Historical background during the springs and autumns period

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores the political and social order of the aristocratic Springs and Autumns period. It analyzes the formation of the multistate system in the wake of the weakening of the Zhou dynasty, this system’s functioning, and the eventual collapse of the attempts to ensure viable multistate order. The chapter shows that aggravating political fragmentation notwithstanding, the aristocratic elites throughout the Zhou realm maintained considerable cultural unity. Even the elites of alien political entities, such as Wu and Yue, became increasingly absorbed into the broad framework of the Zhou culture, contributing therewith to the expansion of the Zhou realm and the softening of Sino-alien dichotomy. The second part of the chapter focuses on domestic life of the component polities of the Zhou world. Particular attention is given to the power of hereditary aristocrats (specifically, the ministerial lineages) and to political activism of the lower stratum of “capital-dwellers, " who emerged as major beneficiaries of the ongoing struggles between the rulers and their chief ministers.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Early China
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780199328369
StatePublished - 10 Nov 2020


  • Aristocracy
  • Barbarians
  • City-states
  • Commoners
  • Covenants
  • Hegemony
  • Identity
  • Inter-state relations
  • Ministers
  • Rulers

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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