to be stylized and ceremonial even as it grew more violent and decisive. Massive pitched battles were fought between the four major states as they struggled for control of the others and the minor states. However, this was just a prelude to the even bloodier period that would follow.

The Zhou (also known as "Chou") dynasty replaced the Shang dynasty in 1027 B.C., and benefited from the Iron Age. The Iron Age is the period of human history characterized by the smelting of iron and its use in industry in western Asia and Egypt. The Zhou dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, ruling until 221 B.C. The multiplication table, which is essential to learning arithmetic, was developed during this dynasty.

Early Chinese religion consisted of worshiping a supreme god called "Shang Ti," or "Lord on High." Shang Ti was believed to be a god ruling over the lesser gods of the sun, moon, wind, rain and other aspects of nature. The ancient Chinese people worshiped these gods with human sacrifices. When a king died, for example, hundreds of slaves and prisoners would be sacrificed in his honor. There were also sacrifices on a smaller scale when a temple or palace was constructed.