China: Western Zhou dynasty (1050-771 BC)

The Zhou nominally ruled China for a long period, around 1050 BC to 221 BC, which is divided in two: the Western Zhou (around 1050-771 BC) - from the conquest of the Shang 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 Zhou were among a group of western peoples who were sometimes allies and sometimes enemies of the Shang dynasty (around 1650-1050 BC). In about 1050 BC, the Zhou were strong enough to conquer the Shang and took control over their territories. While the Zhou shared a number of traditions with the Shang, such as oracle bone divination and bronze casting, their roots lay in western China, outside the orbit of the Shang dynasty. They maintained links with peoples on the northern borders and in the south-west, which can be traced through the types of ceramics and bronzes they used.

The Zhou capital was established at (present-day) Xi'an, but further west was another stronghold and ritual centre. Control over central and northern China was maintained by assigning large territories to relatives of the kings. Under the first kings, Wu, Cheng and Kang, Zhou rule was consolidated. Under King Zhao and King Mu, the kingdom was threatened by various groups, and a number of battles are recorded. The names of the kings and their exploits are known from the Shiji ('Records of the Historian'), completed by Sima Qian in around 90 BC.

The Western Zhou period ended when the Quanrong people conquered Xi'an, and the Zhou moved their capital to Luoyang.

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