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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Zhou Dynasty and Winning the Mandate of Heaven

The Zhou Dynasty
The Classical Age in China began with the conquest of the Huang He Valley in 1050 B.C. by the Zhou (JOH) dynasty. Under the Zhou and the dynasties that followed, China became powerful. These dynasties left a heritage that has lasted for thousands of years. A heritage is a set of ideas that have been passed down from one generation to another.

Winning the Mandate of Heaven
The beginnings of the Zhou people are not entirely clear. Even experts in Chinese history are not sure how different the Zhou were from the Shang. One difference is clear, however. The Zhou worshipped a god they called Tian (TYEN), or "Heaven." This god seems to have been unknown to the Shang.

The ancestors of the Zhou dynasty may have lived in the Wei River Valley as herders. In time, they learned to farm and settled in villages. According to legend, the founder of the Zhou, Hou Ji (HO GEE) discovered agriculture when he was a child.

Gradually, the Zhou began to move farther east in the Wei River Valley. As they moved, they came into contact with the Shang. Around the year 1150 B.C., the Zhou attacked the Shang. In about 1050 B.C. the Zhou ruler, King Wu, claimed victory over the Shang.

According to the Zhou, Heaven ordered King Wu to conquer the Shang and begin a new dynasty. The early Zhou kings believed that the god Heaven disapproved of the Shang king. They thought that the Shang did not have the virtues, or good qualities, needed to lead the people.

The Book of Documents, an early Chinese text, calls Heaven's order to claim rule over China the Mandate of Heaven. The Zhou kings believed that they would be able to keep the mandate as long as they continued to show virtues. The Zhou kings believed that virtues kept order in their society.

What was the Mandate of Heaven?


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