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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: December 2011

2 - The Warring States Period


A villager from Daxiang remarked sarcastically, “How great is Confucius! He is so broadly learned, and yet has failed to make a name for himself in any particular endeavor.”

When the Master was told of this, he said to his disciples, “What art, then, should I take up? Charioteering? Archery? I think I shall take up charioteering.”

The Analects

Spring and Autumn period aristocrats were organized into kinship lineages focused on ancestral temples. Warfare was part of the service to these temples, a way in which an individual could win glory for himself and his lineage. Indeed, the jealous and violent defense of one’s honor, and that of one’s lineage, was a cultural tie that bound the aristocracy together and separated them from the commoners. Lineages existed apart from the putative political authorities, and all aristocrats shared a similar status, making the organization of power within the aristocracy flatter culturally than would be found in the more hierarchical political structure. As the Spring and Autumn period wore on, however, the incessant warfare, feuds, and vendettas among the aristocracy began to destroy it. The old political order crumbled to be replaced by a new, more hierarchical system in the Warring States period.