Why did the Western Zhou Dynasty dominate the world for a long time?

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Problems in the Western Zhou Dynasty

One of the important reasons why the Western Zhou Dynasty is so desirable is that it leaves us a cloud and mist. The period after the Western Zhou Dynasty left many records. Take the Eastern Zhou Dynasty for example, there were at least three biographies of the spring and Autumn period, the Warring States policy and the national language, plus a wealth of comments from scholars. After that, not to mention. But the Western Zhou Dynasty is different. The Western Zhou Dynasty is not without records. The Shangshu? ZhouShu is basically about the early Western Zhou Dynasty. There is also a Yizhou book. Of course, the bookofsongs can barely be counted as part of it. Based on these documents, Sima Qian made do with writing “historical records? Zhou Benji” (unfortunately, he did not read the Bamboo Annals compiled by the historian of the state of Wei). However, these documents have two characteristics, one is short and the other is scattered. The main characters and events are mentioned, but it is difficult to form a complete narrative. For example, the “war fire drama Princes” event made the mistake of inversion of cause and effect in its statement.



Zhou Qin bronze chariots and horses

However, there is an awkward uncertainty in this attempt. The people of the Western Zhou Dynasty did leave a large number of bronzes, but how many more were buried underground? Just as the researchers relied on the existing gold inscriptions to sort out the detailed and complete historical events of the Western Zhou Dynasty, before they could publish them, they did not know where to excavate the very important noble cemeteries and unearthed exquisite bronzes with rich inscriptions, which is likely to cause a fatal blow to the researchers’ conclusions and judgments. Then, as researchers of ancient history, in addition to being strict with the unearthed gold literature, we have to ask: where did the people of the Western Zhou Dynasty get so many copper materials to make bronzes?

Nanjin! Nanjin!

It is generally believed that the large-scale copper mine nearest to the Zhou People’s activity area is located in Zhongtiaoshan in southern Shanxi, which is still an important copper ore producing area so far. This may be a factor that King Wu of Zhou enfeoffed his son tangshuyu in southern Shanxi. However, archaeological research shows that the raw materials of copper ore, which constituted a large number of bronzes in the Western Zhou Dynasty, did not come from Shanshan and other places near the core area of the Western Zhou Dynasty. In fact, a considerable part of the bronzes of the Western Zhou Dynasty unearthed today come from around the Poyang Lake Plain in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, which is still the main copper mine producing area in China. Daye, Ruichang, Dexing and Tongling Copper Mines in this area continue to be mined, and a large number of sites since the Shang and Zhou dynasties have been preserved.



Real scene of Tongling site

Researchers even simulated the route to obtain copper materials in the south of the Yangtze River in the Shang and Zhou dynasties, that is, from Xinyang, Henan, through the Dabie Mountains, out of Wushengguan between Henan and Hubei, through Wuhan – the high-speed railway from Beijing to Wuhan also takes this route – you can reach Ruichang, Tongling and other mining areas in Jiangxi all the way East. (however, another study based on “lead isotope archaeology” shows that the sources of copper, tin, lead and other minerals in the Shang Dynasty may be as far away as northeast Yunnan in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.) It is certain that when the Western Zhou people first took over the rule of the Shang Dynasty, they also inherited the merchants’ mining industry in the Yangtze River Basin. Of course, the copper miners and transporters were all local people.

A large number of documents also confirmed the taste of Zhou people for copper. When Zhou Li Xia’s lawsuit horse mentioned that “the southeast is called Yangzhou”, it believed that the region “benefits from gold, tin and bamboo arrows”, which is basically the same as the tribute Fu described in Shang Shu Yu Gong that “the Huaihe River and the sea are only Yangzhou”, which places the “three gold only products” in the first place of the tribute of the people in the Huaihe River Basin – the “gold” here is copper.

Of course, the tribute is not for nothing. Who is responsible for collecting these copper materials for the king of Zhou? According to the records of “Yi Zhou Shu? Wang Hui”, when King Cheng of Zhou received the contribution of Siyi in Chengzhou (Luoyi), “Duke Dan of Zhou ruled the East”. Duke Zhou was not only good at “interpreting dreams”, but also the uncle of King Cheng, the father of the first generation of marquis Lu and the builder of Luoyi in Zhou. In fact, Duke Zhou and his descendants all shoulder the important task of collecting Southern copper materials for the Zhou people. In the spring and Autumn period, Duke Lu, a descendant of Duke Zhou, said in the book of songs? Panshui that he could still “control the Huai and the barbarians”, and mentioned the treasure offered by the Huai and the barbarians – “the tortoise and elephant teeth of the Yuan Dynasty, the great bribe to the Southern Jin Dynasty”, that is, the tortoise, ivory and the southern copper.

Now, in addition to the Lu people who took charge of the collection of copper materials for the Zhou people, they also know the lower level source of these materials – Huaiyi. As for the direct miners of the copper mine, it is obvious that they are indigenous residents living around the Poyang Lake Plain. In any case, Zhou people recognized Huaiyi as the source of copper materials, but would Huaiyi be willing to honestly offer copper raw materials? The answer is No. The word “Ke” in “Ke Huai Yi” vividly shows the means of Zhou people to maintain copper materials. This is not a story about etiquette and tribute. The Huai and Yi people were only able to continuously offer the mineral resources of the surrounding areas because of the force of the Zhou people.

Ironically, a large number of bronze inscriptions embodying the blood and sweat of the Huai people show that the large-scale ethnic conflicts between the Zhou people and the Huai people have been seen in the gold inscriptions of the Western Zhou Dynasty since the reign of King Zhao and King Mu. For example, the Lu (Dongge) you inscriptions mentioned that “the Huai people dared to invade the country…” although, the inscriptions of the Zhou people always portray themselves as the Party of justice, presenting the Huai people as “rebels” who committed crimes, But he never mentioned the reason for the Huaiyi rebellion, but only said how much “auspicious money” Huaiyi people paid for their misconduct again. The word “bribe” in “Da bribe Nan Jin” seemed to be a ticket for their humiliation. From a more comprehensive perspective, we may understand that these doubled “fines” in turn constitute the reason for Huaiyi’s next rebellion.

The wonderful use of “six divisions”

Why are the injured always Huaiyi? Of course, the more later, the more difficult it was for Zhou people to get a bargain in Huaiyi. For most of the time in the Western Zhou Dynasty, no matter whether it was hard or not, as stated in the inscription on Yu Ding, even after the “national riots”, King li of Zhou still stood on the side of the Zhou people in the battle against Hou Yu Fang, Nan Huai Yi and Dong Yi.

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Yu Ding inscription

It was king Zhou of Shang Dynasty who could feel the painful helplessness when facing the people of Zhou Dynasty better than Huaiyi. According to the book of Zhou Ben Ji, when King Wu and Jiang Ziya faced King Zhou’s army with “three hundred military chariots, three thousand Huben, and forty-five thousand first-class soldiers”, plus “Yong, Shu, Qiang, Pei, Wei, Pei, Peng, Pu people”, the eight western Turks turned over troops on Shang and Monday, and then disappeared. Because Huben, Jiashi and King Zhou of the eight countries also have human resources, except for “military vehicles”. The military chariot is the chariot drawn by four horses in the book of Songs – Daming. Indeed, some people will say that there are still several carriages lying in the chariot and horse pits in the Yin Ruins. However, the archaeological evidence has been concluded. The merchants themselves have no records or relics of horse training. The horse remains in the middle and late Shang Dynasty, including the horse bones in the chariot and horse pits, are imported from outside. Therefore, the horse bones and wheels in the chariot and horse pits in Yin Ruins are probably all the horses and chariots owned in the late Shang Dynasty, which were basically imported from the Zhou people. Frankly speaking, King Zhou didn’t drive a carriage, but he really didn’t have so much to fight with a carriage.

Huaiyi also encountered such problems. In the first battle with Hou Yu Fang, Zhou people fought very hard. Even the elite “six Western divisions” and “eight Yin divisions” did not win. However, as king li of Zhou sent Wu Gong to lead “hundreds of military vehicles, 200 Si Yu, and 1000 Tu” (hundreds of military vehicles and 1200 Tu Yu people), he finally won. It is reasonable to say that the Huaiyi people should not lack people, but military vehicles. This is the key to the invincibility of the Zhou people to the eastern people such as the Huaiyi people.



Chema pit site of the Western Zhou Dynasty

Furthermore, the military vehicle is composed of two parts, the driving device and the power device. It is easy to prepare the frame of the driving equipment, as long as there is wood and craftsmanship. But power plants — horses — don’t exist everywhere. According to the saying of “Yin Yang and five elements”, the ancients believed that horses were “fire animals” and liked the cold environment. This is a misunderstanding. In theory, horses can live at any suitable altitude and latitude. However, as a hoofed animal, common hoofed diseases such as “foot rot” caused by rainy and captive environments objectively limited the large-scale reproduction of horses in low-lying and rainy Plains (cattle, sheep, goats, except buffalo), especially in the classical era when animal husbandry technology was relatively weak; On the contrary, in cold, dry high altitude areas, horses can live healthily. Compared with the eastern people, the loess plateau where Zhou people live is not only more suitable for horse breeding, but also closer to Monan grassland and other pastures. With horses and carts, everything would be easy for Huaiyi and Dongyi.

However, the people of Zhou still have a problem to be solved. We all know that the emperor of Zhou has “six divisions”. For example, the Bamboo Annals mentioned that King Zhao of Zhou “lost six divisions in the Han Dynasty” in the 19th year. Although it is not clear how many chariots the “first division” should be equipped with, according to the basic configuration of one chariot with four horses (chenboliang of the Southern Song Dynasty envisaged in his “military system of successive dynasties” that there might be too many “thousands of chariots in the Western Zhou Dynasty, and thousands of chariots in the six armies”, the number of horses that these troops need to keep is considerable.

The horses used in the “six divisions” could not be obtained in this way. According to the Bamboo Annals, the father of King li of Zhou and the grandfather of King Xuan of Zhou, King Yi, once “ordered Duke Guo to lead the six divisions to attack the army of Taiyuan, and as for Yuquan, he obtained thousands of horses”. The reason for defeating Rong was that “the Yi king was weak, (the Rong in Taiyuan) failed to serve the dynasty. Referring to the Huai Yi who were attacked by the king of Zhou after not paying tribute to” Nanjin “, it was obvious that” obtaining thousands of horses “was not a trophy, but a direct goal. This “Taiyuan” is not today’s place of the same name, but the area of Guyuan, Ningxia, a plateau with high, wide and cold air in the upper reaches of the Jingshui river. It is also the hometown that later frequently provided military police for King Xuan and King Youwang. According to the “inscription on the white plate of Guo Jizi” in the same period, the king of Zhou Yi also ordered Guo Jizi Bai to lead his army to defeat Yu Jin in the north of the Luohe River. The difference is that this time, only 500 heads were beheaded and 50 prisoners were captured, and no horses were obtained. This event was recorded on the bronze ware in honor of Guo Jizi Bai, and the mineral material used to make this bronze ware is likely to come from Huaiyi.

At this time, the people of Zhou still maintained a sufficient winning rate in the fight against Zhun / Canrong. On the one hand, the people of Zhou were well organized, with a large military lineup and sufficient soldiers. On the other hand, they controlled the richest strategic metal resources in East Asia. The bronze materials that continuously flowed into the hinterland of the Western Zhou Dynasty can be processed into important ritual vessels to reward princes and display meritorious deeds, and can also be forged into weapons in the hands of soldiers and chariots, or horse and chariot equipment. The organic combination of the two determined that it was the people of Zhou who repeatedly defeated Yu and seized the latter’s important livelihood resource – horses.

Zhou Tianzi’s career

In theory, seeking copper materials in the South and seeking good horses in the north is indeed a cause of “all benefits without any harm”. It was this perfect operation that enabled the Zhou people at this time to win two local wars at the same time. I summarized this strategy as: win the Huaihe and the barbarians with a good horse and conquer the military with the benefit of the eastern barbarians. However, victory was not always on the side of the Zhou people, and Huaiyi and Canrong would not always be the objects of their free conquest.

The land of Huaishang is located in the plain area with developed lakes and rivers in the middle latitude of East Asia. The bogs and streams will one day fetter the tired horses’ hooves and loose wheels. The king of Zhao, who never returned from the southern expedition, probably had the most say in the last moment of his life. Once the “six Western divisions” and the “eight Yin divisions” were attacked by the enemy at the same time, the loss of soldiers and chariots (horses) would become more and more urgent, which would perplex the “countrymen” and soldiers of the Western Zhou Dynasty, and reflect this external pressure on the Zhou people themselves. It was king li of Zhou who defeated Hou Yu Fang by the military chariot of Duke Wu, but he was also overthrown by the “National Uprising”. Some people believe that it was due to the “good interests” of Rongyi Duke, who was comparable to the stone father of Guo. However, various signs show that there are many gaps in this causal logic.

In any case, it is a difficult problem left by the kings of the Western Zhou Dynasty to their descendants to solve the problem of people hanging upside down or sinking deeper and deeper. On the road of seeking solutions, the monarchs and ministers of the Western Zhou Dynasty gradually shook their foundation and paved the stage for new protagonists on the East Asian stage.

3 thoughts on “Why did the Western Zhou Dynasty dominate the world for a long time?

  1. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. thanks a lot

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