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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2014

8 - Hegemons and warriors: social transformation of the Spring and Autumn period (770–481 BC)

Summary

Historical events that happened in the three centuries following the collapse of the Western Zhou state in 771 BC are chronicled in the Spring and Autumn Annals (and further detailed in the Zuo Commentary) which gave the period its epic name. Whether Confucius’ authorship of the book was true or false, he lived towards the end of the period, and indeed died only three years after the annals ended in 481 BC. He reflected upon the Western Zhou and before as the cultural past for his time. Therefore, the transition from the Western Zhou (1045–771 BC) to the Spring and Autumn period (770–481 BC) in which Confucius lived represented the fine line dividing “antiquity” and “post-antiquity” in the intellectual conceptualization of China’s past in Early China. The changes that occurred across this line were wide-ranging and fundamental, and, when taken together, had the consequences of totally reshaping the Yellow River society for a new era of great empires to come.

While previous scholarship has offered a valuable basis for analyzing these changes in different scholarly domains, the logical order in which the changes took place and the complex relationships between them have not been fully understood. This was due largely to the inaccurate understanding of the political and social systems of the late Western Zhou period as the starting point for all subsequent changes that took place in the Spring and Autumn period. Based on new knowledge acquired about the Western Zhou state in recent scholarship, discussed in Chapters 6 and 7, we can now reassess these changes and logically explain the origin of the social transition of the Spring and Autumn period.

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Selected Reading
Hsu, Cho-yun, Ancient China in Transition: An Analysis of Social Mobility, 722–222 BC (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965).
Hsu, Cho-yun, “The Spring and Autumn Period,” in Loewe, Michael and Shaughnessy, Edward L. (eds.), The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) pp. 570–576.
Creel, Herrlee, “The Beginning of Bureaucracy in China: The Origins of the Hsien,” Journal of Asian Studies 22 (1964), 155–183.
Blakeley, Barry B., “Regional Aspects of Chinese Socio-Political Development in the Spring and Autumn Period (722–464 B.C.): Clan Power in a Segmentary State” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1970).
Weld, Susan Roosevelt, “Covenant in Jin’s Walled Cities: The Discoveries at Houma and Wenxian” (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1990).
McNeal, Robin, “Acquiring People: Social Organization, Mobilization, and Discourse on the Civil and the Martial in Ancient China” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, 2000).
Feng, Li, Landscape and Power in Early China: The Crisis and Fall of the Western Zhou, 1045–771 BC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), Chapter 6.
von Falkenhausen, Lothar, Chinese Society in the Age of Confucius (1000–250 BC): The Archaeological Evidence (Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, 2006).
Loewe, Michael, Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1993), pp. 67–76
VictoriaHui, ’s discussion in War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 55–64
Hsu, Cho-yun, “The Spring and Autumn Period,” in Loewe, Michael and Shaughnessy, Edward L., (eds.), The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 556–557
Feng, Li, “Transmitting Antiquity: The Origin and Paradigmization of the ‘Five Ranks’,” in Kuhn, D. (ed.) Perceptions of Antiquity in China’s Civilization (Heidelberg: Edition Forum, 2008) pp. 103–134
Creel, Herrlee, “The Beginning of Bureaucracy in China: The Origins of the Hsien,” Journal of Asian Studies 22 (1964), 155–183
Hsu, Cho-yun, Ancient China in Transition: An Analysis of Social Mobility, 722–222 BC (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965), pp. 25–39
Blakeley, Barry B., Functional Disparities in the Socio-Political Traditions of Spring and Autumn China (Leiden: Brill, 1980), pp. 107–113
McNeal, Robin “Acquiring People: Social Organization, Mobilization, and Discourse on the Civil and Martial in Ancient China” (Ph.D. dissertation: University of Washington, 2000), pp. 78–107
Weld, Susan Roosevelt, “Covenant in Jin’s Walled Cities: The Discoveries at Houma and Wenxian” (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1990), pp. 401–405
Pines, Yuri, Envisioning Eternal Empire: Chinese Political Thought of the Warring States Era (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009), pp. 115–135
Skosey, Laura, The Legal System and Legal Tradition of the Western Zhou (ca. 1045–771 BCE) (Chicago: Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, 1996), pp. 284–287
Williams, Crispin, “Dating the Houma Covenant Texts: The Significance of Recent Findings from the Wenxian Covenant Texts,” Early China 35 (2012)
Průšek, Jaroslav, Chinese Statelets and the Northern Barbarians in the Period 1400–300 B.C. (New York: Humanities Press, 1971), pp. 70–87, 119–149
von Falkenhausen, Lothar, Chinese Society in the Age of Confucius (1000–250 BC): The Archaeological Evidence (Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, 2006), 224–233
Feng, Li, Landscape and Power in Early China: The Crisis and Fall of the Western Zhou, 1045–771 BC (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 279–296