Zhou China Geography Essay

Zhou Dynasty: 1000 - 256 BC

Major Accomplishments:Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism are created and spread rapidly through the Chinese culture.  Years of war and conflict lead to a demand for a better way and new philosophies of life compete to offer the Chinese more stability and protection from warlords.

Population: estimated about 30-35 million about 250bc

Zhou Video:

Zhou Dynasty Overview

The Zhou dynasty was founded by King Wen of the Ji family in 1076 BC, after the Shang dynasty came to an end. The dynasty’s east coast borders were to the left of the Pacific Ocean. Zhou Dynasty is defined by a unique social hierarchy, standardized spoken language, and lengthy time of reign. It would prove to be very influential because of the power that it gave to military leaders. The dynasty was also the beginning of China’s Iron Age. The Iron Age influenced future leaders to use military force to introduce the Mandate of Heaven. This created a new standard and expectation of future rulers because people thought that the actions of these rulers were very connected (in success and failure) with the gods. This, although it was important to the structure of the Zhou, was another factor in the downfall of the Zhou.

Zhou Dynasty Begins

The Zhou began after the Shang dynasty’s decline. King Wu took over in 1076 BC. The dynasty was jump started by the Iron Age that was spreading like wildfire. Their government worked toward centralization during dynasty’s reign. The Zhou has a whole had a very large military, and was a force to be reckoned with. They expanded to the Yangtze River and utilized it capabilities to the best of their ability. The Zhou also went through many rulers during the middle of their existence where there were so many different upheavals. All these changes in ruling started to split the Zhou up into regional/feudal states, and because everyone wanted to be the top dog, people started having some tension between one another. Eventually, that tension would escalate far enough to initiate a full out war between all of these regions. This blood bath of a time period is historically known as “The Period of the Warring States” and would prove too much for the Zhou to come back from.

Zhou Mandate of Heaven

One of the early, main themes in ancient China is the Mandate of Heaven. It started during the Zhou when rulers were claiming to be “Sons of Gods”. It was crucial for the Zhou leaders because it struck fear into people. Imagine being a peasant and being raised in a culture that says that the king is a god.  It’s interesting how these “gods” were rulers because there were feudal states.  Many different groups of people were following many different rulers, and that each of those leaders were considered a god. This is more than likely another reason as to why “The Period of the Warring States” was so complicated.

Zhou Iron Age

            The Zhou is very well-known because of it brought the Iron Age to China. It allowed the Zhou to have a sustainable economy while it was still hanging around. Their economy was based on agriculture, so it required many peasants and lots of work, which is convenient because they just so happen to have plenty of both during the Zhou. The important thing though is that with the coming of the Iron Age, which work was able to be done much faster and much better because of the stronger properties of iron compared to wood or iron tools. The other aspect of these new tools is that they can be used for militaristic purposes. While iron tools were handy for farming work, swords and iron armor were much more interesting to use. There’s a drastic change when going from lightweight leather armor. It gave the Zhou military a much needed improvement in their military force and strength. Also, because the regional states that the Zhou had, and because there was a significant amount of proliferation between many of them, the new technology gave these regions enough confidence to go at each other. Many argue that the Iron Age is what led to “The Period of the Warring States” since it created enough of an economic effect to fund a war between all the states and because of this boost of arrogance.

Zhou Language

The Zhou agreed on a standardized spoken language, which was considered a huge advancement in Chinese history. This spoken language was used throughout many Chinese dynasties, and is one of the most well known accomplishments of the Zhou Dynasty. This language is sometimes known as Old Chinese, or Archaic Chinese. Language helps hold a society together, and may be one contributing factor to the Zhou’s enduring rule. Because they spoke one, central language, it’s much easier for historians to discover and depict what happened during the Zhou Dynasty, and Dynasties to follow.

Confucian Social Hierarchy

The Zhou Dynasty ruled with a Confucian Social Hierarchy. Confucianism came to popularity during the Zhou Dynasty and the kings expected their citizens to follow the rules and values of Confucianism. The social structure of the Confucian beliefs starts with emperors above all, with scholars following at a close second, farmers before merchants, and merchants before slaves and women. This is atypical because a typical social hierarchy (TPS), begins with the emperor as well, but follows with merchants, then scholars and farmers, and again, slaves last. Maybe they were able to maintain a strong government for so long due to their unique social structure.

The Decline of the Zhou

Through all of their trials, tribulations, and wealth, they managed to last for 800+ years. However, all dynasties eventually come to an end, and the Zhou saw their end slowly. The Zhou Dynasty slowly diminished, because the power did not lie with the king, instead, the power was in the hands of the nobles. The conclusion of the Zhou Dynasty came about when an independent noble named Qin Shi Huang united China into the Qin Dynasty.

Zhou (Chou) Dynasty  (1076-221 BC)  (pronounced Jo)

Zhou (Chou) Dynasty  (1076-221 BC)  (pronounced Jo)


  • Regional feudal states similar to Shang
  • Ruled as coordinators rather than as a central govt.
  • military force determined strength of rulers
  • Conflict led to decline into the "Period of the Warring States" (403-221 B.C.).
  • Introduced Mandate of Heaven
  • Mandate of Heaven Principles:
  • right to rule is granted by Heaven.
  • only one Heaven so only one ruler in China.
  • right to rule depends on the virtue of the ruler.
    • Advantages: 
    • It gives the ruler supreme power politically and religiously
    • power kept in check by virtue.
    • The Mandate of Heaven justifies rebellion as long as the rebellion is successful.


  • Iron age
  • Iron was stronger and cheaper than bronze
  • weapons strengthened Zhou army
  • catapult used in China for first time
  • creation of China’s first cavalry
  • 90% of peasants lived on farms in family compounds
  • new iron tools increased harvest, food surpluses
  • which led to Population growth under Zhou
  • Silk was their most important product
  • New Roads, canals allowed better transportation, communication
  • Introduced coins, use of chopsticks
  • Cities grew in size


  • At the end of the Zhou (403 BC-221BC), China disintegrated into “the Warring States period” as Zhou leaders lost control and states fought each other
  • 100 Schools Movement tried to bring stability to China
  • Confucianism
  • Taoism
  • Legalism
  • All are philosophies of life and govt
  • Basic beliefs
  • Dualism – everything relates to everything else and works best when in balance (Yin/Yang)
  • Harmony, cooperation, submission to the larger group while allowing for individuality
  • Heaven controls life on Earth and life passes from parent to child.  Because each child receives life from its parents it makes sense that the child should “worship” his or her parents


  • Emperor in charge
  • Regional rulers and wealthy landowners
  • Farmers
  • Slaves
  • BUT,
  • Confucian ideals changed this social hierarchy near the end of the Zhou


  • Iron
  • Military improvements
  • Better infrastructure of roads, canals, bridges because of larger military


  • Bronze work for vases, cups, and other household items
  • Tombs decorated elaborately for wealthy



a series of rulers from the same family


nobles, or upper class people, whose wealth come from their land


written characters that stand for objects


two or more pictographs that are joined together to represent an idea


appointed officials who take care of different parts of the government


a formal command to rule or do something important

Huang He River

also, known as the Yellow River, flooded the land and deposited rich soil

“China’s Sorrow”

The Huang He River

Himalaya Mountains and Gobi Desert

made farming difficult, separated China from the rest of the world.


capital of the Shang Dynasty

The Shang Dynasty

First Dynasty in China

3 Groups of People in the Shang Dynasty

Shang Kings, Aristocrats, Farmers

Angry spirits

The Shang people believed that angry spirits would ruin crops and make the army lose battles.

Oracle Bones

used to get advice from gods and ancestors


The Shang people were best known for using this metal

Zhou Dynasty

Group of people that banned together to overthrow the cruel Shang rulers

Zhou Government

Kings and Bureaucrats

Mandate of Heaven

Heavenly law stating that gods chose the king based on his talents

Zhou Achievements

improved farm tools, developed irrigation and flood control systems.

Period of the Warring States

fighting between the Zhou territories

Fall of the Zhou Dynasty

this occurred when the leader of the Qin Territory used cavalry to defeat the Zhou Dynasty


soldiers on horseback


The idea that everyone had a duty


China’s first great thinker. Taught the ideas of Confucianism.


The belief that people should stop wanting worldly things and should follow nature.


Taught the ideas of Daoism.


The belief that strong laws, rulers, and punishments were the way to reach peace.


The teacher of Legalism.


Emperor of the Qin Dynasty; used harsh punishments for people who did not agree with him.


government officials in the Qin Dynasty.

The Great Wall of China

built during the Qin Dynasty to protect China from invaders.

Liu Bang

founded the Han Dynasty; born a peasant

Han Wudi

the greatest emperor during the Han Dynasty; gave tests to people looking for jobs.


During the Han Dynasty, many inventions were created

The Silk Road

network of trade routes spread across China.

Chinese Warlords

military leaders who ran the kingdoms during the Sui Dynasty.

General Wendi

Founded the Sui Dynasty


Wendi’s son who took over the Sui Dynasty and made life very hard for the Chinese people.

The Grand Canal

man made waterway that connected the two largest rivers in China.


emperor of the Tang Dynasty, brought back tests for hire

Empress Wu

the only female to be emperor. Ruled during the Tang Dynasty

wood blocking

Discovered during the Tang Dynasty, was a new way to print books.


emperor of the Song Dynasty


Religion practiced during the Tang and Song Dynasties

The Golden Age

took place during the Tang and Song Dynasties. A period of great wealth and spread of culture

Tang Poetry

wrote about nature

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