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Yo Zhou. The Chinese saw their country as the center of the civilized world , their own name for China was the Middle Kingdom . They believed that people who lived outside of Chinese civilization were barbarians . .

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The Chinese saw their country as the center of the civilized world, their own name for China was the Middle Kingdom.They believed that people who lived outside of Chinese civilization were barbarians.
About 1207 B.C., a new group, theZhou (JOH) Dynasty, took control of China. They adopted the Shang culture. They also started an idea of royalty that was new to China.
Good rulers, they said, got authority to rule from the gods. This was known as the Mandate of Heaven. They claimed the Shang rulers were not just and had lost favor with the gods. That is why they had been replaced.
From then on the Chinese believed in divine rule.However, it also meant that disasters such as floods or war pointed to a ruler who had lost the support of the gods and needed to be replaced.

Until the early 1900’s AD, the Chinesehad one dynasty after another. This pattern of rise, fall, and replacement of dynasties is known as the dynastic cycle.

primary source duke of shao quoted in the chinese heritage
Primary Source: Duke of Shao, quoted in The Chinese Heritage
  • Heaven, unpitying, has sent down ruin on Yin [another name for Shang]. Yin has lost the Mandate, and we Zhou have received it. I dare not say that our fortune would continue to prosper, even though I believe that heaven favors those who are sincere in their intentions. I dare not say, either that it would end in certain disaster. . . . The Mandate of Heaven is not easy to gain. It will be lost when men fail to live up to the reverent and illustrious virtues of their forefathers.

The Zhou Dynasty controlled lands that stretched far beyond the Huang He in the north to the Chang Jiang in the south. To govern this vast area, it gave control over different regions to members of the royal family and other trusted nobles.


This established a system called feudalism. Feudalismis a political system in which nobles, or lords, are granted the use of lands that legally belong to the king. In return, the nobles owe loyalty and military service to the king and protection to the people who live on their estates.


As large cities grew, the Zhoubuilt roads and canals to supply them. These in turn stimulated trade and agriculture. The Zhou also introduced coined money, which further improved trade.

  • To run the daily operations of the cities, a new class of civil servants, or government administrative workers, emerged.
The majortechnological advancement was the use of iron. The Zhoudeveloped blast furnaces that allowed them to produce cast iron. This skill would not be matched in Europe until the Middle Ages.
The Zhou used iron to create weapons, especially dagger-axes and swords. They also used it for common agricultural tools such as sickles, knives, and spades. Since iron is stronger than bronze, iron tools made farm work easier and more productive. The ability to grow more food helped Zhou farmers support thriving cities.
Eventually the Zhou rulers lost all power. The Nobles fought each other for control of China in a period called the “time of the warring states”.

It lasted for hundreds of years. The Chinese suffered during these times. In this time of bloodshed, traditional values collapsed. At the very heart of Chinese civilization was a love of order, harmony, and respect for authority. Now there was chaos, arrogance, and defiance.


1. What rivers helped sustain these four civilizations?

  • 2. Where was the Indus Valley?
  • 3. Why might civilizations develop where rivers empty into seas?
  • 4. Why might it be reasonable to infer that these civilizations developed independently of each other?