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(?1027 – 221 BC)

Shang (1523-1027 BC)  
Ch'in (221-206 BC)   When the Shang Empire suffered a rebellion in the eastern kingdom, the empire failed to see a great army gathering to the west, led by a tribe called the Chou. This federation of tribal armies sacked the capital, ending the Shang dynasty, and the eight hundred years of Chou began.
Han (206 BC-AD 220)  
Three Kingdoms (220-581)  
Sui (581-618)  
T'ang (618-907)   The Chou carried forward most of the characteristics of the Shang except that the throne would pass not from brother to brother but from the father to the eldest son. Other sons and royalty were set upon thrones of rival but now conquered capitals, spreading the Chou state throughout all of the former Shang lands and the territory from the Yangtze River to the deserts.
Sung (907-1279)  
Yüan (1279-1368)  
Ming (1368-1644)  
Ch'ing (1644-1912)  
Opening the Door (1844-1911)  
The Period of Revolution (1912-1949)  

As more land was conquered and more vassal capitals established, the Chou king found it more difficult to maintain control of his far-flung empire, as Mongols, Turks, and Tibetans raided outlying provinces. Gradually these provinces looked less and less toward the king, and more toward their own dukes. As loyalties crumbled, an alliance of dukes and barbarians sacked the Chou capital in 771 BC. The royal family fled to the eastern city of Loyang to begin a new period of its dynasty called Eastern Chou.


Mao's Dynasty (1949-1976)  
Raising the Bamboo Curtain (1972-1979)  
Into the Next Millennium (1979- )  
For the next two hundred years dukes were able to forget internal tensions and focus on the external barbarian threat. Then in 479 BC, the outlying state of Ch’u, near the Yangtze River defeated a smaller state and triggered a bloody struggle that would stretch for another two hundred years, a period called, appropriately, the Warring States.

The eight centuries of Chou, however, were more than the sum total of their many wars, for during this period the age of iron arrived. From furnaces used to make pottery, the Chou struck upon the knowledge for casting iron in large quantities, making it plentiful and cheap. It was used for making cooking utensils, agricultural implements, and instruments of war. The age of Chou was also the age of Confucius, a humble teacher and sage and, arguably, the most potent force in Chinese civilization. He compiled and edited the literary works collectively known as the Five Classics. This work would influence China’s educational system and government for the next two thousand years.

Ceremonial Axehead
c. 1100 - c. 256 BCE
Chou Period
7 7/8 in. x 4 1/2 in.
Courtesy The University of Michgan Art Museum