East Zhou. Chunqiu Period (VIII-V centuries BC) - History of the East

9.6. East Zhou. The Chunqiu Period (VIII-V centuries BC)

Eastern Zhou - the era of the decline of the power of the Zhou Wang, lasting over half a millennium. It is divided into two important historical periods - Chunqiu and Zhangguo. The first of these, Chunqiu, was marked by a struggle between the divisions, turning into powerful politically independent kingdoms.

The fact is that the relocation of the capital and the relocation of Wang marked the recognition of a new political reality. Henceforth, the son of Heaven ceased to be an omnipotent suzerain, who played a significant role in the summit of the political pyramid Chou. Now his power, in fact, was limited only to the limits of his domain, not too large territory around the capital of Loy (Chengzhou). As for its size and political importance, the domain of Vana was practically not different from the large areas around it. It is not surprising that he occupied a relatively modest place in the political life of the Chunqiu period, although the prestige and sacred sanctity of the Wang remained unchallenged, which formally left the place of the ritual center of all Chou China to the domain. The most powerful political role in Chunqiu began to play the most powerful of all, turning into big kingdoms such as Jin, Qi, Chu and Qin, as well as slightly more modest Lu, Sun, Wei, Zheng, Chen, Yan and some others.

The shift of the center of gravity of political life from the capital city to the courts of the rulers of the kingdoms created the effect of polycentricity in the region of the Huanghe Basin and adjacent territories, gradually drawn into the zone of influence of the Chinese civilization. Practically this meant that there was no time a single state broke up into a number of large and smaller independent kingdoms, most of which, except perhaps the outlying semi-barbaric Qin and Chu, referred to themselves as "middle states" ( jung-ho ) and was proud of its origins in the early Chzhou destinies, its history from the time of the great Wen-wang, the warlike Wu-wang and the wise Chou-gun. By the way, the deliberate emphasis on the moral-historical, as well as civilizational-cultural unity of the Choueucians was based on that indisputable symbolic foundation that was still personified by Van, the son of Heaven, the possessor of the heavenly mandate. The real political process became not only polycentric, but also proceeded, as it were, on several different levels in parallel.

• At the forefront of political life, there was a vigorous struggle for hegemony between the most powerful kingdoms. From time to time, the van intervened in this struggle with varying success, with his still-preserved sacred authority of the elder in the clan of the great Chou rulers, as well as the rulers of the kingdoms and principalities. Sometimes the barbarian tribes beetles and di that invaded entire areas of the Yellow River basin played an active role in such a struggle, sometimes ruining whole kingdoms, as happened with Wei.

• At another, lower level, i.e. Within each kingdom, especially the large ones, there was a sharp political struggle between the feuding aristocratic clans and the sub-daughters that emerged within the kingdoms, and this struggle was usually closely intertwined with the hostility of the kingdoms among themselves, as a result of which the intricate knots of sharp intrigues and political conflicts dragged on.

Finally, at the lower level of the peasant community, their intensive development processes proceeded. New lands were being developed, people from different sub-divisions, lands, even kings, were settling and mixed ethnically during the resettlement. Internal connections between various parts of Chou China were strengthened, prerequisites for economic development, the process of privatization, commodity-money relations were created, which contributed to the formation of the future all-China community.

All these manifestations of the general historical process that took place in Chou China in the VIII-V centuries. BC, in turn, led to an intensification of political life, a sharp increase in conflicts, increased internal struggle and court intrigues, with the main and mainstream trend of this period being the continuation of the process of feudalization. The essence of it (a speech about a sociopolitical phenomenon) is quite complex and multifaceted, but in this case it makes sense again to dwell on it, because it was for the first time in the history of mankind that China created the system of political power with which students and students usually get acquainted only with the example of medieval France. The fact is that in West-China China there was only a one-step hierarchical ladder: vans with the rights of vassals were subordinate to the rulers of the lands, who had prince's titles of gong, hou , bo , etc. and called the consolidated the designation juhow (princes). Now the hierarchy has become multistage:

1. At the head of the Middle Kingdom was still the van, the son of Heaven.

2. The rulers of the kingdoms, jhuhow y , who used to be the title gong

3. In the kingdoms that replaced the former territories, their subudellys gradually turned into large territories gravitating toward autonomy, and this, third, link in the hierarchical ladder of power became the center of political activity in Chunqiu.

Subudels, or the new feudal step belongings are usually given in the award on behalf of the ruler of the kingdom to his relatives, most often sons, and deserved associates. Actually, having appropriated to itself the right of endowment with lots, which had been the exclusive prerogative of the suzerain-van, the rulers of the kingdoms gained de facto political independence.

The first deeds of this type began to arise in the largest kingdom of Jin in the VIII century. BC. Then they began to be created in Qi, Lu and other kingdoms. They were governed by groups of the feudal-clan type, in each of which the head of the clan, who was also a titled aristocrat, who had the generally recognized title chin, with time, and soon enough, became an all-powerful hereditary ruler. Having found himself at the head of a new destiny closely co-existing with clan kinship, a former subudal, such a chin usually acquired great influence in the kingdom. As a rule, he hereditarily held a post, most often ministerial or general, and, relying on his relatives and associates, waged an incessant struggle for high position and the corresponding prestige and influence with other rival aristocrats of his kingdom. It is characteristic that this local struggle with weak rulers of the kingdom grew into active, sometimes even armed clashes with rivals, not to mention court intrigues. In this struggle, coalitions formed, some of them died and other interests were strengthened at their expense.


The final result of the struggle, which lasted practically throughout the whole period of Chunqiu, varied in different kingdoms. In some, as in the Qin and Chu, the rulers of the kingdoms relatively quickly overpowered the centrifugal forces of the feudal nobility and turned into omnipotent rulers. It was the best result. It is not surprising that it was the Qin and Chu in the III century. BC. led the last battle for unification of China. In other kingdoms, as in Qi, the struggle led to the strengthening of individual cynics and to the capture of one of them by the throne. In the rest, as in Jin or Lu, feuds led to the disintegration of the kingdom into parts or to its weakening in connection with the division of the kingdom by cynics into spheres of influence.

4. At the lower, fourth, level of the hierarchical ladder, in the course of the same process of institutionalization of feudalism, the most numerous layer of hereditary aristocrats- dafu - emerged, which differed from the tsins in that they did not have their own possessions and were forced to earn their livelihoods and make a career as a service, mostly military. Dafu are ancient Chinese knights. Among them were the sons and grandsons of rulers and cins, as well as the sons of Dafu themselves. The main property of each dafu was his military chariot, which he owned and equipped with everything necessary, including warrior assistants. A specific feature of the dafu layer was that they constantly exterminated each other in conditions of constant feudal wars, and this played a certain role in stabilizing the structure as a whole, without creating unnecessary problems with ensuring all aristocrats-dafu with their decent way of life. Being among the hereditary nobility, dafu claimed about the same status as the aristocrat, as the tsins. However, there was a significant difference between the two: there were few tsins and their real power was incomparable with what ordinary dafu could count on. However, this did not exclude the fact that some - very few - of the dafu could in principle have expected to become a qin under favorable circumstances.

5. The lowest, the fifth, the step on the hierarchical ladder of the feudal system of the Chunqiu period was occupied by the servicemen-shi . They were representatives of the lower branches of the nobility, natives of the side aristocratic lines, who had neither title nor position, but were well educated and held junior officer positions in the army. Perhaps, to this category of people adjoined and natives of the lower reaches, who made a successful career (military or bureaucratic) career. In a word, the term shi from the VIII-VII centuries. BC. in Zhou China began to designate professionals , ready to go to the service there and to those who and from where they will be called. The Shi workers, whose number eventually increased, turned into a kind of personal noblemen and, as such, made a significant contribution to the history of the country (Confucius came from a shi), eventually turned out to be the decisive link in the struggle of the rulers for the strengthening of their power.

It should be noted that shek were not servants, inferior attendants; it was a different kind of service, related to the not yet written, but already rigidly fixed law of honor. Not having at his disposal anything other than the law of honor that ensured them, dafu and shek strictly observed him and above all honored in themselves just that. The essence of the code of aristocratic ethics, which we are talking about, was formed for centuries in VII-VI centuries. BC. Has found already honed forms. They were reduced to strict observance of the norms of hierarchy and vassal obligations. There was an obligatory account of the degree of clan kinship in connection with possible claims for office and authority. Highly honored devotion to the master. An important role was played by all accepted norms of behavior both on the battlefield and in the performance of official duties. And all this was crowned with the elaborated to the subtleties and presented with time in the form of a text of the treatise "Or", specially devoted to the norms of behavior of the feudal nobility.

The rulers of the kingdoms fought for hegemony at least from the beginning of the 7th century. BC, when the famous reformer Guan Zhong helped strengthen and become the hegemon-ba of his royal patron, the Qian Huan-gun. After the death of Guan Zhong and Huang-gun, Chi's influence weakened, and the hegemonic ba soon became the Wen-gun, who, in a long and intriguing political struggle, succeeded in overcoming rivals and creating a strong kingdom, consolidating power in which he saw in limiting the number of deeds led by relatives who could claim the throne. Wen-gun generously endowed them with unrelated companions. But, although this tactic helped for some time to guarantee the power of the Jin rulers, ultimately it led to bankruptcy. The increased specific aristocrats, who in the internecine struggle exterminated each other, eventually divided the kingdom of Jin among themselves (we are talking about the three survivors).

With the weakening of Jin, none of the rulers of other kingdoms has actually become the real hegemon-ba, although historically the tradition traditionally has five successive hegemons in Zhou (the other three, whose names vary, although stand out against the general background, but all recognized rulers were no longer).

So, by the end of the Chunqiu period, it was more important to no longer set the tone on the Chinese arena, i.e. Do not strive for hegemony, but be able to bring order to your own kingdom. This was the main concern of the rulers, and those who succeeded consistently headed for reforms whose essence was to strengthen the authority of the center succeeded. Such reforms contributed to the de-feudalization process. The end result of this process was the strengthening of the centralized power of the rulers and the unification of China, turning it into an empire.

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