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China: Eastern Zhou dynasty (771-221 BC)

The long period during which the Zhou nominally ruled China (around 1050-221 BC) is divided into two periods: the Western Zhou (around 1050-771 BC), from the conquest of the Shang dynasty to the removal of the capital from Xi'an to Luoyang, and the Eastern Zhou (771-221 BC), during which China was subdivided into many small states. The Eastern Zhou period is further divided into two: the Spring and Autumn period (770-475 BC) and the Warring States (475-221 BC). The names are taken from contemporary historical documents which describe the two periods.

When Xi'an was conquered, the Zhou established their capital at Luoyang. From this time, they no longer controlled their territory as undisputed kings, but ruled alongside a number of equally or more powerful rulers. The Jin state dominated in central and northern China, and the Chu controlled the south for much of the period. Different states dominated at different times, swallowing up territory and later ceding it to others. This era of co-existent kingdoms ended with the unification of China by Qin Shi Huangdi (first emperor of the short-lived Qin dynasty, 221-206 BC).

Despite its many conflicts, the Zhou period was a time of great economic expansion and development. Agriculture benefited from the use of iron tools. Cities developed rapidly in size and number, as did trade between them. Economic expansion led to political struggles, the growth of armies and courtly display.

This was also a period of great intellectual activity and philosophical diversity. Confucius (about 551-479 BC), Mozi (flourished 479-438 BC) Zhuang Zhou (about 399-295 BC) and Mencius (about 371-289 BC), to name some of the most important, influenced Chinese philosophy and literature through the ages.

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