China 500 BCE

With the Zhou dynasty of Ancient China weak, one of the great philosophers of world history, Confucius, preaches a message of loyalty and humanity.

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What is happening in China in 500BCE

This is a crucial period for Chinese civilization – a time of great upheaval, but also of great creativity, in Ancient China’s history.

Fragmentation of the Zhou kingdoms

The many fiefs into which earlier Zhou dynasty kings had divided their realm have, through a process of warfare and annexation, been absorbed into a few larger political units. These can now fairly be called states in their own right, only loosely acknowledging the authority of the Zhou kings.

Centralized, bureaucratic states

These states are developing centralised bureaucracies, well-organized armies, and sophisticated tax systems to pay for them. Technological and conomic advances have led to the expansion of commerce, the growth of towns, a flourishing merchant class, the introduction of metal coinage and, centuries before the west, the invention of cast iron. Into this fluctuating environment comes one of the most influential philosophers in world history, Confucius (551-479 BCE). In this time of change he calls people back to their ancient duties of honour and obedience.

Expansion of the Chinese world

The organized state pattern of the Yellow River region has penetrated the Yangtze Valley. Peoples formally regarded as “barbarian” by the Zhou are being absorbed into Chinese civilization. Throughout much of southern China, however, native peoples cling to their former way of life. A major ethnic group in southern China at this ancient period are the Thai people.

Next map, China in 200 BCE


Dig Deeper:

Zhou Dynasty China

Ancient East Asia

Ancient Chinese Civilization

Premium resources:

Early Civilizations

Classical China

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