Spring and Autumn period 春秋

The first half of the Eastern Zhou 东周 period

Overview

Chinese Name: 春秋

English Name: Spring and Autumn period; ChunQiu period

Duration: About 770 BC – 476 BC

King: The Royal family of Zhou Dynasty

vassal states: Qi 齐, Song 宋, Jin 晋, Qin 秦, Chu 楚, Wu 吴, Yue 越, Zheng 郑, Ba 巴, Shu 蜀, etc

The distribution of vassal states in the Spring and Autumn Period春秋时期诸侯分布
The distribution of vassal states in the Spring and Autumn Period春秋时期诸侯分布

Brief Introduction

The Spring and Autumn period 春秋时期 is usually used to refer to the first half of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. It began in 770 BC (the first year of King Ping of Zhou) and ended in 476 BC (the first year of King Yuan of Zhou). It lasted 295 years.

After the fall of the Western Zhou Dynasty, the princes supported the former abolished Prince Yi Jiu 宜臼 as the king, which was called King Ping of Zhou 周平王 in history. He moved the capital eastward to Luo Yi 洛邑(now Luo Yang, Henan 河南洛阳 ), known as the Eastern Zhou Dynasty in history.

the Plance in Spring and Autumn period 春秋王宫
the Plance in Spring and Autumn period 春秋王宫

It is said that the historian of the state of Lu 鲁 recorded the major events reported by various countries at that time in a diary according to the year, season, month, and four seasons of the year: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. In a brief summary, he named this chronicle “Chunqiu《春秋》”.

Confucius 孔子 reorganized and revised the “Spring and Autumn” Annals compiled by the historian of the state of Lu, and became one of the Confucian classics. This is the origin of the name “Spring and Autumn period”.

Confucius 孔子
Confucius 孔子

Major Historical Events

The Royal Family Decline 王室衰微

After King Ping of Zhou moved the capital eastward, the Zhou family gradually declined.

First, Shen Hou 申侯, the grandfather of King Ping of Zhou, introduced foreigners into the capital, killing King You of Zhou 周幽王, making King Ping suspected of killing his father. Therefore, the prestige of the king of Zhou among the princes decreased.

Move Capital 迁都
Move Capital 迁都

Secondly, the forces of the vassal states gradually became stronger and attacked each other. Finally, the King Ping of Zhou moved eastward, leaving the Zhou court with only a small territory. As a result, the Zhou royal family declined.

As the Royal Court and patriarchal clan system were on the decline, the traditional wealth control system, social organizational form and public regulation mechanism has already come to a dead-end, and the social contradiction was aggravated little by little.

War in the Spring and Autumn Period 战争
War in the Spring and Autumn Period 战争

Battle of Chang Shao 长勺之战

The battle of Chang Shao was a military between the state of Qi 齐国 and the state of Lu 鲁国 in the Spring and Autumn period of China. It happened in the Chang Shao (now Laiwu, Shandong Province 山东莱芜) in 684 BC. The state of Lu won the battle. Indirectly contributed to the peace of Qilu after several years.

Battle of Chang Shao 长勺之战
Battle of Chang Shao 长勺之战

In the spring of 684 BC, Duke Huan of Qi 齐桓公 ordered his army to attack Lu. Cao Gui 曹刿 was appointed as the general of Lu to defend the state. Cao Gui knew that although Lu’s military strength was weaker than Qi’s due to the defeat in the Qian shi 乾时之战, it had an advantage in human harmony and geography to resist the invasion of Qi’s army.

Cao Gui's views on war 曹刿论战
Cao Gui’s views on war 曹刿论战

Moreover, the victory of combat depends on “momentum”. The change of “momentum” can make the strong and weak translocate. The army with “strong momentum” will win, and another with “momentum depletion” will lose. Therefore, it is determined to avoid the enemy’s spirit before fighting, and then counterattack when the enemy is tired, so as to win with “momentum”.

Battle of Cheng Pu 城濮之战

The battle of Cheng Pu is the first war case with detailed records in Chinese history, and it is also a model of tactics to lure the enemy deep. It was also the first war in a series of wars between Jin 晋 and Chu 楚 in the Spring and Autumn period. It was said to be the plan of Xian Yu 先轸.

Battle of Cheng Pu 城濮之战
Battle of Cheng Pu 城濮之战

In 632 BC, on the fourth day of April, the Chu army and the Jin army fought in Cheng Pu (now the southwest of Juancheng, Shandong 山东鄄城). Duke Wen of Jin 晋文公 fulfilled his promise of “retreat and give up 退避三舍” when he was in exile in the state of Chu. He ordered the Jin army to retreat and avoid the sharp edge of the Chu army. Despite the warning of King Cheng of Chu, Ziyu led the army to advance rashly and was annihilated by the Jin army. The Chu army was defeated and Ziyu committed suicide.

Duke Wen of Jin 晋文公
Duke Wen of Jin 晋文公


Duke Wen of Jin sharpened his sword in ten years and defeated the state of Chu is the most brilliant peak of his whole career. The national power of Jin also reached its peak at this time.

The Division of Jin by Three Families 三家分晋

The division of Jin into three families refers to the event that the state of Jin was divided up by the Han韩, Zhao 赵 and Wei 魏 in the late Spring and Autumn period of China.

The-Division-of-Jin-by-Three-Families-三家分晋
The-Division-of-Jin-by-Three-Families-三家分晋

Historically, the “three divisions of Jin” was regarded as a watershed between the end of the Spring and Autumn Period and the beginning of the Warring States period. Sima Guang 司马光 listed it as the opening work of Zizhi Tongjian 资治通鉴.

Important Influences

The Disintegration of Chinese Slave Society

Iron cattle farming promoted the development of productive forces, and the war for hegemony prompted all countries to carry out political reform in order to become rich and strong.

Cattle plowing 牛耕
Cattle plowing 牛耕

This led to the decline of the slave owner class and the gradual formation of feudal land ownership

Start of Use of Iron Tools

In the Spring and Autumn period, iron agricultural tools began to be used, but they were not popularized. During this period, people also mastered the advanced technology of smelting pig iron.

Iron tools 铁制农具
Iron tools 铁制农具

The use of iron tools made it possible to reclaim wasteland on a large scale and promoted the development of private land. At the same time, it also provides sharp tools for the handicraft industry, and cattle farming is becoming more and more common. The development of cattle farming technology can play its function only when it is combined with the use of iron tools.

Culture is Developing Rapidly

Society in the Spring and Autumn period was in an age of great change and turbulence.The vassal states are enriching the country and strengthening the army and recruiting talents. Culturally, private schools have sprung up, forming many scholars and schools of thought.

诸子百家

This laid the foundation for the formation of “Hundred Schools of Thought 百家争鸣” in the Warring States Period.

【ENG SUB】China Episode 1: Spring and Autumn

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