Rise of the Zhou • Their most powerful vassals were relatives or loyal allies who controlled other relatives under them in the hierarchy. • Formal oaths of allegiance and regularized fief-granting procedures transformed the Shang vassal system into a more genuinely feudal order.
Vassals • Zhou vassals lived away from the capitals in walled garrison towns laid out on a grid pattern. • Zhou rulers granted fiefs in return for loyalty and military service. • The system worked under strong rulers, but weakness at the royal center facilitated rebellion.
The Mandate of Heaven • The continuance of the feudal system was undermined by two developments. • The first was the elaboration of the concept of the Mandate of Heaven. • King Wu, when the Shang were conquered, claimed that Shang had lost the Mandate of Heaven.
Loss of the Mandate of Heaven • This appeal to a supernatural source of authority enhanced the capacity of rulers to become absolutist, authoritarian, kings. • If rulers failed to govern effectively, they might lose the mandate, making it legitimate for subjects to rebel and replace the dynasty.
Rise of the Shi • The second development weakening feudalism was the emergence of a professional bureaucracy that provided an alternative to the use of military vassals. • They were educated men, known as Shi, who kept records, ran departments, and organized rituals. • They were supported by land grants or regular salaries. • By the middle of the 8th century b.c.e., some of the Shi gained considerable influence with rulers and powerful vassals.
Chinese Lifestyle Under Zhou Dynasty • During the early dynasty the Zhou conquerors lived separately from the subjugated indigenous people in the twin capitals of Xian and Loyang. • Servants, artisans, and slaves lived in or near the garrisons. • The great majority of the population, peasants, producing millet, wheat, and rice, lived and worked in villages.
The End of the Early or Western Zhou • The Zhou were in decline by the 8th century b.c.e. • Vassals defeated and killed the ruler in 771 b.c.e. • The state broke apart, and Xian was abandoned. • For the next five centuries, a less powerful Zhou dynasty ruled from Loyang over a continually shrinking domain.
Period of Chaos • Several competing kingdoms emerged during the long period of chaos and societal suffering. • The chaos and suffering prompted a reaction among the Shi that altered the course of Chinese civilization.
Oppression of the Shi and peasants • The continuing disorder marking the decline of the Zhou dynasty prompted debate over appropriate remedies. • Widespread warfare awarded societal value to military skills and depressed the worth of the Shi. • Aristocratic power grew while the Shi fell to minor occupations.
Political and social ills • Rituals and court etiquette were replaced by rough nomadic manners. • Warfare consumed state resources and public works, including dikes and canals, were ruined. • Peasants were taxed heavily and conscripted into the military.
The Merchant Class • The need for military materials stimulated commerce, helping the growth of a prosperous merchant class with an important role in society. • By the end of the Zhou period, China supported larger urban centers than any other contemporary civilization.
Restoration of the shi • By the 5th century b.c.e., thinkers, including Confucius, sought ways to create a stable society and political structure. • Confucius, a member of a poor Shi family, became a traveling teacher whose political and philosophical ideas attracted followers.
Confucius • He was a social philosopher concerned with the need to reestablish order and harmony in China; • he thought that achieving order depended upon rulers accepting the advice of superior men—women were excluded—who were awarded power because of their moral excellence. • Such men, recruited from the Shi, would gain wisdom through education and, in principle, could be from any social class.
The confucian gentleman • Confucius thought that the superior man defended his decisions against all opposition. • Rulers should receive deference, but the Shi should criticize them for neglecting their subjects’ welfare. • The Shi gentleman was a generalist equally accomplished in public and private aspects of life. • With such men, said Confucius, China would be peaceful, its social struggles over.
Heirs of confucius • The most important division among Confucius’s disciples was between Mencius and Sunzi. • Mencius believed that humans were good by nature and that government should develop that goodness. • He stressed that the consent of the common people was the basis of political power, and that they had the right to overthrow oppressive rulers
SEEDS OF LEGALISM • Sunzi thought that humans by nature were lazy and evil, thus requiring a strong and authoritarian government. • Education could improve people, he thought, but he rejected the idea that government was based on their consent. • The later Legalist school of thought embraced his views.
Daoist alternatives • The philosopher Laozi offered an alternative to Confucianism. • Although he urged rulers to cultivate patience, selflessness, and concern for the welfare of all creatures, Laozi thought that a strong state and absolute ethical prescriptions were not significant in solving human suffering.
Daoist retreat • Laozi instead advocated a retreat from society into nature where individuals could attune with the Dao, or cosmic force. • Some of his followers, particularly among the Shi, followed Laozi’s stress on meditation. • Others mixed his ideas with magic and eroticism and sought immortality.