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Chou

(jō), dynasty of China, which ruled from c.1027 B.C. to 256 B.C. The pastoral Chou people migrated from the Wei valley NW of the Huang He c.1027 B.C. and overthrew the ShangShang
or Yin,
dynasty of China, which ruled, according to traditional dates, from c.1766 B.C. to c.1122 B.C. or, according to some modern scholars, from c.1523 B.C. to c.1027 B.C.
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 dynasty. The Chou built their capital near modern Xi'an in 1027 B.C. and moved it to Luoyang in 770 B.C. Initially the Chou dominated the N China plain between Manchuria and the Chang valley. By 800 B.C., however, the local lords had become strong enough to form separate states, especially in the north and at the mouth of the Chang. In later times the state of Ch'u controlled the middle Chang valley, and the border state of Ch'in grew in the northwest. In the 6th cent. B.C. the states of Wu and Yüeh became major power. An anarchic period (403–221 B.C.) of warring states followed, at the end of which the Chou gave up their remaining power to the emerging Ch'in dynasty. Despite political disorder, the later Chou era was the classical age of China (known as the period of the "hundred schools of thought"), when ConfuciusConfucius
, Chinese K'ung Ch'iu or K'ung Fu-tzu, Pinyin Kong Fuzi, c.551–479? B.C., Chinese sage. Positive evidence concerning the life of Confucius is scanty; modern scholars base their accounts largely on the Analects,
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, Mo-ti, Lao TzuLao Tzu
, fl. 6th cent. B.C., Chinese philosopher, reputedly the founder of Taoism. It is uncertain that Lao Tzu [Ch.,=old person or old philosopher] is historical. His biography in Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Records of the Historian (1st cent. B.C.
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, MenciusMencius
, Mandarin Meng-tzu, 371?–288? B.C., Chinese Confucian philosopher. The principal source for Mencius' life is his own writings. He was born in the ancient state of Ch'ao, in modern Shandong prov.
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, and Chuang-tzuChuang-tzu
or Chuang-tze
, c.369–c.286 B.C., Chinese Taoist writer. Little is known about his life. He was a native of the state of Meng, on the border of present-day Shandong and Henan provinces, and is said to have lived as a hermit.
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 lived, debated, and responded to the turmoil with creative ideas. In the second half of the dynasty, striking social and economic changes also took place. Iron implements were introduced from W and central Asia, the ox-drawn plow was first used, and large irrigation and water-control projects were instituted, resulting in increased crop yields in N China. Trade developed as cities grew in number and size and roads and canals were constructed. Chou society was sharply divided between the aristocratic warrior class and the peasant masses and domestic slaves. Writers of the anarchic period that followed it pictured the early Chou as an age of well-ordered beneficent feudalism, but this may merely reflect their own desire for political unity. Toward the end of the period, the rigid feudal class system was gradually weakened, the hereditary power of the aristocrats was minimized, and there was more social mobility.

Bibliography

See C.-Y. Hsu, Ancient China in Transition (1965); H. G. Creel, The Origins of Statecraft in China (Vol. 1, 1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Chou

 

a Chinese dynasty and a period in the history of ancient China (1027–256 B.C.; according to some sources, 1027–249 B.C.). The period is divided into the Western Chou period (1027–771 B.C.) and the Eastern Chou period (770 B.C. to 256 or 249 B.C).

The Chou Dynasty was founded by Wu Wang, leader of the Chou tribe, who in 1027 B.C defeated the early Shang state and united all the tribes and territories of North China. The country was governed through the allotment of fiefs, in which power was given to relatives, associates, and allies of the wang (monarch). The Chou aristocracy, which was supported by Chou warriors, constituted an alien element in a number of the fiefs that had been granted it, and therefore its rule resulted in both social and tribal oppression. The fiefs struggled against the central authority and fought among themselves. Consequently, some were gradually destroyed or weakened, and new kingdoms appeared, which became independent or semidependent states.

In the eighth century B.C, in the Ch’un Ch’iu, or Spring and Autumn, period, the authority of the Chou wangs weakened, and in the seventh and sixth centuries the rulers of the most powerful states by turns ruled the country as hegemon. During the Chan Kuo, or Warring States, period (fifth to third centuries), seven powerful kingdoms emerged and warred against one another for control over the country. The Chou Dynasty waned still further, ruling only the Chou family possessions, which were overrun by the Ch’in kingdom between 256 and 249.

The introduction of iron in the sixth century led to a dramatic upsurge of productive forces and an improvement in tillage. The Chou period was marked by the formation of several philosophic schools, including Confucianism, Taoism, and Fachia (the Legist school), and the development of literature, the visual arts, and music.

REFERENCES

Istoriia Kitaia s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei. Moscow, 1974.
Vasil’ev, L. S. Agrarnye otnosheniia i obshchina v drevnem Kitai (XI–VII vv. do n. e.). Moscow, 1961.
Fan Wen-Ian. Drevniaia istoriia Kitaia. Moscow, 1958. (Translated from Chinese.)

L. S. VASIL’EV and L. I. DUMAN

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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