Spring and Autumn period

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This article is about a period in Chinese history. For the seasons, see spring and autumn respectively.
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The Spring and Autumn period (simplified Chinese: 春秋时代; traditional Chinese: 春秋時代; pinyin: Chūnqiū Shídài) was a period in Chinese history from approximately 771 to 476 BC (or by some authorities until 403 BC[1]).[2] which corresponds roughly to the first half of the Eastern Zhou dynasty. The period's name is derived from the Spring and Autumn Annals, a chronicle of the state of Lu between 722 and 479 BC, which tradition associates with Confucius. The period can also be further divided into three sub-periods:[3][4]

  • Age of regional cultures (Early): 771 BC–643 BC, up to the death of Duke Huan of Qi.
  • Age of encroachments (Middle): 643 BC–546 BC, up to the peace conference between the states of Jin and Chu.
  • Age of reforms (Late): 546 BC–403 BC, up to the partition of Jin.

During the Spring and Autumn period, China's feudal system of fēngjiàn became largely irrelevant. The Zhou dynasty kings held nominal power, but had real control over only a small royal demesne centered on their capital Luoyi[5] near modern-day Luoyang. During the early part of the Zhou dynasty period, royal relatives and generals had been given control over fiefdoms in an effort to maintain Zhou authority over vast territory.[6] As the power of the Zhou kings waned, these fiefdoms became increasingly independent states.

The most important feudal princes (known later as the twelve vassals) met during regular conferences where important matters, such as military expeditions against foreign groups or offending nobles, were decided. During these conferences, one vassal leader was sometimes declared hegemon (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; later, Chinese: ; pinyin: ) and given leadership over the armies of all Zhou states.

As the era unfolded, larger and more powerful states annexed or claimed suzerainty over smaller ones. By the 6th century BC, most small states had disappeared and only a few large and powerful principalities dominated China. Some southern states, such as Chu and Wu, claimed independence from the Zhou. Wars were undertaken to oppose some of these states (Wu and Yue).

Amid the interstate power struggles, internal conflict was also rife: six elite landholding families waged war on each other in Jin; the Chen family was eliminating political enemies in Qi; and legitimacy of the rulers was often challenged in civil wars by various royal family members in Qin and Chu. Once all these powerful rulers had firmly established themselves within their respective dominions, the bloodshed focused more fully on interstate conflict in the Warring States period, which began in 403 BC when the three remaining elite families in Jin – Zhao, Wei and Han – partitioned the state.

Beginning of the Eastern Zhou dynasty[edit]

After the Zhou capital was sacked by the Marquess of Shen and the Quanrong barbarians, the Zhou moved the capital east from the now desolated Zongzhou in Haojing near modern Xi'an to Chengzhou in the Yellow River Valley. The Zhou royalty was then closer to its main supporters,[7] particularly Jin, and Zheng;[8][9] the Zhou royal family had much weaker authority and relied on lords from these vassal states for protection, especially during their flight to the eastern capital. In Chengzhou, Prince Yijiu was crowned by his supporters as King Ping.[9] However, with the Zhou domain greatly reduced to Chengzhou and nearby areas, the court could no longer support the six army groups it had in the past; Zhou kings had to request help from powerful vassal states for protection from raids and for resolution of internal power struggles. The Zhou court would never regain its original authority; instead, it was relegated to being merely a figurehead of the feudal states. Though the king de jure retained the Mandate of Heaven, the title held little actual power.

With the decline of Zhou power, the Yellow River drainage basin was divided into hundreds of small, autonomous states, most of them consisting of a single city, though a handful of multi-city states, particularly those on the periphery, had power and opportunity to expand outward.[10] A total of 148 states are mentioned in the chronicles for this period, 128 of which were absorbed by the four largest states by the end of the period.[11]

While the Zheng rulers initially supported the Zhou royalty, relations soured enough that Duke Zhuang of Zheng (757–701 BC) raided Zhou territory in 707 BC, defeating King Huan's army in battle and injuring the king himself;[11][12] the display of Zheng's martial strength was effective until succession problems after Zhuang's death weakened the state.[8]

Interstate relations[edit]

Late Spring and Autumn period, 5th century BC, before the breakup of Jin and the Qin move into Sichuan. The Wei on this map is Wey, not the other Wei that arose from the Partition of Jin

Shortly after the royal family's move to Chengzhou, a hierarchical alliance system arose where the Zhou king would give the title of hegemon to the leader of the state with the most powerful military; the hegemon was obligated to protect both the weaker Zhou states and the Zhou royalty from the intruding non-Zhou peoples:[13][14] the Northern Di, the Southern Man, the Eastern Yi, and the Western Rong. This political framework retained the fēngjiàn power structure, though interstate and intrastate conflict often led to disregard for feudal customs, respect for the Ji family, and solidarity with other Zhou peoples.[15] The king's prestige legitimized the military leaders of the states, and helped mobilize collective defense of Zhou territory against "barbarians."[16]

Over the next two centuries, the four most powerful states—Qin, Jin, Qi and Chu—struggled for power. These multi-city states often used the pretext of aid and protection to intervene and gain suzerainty over the smaller states. During this rapid expansion,[11] interstate relations alternated between low-level warfare and complex diplomacy.[17]

Ancient sources such as the Zuo Zhuan and the eponymous Chunqiu record the various diplomatic activities, such as court visits paid by one ruler to another (Chinese: ; pinyin: cháo), meetings of officials or nobles of different states (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: huì), missions of friendly inquiries sent by the ruler of one state to another (Chinese: ; pinyin: pìn), emissaries sent from one state to another (Chinese: 使; pinyin: shǐ), and hunting parties attended by representatives of different states (Chinese: ; pinyin: shou).

Because of Chu's non-Zhou origin, the state was considered semi-barbarian and its rulers – beginning with King Wu in 704 BC – proclaimed themselves kings in their own right. Chu intrusion into Zhou territory was checked several times by the other states, particularly in the major battles of Chengpu (632 BC), Bi (595 BC) and Yanling (575 BC), which restored the states of Chen and Cai.

The first hegemon was Duke Huan of Qi (r. 685-643 BC). With the help of his minister, Guan Zhong, Duke Huan reformed Qi to centralize its power structure. The state consisted of 15 "townships" with the duke and two senior ministers each in charge of five; military functions were also united with civil ones. These and related reforms provided the state, already powerful from control of trade crossroads, with a greater ability to mobilize resources than the more loosely organized states.[18]

By 667 BC, Qi had clearly shown its economic and military predominance, and Duke Huan assembled the leaders of Lu, Song, Chen, and Zheng, who elected him as their leader. Soon after, King Hui of Zhou conferred the title of (hegemon), giving Duke Huan royal authority in military ventures.[19][20] An important basis for justifying Qi's dominance over the other states was presented in the slogan 'supporting the king, and expelling the barbarians' (尊王攘夷 zun wang rang yi); the role of subsequent hegemons would also be framed in this way, as the primary defender and supporter of nominal Zhou authority and the existing order. Using this authority, Duke Huan intervened in a power struggle in Lu; protected Yan from encroaching Western Rong nomads (664 BC); drove off Northern Di nomads after they'd invaded Wey (660 BC) and Xing (659 BC), providing the people with provisions and protective garrison units; and led an alliance of eight states to conquer Cai and thereby block the northward expansion of Chu (656 BC).[21]

Urbanization during the Spring and Autumn period.

At his death in 643 BC, five of Duke Huan's sons contended for the throne, badly weakening the state so that it was no longer regarded as the hegemon. For nearly ten years, no ruler held the title.[22] However, when Duke Wen of Jin (r. 636–628 BC) came to power, he capitalized on the reforms of his father, Duke Xian (r. 676–651 BC), who had centralized the state, killed off relatives who might threaten his authority, conquered sixteen smaller states, and even absorbed some Rong and Di peoples to make Jin much more powerful than it had been previously.[23] When he assisted King Xiang in a succession struggle in 635 BC, Xiang awarded Jin with strategically valuable territory near Chengzhou.

Duke Wen of Jin then used his growing power to coordinate a military response with Qi, Qin, and Song against Chu, which had begun encroaching northward after the death of Duke Huán of Qi. With a decisive Chu loss at the Battle of Chengpu (632 BC), Duke Wen's loyalty to the Zhou king was rewarded at an interstate conference when King Xīang awarded him the title of .[22]

Changing tempo of war[edit]

Chinese pu vessel with interlaced dragon design, Spring and Autumn period.

After the death of Duke Wen in 628 BC, a growing tension manifested in interstate violence that turned smaller states, particularly those at the border between Jin and Chu, into sites of constant warfare; Qi and Qin also engaged in numerous interstate skirmishes with Jin or its allies to boost their own power.[24]

After a period of increasingly exhausting warfare, Qi, Qin, Jin and Chu met at a disarmament conference in 579 BC and agreed to declare a truce to limit their military strength.[25] This peace didn't last very long and it soon became apparent that the role had become outdated; the four major states had each acquired their own spheres of control and the notion of protecting Zhou territory had become less cogent as the control over (and the resulting cultural assimilation of) non-Zhou peoples, as well as Chu's control of some Zhou areas, further blurred an already vague distinction between Zhou and non-Zhou.[26] In addition, new aristocratic houses were founded with loyalties to powerful states, rather than directly to the Zhou kings, though this process slowed down by the end of the seventh century BC, possibly because territory available for expansion had been largely exhausted.[26] The Zhou kings had also lost much of their prestige[27] so that, when Duke Dao of Jin (r. 572–558 BC) was recognized as , it carried much less meaning than it had before.

At the same time, internal conflicts between state leaders and local aristocrats occurred throughout the region. Eventually the dukes of Lu, Jin, Zheng, Wey and Qi became figureheads to powerful aristocratic families.[27]

Rise of Wu and Yue[edit]

While the conflict between Jin and Chu for the Central Plains gradually eased, two states in southeastern China with initially tenuous links to the Zhou realm - Wu in modern-day Jiangsu and Yue in modern-day Zhejiang - grew in power as they gained relevance in interstate affairs.[16][28] Starting around 583 BC, Jin used aid to solidify an alliance with Wu, which then acted as a counterweight to Chu so that, while Jin and Chu agreed to a truce in 546 BC to address wars over smaller states, Wu maintained constant military pressure on Chu and even launched a devastating full-scale invasion in 506 BC.[28]

After King Helü of Wu died during an invasion of Yue in 496 BC, his son, King Fuchai of Wu nearly destroyed the Yue state, imprisoning King Goujian of Yue. Subsequently, Fuchai defeated Qi and extended Wu influence into central China. In 482 BC, King Fuchai held an interstate conference to solidify his power base, but Yue captured the Wu capital. Fuchai rushed back but was besieged and died when the city fell in 473 BC. Yue then concentrated on weaker neighbouring states, rather than the great powers to the north.[29]

Partition of Jin[edit]

Main article: Partition of Jin

After the great age of Jin power, the Jin dukes began to lose authority over their nobles. A full-scale civil war between 497 and 453 BC ended with the elimination of most noble lines; the remaining aristocratic families divided Jin into three successor states: Han, Wei, and Zhao.[29]

With the absorption of most of the smaller states in the era, this partitioning left seven major states in the Zhou world: the three fragments of Jin, the three remaining great powers of Qin, Chu and Qi, and the weaker state of Yan near modern Beijing. The partition of Jin, along with the Usurpation of Qi by Tian, marks the beginning of the Warring States period.

List of states[edit]

A total of 148 states are mentioned in the chronicles for this period.[11]

Name Chinese
(Trad./Simp.)
Capital (s) Established Dissolved
Yíchéng (夷城)
Píngdū (平都)
Zhǐ (枳)
Jīangzhōu (江州)
Diànjīang (垫江)
Lánzhōng (閬中/阆中)
unknown 316 BC
Cài Shàngcài (上蔡)
Xīncài (新蔡)
Xiàcài (下蔡)
Before 1043 BC 447 BC
Cáo Táoqiū (陶丘) Before 1043 BC 487 BC
Chén 陳 / 陈 Wǎnqiū (宛丘) c. 1046 BC 479 BC
Chéng (Western Zhou Period 1066 – 770 BC) In the vicinity of the Zhou capital Haojing
郕 (Chéng), Shandong
c. 1100 BC unknown
Chǔ Dānyáng(丹陽/丹阳)c. 1030 – c. 680 BC
Yǐng (郢) c.680 – 278 BC
Chén (陳/陈) 278 – 241 BC
Shòuchūn (壽春/寿春) from 241 – 224 BC
c. 1030 BC 223 BC
Dào Dào (possibly north of modern day Quèshān County, Henan or south of Xī County, Henan) unknown unknown
Dèng 鄧 / 邓 Dèngzhōu, Henan Province or Xiāngyáng, Hubei Province c. 1200 BC 678 BC
Dōng Guó (Eastern Guo) 東虢 / 东虢 unknown 1046 BC 767 BC
È Xiangning County, Shanxi Province, Nanyang, Henan Province, Ezhou Hubei Province c. 1200 BC 863 BC
Guăn Guancheng Hui District, Zhengzhou 1046 BC 1040 BC
Huá Fèi (費 / 费) unknown 627 BC
紀 / 纪 Ji (紀/纪), located south of Shouguang, Shandong Province unknown 690 BC
Jìn 晉 / 晋 Táng (唐), renamed Jìnyáng (晉陽/晋阳)
Qǔwò (曲沃)
Jiàng (絳/绛) also known as Yì (翼)
Xīntián (新田), renamed Xīnjiàng (新絳/新绛)
11th century BC 376 BC
Jiegen (介根), south west of modern day Jiaozhou, Shandong Province
Ju (莒), modern day Ju County, Shandong Province
11th century BC 431 BC
Lái 莱 / 萊 Changle (昌乐), modern day Changle County, Shandong Province 11th century BC 567 BC
Liáng Hánchéng (韩城) unknown 641 BC
Liǎo 蓼 or 廖 or 飂 Tanghe County (唐河县), Henan unknown unknown
Liǎo 蓼 or 繆蓼/缪蓼 Liao town, northeast of Gushi County, Henan Province unknown 622 BC
魯 / 鲁 Lǔshān (魯山)
Yǎnchéng (奄城)
Qǔfù (曲阜)
11th century BC 256 BC
呂 / 吕 West of modern Nanyang, Henan unknown early Spring and Autumn period
Xuecheng (薛城), 30 km south of Tengzhou, Shandong Province
Lower Pi (下邳), North east of Pizhou City, Shandong Province
Upper Pi (上邳), West of the Xuecheng District, Zaozhuang City, Shandong Province
11th century BC unknown
齊 / 齐 Yíngqiū (營丘 / 营丘) 1046 BC 221 BC
(杞) 16th century BC 445 BC
Qín Xīchuí (西垂)
Yōng (雍) ? – 350 BC
Xiányáng (咸阳) 350 – 206 BC
9th century BC 206 BC
Quán 權 / 权 South east of Dangyang, Hubei Province unknown 704 BC
Ruò Shāngruò (上鄀)/Shāngmì (商密)
Xìaruò (下鄀)
unknown unknown
Shēn Nányáng (南陽/南阳) unknown between 688 and 680 BC
Shěn Shěn (沈) unknown, early Western Zhou dynasty c. 500 BC
Shǔ possibly Sānxīngduī (三星堆) Before 1046 BC 316 BC
Sòng Shāngqiū (商丘) 11th century BC 286 BC
Suí 隨 / 随 Suízhōu (隨州 / 随州) Early Spring and Autumn period unknown
Téng Téng (滕) Before 1043 BC mid 4th century BC
Wèi (Wei) Anyi (安邑), north west of modern day Xia County, Shanxi Province
Daliang (大梁), modern day Kaifeng City, Henan Province
403 BC 225 BC
Wèi (Wey) 衛 / 卫 Zhāogē (朝歌)
Cáo (曹)
Chǔqiū (楚丘)
Dìqiū (帝丘)
Yěwáng (野王)
11th century BC 209 BC
吳 / 吴 (吳/吴), sometimes referred to as Gūsū (姑蘇/姑苏) 11th century BC 473 BC
Xī Xiàn (息縣/息县) 1122 BC Between 684 and 680 BC
Xī Guó (Western Guo) 西虢 Yōngdì (雍地)
Shàngyáng (上陽/上阳)
Xiàyáng (下陽/下阳)
1046 BC 687 BC
Xíng Modern day Xingtai (邢臺/邢台) City 11th century BC 632 BC
Tangcheng (郯城) c. 20th century BC 512 BC
許 / 许 (or 鄦) (許/许 or 鄦)
(葉/叶)
Báiyǔ (白羽)
Róngchéng (容城)
c. 11th century BC c. 5th century BC
Yān (薊/蓟) 11th century BC 222 BC
Yuè Kuàjī (會稽/会稽) 489 – 468 BC
Lángyá (琅琊) 468 – 379 BC
(吳/吴) 379 – 334 BC
Kuàjī (會稽/会稽) 333 – 306 BC
c. 11th century BC (38 generations before King Goujian of Yue) 306 BC
Zhèng 鄭 / 郑 Zhèng (鄭/郑)
Xìnzhèng (新鄭/新郑)
806 BC 375 BC
Zhōngshān 中山 Lingshou County, Hebei Province 6th century BC 325 BC
Zōu or Zhū 鄒 / 邹 or 邾 Zhū (邾), south east of modern day Qufu, Shandong Province
Zōu (鄒/邹), south east of modern day Zoucheng City, Shandong Province
11th century BC 4th century BC
Key:
Hegemon
Note: Capitals are shown in their historical sequence.

Important figures[edit]

A large bronze tripod vessel from the Spring and Autumn period, now located at the Henan Museum

The Five Hegemons (春秋五霸):

Traditional history lists five hegemons during the Spring and Autumn period:[30]

An alternative list[citation needed] replaces the final two with:

Bureaucrats or Officers

Influential scholars

Other people

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Partition of Jin, the watershed between the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods took several decades, thus there is some debate between scholars as to the exact date. Kiser & Cai (2003) give 481 BC, 475 BC, and 468 BC as three other common dates selected by historians.
  2. ^ Hsu (1990:547)
  3. ^ Pines (2002:2)
  4. ^ Blakeley (1977:212)
  5. ^ Chinese: 洛邑.
  6. ^ Chinn (2007:43)
  7. ^ Hsu (1990:546)
  8. ^ a b Higham (2004:412)
  9. ^ a b Shaughnessy (1990:350)
  10. ^ Lewis (2000:359, 363)
  11. ^ a b c d Hsu (1999:567)
  12. ^ Pines (2002:3)
  13. ^ Lewis (2000:365)
  14. ^ Hsu (1990:549–550)
  15. ^ Hsu (1999:568, 570)
  16. ^ a b Lewis (2000:366)
  17. ^ Lewis (2000:367)
  18. ^ Hsu (1999:553–554)
  19. ^ Hsu (1999:555)
  20. ^ Lewis (2000:366, 369)
  21. ^ Hsu (1999:555–556)
  22. ^ a b Hsu (1990:560)
  23. ^ Hsu (1990:559)
  24. ^ Hsu (1990:560–561)
  25. ^ Hsu (1999:561)
  26. ^ a b Hsu (1999:562)
  27. ^ a b Pines (2002:4)
  28. ^ a b Hsu (1999:562–563)
  29. ^ a b Hui (2004:186)
  30. ^ Ye (2007:34–35)

Bibliography[edit]

  • Blakeley, Barry B. (1977), "Functional disparities in the socio-political traditions of Spring and Autumn China: Part I: Lu and Ch'i", Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 20 (2): 208–243, doi:10.2307/3631778 
  • Chinn, Ann-ping (2007), The Authentic Confucius, Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-4618-7 
  • Higham, Charles (2004), Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations, Infobase Publishing 
  • Hui, Victoria Tin-bor (2004), "Toward a dynamic theory of international politics: Insights from comparing ancient China and early modern Europe", International Organization 58 (1): 175–205, doi:10.1017/s0020818304581067 
  • Hsu, Cho-yun (1990), "The Spring and Autumn Period", in Loewe, Michael; Shaughnessy, Edward L., The Cambridge history of ancient China: from the origins of civilization to 221 B.C., Cambridge University Press, pp. 545–586 
  • Kiser, Young; Cai (2003), "War and bureaucratization in Qin China: Exploring an anomalous case", American Sociological Review 68 (4): 511–539, doi:10.2307/1519737 
  • Lewis, Mark Edward (2000), "The City-State in Spring-and-Autumn China", in Hansen, Mogens Herman, A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures: An Investigation 21, Copenhagen: The Royal Danish Society of Arts and Letters, pp. 359–374 
  • Pines, Yuri (2002), Foundations of Confucian Thought: Intellectual Life in the Chunqiu Period (722-453 B.C.E.), University of Hawaii Press 
  • Shaughnessy, Edward L. (1990), "Western Zhou History", in Loewe, Michael; Shaughnessy, Edward L., The Cambridge history of ancient China: from the origins of civilization to 221 B.C., Cambridge University Press, pp. 292–351 
  • Ye, L. (2007), China: five thousand years of history and civilization, Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Press 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (1999). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-66991-X (paperback).

External links[edit]