Warring States Period

Warring States Period

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The Warring States period (481/403 BCE - 221 BCE) describes the three centuries when various rival Chinese states battled viciously for territorial advantage and dominance. Ultimately the Qin state was victorious and established the first unified Chinese state. Besides incessant warfare, and probably because of it, the period saw significant developments in society, commerce, agriculture, philosophy, and the arts, setting the foundations for the subsequent flourishing of Imperial China.

Time Frame

The time frame of the Warring States period (Zhanguo) is not agreed upon by all historians, with some preferring 481 BCE as the starting point when the Lu chronicles end and others plumbing for 403 BCE when the three states of Han, Wei, and Zhao were officially recognised by the Zhou court. Still others chose dates within that period, the most popular being that of the ancient Chinese historian Sima Qian: 475 BCE. The end date is usually defined as the establishment of the Qin Empire: 221 BCE. The period is covered by two ancient Chinese chronicles of uncertain date and unknown authors: Discourses of the States and The Intrigues of the Warring States.


In the 5th century BCE the Eastern Zhou (Chou) Dynasty (771-256 BCE) was crumbling. No longer dominant in military terms, the Zhou were forced to rely on armies of other allied states, who on occasion took the opportunity to forward their own territorial claims. For this reason, the Zhou king was compelled to sometimes make the military leader of another state the military leader of the Zhou alliance. These commanders were given the honorary title of ba or Hegemon, although they and the leaders of other states in the alliance had to swear loyalty to the Zhou feudal system.

Seven major states vied for control of China: the Chu, Han, Qi, Qin, Wei, Yan, & Zhao.

In each state, the ruler declared himself king and independent of the Zhou empire. Each now looked to expand their territory at their neighbour's expense, often attacking rivals over succession disputes caused by the common policy of intermarriage between different royal families. Eventually, this rivalry led to ever-shifting alliances and the incessant conflicts that gave the period its name. Between 535 and 286 BCE there were 358 wars between states. Huge armies were led by commanders who abandoned the chivalrous etiquette of warfare in previous times (if, indeed, there had ever been such a thing) and ruthlessly campaigned to destroy the enemy - both soldiers and non-combatants. The prize for the victor would be control of a unified China.

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A New Type of Warfare

Cavalry of mounted archers on sturdy Mongolian steeds, large infantry armies based on universal conscription, and the diffusion of new iron weapons such as swords and crossbows (which led to new armour), made warfare during the Warring States Period much more deadly than in previous eras. The slower and more organised battles of yesteryear where chariots were used in large numbers and infantry were deployed in a more predictable manner now gave way to a much more dynamic battlefield. Warfare also became more sophisticated with more subtle and disciplined troop deployments, subterfuge and espionage playing their part in victories.

Chivalry may or may not have gone out of the window but one thing that did certainly change was the scale of battles with armies frequently fielding over 200,000 infantry compared to the more usual 10,000 in earlier times. The Qin, Qi, and Chu states each possessed a total infantry force of close to one million men and a cavalry force of 10,000. Battles were no longer over and done with after a couple of days either but dragged on for months or even years with casualties in the tens of thousands. The armies of a particular state had to fight on multiple fronts, and the objective was now not only to gain new territory but to systematically destroy the military capacity of the enemy. The huge numbers involved meant that soldiers were relatively untrained and warfare became less a matter of fighting skill and more about having such a numerical supremacy that a commander could overwhelm his opponent in the field.

Such continuous warfare must have had a heavy toll on the ordinary populace. Apart from invasion and its consequent destruction of property and crops, males were expected to fight for the state. One of the last great battles of the period at Changping involved the Qin conscripting every male over 15 years of age, but this seems to have been unusual. Still, with so many wars it would have been difficult for a farmer to have avoided military service. There were rewards for soldiers who fought well, notably in the Qin state where a whole system of ranks and rewards was introduced with 20 different levels open to everyone. For example, cutting off a single enemy head entitled the soldier to move up the ranking ladder and acquire around 5 acres of land.

Success in war became the sole goal of the state and everyone in it, as the historian L. Feng here summarises:

During the Warring States period, warfare was the most important aspect of social life, the principle of the state, and the compass that directed government policies. It is no exaggeration that by the late Warring States period (3rd century BCE), war had escalated to the level that the entire state was organised for the very purpose of war, and this was true for all states (197).

Another development in general warfare was the expectation on the commanders. No longer enough to claim a right of command through birth, they now had to demonstrate the military skills which were expounded by the plethora of treatises which arrived on the subject such as Sun Tzu's Art of War. Strategy was important on the battlefield but it became essential in siege warfare when the enemy chose to try and resist attack from within their well-fortified cities or when they protected their borders with watchtowers connected by defensive walls.

The Rise of Qin

Rather ironically given future events, the Qin was one one of the few states which remained loyal to the Zhou. For example, the Qin ruler, Duke Xin, was rewarded for protecting Zhou interests with the title of Hegemon in 364 BCE. His successor Xiao, was given the same honour in 343 BCE. Xiao is known for taking on the services of the gifted advisor Shang Yang, poached from the Wei state, who then reorganised the Qin state and made it even more powerful. Populations were better censored and regions divided into more easily administered provinces and counties so that the collection of taxes (in the form of both goods and labour) was made more efficient. Such was the strength of the Qin now that the Zhou king awarded a royal status and insignia to the ruler Huiwen in 326 BCE.

The Qin state had the advantages of a protective mountain range on its eastern border and was one of the peripheral states so that it had more freedom to expand into territory not held by a rival Chinese state. Now that they had both a strong and organised government based on the principles of Legalism, with its emphasis on laws and procedures (expounded by the ministers Lu Buwei and his protege Li Si), an expanded bureaucracy with local officials and magistrates to help run the provinces, and the economic wherewithal to field large, well-equipped armies, the Qin could begin to plan a more ambitious campaign of major conquest.

A great Qin victory was won against the Zhao in 260 BCE after a three-year battle stretched across a 160 km front.

The victory over the Shu state in 316 BCE allowed the Qin to absorb their fertile agricultural lands further enriching the state. In 278 BCE Ying, the capital of the Chu state, fell under Qin control. A great victory was won against the Zhao in 260 BCE after a three-year battle stretched across a 160 km (100 miles) front. When the Zhou king died and no successor was appointed in 256 CE, Qin took over the remains of that state too. The Qin seemed unstoppable. With final and decisive victories over Han in 230 BCE, Zhao in 228 BCE, Wei in 225 BCE, the capitulation of Chu in 223 BCE - one of the Qin's strongest rivals -, and the defeat of Yan and Qi in 221 BCE, the Qin state was able to at last form a unified empire across most of China. The Qin king, Zheng, awarded himself the title of Shi Huangdi or 'First Emperor'.

Cultural Developments

The period may have been dominated by wars but there were some cultural side effects to all this military activity. The technological necessity to produce weaponry as good as or better than one's opponents led to better tools and craft skills, especially metalworking and the use of iron. Artists, in turn, were able to produce more skilled artworks, notably mastering such difficult and time-consuming materials as jade and lacquer. Large armies need large supplies, and these were met by improved efficiency in agriculture. Better tools made from iron, the use of more land by draining marshes, and better irrigation via ditches and canals all helped to increase productivity.

Cities grew in size as populations sought the greater safety of their defensive walls and towers. Multi-storey city gates were erected to impress visitors with the wealth and might of the city. The rulers' palaces became more extravagant, marketplaces expanded, areas dedicated to specific industries where such goods as pottery and weapons could be mass-produced sprang up, and town planning developed with blocks set out in a regular grid pattern and roads crisscrossing the city.

As alliances were formed and new areas conquered, so too, trade developed and with it a rich middle class of merchants and state administrators. Society moved away (at least a little) from the strict class system where one's position was defined by that of one's parents. The lower aristocratic class (shi) began to usurp the power of the old landed nobility. By necessity, money was introduced in the form of bronze coins with a distinctive central hole or in the form of tools, and so became known as 'knife-money' and 'spade money'. There was now the possibility to acquire wealth and status for those with the necessary talent and opportunity.

There were developments, too, in thought. The bitter and bloody wars caused intellectuals to reassess their views on the world and the role of religion and God in humanity's affairs. Writers and poets attempted to justify, explain, and even parody the events of the period and their often dreadful effects on the ordinary populace. Another name for the Warring States Period is the Hundred Schools (Bai jia), which refers to the proliferation of thought and the development of ideas such as Legalism, Confucianism, Daoism, Naturalism, and Mohism. There were no actual formal schools at the time but rather a wide spectrum of individual thinkers who included Mencius (Pacifist and Confucianist philosopher), Sun Tzu (military strategist), Mo Ti (aka Mozi, military engineer and philosopher), Hui Shi (Logician) and Gongsun Longzi (Logician). The Warring States Period, in many ways, then, set the foundations for the flourishing of culture which would occur in Imperial China when the country would establish itself as one of the world's great and most influential states.

China and East Asia

Chinese people are fond of saying that their country has the longest continuous history of any still existing country, yet the subject of this history — “China,” “The Middle Kingdom”— has itself varied considerably over time. What we mean by “the Chinese people” is also less than clear. People who historically have lived in what today is the People’s Republic of China represent many hundreds of different ethnic groups. Even within the largest of these — the Han people — a number of mutually incomprehensible languages have been spoken. It was only in the latter part of the nineteenth century that it became possible to talk about a Chinese “nation,” understood as a community of people that encompassed most of the country.

What made a person Chinese, and what brought a sense of unity to the Chinese people, was not state power but instead more than anything a shared set of rituals and seasonal celebrations. These rituals go way back in time. The first rulers — the Shang dynasty, 1600-1046 BCE — engaged in human sacrifice and ancestor worship. They were also the first to use characters — divinations inscribed on so-called “oracle bones” — as a means of writing. While human sacrifice soon ceased, ancestor worship and the unique Chinese form of writing have survived to this day. During the following dynasty, the Zhou, 1050-777 BCE, the kings became more powerful and the territory they controlled increased dramatically. The Zhou kings regarded themselves as “Sons of Heaven” who had been given a “Mandate of Heaven” to rule the country. This mandate could be revoked, however, by any rebels who could demonstrate that they were powerful enough to take over the state. A successful uprising was proof that Heaven had withdrawn its favors and instead bestowed them on the rebels.

Towards the end of the Zhou dynasty, political power began to fragment as regional leaders who had been given land by the kings asserted their independence. Eventually, seven separate states emerged, and they were constantly at war with each other. This era has been referred to as the “Warring States period,” 475-221 BCE. During the Warring States period, China was not a country as much as an international system in its own right. The seven independent states engaged in traditional forms of power politics: they forged alliances, made treaties and fought battles, and they took turns in the position as the most powerful state in the system. The armies were enormous, counting up to perhaps one million men, and it was said that some hundreds of thousands of soldiers might die in a single battle. Not surprisingly, the Warring States period is a favorite of twenty-first century costume dramas on Chinese TV. Eventually one of the states, Qin, emerged on top. The question for the smaller states was how to react to Qin’s ascendancy. The topic was much discussed by the philosophers and military strategists of the day.

This was a bleak time of insecurity and war, but the Warring States period also was a time of great economic progress. Military competition, it seems, helped spur innovation. The imperative for all seven states, as the popular dictum put it, was to “enrich the nation and to strengthen the army.” This was first of all the case as far as military hardware was concerned, with new forms of swords, crossbows and chariots being invented. In addition, each state became far better organized and administrated. Taxes were collected more efficiently, the independent power of the nobility was suppressed, and a new class of bureaucrats took over the running of state affairs and organized their work according to formal procedures. A powerful state required a powerful economy, and to this end, farming techniques were developed and major irrigation projects were undertaken. The amount of cast iron produced by China already in the fifth century BCE would not be rivaled by the rest of the world until the middle of the eighteenth century — over two thousand years later. Economic markets developed as well, with coins being used to pay for goods coming from all over China but also from distant lands far beyond, including Manchuria, Korea, and even India.

The intellectual developments of the period were at least as impressive. The Warring States period was known as the age of the “Hundred Schools.” This was the time when all major Chinese systems of thought first came to be established. Eventually, nine of these schools dominated over the others, a group which included Confucianism, Legalism, Daoism, and Mohism. These teachings were propagated by scholars who wandered from one court to the other, looking for a ruler who would be interested in their ideas. Those who were successful found themselves jobs as advisers and courtiers. Since there were many states and multiple centers of competing power, even unorthodox ideas could be given a sympathetic hearing somewhere.

Kongzi, 551-479 BCE — better known outside of China as “Confucius” — is the most famous of these wandering scholars. Born in the state of Lu in what today is the Shandong province — the peninsula which juts out in the direction of Korea — Kongzi rose from lowly jobs as a cow-herder and clerk to become an adviser to the king of Lu himself. Yet eventually political intrigues forced him to leave the court and this was when his life as a peripatetic teacher began. Kongzi’s philosophy emphasized the importance of personal conduct, and he insisted that the virtue of the rulers was more important than the formal rules by which the state was governed. Moral conduct, as Kongzi saw it, is above all a matter of maintaining the obligations implied by our social relationships. Society, in the end, consists of nothing but hierarchical pairs — relations between father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brother, ruler and subject, and between friends. The inferior party in each pair should submit to the power and will of the superior, but the superior has the duty to care for the inferior and to look after his or her welfare. A well-ordered society is a society in which these duties are faithfully carried out.

Daoism is a philosophy associated with Laozi, a contemporary of Kongzi’s. Laozi is the author of the Daodejing, a text of aphorisms and assorted teachings. Yet there is little historical evidence for the actual existence of a person by that name and the teachings are for that reason best regarded as a compilation of texts produced by others. Dao, “the way,” does not only provide you with religious wisdom but also hands-on advice for how to live a successful life. Daoist monks emphasized the spiritual dimensions of human existence and sought to communicate with the spirits of nature. In addition, Daoism has had an impact on politics too. Its spiritualism and disdain for formal rules have been an inspiration for several political movements that have risen up against the political authorities.

But it was the Legalists who were to have the most direct impact on practical politics. Legalism is the school of political philosophy which the Chinese know as fajia. And the law was indeed important to them but only as a tool of statecraft. The Legalists assumed that all people act only in their self-interest and that they follow no moral codes which do not benefit themselves. It is consequently only the law and its enforcement which can keep people in line and guarantee peace and order in society. The law must, therefore, be clear enough for everyone to understand it, and the punishments which it requires must be harsh enough to make sure that everyone obeys. In the end, it was only the state and its survival that mattered to the Legalists. The ruler was free to act in whichever way he chose as long as it benefited the state. This applied not least to matters of foreign policy. Alliances could be made but also broken ostensibly friendly countries could be attacked without warning peace negotiations could serve as a pretext for starting another war, and so on.

Qin Shi Huang, often referred to as “the First Emperor,” 220-210 BCE, came to power on the back of advice such as this. He suppressed the rivaling states, united the country, and standardized weights and measures, the Chinese language, and even the width of roads and of the axles of carts. In an attempt to restart Chinese history, and to do it on his own terms, he ordered all classical texts to be burned and had Confucian scholars buried alive. Despite the Legalists’ ruthless advice, or perhaps because of it, the Qin dynasty only lasted fifteen years. After Qin Shi Huang’s death, the country soon descended into another round of wars. Yet the many philosophical schools of the period — Confucianism and Legalism in particular — would continue to play an important role throughout Chinese history.

There were about seven states of China during the Warring States period, including Yen, which was not one of the contending states, and 6 that were:

Two of these states, the Ch'in and Ch'u, came to dominate, and in 223, the Ch'in defeated the Ch'u, establishing the first unified Chinese state two years later. During the Spring and Autumn period, which preceded the Warring States, warfare was feudal and reliant on the war chariot. During the Warring Period, military campaigns were directed by the states who fitted out their soldiers with individual weapons.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica and The Oxford Companion to Military History.


Gekokujō Period

Following the death of the Sage of the Six Paths, the various shinobi clans began to form governments among themselves, with his two sons going their separate ways. Peace only lasted five years following his death, however, before the lesser clans, which were dominated by the stronger, more independent shinobi clans, rose up to overthrow their overlords in a period known as "gekokujō" (下克上, "the underling conquers the overlord"). During this time, the Uchiha Clan formed under the reigns of the Sage's grandson, Ryun Uchiha, while the Senju Clan formed under the reigns of Mataiden Senju. Lesser clans, such as the Hyūga Clan and the Kurosaki Clan, formed under the leaderships of Seireitou Hyūga and Hikaru Kurosaki respectively. The lands began to carve out their territories, and several daimyō began to claim leadership of these lands, filling the vacuum left by the shinobi warlords.

Ōnin War

Sometime after that period, the Ōnin War (応仁の乱, Ōnin no Ran), which set off this period of ninja wars, began as a civil war between the Hyūga and the Kurosaki clans — both clans wanting their leader to become the "shogun" of a large territory in the modern day Land of Earth. The leaders of these clans, Seireitou and Hikaru, despised one another a great deal, and their bloodshed soon drew other clans in. This was the first official war that the Uchiha joined in on, using their Sharingan to dominate the battlefields. Eventually, the Uchiha sided with the Hyūga, their clan leaders becoming friends following a battle that took place deep in what would become the Land of Fire. It was after this, during the ensuing conflicts, that Seireitou became the first Hyūga to awaken the Byakugan. In a bid to end the war, Ryun, the leader of the Uchiha, enslaved a young Kurama, the Nine-Tails, with his Sharingan, using its superior power to obliterate the Kurosaki ninja.

This, in turn, lead the Kurosaki to capture and control Shukaku, the One-Tail, in the hopes that it would even the playing field. This would later lead to a hate-filled blood feud between the two tailed beasts. Ultimately, however, the war was fought to a bitter stalemate, though the Kurosaki Clan later lost its drive, and retreated, causing most to believe the Uchiha and the Hyūga truly won the war. Nevertheless, this war acted as a catalyst for others, as the clan warfare had ruffled the feathers of other clans that had been influenced by the war, causing a period of constant, unending civil war, which would last nearly a century before it was finally, peacefully, brought to a close.

Samurai—Ninja Conflicts

As the ninja wars raged on, the samurai (侍), who had been the ruling military power prior to the Sage of the Six Paths, began to see the shinobi as a threat, and began to war with the various shinobi clans. However, at this time, samurai had not yet learned to use chakra, and the shinobi quickly began to push them back. These conflicts only lasted two years, according to Ryun Uchiha, as the last remaining pockets of samurai were pushed into the Land of Iron.

Uchiha—Senju Blood Feud

After the fall of the samurai, the new daimyō began to hire shinobi clans to fight against one another as they fought for control of the new countries. During this period, two of these clans came to the forefront the Uchiha clan and the Senju clan. The clans became so prominent that, should one leader hire the Senju, the other would hire the Uchiha. The leaders of the clans, Ryun and Mataiden, had been close friends prior to the war, but, due to the necessity of their occupation, became rivals. Ironically, however, they still saw each other as best friends, never intentionally trying to kill the other. This began to arouse anger in both clans, as the death of either clan's members tolled heavy on their people. Eventually, the Uchiha decided to finish Mataiden off for themselves, assassinating him at his clan's headquarters. This event pained Ryun so much, that his Mangekyō Sharingan awakened, and he became a far more brutal leader. After discovering the Uchiha's involvement in his friend's death, however, he entrusted the clan to his sons, Madara and Izuna Uchiha, and left.

Due to the unrelenting violence, the average life-span for a shinobi was a mere 30 years during this time, though the single biggest reason for the continuing fall in life expectancy was the slaughter of countless conscripted children. With the continued loss of their kin, a never ending cycle of death and revenge was born, which saw shinobi having to even conceal their surnames for fear of retaliation. Hashirama Senju, Mataiden's oldest son, and Madara's former best friend, took the reigns of the Senju clan following his father's death, and continued the war with the Uchiha. Madara, who blamed the Senju for his father's departure, turned away from Hashirama's friendship, and thus, a bitter rivalry developed between the two young men. During this time, Madara and his brother discovered the secret of the Sharingan becoming the first, next to their father, to awaken the Mangekyō Sharingan. Though with the constant battles, Madara's vision degraded further and further until he decided to take his brother's eyes, gaining an "Eternal" Mangekyō Sharingan with which to keep fighting.

Unificication Period

After decades of conflict, most of the clans under the Uchiha and Senju banners formed the first lasting truce after growing weary of the continued bloodshed. The only person who opposed this peace was Madara, who argued for the Uchiha clan to continue the fighting, but was ultimately persuaded to join in a permanent alliance with the Senju clan. Soon after, a pact was formed with the Land of Fire and thus, Konohagakure was formed. This set a precedence which others soon followed, creating the Five Great Shinobi Countries, as well as some smaller, outlying villages and settlements.

The Political History of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period

The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC) and the Bamboo Annals (296 BC) describe a Xia dynasty (c. 2070–1600 BC) before the Shang, but no writing is known from the period The Shang ruled in the Yellow River valley, which is commonly held to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. However, Neolithic civilizations originated at various cultural centers along both the Yellow River and Yangtze River. These Yellow River and Yangtze civilizations arose millennia before the Shang. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations, and is regarded as one of the cradles of civilization.

The Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) supplanted the Shang and introduced the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to justify their rule. The central Zhou government began to weaken due to external and internal pressures in the 8th century BC, and the country eventually splintered into smaller states during the Spring and Autumn period. These states became independent and warred with one another in the following Warring States period. Much of traditional Chinese culture, literature and philosophy first developed during those troubled times.

In 221 BC Qin Shi Huang conquered the various warring states and created for himself the title of Huangdi or "emperor" of the Qin, marking the beginning of imperial China. However, the oppressive government fell soon after his death, and was supplanted by the longer-lived Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). Successive dynasties developed bureaucratic systems that enabled the emperor to control vast territories directly. In the 21 centuries from 206 BC until AD 1912, routine administrative tasks were handled by a special elite of scholar-officials. Young men, well-versed in calligraphy, history, literature, and philosophy, were carefully selected through difficult government examinations. China's last dynasty was the Qing (1644–1912), which was replaced by the Republic of China in 1912, and in the mainland by the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Chinese history has alternated between periods of political unity and peace, and periods of war and failed statehood – the most recent being the Chinese Civil War (1927–1949). China was occasionally dominated by steppe peoples, most of whom were eventually assimilated into the Han Chinese culture and population. Between eras of multiple kingdoms and warlordism, Chinese dynasties have ruled parts or all of China in some eras control stretched as far as Xinjiang and Tibet, as at present. Traditional culture, and influences from other parts of Asia and the Western world (carried by waves of immigration, cultural assimilation, expansion, and foreign contact), form the basis of the modern culture of China.

Warring States Period

The Warring States period was the second of two periods of Chinese history which fall within the span of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, coming after the Spring and Autumn Period, and running from 450 to 220 BCE. It ended in the unification of China proper under the Qin Dynasty.

The period saw the lives of some of China's most influential philosophers, including Mencius and Xunzi.

As the various states nominally under the authority of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty fell into further disunity and violence, the scale of war expanded. Battles in the Spring and Autumn Period took place chiefly on flat terrain, and rarely featured more than 30,000 charioteers and infantry warriors. Campaigns rarely lasted longer than a year. In the Warring States period, by contrast, records suggest that armies may have consisted of as many as 600,000 men, though some more skeptical historians suggest 100,000 as a more reasonable figure. Campaigns were often fought for one to five years. Iron weapons appeared around 600 BCE, and by the Warring States period, crossbows and lamellar armor were common. Further, whereas Spring and Autumn battles were generally fought only by elites, in the Warring States period, members of all social classes fought alongside one another, in part because of eroding social hierarchical distinctions. Whereas in the Spring and Autumn period, there was a clear hierarchy of nobles (卿, qīng), aristocrats (士, shì), and commoners (民, mín), this was no longer so starkly the case in the Warring States period.

Warring States Period - History

The Zhou or Chou Dynasty approx. 1100-221BC

This dynasty is divided into four periods:

* Western Zhou 1100-771 BC
* Eastern Zhou 700-256 BC
* Spring and Autumn Period 770-476 BC
* Warring States Period 476-221 BC

* Western Zhou

The Western Zhou people migrated to the Shang region in 1111 BC, initially adopting the Shang's customs. However, over time people started to rebel against the ancient customs and beliefs. It was an age of political and social unrest with a breakdown in the morals of the people. Feudalistic states were constantly at war with one another.

An organized medical system developed during this period.

Court Physicians
According to the book Rites of Zhou or Rites of Chou, which recorded the ceremonies or systems for that time, the Eastern Zhou period had an organized medical system in which court officials of the emperor were trained in a variety of medical specialties. For example, jiyi were physicians who cured internal illnesses, yangyi were physicians who cured external illnesses such as wounds, skin problems, broken bones and other traumatic injuries, and shiyi were physicians who dealt with dietary problems. The first official Chinese veterinarians also appeared during this time.

* Spring/Autumn Period

A number of physicians contributed a great deal of knowledge to TCM in this period. One notable physician was Bian Que. Bian Que's skills were based on the four fundamental examination procedures of Chinese medicine. He would observe his patient's tongue, nose, ears, face, eyes, mouth and throat, listen to his patient's speech, coughing, or other bodily vibrations, take a complete history of the patient's problem, and lastly he would feel the patient's pulse. Bian Que also believed illness was caused by the imbalance of yin and yang. Using these examination techniques, Bian Que was an expert in many fields of medicine including gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, psychiatry and otorhinolaryngology (ENT).

* Warring States Period

During the Warring States Period China's feudalistic government split into seven different states. It was around this time period that the yin/yang philosophyand the use of five elements to describe causes for illness, were further developed and their uses began to be taught in schools and written about in books.

Wei defeated by Qin (370-340)

King Hui of Wei (370-319) set about restoring the state. In 362-359 he exchanged territories with Han and Zhao in order to make the boundaries of the three states more rational. In 344 he assumed the title of king.

In 364 Wei was defeated by Qin at the Battle of Shimen and was only saved by the intervention of Zhao. Qin won another victory in 362. In 361 the capital was moved east to Daliang to be out of the reach of Qin.

In 354 BC, King Hui of Wei started a large-scale attack on Zhao. By 353 BC, Zhao was losing badly and its capital, Handan, was under siege. The State of Qi intervened. The famous Qi strategist, Sun Bin the great, great, great grandson of Sun Tzu (author of the Art of War), proposed to attack the Wei capital while the Wei army was tied up besieging Zhao. The strategy was a success the Wei army hastily moved south to protect its capital, was caught on the road and decisively defeated at the Battle of Guiling. The battle is remembered in the second of the Thirty-Six Stratagems, "besiege Wei, save Zhao" meaning to attack a vulnerable spot to relieve pressure at another point.

In 341 BC, Wei attacked Han. Qi allowed Han to be nearly defeated and then intervened. The generals from the Battle of Guiling met again (Sun Bin and Tian Ji versus Pang Juan), by using the same tactic, attacking Wei's capital. Sun Bin feigned a retreat and then turned on the overconfident Wei troops and decisively defeated them at the Battle of Maling.

In the following year Qin attacked the weakened Wei. Wei was devastatingly defeated and ceded a large part of its territory in return for truce. With Wei severely weakened, Qi and Qin became the dominant states in China.


Originally called Ying Zheng, Emperor Ch'in was born in 260 B.C. and died in 210. His reign as king of the more than 500-year old state of Qin had started when he was only 13. Having unified the warring states, Chin became emperor of a unified China in 221 B.C. His rule as emperor had lasted for 12 years when he died at the age of 49. When he died, his body was covered by fish to disguise the odor and to delay news until his body arrived back home -- according to legend. Rebellion followed soon after. Weak successors followed, so his dynasty lasted only another three years.

Warring States Period - History

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Zhao, Wade-Giles romanization Chao, ancient Chinese feudal state, one of the seven powers that achieved ascendancy during the Warring States (Zhanguo) period (475–221 bce ) of Chinese history. In 403 bce Zhao Ji, the founder of Zhao, and the leaders of the states of Wei and Han partitioned the state of Jin. The state of Zhao extended through northeastern and central Shanxi and southwestern Hebei. The state prospered for a time, seizing large areas of land within the territories of the states of Qi and Wei. It eventually became the strongest contender against the state of Qin, but its military strength was utterly destroyed by Qin in 260 bce some 50,000 men were killed in battle, and most of the approximately 400,000 men who surrendered were slaughtered. The state of Zhao was finally annexed by Qin in 222 bce .

This article was most recently revised and updated by Kenneth Pletcher, Senior Editor.

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