West Zhou Dynasty

Last updated by erinschneider at 2014/10/18

The Zhou Dynasty was the longest lasting dynasty in Chinese history. In the early times of the previous dynasty known as the Shang Dynasty, Zhou grew stronger and stronger in what is today’s Binxian County of Shanxi Province. When Ji and later Ji Yijiu took the governance, the area enjoyed prosperity. Soon the Shang Empire was overthrown in the Muye War and the Zhou Dynasty, later called West Zhou, was founded.

West Zhou had its own ruling and power system. There were three dukes called the Grand Preceptor, the Grand Mentor and the Grand Guardian who supported the emperor. The Taizai, the Chief of Counselor, was in charge of specific affairs.

Zhougong, or the Duke of Zhou, acquired the task of consolidating the dynasty's power. He created official positions, such as the Minister of Education, the Commander-in-Chief and the Grand Minister of Works.  Most officials were nobles and followed the hereditary system of official positions and franchise. There was a regulation set which said, "Never salute to the common people and never inflict physical punishment on the Censor-in-Chief." This statement clearly reflected the system of social ranks during this time.

In the late West Zhou Dynasty, social contradictions, especially the conflicts within the ruling empire, grew more and more intense. Powerful nobles ruled more than kings and arguments over land and power accelerated the decline of the empire. National revolts deeply wakened the ruling foundation of the dynasty and in 771 BC, the emperor  was killed by Quan Rong, symbolizing the end of West Zhou Dynasty.

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