Zhou Dynasty Timeline
Timeline Description: The Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 - 221 BCE) lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history. After overthrowing the Shang dynasty, the Zhou established a number of key traditions, including the importance of family and social order. While the later Zhou dynasty was marked by feudal disorder, the period also encouraged the flourishing of a number of philosophical traditions, such as Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism.

Date Event
1046 BC The Zhou dynasty begins.(c. 1046 BCE)

Under the leadership of King Wu, the Zhou join with nearby tribes and overthrow the Shang dynasty, using the Mandate of Heaven to justify their power. They establish their capital at Haojing and solidify their power with feudal states led by local lords who owe allegiance to the emperor. This initial period of the dynasty is known as the Western Zhou.
771 BC The Zhou capital is attacked.(771 BCE)

After King You replaces his wife with a concubine, the capital, Haojing, is attacked by his wife's father (who rules a region called Shen) and by a nomadic tribe called the Quanrong. The rulers of several of the regions in the empire proclaim the queen's son, Ji Yijiu, to be the new king.
770 BC The Zhou establish a new capital at Luoyang.(770 BC)

Following the attack, the Zhou replace the Ji as the ruling clan and move their capital to Luoyang in 770 BCE. They arrange for Emperor Ping to rule the country, but as a mainly ceremonial figurehead. The Zhou control a much smaller territory.
770 BC The Dong Zhou begins.(770 BCE)

The power of the Zhou rulers begins to decline and the country divides into a number of nearly autonomous feudal states with little allegiance to the emperor.This launches the period known as the Dong (Eastern) Zhou dynasty, marked by feudal disorder and splintering.
770 BC The Spring and Autumn period begins.(770 BCE)

Within the Dong Zhou, the Spring and Autumn (Chunqiu) period begins, marked by a series of squabbles between many small states. The emperor's power declines and feudal lords fight for control.
650 BC Some Chinese states begin minting coins.(c. 650 BCE)

Several Chinese states begin minting coins, but gold is not used for money until the 5th century BCE.
594 BC The state of Lu adopts "the tax-by-land system."(594 BCE)

In a period of taxation reform, the state of Lu adopts "the tax-by-land system," in which taxes are collected in proportion to the size of the land. This change increases the country's revenue and resolves peasants' grievances.
551 BC Confucius is born.(551 BCE)

Confucius, who becomes the most influential philosophical teacher in Chinese history, is born. During the Warring States period, he founds Confucianism in an attempt to restore family order and social harmony.
550 BC Four major states emerge.(550 BCE)

Following a period of rivalry and petty wars, four major states emerge: Qin in the west, Jin in the center, Chu in the south, and Qi in the east. These states continue to battle for dominance.
510 BC Sun Tzu writes The Art of War.(c. 510 BCE)

Sun Tzu, a powerful military general and strategist, writes The Art of War based on his military experiences. His book becomes one of the most widely-read treatises on war during the subsequent Warring States period.
403 BC Jin is partitioned and the Warring States period begins.(403 BCE)

With the approval of the Zhou king, the three major families of Jin partition it into three states: the State of Han, the State of Zhao, and the State of Wei. These states and others begin to struggle for power over China, launching the Warring States period. Zhou power declines, as the government can no longer prevent conflict within ruling-class families, and China falls into a period of disorder.
334 BC The rulers of Wei and Qi formalize the powerlessness of the Zhou throne.(334 BCE)

After decades of fighting, the rulers of the states Wei and Qi agree to recognize each other as Kings, formalizing the independence of the states and the powerlessness of the Zhou throne since the beginning of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. This leads all the other states eventually declare their Kingship, signifying the beginning of the end of the Zhou Dynasty.
300 BC Sections of the Laozi are available in China.(c. 300 BCE)

While the date of origin is disputed, sections of the Laozi, a foundational text of Daoism, are available in China around 300 BCE. Daoism stresses the importance of living in harmony with the Dao, the guiding force of all reality.
280 BC Han Fei is born.(c. 280 BCE)

Han Fei, one of the major contributors to the philosophy of Legalism, is born. He later argues that rulers must use strict laws to control their subjects, and Legalism competes with Confucianism and Daoism for followers.
221 BC The Qin dynasty begins.(221 BCE)

The Warring States period finally ends when Qin, a smaller state, conquers the other states and establishes the Qin dynasty.