The Western Zhou Dynasty
c. 1045-771

 
The Zhou Conquest
c. 1050-1045 BCE

According to Sima Qian (the Grand Historian), the last Shang king liked the company of women, drank too much, enjoyed “depraved songs” with erotic lyrics, and hosted orgies. At the same time he raised taxes while generally neglecting matters of state. When some of his subjects objected, he invented a new way of punishing them, by roasting them on a rack. He turned some of his critics into mincemeat, others into dried meat strips. He appointed evil officials, and his good officials drifted away from his palace to serve the Zhou. ... When he heard [that the Shang king killed an official by cutting his chest open while he was alive], the Zhou king (i.e. King Wu) launched his invasion and defeated the Shang troops, and the last Shang king plunged to his death in a fire. The Zhou king then impaled the head of the dead tyrant on a pole for all his vanquished subjects to see. [OE, 43]
 
King Wu
 
King Cheng
 
The Duke of Zhou
 
From Hao to Chengzhou
 

The Mandate of Heaven

The following section of the “Shao Announcement” (from the Book of Documents) is supposed to record the words of the second Zhou ruler’s uncle, the Duke of Zhou, who served as regent for the young king:
 
Ah!  August Heaven, High God [Shangdi; a.k.a. the Lord on High], has changed his principal son and has revoked the Mandate of this great state of Yin [a.k.a. Shang]. When a king receives the Mandate, without limit is the grace thereof, but also without limit is the anxiety of it. Ah! How can he fail to be reverently careful!
       Heaven has rejected and ended the Mandate of this great state of Yin. Thus, although Yin has many former wise kings in Heaven, when their successor kings and successor people undertook their Mandate, in the end wise and good men lived in misery. Knowing that they must care for and sustain their wives and children, they then called out in anguish to Heaven and fled to places where they could not be caught. Ah! Heaven too grieved for the people of all the lands, wanting, with affection, in giving its Mandate to employ those who are deeply committed. The king should have reverent care for his virtue. ... Let the king reverently function in his position; he cannot but be reverently careful of his virtue. We cannot fail to mirror ourselves in the Xia [an earlier dynasty]; also we cannot fail to mirror ourselves in the Yin. ... We must not presume to suppose that the Yin received the Mandate of Heaven for a fixed period of years; we must not presume to suppose that it was not going to continue. It was because they did not reverently care for their virtue that they early let their Mandate fall. [Sources of Chinese Tradition, 36]
  • How did this attempt to justify the Zhou Conquest change the way that power was legitimized from the previous Shang model?
 

From Oracle Bones to the Yijing
Continuity ... and the Seeds of Change

The Shang oracle bones reveal much about the king and little about his officials or the people who worked the land, while the gradually expanding source base for the Zhou, biased as it is toward ritual language, still provides information about a greater variety of people. Even so, our overriding impression must be of the continuities between the Shang and the Zhou. Both peoples used oracles constantly. The Shang king consulted oracle bones for momentous matters of state, like the launchings of military campaigns, and for personal matters, like his toothaches. The Zhou kings continued to divine with oracle bones at the same time they read the hexagrams [of  the Yijing] formed by yarrow stalks, and their subjects used oracles to determine whether they should marry or what the ancestors were saying during their ceremonies. [OE, 54]
 
In early times this process [i.e. the use of Yijing divination] apparently resembled the kind of divination that had been practiced in the Shang period; over time, however, divination changed from a method of consulting and influencing ancestors — the “powerful dead” — to a method of penetrating moments of the cosmic process to learn how the Way is configured, what direction it takes at such moments, and what one’s own place is — and should be — in the scheme of things. By developing the capacity to anticipate and accord with change, one could avert wrong decisions, avoid failure, escape misfortune, and, on the other hand, make right decisions, achieve success, and garner good fortune. [SCT, 318]
 
  • How might the more “humanistic” emphasis of the Mandate of Heaven have gradually affected the conceptual understanding of the divination process during the shift from Oracle Bone to Yijing divination?
Yijing Divination
 
From W. Zhou to Spring & Autumn
770-481 BCE

Historians divide the six centuries of warfare (from 770 to 221 B.C.E.) comprising the Eastern Zhou period into two halves. The first half they call the Spring and Autumn period (770-481 B.C.E.), after the book entitled The Spring and Autumn Annals. Much of what is known asbout the Spring and Autumn period comes from a book entitled The Commentary of Mr. Zuo, which purports to explain the different events in The Spring and Autumn Annals and which may have been written down only in the second century B.C.E. ... The rulers of the different Chinese states, which numbered more than one hundred at the beginning of The Commentary of Mr. Zuo, regularly vowed friendship with each other by making blood covenants before the gods. Just as regularly they violated these pledges so they could fight to erase a perceived slight, to vanquish a threat to their homeland, or to resolve a succession dispute. And battle they did. The Commentary of Mr. Zuo describes over five hundred battles among polities and more than one hundred civil wars within polities — all in the 259 years between 722 and 463 B.C.E. [OE, 58-9]
 
 
Several rulers rose to prominence during these difficult times. Duke Huan of Qi (reigned 685-643 B.C.E.) was the first man whom the Zhou king recognized as lord protector. ... The Commentary of Mr. Zuo says much more about the second man to gain the title of lord protector, the ruler Duke Wen of the Jin polity, who was often called by his nickname Double Ears (Chonger). ... Born to a non-Chinese mother, Double Ears won his father’s realm after nineteen years in exile and then ruled for only eight, from 636 to 628 B.C.E. [OE, 58-61]
 
 
Throughout his travels Double Ears demonstrated the qualities expected of a great ruler, as shown in his visit to the large kingdom of Chu, south of the Yangzi. Its ruler invited Double Ears to a banquet, at which he asked Double Ears what he would do to repay his host if he regained the territory of Jin, which had been his father’s realm. Double Ears replied:
 
If, due to your kind assistance, I am able to return to Jin, and if Jin and Chu should take up arms and meet on the plain of battle, then for your sake I will withdraw my forces for a distance of three days’ march. If, having done that, you fail to command your troops to withdraw .... I will go round and round with you!
 
Of course, the promise returned to haunt Double Ears, but his willingness to make it shows him to be a true leader. ... In 632 B.C.E. he faced his first real test when his forces went into battle at Chengpu against those of Chu. ... Double Ears honored his earlier promise by ordering his forces to withdraw — to the dismay of his own officers. Yet, after the agreed-upon three days had passed, the tenacious Chu general still wanted to fight the Jin troops. ... Although the battle occurred on schedule the next day at Chengpu, the Jin troops staged a retreat, which tricked the Chu forces into attacking. They suffered a stunning loss. Even though Double Ears had shown himself to be the most powerful ruler within the central states, he still recognized the Zhou ruler as his superior. The Zhou king in turn named him lord protector and awarded him various insignia appropriate to his new rank. [OE, 63-4]
 
 
The reign of Double Ears (636-628 B.C.E.) marked the end of an era. ... A dramatic change in warfare occurred in the sixth century in both ancient Greece and ancient China. In both societies, chariot warfare led by aristocrats gave way to infantry battles, in which common farmers fought. This change in warfare reflected a political shift. ... The shift from chariot warfare to infantry, with the accompanying increases in army size, created a demand for a new type of general. Rulers could not allow men to lead their troops simply because their fathers had been commanders before them. Instead, they sought expert generals who knew how to fight. They believed that the art of war could be taught, and the first treatises on warfare began to circulate in this period. The most well known, The Art of War took shape before 481 B.C.E. and is attributed to Sun Wu, a general who, if he really existed, lived in the late sixth century B.C.E. ... His most radical teaching held that the most successful generals avoided war when possible:
 
To bring the enemy’s army to submit without combat is the highest skill. Therefore the best is to attack his strategems and deliberations, the next best is to attack his system of alliances, the next best is to attack his army, and the worst is to attack his cities. ... Therefore he who is skilled in the use of armies brings the enemy’s army to submit and does not engage in combat.
 
The art of warin a quasi-mystical way — promised to teach students to identify weaknesses in their enemy and to understand the right moment to attack. [OE, 64-6]

Deception and Reversal
The military is a way (dao) of deception.
Thus when able, manifest inability. When active, manifest inactivity.
When near, manifest as far. When far, manifest as near.
When he seeks advantage, lure him.
When he is in chaos, take him.
When he is substantial, prepare against him.
When he is strong, avoid him.
Attack where he is unprepared. Emerge where he does not expect.
These are the victories of the military lineage. They cannot be transmitted in advance.
[SCT, 217 (Chapter 1)]

On Victory
Knowing the other and knowing oneself,
In one hundred battles no danger.
Not knowing the other and knowing oneself,
One victory for one defeat.
Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself,
In every battle certain danger.
[SCT, 218 (Chapter 3)]
 
The Changing Polity
From Spring & Autumn to Warring States
At the beginning of the [Spring & Autumn] period, a hierarchy divided society into different social strata, with birth determining to which lineage a man belonged. The lineages of rulers related to the Zhou kings ranked at the top. Under them were the lineages providing ministers for those kings and then the lineages of high officers. At the bottom of the aristocracy were the knights, or “men of service.” Below them were the laboring peoples. ... Throughout the period of the Warring States rulers hungered for [the skill of acumen], and tutors strived to impart it to their students. Some teachers, like Sunzi, taught the acuity of the battlefield. Others, like Confucius, despised warfare and sought to teach a different type of skill — one that could be used to reform the world of men. [OE, 59-68]