Timeline of World History: Year by Year from Prehistory to Present Day







First Empires

ca. 7000 B.C. - 200 A.D.


Zhou dynasty

Zhou dynasty, Wade-Giles romanization Chou, (1046–256 bc), dynasty that ruled ancient China for almost a millennium, establishing the distinctive political and cultural characteristics that were to be identified with China for the next 2,000 years. The beginning date of the Zhou has long been debated. Traditionally, it has been given as 1122 bc, and that date has been successively revised as scholars have uncovered more archaeological evidence. The most recent findings have placed the outright start of the dynasty at 1046 bc.

The Zhou coexisted with the Shang for many years, living just west of the Shang territory in what is now Shaanxi province. At various times they were a friendly tributary state to the Shang, alternatively warring with them. One of the Zhou ruling houses devised a plan to conquer the Shang, and a decisive battle was fought, probably in the mid-11th century. Before the whole Shang territory could be consolidated by the Zhou, a rebellion broke out. The fighting went on for three years before the rebellion was put down, and finally the Zhou solidified their reign over all of China. An array of feudal states was created within the empire to maintain order and the emperor’s hold on the land. The original Zhou capital had been located near present-day Xi’an on the Wei River above its confluence with the Huang He (Yellow River). To support the empire in the east and its loyal feudal rulers, an eastern capital was built at Luoyang on the middle reaches of the Huang He.

It was some 200 years before the stability of this arrangement began to collapse with the increasing local interests of the 20 or more feudal lords, and in the 8th century bc the political system, which had essentially consisted of a network of extended family, began to weaken seriously. With the decline of the feudal king’s power, de facto power fluctuated among various of the feudal chiefs as they were able to make themselves overlords.

The period before 771 bc is usually known as the Xi (Western) Zhou dynasty, and that from 770 is known as the Dong (Eastern) Zhou dynasty. The Dong Zhou itself is often further subdivided into the Spring and Autumn (Chunqiu) period (770–476 bc), when China consisted of many small squabbling states, and the Warring States (Zhanguo) period (475–221 bc), when the small states consolidated into several larger units, which struggled with one another for mastery. Finally, one of these small kingdoms, Qin (from which derives modern China’s name), succeeded in conquering the rest of the states and establishing the Qin dynasty (221–207 bc).

The visual arts of the Zhou dynasty reflect the diversity of the feudal states of which it was composed and into which it eventually broke up. The arts of the early Xi Zhou were essentially a continuation of those of the Shang dynasty. This was especially true of works in bronze, in which there was an accelerated deterioration of the variety of shapes, the decoration, and the craftsmanship of casting. It was not until the Dong Zhou and the classical age of Confucius and Laozi that unique local traditions became apparent. The range of applied decoration for the first time included pictorial subjects—for example, hunting scenes and chariots and horsemen.

As the empire was breaking up, arts and culture were flowering in the various component states, encouraged and stimulated by the very localized interests that fed the impulse toward independence of the empire. The remains of many of the feudal capitals during the Zhou period have been uncovered and reveal great buildings with rammed-earth floors and walls; there were also two-story buildings and observation towers, and Laozi mentions a nine-story tower.

Although (with the exception of a few works on silk) no painting survives from the Zhou, written descriptions of paintings evidence their themes, including figures, portraits, and historic scenes. Lacquerware including gold and silver inlay became finely developed, and bronzework carried on from the great legacy of the Shang. Jade ornaments and objects were used lavishly for funerary and ritual purposes, and ornamental carvings reflected superb craftsmanship. Pottery continued Shang traditions and expanded greatly in variety of shapes and finishes during the Warring States period.

During the Zhou dynasty, China underwent quite dramatic changes. Iron, ox-drawn plows, crossbows, and horseback riding were all introduced; large-scale irrigation and water-control projects were also instituted for the first time, greatly increasing the crop yield of the North China Plain. The communication system was also greatly improved through the construction of new roads and canals. Trade was increased, towns grew up, coinage was developed, chopsticks came into use, and the Chinese writing system was created out of its primitive beginnings in the Shang period.

There was also a great philosophical flowering: the schools of Confucianism, Daoism, and legalism developed in this period. Literature flourished with Confucius and other great Chinese philosophers. Later generations of Chinese have regularly studied the Zhou dynasty for information regarding the origin of their civilization.

Encyclopædia Britannica



The Time of 100 Schools of Thought

In the shadow of the rival lords' conflicts during the period of the Warring States, a number of philosophical schools developed! Almost all of these schools took a position on political questions and endeavored to gain the favor of the rulers. Sine of these schools eventually came to dominate. Among them were the School of Literati (Confucianism); the Taoists; the Mohists, whose moral code shows many parallels with utilitarianist thought; and the Legalists, who advocated strong leadership with strict legal controls. Legalist teachings became state dogma under the Qin dynasty while Mohism died out.




Hundred Schools of Thought

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Hundred Schools of Thought (traditional Chinese: 諸子百家; simplified Chinese: 诸子百家; pinyin: zhūzǐ bǎijiā; Wade-Giles: chu-tzu pai-chia; literally "all philosophers hundred schools") were philosophers and schools that had flourished from 770 to 221 BC, an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China. Even though this period, known in its earlier part as the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period (春秋戰國時代/春秋战国时代) in its latter part, was wrought with chaos and bloody battles, it is also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy because various thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely. This phenomenon has been called the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought (百家爭鳴/百家争鸣; bǎijiā zhēngmíng; pai-chia cheng-ming; "hundred schools contend"). These thoughts and ideas have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day in East Asian countries. The intellectual society of this era was characterized by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various state rulers as advisers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy. This period ended with the rise of the Qin dynasty and the subsequent purge of dissent.

Confucianism and its derivatives

Confucianism (儒家; Rújiā; Ju-chia; "School of scholars") is the body of thought that arguably had the most enduring effects on Chinese life. Its written legacy lies in the Confucian Classics, which later became the foundation of traditional society. Confucius (551–479 BC), or Kongzi "Master Kong", looked back to the early days of the Zhou dynasty for an ideal socio-political order. He believed that the only effective system of government necessitated prescribed relationships for each individual: "Let the ruler be a ruler and the subject a subject". Furthermore, he contended that a king must be virtuous in order to rule properly. To Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification were facts of life to be sustained by ethical values; thus his ideal human was the junzi, which is translated as "gentleman" or "superior person".

Mencius (371–289 BC), or Mengzi, formulated his teachings directly in response to Confucius. -Mozi accepted certain basic Confucian prescriptions, like the superiority of the ancient sage kings who had attained righteousness, yet he felt that Confucius overemphasized bonds with acquaintances and relatives. -Mozi argued that each individual had an obligation toward all the other people in human society -individuals simply had to consider how their actions would affect everyone in society, not just the people they knew personally.

The effect of the combined work of Confucius, the codifier and interpreter of a system of relationships based on ethical behavior, and Mencius, the synthesizer and developer of applied Confucianist thought, was to provide traditional Chinese society with a comprehensive framework by which to order virtually every aspect of life.

There were many accretions to the body of Confucian thought, both immediately and over the millennia, from within and without the Confucian school. Interpretations adapted to contemporary society allowed for flexibility within Confucianism, while the fundamental system of modeled behavior from ancient texts formed its philosophical core.

Diametrically opposed to Mencius, for example, was the interpretation of Xunzi (c. 300–237 BC), another Confucian follower. Xunzi preached that man is not innately good; he asserted that goodness is attainable only through training one's desires and conduct.



The School of Law or Legalism (法家; Fǎjiā; Fa-chia; "School of law") doctrine was formulated by Han Feizi (d. 233 BC) and Li Si (d. 208 BC), who maintained that human nature was incorrigibly selfish; accordingly, the only way to preserve the social order was to impose discipline from above, and to see to a strict enforcement of laws. The Legalists exalted the state above all, seeking its prosperity and martial prowess over the welfare of the common people.

Legalism greatly influenced the philosophical basis for the imperial form of government. During the Han Dynasty, the most practical elements of Confucianism and Legalism were taken to form a sort of synthesis, marking the creation of a new form of government that would remain largely intact until the late 19th century.


Daoism (Taoism)

Philosophical Taoism or Daoism (道家; Dàojiā; Tao-chia; "School of the Way") developed into the second most significant stream of Chinese thought. Its formulation is often attributed to the legendary sage Laozi ("Old Master"), who is said to predate Confucius, and Zhuangzi (369–286 BC). The focus of Taoism is on the individual within the natural realm rather than the individual within society; accordingly, the goal of life for each individual is seeking to adjust oneself and adapting to the rhythm of the natural (and the supernatural) world, to follow the Way (tao) of the universe, and to live in harmony. In many ways the opposite of rigid Confucian morality, Taoism was for many of its adherents a complement to their ordered daily lives. A scholar serving as an official would usually follow Confucian teachings, but at leisure or in retirement might seek harmony with nature as a Taoist recluse.



Mohism or Moism (墨家; Mòjiā; Mo-chia; "School of Mo") was developed by followers of Mozi (also referred to as Mo Di; 470–c.391 BC). Though the school did not survive through the Qin Dynasty, Mohism was seen as a major rival of Confucianism in the period of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Its philosophy rested on the idea of universal love: Mozi believed that "everyone is equal before heaven", and that people should seek to imitate heaven by engaging in the practice of collective love. His epistemology can be regarded as primitive materialist empiricism; he believed that our cognition ought to be based on our perceptions – our sensory experiences, such as sight and hearing – instead of imagination or internal logic, elements founded on our capacity for abstraction.

Mozi advocated frugality, condemning the Confucian emphasis on ritual and music, which he denounced as extravagant. He regarded warfare as wasteful and advocated pacifism. The achievement of social goals, according to Mozi, necessitated the unity of thought and action. His political philosophy bears a resemblance to divine-rule monarchy: the population ought always to obey its leaders, as its leaders ought always to follow the will of heaven. Mohism might be argued to have elements of meritocracy: Mozi contended that rulers should appoint officials by virtue of their ability instead of their family connections. Although popular faith in Mohism had declined by the end of the Qin Dynasty, its views are said to be strongly echoed in Legalist thought.


School of Yin-yang

The School of Naturalists or Yin-yang (陰陽家/阴阳家; Yīnyángjiā; Yin-yang-chia; "School of Yin-Yang") was a Warring States era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements. Zou Yan is considered the founder of this school. Their theories attempted to explain the universe in terms of basic forces in nature: the complementary agents of yin (dark, cold, female, positive) and yang (light, hot, male, negative) and the Five Elements or Five Phases (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth). In its early days, these theories were most strongly associated with the states of Yan and Qi. In later periods, these epistemological theories came to hold significance in both philosophy and popular belief.



The School of Names or Logicians (名家; Míngjiā; Ming-chia; "School of names") grew out of Mohism, with a philosophy that focused on definition and logic. It is said to have parallels with that of the Ancient Greek sophists or dialecticians. The most notable Logician was Gongsun Longzi.


Other Schools

The Taishigong Zixu (太史公自序) of Shiji (史記/史记) lists the above six major philosophies within the Hundred Schools of Thought. The Yiwenzhi(藝文志/艺文志) of Hanshu (漢書/汉书) adds four more into the Ten Schools (十家; Shijia).

The School of Agriculture (農家/农家; Nongjia) encouraged farming and agriculture and taught farming and cultivation techniques, as they believed that agricultural development was the way to have enough food for the country. For example, Mencius once criticized Xu Xing (許行) for advocating that rulers should work in the fields with their subjects.

The School of Diplomacy or School of Vertical and Horizontal [Alliances] (縱橫家/纵横家; Zonghengjia) specialized in diplomatic politics; Zhang Yi was a representative thinker. This school focused on practical matters instead of any moral principle, so it stressed political and diplomatic tactics, and debate and lobbying skill. Scholars from this school were good orators, debaters and tacticians.

The Miscellaneous School (雜家/杂家; Zajia) integrated teachings from different schools; for instance, Lü Buwei found scholars from different schools to write a book called Lüshi Chunqiu (呂氏春秋) cooperatively. This school tried to integrate the merits of various schools and avoid their perceived flaws. Thus, the thought of this school lacked originality.

The School of "Minor-talks" (小說家/小说家; Xiaoshuojia) was not a unique school of thought. Indeed, all the thoughts which was discussed by and originated from non-famous people on the street were included into this school. At that time, there were some government officials responsible for collecting ideas from non-famous people on the street and report to their senior. This was where this school originated from. This also explains its Chinese name, which literally means "school of minor-talks".

Another group is the School of the Military (兵家; Bingjia) that studied warfare and strategy; Sunzi and Sun Bin were influential leaders. However, this school was not one of the "Ten Schools" defined by Hanshu.


History and origins

From the Taishigong Zixu of Shiji and Yiwenzhi of Hanshu the schools are developed from Zhou Dynasty officials. The Burning of books and burying of scholars banned people to keep most of their texts. The texts officially kept might be burned with the Qin Palace by Xiang Yu. From the Yiwenzhi, there are still many officially kept texts in the Former Han Dynasty, and some are written by Han dynasty people. The Wudi of Han ordered the study of the Confucian classics the basis of the government examination system and the core of the educational curriculum; there were little students to these schools except a few and many texts were lost later. Their thoughts can only be seen in the existing texts and newly discovered texts.