The Zhou Dynastyby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Describe how the Zhou Dynasty came into power, their contributions, and the effect that they had on the successive power.
This essay will explore the topic of the Zhou dynasty. It is the second dynasty of China and began its nine hundred and one year reign when it overthrew the Shang dynasty. This essay will explore the Zhou dynasty by discussing the overthrow of the Shang dynasty, what their contributions were, the effect that the Zhou dynasty's accomplishments had on the following dynasties, Ch'in and Tang, and the Christian perspective on the Zhou dynasty.
The Zhou dynasty (1122-221 BC) was a semi-nomadic clan and first came into power when it overthrew the Shang dynasty in 1122 B.C. The Zhou dynasty, whose god was Heaven, started to initiate a new belief system by crediting their successful overthrow of the Shang dynasty to the fact that it was a "mandate of Heaven" and that the Shang dynasty had become immoral, thus bringing upon themselves the anger of Heaven. The Zhou kings were also called the "Sons of Heaven" and the Chinese empire was dubbed the "Celestial Empire". This shift in power from one dynasty to the next was based on the "mandate of Heaven."
The Zhou's reign, which is a little over nine centuries, was littered with achievements. This reign is broken up into the Western and the Eastern representing the early reign and the later reign. During these nine hundred years, this dynasty implemented many new changes in the traditional religion from the previous dynasty, Shang. For instance, human sacrifice at burial became extremely limited and divination changed its techniques.
One of the major contributions the Zhou dynasty made for religion was the introduction of the ideas of a Chinese philosopher, Confucius. He started Confucianism, which was more of a guide to morality than a religion since it did not have a god or a perspective on a life after death. Confucianism emphasizes sincerity in one's personal and public duty. Confucianism teaches men to be gentlemen-- men of good moral character, who are respected by their fathers and their ruler. A gentleman also must study continuously and practice self-examination. Confucianism also emphasizes the "Golden Rule" which states: " What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others." 1 This must also be followed by a gentleman. This kind of person would inspire those, he is superior to, to the same conduct.
In addition to religion, the Zhou dynasty also contributed many economic and beaucratic achievements. The Zhou dynasty had a feudal government very similar to the European feudal government, with the lords being vassals to the Zhou king. Agricultural techniques were also advanced causing agricultural food products to be the main food source for the Chinese. The Zhou dynasty implemented field grid patterns, which promoted efficient use of the land and systematic irrigation allowing fields to be properly watered. Fertilization became common, as did crop rotation, which is allowing a field to lie fallow so that it can restore its lost nutrients. Animal-drawn plows and farm tools were advanced by producing these using iron which made plowing and cultivating more effective. These advances initiated a huge agricultural expansion, to the point where there was practically no more room for grazing animals. Hunting also turned from being a necessity to being a sport, as it was not needed as much due to the increases in agriculture.
With the discovery of many iron deposits throughout China, iron technology also increased significantly. This technology became so well-developed that the Chinese knew how to produce cast iron a full millennium before the same technique of producing cast iron was discovered in Europe. The Zhou cities also developed and became administrative and religious centers where it was also possible to find skilled craftsman. Public amusements were held, as well, in the city.
The Zhou dynasty contributed much for literature. It was one of the first dynasties to start collecting books including some famous works such as Chou-li (meaning Chou Rituals), which is a description of how the early Chou government was organized and the conduct of a gentleman. Another famous work is the Book of Documents, which is a history of the Chou dynasty.
The resulting effect that these achievements had on the Ch'in dynasty was that the Ch'ins were did not build on these achievements. It abolished feudalism and promoted a centralized government. It was able to use the agricultural techniques efficiently. However, the first notorious ruler of the Ch'in dynasty had harsh laws and did not tolerate criticism. He only allowed knowledge that was taught by the government, executed many scholars by burying them alive, and he burnt many books, except the ones that were "important" such as those discussing the topic of agriculture. He did not tolerate any criticism and tried to stop any potential threat to his government. He did this by even trying to attack the concept of family. This was done by implementing a tax on those families that had more than one mature son. He also tried to break families apart by bringing persons that were not related by blood into a group or a "family".
A dynasty that did build on the achievements of the Zhou dynasty was the Tang. The Tang built upon the Zhou's accomplishments by having huge cities that were the center of administration, religion, and trade. In addition, during the Tang dynasty, paper was invented as well as the book printing. This invention of book printing also encouraged literacy and helped to increase the Tang renaissance "which reached its highest expression in poetry." 1
A Christian perspective on the Zhou dynasty is that they were excellent since they were able to excel in being efficient with their land and water resources. They also were able to develop their God-given resources. However, they were not a Christian dynasty. They believed Heaven was their god, which is wrong from a Biblical perspective "Do no worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:17, NIV). Although the Zhou dynasty was able to achieve great things, they were unable to fully discover the one true God.
This essay has discussed the Zhou dynasty and has done this by discussing the overthrow of the Shang dynasty, what their following dynasties, Ch'in and Tang, and the Christian perspective on the Zhou dynasty.
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