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The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the
Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history 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), during the ...
and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest that saw the annexation of all other contender states, which ultimately led to the Qin state's victory in 221 BC as the first unified Chinese empire, known as the
Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a Romanization of Chinese, romanization system for Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Francis Wade, during the mid-19th ...

Qin dynasty
. Although different scholars point toward different dates ranging from 481 BC to 403 BC as the true beginning of the Warring States,
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
's choice of 475 BC is the most often cited. The Warring States era also overlaps with the second half of the
Eastern Zhou dynasty The Eastern Zhou (; zh, c=, p=Dōngzhōu; 770–256 BC) was the second half of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China. It was divided into two periods: the Spring and Autumn period, Spring and Autumn and the Warring States period, Warring States. H ...
, though the
Chinese sovereign The Chinese sovereign was the ruler of a particular regime in ancient China 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), during the king Wu Ding's r ...
, known as the king of Zhou, ruled merely as a
figurehead In politics, a figurehead is a person who ''de jure In law and government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative ...

figurehead
and served as a backdrop against the machinations of the warring states. The "Warring States Period" derives its name from the ''
Record of the Warring States The ''Zhan Guo Ce'', also known in English language, English as the ''Strategies of the Warring States'' or ''Annals of the Warring States'', is an ancient Chinese text that contains anecdotes of political manipulation and warfare during the Warri ...
'', a work compiled early in the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
.


Geography

The political geography of the era was dominated by the
Seven Warring States The Seven Warring States or Seven Kingdoms () were the seven leading states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper) ...
, namely: *
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
located in the far west, with its core in the
Wei River Valley The Wei River () is a major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course withou ...
and
Guanzhong Guanzhong (, formerly romanised as Kwanchung) region, also known as the Guanzhong Basin, Wei River Basin, or uncommonly as the Shaanzhong region, is a historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographic areas which at some ...
. This geographical position offered protection from the other states but limited its initial influence. *The Three Jins Located in the center on the
Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of the province is ...

Shanxi
plateau were the three successor states of Jin. These were: **
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...
south, along the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
, controlling the approaches to Qin. ** Wei located in the middle, roughly today's eastern
Henan Province Henan (; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China, in the central part of the country. Henan is often referred to as Zhongyuan or Zhongzhou (), which literally means "central plain" or "midland", although the name is also ap ...
. ** Zhao the northernmost of the three, roughly today's southern
Hebei Province Hebei (; Postal romanization, alternately Hopeh) is a coastal Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, and is part of the North China region. The modern province was established in 1911 as Zhili, Chihli Provinc ...
as well as northern
Shanxi Province Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of the province is ...
. * Qi east, centred on the
Shandong Peninsula The Shandong Peninsula or Jiaodong Peninsula is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which it extends. The su ...
*
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
south, with its core territory around the valleys of the
Han RiverHan River may refer to: *Han River (Guangdong) (''Han-jiang'', 韩江), southeast China, flows into the South China Sea *Han River (Hubei) (''Han-shui'', 漢水 or ''Han-jiang'', 漢江), the longest tributary of the Yangtze, China *Han River (Korea ...
and, later, the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
. *
Yan Yan may refer to: Chinese states * Yan (state) Yan (; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, official ...
northeast, centred on modern-day
Beijing Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
. Late in the period it pushed northeast and began to occupy the
Liaodong Peninsula The Liaodong Peninsula (also Liaotung Peninsula, ) is a peninsula in southern Liaoning province in Northeast China, and makes up the southwestern coastal half of the Liaodong region. It is located between the river mouth, mouths of the Daliao ...
Besides these seven major states other smaller states survived into the period. They include: *Royal territory of the Zhou king was near
Luoyi Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, after ...

Luoyi
in the Han area on the Yellow River. * Yue On the southeast coast near
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sou ...

Shanghai
was the State of Yue, which was highly active in the late Spring and Autumn era but was later annexed by Chu. *
Zhongshan Zhongshan (; ) is a prefecture-level city in the south of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Provinces of China, province, China. As of the 2020 census, the whole city with 4,418,060 inhabitants is now part of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen conurbati ...
Between the states of Zhao and Yan was the state of Zhongshan, which was eventually annexed by Zhao in 296 BC. *
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

Sichuan
states: In the far southwest were the non-Zhou states of Ba (east) and
Shu Shu may refer to: China * Sichuan, China, officially abbreviated as Shu (蜀) * Shu (state) (conquered by Qin in 316 BC), an ancient state in modern Sichuan * Shu Han (221–263) during the Three Kingdoms Period * Western Shu (405–413), also k ...
(west). These ancient kingdoms were conquered by Qin later in the period. *Other minor states: There were many minor states which were satellites of the larger ones until they were absorbed. Many were in the Central Plains between the three Jins (west) and Qi (east) and Chu to the south. Some of the more important ones were
Song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...
, Lu, Zheng, Wey, Teng, Yue and Zou.


Periodisation

The eastward flight of the
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
court in 771 BC marks the start of the
Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history 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), during the ...
. No one single incident or starting point inaugurated the Warring States era. The political situation of the period represented a culmination of historical trends of conquest and annexation which also characterised the Spring and Autumn period; as a result there is some controversy as to the beginning of the era. Proposed starting points include: *481 BC
Proposed by Song-era historian Lü Zuqian, also known as Lü Bogong, since this year marks the end of the ''
Spring and Autumn Annals The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or ''Chunqiu'' is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated ...
''. *476–475 BC
The author,
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
, of ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'', chose this date as the inaugural year of
King Yuan of Zhou King Yuan of Zhou (,) personal name Ji Ren, was the twenty-seventh king of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty and the fifteenth of Eastern Zhou.''Records of the Grand Historian'' by Sima Qian His son was his successor, King Zhending of Zhou. Family Sons: * ...
. *453 BC
The
Partition of JinThe Partition of Jin (), the watershed between the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, refers to the division of the State of Jin between rival families into the three states of Han, Zhao and Wei. As a result, the three states were of ...
saw the dissolution/destruction of that key state of the earlier period and the formation of three of the seven warring states: Han, Zhao, and Wei. *441 BC
The inaugural year of Zhou Kings starting with
King Ai of Zhou King Ai of Zhou () personal name Ji Quji, was the twenty-ninth king of the Chinese people, Chinese Zhou Dynasty and the seventeenth of Eastern Zhou. He was the eldest son of King Zhending of Zhou. He succeeded his father in 441, but was killed ...
. *403 BC
The year when the Zhou court officially recognised Han, Zhao and Wei as states. Author
Sima Guang Sima Guang (17 November 1019 – 11 October 1086), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultur ...

Sima Guang
of ''
Zizhi Tongjian ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle recording Chinese history from 403 BC to 959 AD, covering 16 dynasties and spanning almost 1 ...
'' (published 1084) advocates this symbol of eroded Zhou authority as the start of the Warring States era.


Background and formation

The Eastern Zhou Dynasty began to fall around 5th century BC. As their influence waned, they had to rely on other armies in other allied states rather than their own military force. Over 100 smaller states were made into seven major states which included: Chu, Han, Qin, Wei, Yan, Qi and Zhao. However, there eventually was a shift in alliances because each state's ruler wanted to be independent in power. This caused hundreds of wars between the periods of 535–286 BCE. The victorious state would have overall rule and control in China. The system of feudal states created by the
Western Zhou dynasty The Western Zhou ( zh, c=, p=Xīzhōu; c. 1045 BC – 771 BC) was the first half of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and th ...
underwent enormous changes after 771 BC with the flight of the Zhou court to modern-day
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
and the diminution of its relevance and power. The Spring and Autumn period led to a few states gaining power at the expense of many others, the latter no longer able to depend on central authority for legitimacy or protection. During the Warring States period, many rulers claimed the
Mandate of Heaven The Mandate of Heaven () is a Chinese political philosophy that was used in ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsAztec King Nezahualpiltzintli of Texcoco King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of cont ...
to justify their conquest of other states and spread their influence. The struggle for hegemony eventually created a state system dominated by several large states, such as Jin, Chu, Qin, Yan and Qi, while the smaller states of the Central Plains tended to be their satellites and tributaries. Other major states also existed, such as Wu and Yue in the southeast. The last decades of the Spring and Autumn era were marked by increased stability, as the result of peace negotiations between Jin and Chu which established their respective spheres of influence. This situation ended with the partition of Jin, whereby the state was divided between the houses of Han, Zhao and Wei, and thus enabled the creation of the seven major warring states.


Partition of Jin (453–403 BC)

The rulers of Jin had steadily lost political powers since the middle of the 6th century BC to their nominally subordinate nobles and military commanders, a situation arising from the traditions of the Jin which forbade the
enfeoffment In the Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe si ...
of relatives of the ducal house. This allowed other clans to gain fiefs and military authority, and decades of internecine struggle led to the establishment of four major families, the Han, Zhao, Wei and Zhi. The
Battle of Jinyang The Battle of Jinyang () was fought between the elite families of the State of Jin, the house of Zhao and the house of Zhi (智), in the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in C ...
saw the allied Han, Zhao and Wei destroy the Zhi family (453 BC) and their lands were distributed among them. With this, they became the "de facto" rulers of most of Jin's territory, though this situation would not be officially recognised until half a century later. The Jin division created a political vacuum that enabled during the first 50 years expansion of Chu and Yue northward and Qi southward. Qin increased its control of the local tribes and began its expansion southwest to
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

Sichuan
.


Early Warring States


The three Jins recognized (403–364 BC)

In 403 BC, the Zhou court under King Weilie officially recognized Zhao, Wei and Han as immediate vassals, thereby raising them to the same rank as the other warring states. From before 405 until 383 BC the three Jins were united under the leadership of Wei and expanded in all directions. The most important figure was
Marquess Wen of Wei Marquess Wen of Wei (Wèi Wén Hóu; died 396 BCE) was the first Marquess to rule the Wei (state), State of Wei during the Warring States period of Chinese history (475–220 BCE). Born Wei Si (魏斯), he belonged to the House of Wei, one of ...
(445–396 BC). In 408–406 BC he conquered the State of
Zhongshan Zhongshan (; ) is a prefecture-level city in the south of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Provinces of China, province, China. As of the 2020 census, the whole city with 4,418,060 inhabitants is now part of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen conurbati ...
to the northeast on the other side of Zhao. At the same time he pushed west across the Yellow River to the Luo River taking the area of Xihe (literally 'west of the ellowriver'). The growing power of Wei caused Zhao to back away from the alliance. In 383 BC it moved its capital to
Handan Handan is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China ...
and attacked the small state of Wey. Wey appealed to Wei which attacked Zhao on the western side. Being in danger, Zhao called in Chu. As usual, Chu used this as a pretext to annex territory to its north, but the diversion allowed Zhao to occupy a part of Wei. This conflict marked the end of the power of the united Jins and the beginning a period of shifting alliances and wars on several fronts. In 376 BC, the states of Han, Wei and Zhao deposed Duke Jing of Jin and divided the last remaining Jin territory between themselves, which marked the final end of the Jin state. In 370 BC,
Marquess Wu of Wei Marquess Wu of Wei (died 370 BCE), was a ruler of the State of Wei Wei (; ; Old Chinese: *') was one of the seven major State (Ancient China), states during the Warring States period of ancient China. It was created from the three-way Partition o ...
died without naming a successor, which led to a war of succession. After three years of civil war, Zhao from the north and
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...
from the south invaded Wei. On the verge of conquering Wei, the leaders of Zhao and Han fell into disagreement about what to do with Wei, and both armies abruptly retreated. As a result,
King Hui of Wei King Hui of Wei (; 400-319 BC), originally called Marquis Hui of Wei, and after 344, King Hui of Liang () was the third ruler of the state of Wei during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese hist ...
(still a Marquess at the time) was able to ascend the throne of Wei. By the end of the period Zhao extended from the Shanxi plateau across the plain to the borders of Qi. Wei reached east to Qi, Lu and
Song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...
. To the south, the weaker state of Han held the east-west part of the Yellow River valley, surrounded the Zhou royal domain at
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
and held an area north of Luoyang called
ShangdangShangdang Commandery or Shangdang Prefecture () was an administrative subdivision of ancient China from the time of the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records ...
.


Qi resurgence under Tian (379–340 BC)

Duke Kang of Qi Duke Kang of Qi (; died 379 BC) was from 404 to 386 BC the titular ruler of the State of Qi during the early Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureau ...
died in 379 BC with no heir from the house of Jiang, which had ruled Qi since the state's founding. The throne instead passed to the future King Wei, from the house of Tian. The Tian had been very influential at court towards the end of Jiang rule, and now openly assumed power.Shi Ji, chapter 15 The new ruler set about reclaiming territories that had been lost to other states. He launched a successful campaign against Zhao, Wey and Wei, once again extending Qi territory to the Great Wall.
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
writes that the other states were so awestruck that nobody dared attack Qi for more than 20 years. The demonstrated military prowess also had a calming effect on Qi's own population, which experienced great domestic tranquility during Wei's reign.Shi Ji, chapter 46 By the end of King Wei's reign, Qi had become the strongest of the states and proclaimed itself "king"; establishing independence from the Zhou dynasty (see below).


Wars of Wei

King Hui of Wei King Hui of Wei (; 400-319 BC), originally called Marquis Hui of Wei, and after 344, King Hui of Liang () was the third ruler of the state of Wei during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese hist ...
(370–319 BC) set about restoring the state. In 362–359 BC he exchanged territories with Han and Zhao in order to make the boundaries of the three states more rational. In 364 BC 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 BC. In 361 BC the Wei capital was moved east to
Daliang
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 Handan is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China ...
, was under siege. The State of Qi intervened. The famous Qi strategist,
Sun Bin Sun Bin (died 316 BC) was a Chinese general, Military strategy, military strategist, and writer who lived during the Warring States period of History of China, Chinese history. A supposed descendant of Sun Tzu, Sun was tutored in military stra ...

Sun Bin
the great-great-great-grandson of
Sun Tzu Sun Tzu ( ; zh, t=孫子, p=Sūnzǐ) was a Chinese general, military strategist A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially a ...
(author of
the Art of War ''The Art of War'' () is an ancient List of Chinese military texts, Chinese military treatise dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period (roughly 5th century BC). The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Su ...
), 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 of Guìlíng (桂陵之戰) was fought between the states of Qí and Wei in the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and milita ...

Battle of Guiling
. The battle is remembered in the second of the
Thirty-Six Stratagems The ''Thirty-Six Stratagems'' is a Chinese essay used to illustrate a series of stratagems used in politics, war, and civil interaction. Its focus on the use of cunning and deception both on the battlefield and in court have drawn comparisons t ...
, "besiege Wei, save Zhao" meaning to attack a vulnerable spot to relieve pressure at another point. Domestically, King Hui patronized philosophy and the arts, and is perhaps best remembered for hosting the Confucian philosopher Meng Zi at his court; their conversations form the first two chapters of the book which bears Meng Zi's name.


Dukes become kings


Qi and Wei become kings (344 BC)

The title of "king" (''wang'', ) was held by figurehead rulers of the Zhou dynasty, while the rulers of most states held the title of "duke" (''gong'', ) or "marquess" (''hou'', ). A major exception was
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
, whose rulers were called kings since
King Wu of Chu King Wu of Chu (, died 690 BC) was the first king of the Chu (state), State of Chu during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China. He was the second son of Xiao'ao, and brother of former ruler Fenmao whom he is rumored to have murdered in 740 ...
started using the title c. 703 BC. In 344 BC the rulers of Qi and Wei mutually recognized each other as "kings":
King Wei of Qi King Wei of Qi (), whose personal name was Tian Yinqi (田因齊), was the king of the northern Chinese state of Qi during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, ...
and
King Hui of Wei King Hui of Wei (; 400-319 BC), originally called Marquis Hui of Wei, and after 344, King Hui of Liang () was the third ruler of the state of Wei during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese hist ...
, in effect declaring their independence from the Zhou court. This marked a major turning point: unlike those in the
Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history 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), during the ...
, the new generation of rulers ascending the thrones in the Warring States period would not entertain even the pretence of being vassals of the Zhou dynasty, instead proclaiming themselves fully independent kingdoms.


Shang Yang reforms Qin (356–338 BC)

During the early Warring States period Qin generally avoided conflicts with the other states. This changed during the reign of Duke Xiao, when prime minister
Shang Yang Shang Yang (; c. 390 – 338 BC), also known as Wei Yang () and originally surnamed Gongsun, was an ancient Chinese philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφο ...
made centralizing and authoritarian reforms in accordance with his
Legalist Legalist, Inc. is a Legal financing, litigation finance company based in San Francisco, California that funds commercial lawsuits on behalf of plaintiff attorneys, applying machine learning algorithms to evaluate its potential investments. History ...
philosophy between the years 356 and 338 BC. Shang introduced land reforms, privatized land, rewarded farmers who exceeded harvest quotas, enslaved farmers who failed to meet quotas, and used enslaved subjects as rewards for those who met government policies. As manpower was short in Qin relative to the other states at the time, Shang enacted policies to increase its manpower. As Qin peasants were recruited into the military, he encouraged active immigration of peasants from other states into Qin as a replacement workforce; this policy simultaneously increased the manpower of Qin and weakened the manpower of Qin's rivals. Shang made laws forcing citizens to marry at a young age and passed tax laws to encourage raising multiple children. He also enacted policies to free convicts who worked in opening wastelands for agriculture. Shang abolished
primogeniture Primogeniture ( ) is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn legitimate child to inherit Inherit may refer to: * Inheritance, passing on of property after someone's death * Heredity, passing of genetic traits to offspring * Inheritance ( ...
and created a double tax on households that had more than one son living in the household, to break up large clans into nuclear families. Shang also moved the capital to reduce the influence of nobles on the administration. The rise of Qin was recognized by the royal court, and in 343 BC the king conferred the title of hegemon on Duke Xiao. As was customary for the designated hegemon, the duke hosted a conference of all the feudal lords, although it did not lead to any lasting peace. After the reforms Qin became much more aggressive. In 340 Qin took land from Wèi after it had been defeated by Qi. In 316 Qin conquered
Shu Shu may refer to: China * Sichuan, China, officially abbreviated as Shu (蜀) * Shu (state) (conquered by Qin in 316 BC), an ancient state in modern Sichuan * Shu Han (221–263) during the Three Kingdoms Period * Western Shu (405–413), also k ...
and Ba in
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

Sichuan
to the southwest. Development of this area took a long time but slowly added greatly to Qin's wealth and power.


Qin defeats Wei (341–340 BC)

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 Sun Bin (died 316 BC) was a Chinese general, Military strategy, military strategist, and writer who lived during the Warring States period of History of China, Chinese history. A supposed descendant of Sun Tzu, Sun was tutored in military stra ...

Sun Bin
and
Tian Ji Tian Ji (), courtesy name Qi (齐), was a military general of the Qi state during the early Warring States period (4th century BC) of History of China, Chinese history. Tian Ji met Sun Bin and recommended him to King Wei of Qi as a military strate ...
versus
Pang Juan Pang Juan (died 342 BC) was an ancient Chinese military general of the Wei state during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and milita ...
), 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 The Battle of Maling () took place in Maling, currently Dazhangjia Town (), Shen County (), Henan Province Henan (; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China, in the central part of the country. Henan is often referred to a ...

Battle of Maling
. After the battle all three of the Jin successor states appeared before
King Xuan of Qi King Xuan of Qi (; died 301 BC) was from 319 to 301 BC ruler of Qi, one of the seven major states of the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucra ...
, pledging their loyalty. In the following year
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
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. Wei came to rely on Qi for protection, with
King Hui of Wei King Hui of Wei (; 400-319 BC), originally called Marquis Hui of Wei, and after 344, King Hui of Liang () was the third ruler of the state of Wei during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese hist ...
meeting
King Xuan of Qi King Xuan of Qi (; died 301 BC) was from 319 to 301 BC ruler of Qi, one of the seven major states of the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucra ...
on two occasions. After Hui's death, his successor King Xiang also established a good relationship with his Qi counterpart, with both promising to recognize the other as "king".


Chu conquers Yue (334 BC)

Early in the Warring States period,
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
was one of the strongest states in China. The state rose to a new level of power around 389 BC when
King Dao of Chu King Dao of Chu (, died 381 BC) was the king of the state of Chu from 401 BC to 381 BC during the early Warring States period of ancient China. He was born Xiong Yi () and King Dao was his posthumous title. King Dao succeeded his father King ...
() named the famous reformer
Wu Qi Wu Qi (, 440–381 BC) was a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world ...

Wu Qi
as his chancellor. Chu rose to its peak in 334 BC, when it conquered Yue to its east on the Pacific coast. The series of events leading up to this began when Yue prepared to attack Qi to its north. The King of Qi sent an emissary who persuaded the King of Yue to attack Chu instead. Yue initiated a large-scale attack at Chu but was defeated by Chu's counter-attack. Chu then proceeded to conquer Yue.


Qin, Han and Yan become kings (325–323 BC)

King Xian of Zhou had attempted to use what little royal prerogative he had left by appointing the dukes
Xian Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals ( ...
(384–362 BC), Xiao (361–338 BC) and
Hui The Hui people ( zh, c=, p=Huízú, w=Hui2-tsu2, Xiao'erjing Xiao'erjing or Xiao'erjin or Xiaor jin or in its shortened form, Xiaojing, literally meaning "children's script" or "minor script" (cf. "original script" referring to the origina ...
(338–311 BC) of Qin as hegemons, thereby in theory making Qin the chief ally of the court.Shi Ji, chapter 4 However, in 325 the confidence of Duke Hui grew so great that he proclaimed himself "king" of Qin; adopting the same title as the king of Zhou and thereby effectively proclaiming independence from the Zhou dynasty. King Hui of Qin was guided by his prime minister Zhang Yi, a prominent representative of the School of Diplomacy.Shi Ji, chapter 5 He was followed in 323 BC by King Xuanhui of Han and King Yi of Yan, as well as King Cuo of Zhongshan, King Cuo of the minor state Zhongshan. In 318 BC, even the ruler of
Song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...
, a relatively minor state, declared himself king. Uniquely, while King Wuling of Zhao had joined the other kings in declaring himself king, he retracted this order in 318 BC, after Zhao suffered a great defeat at the hands of Qin.


Partition of Zhou (314 BC)

King Kao of Zhou had enfeoffed his younger brother as Duke Huan of Henan. Three generations later, this cadet branch of the royal house began calling themselves "Dukes of East Zhou". Upon the ascension of King Nan of Zhou, King Nan in 314 BC, East Zhou became an independent state. The king came to reside in what became known as West Zhou.


Horizontal and vertical alliances (334–249 BC)

Towards the end of the Warring States period, the Qin state became disproportionately powerful compared with the other six states. As a result, the policies of the six states became overwhelmingly oriented towards dealing with the Qin threat, with two opposing schools of thought. One school advocated a 'vertical' or north-south alliance called (合縱/合纵) in which the states would ally with each other to repel Qin. The other advocated a 'horizontal' or east-west alliance called ''lianheng'' (連橫/连横) in which a state would ally with Qin to participate in its ascendancy. There were some initial successes in , though mutual suspicions between allied states led to the breakdown of such alliances. Qin repeatedly exploited the horizontal alliance strategy to defeat the states one by one. During this period, many philosophers and tacticians travelled around the states, recommending that the rulers put their respective ideas into use. These "lobbyists", such as Su Qin (who advocated vertical alliances) and Zhang Yi (who advocated horizontal alliances), were famous for their tact and intellect, and were collectively known as the School of Diplomacy, whose Chinese name (縱橫家, literally 'the school of the vertical and horizontal') was derived from the two opposing ideas.


Su Qin and the first vertical alliance (334–300 BC)

Beginning in 334 BC, the diplomat Su Qin spent years visiting the courts of Yan, Zhao, Han, Wei, Qi and Chu and persuaded them to form a united front against Qin. In 318 BC all states except Qi launched a joint attack on Qin, which however was not successful. King Hui of Qin died in 311 BC, followed by prime minister Zhang Yi one year later. The new monarch, King Wu of Qin, King Wu, reigned only four years before dying without legitimate heirs. Some damaging turbulence ensued throughout 307 BC before a son of King Hui by a concubine (i.e. a younger half-brother of King Wu) could be established as King Zhao of Qin, King Zhao, who in stark contrast to his predecessor went on to rule for an unprecedented 53 years. After the failure of the first vertical alliance, Su Qin eventually came to live in Qi, where he was favored by King Xuan and drew the envy of the ministers. An assassination attempt in 300 BC left Su mortally wounded but not dead. Sensing death approaching, he advised the newly crowned King Min of Qi, King Min have him publicly executed to draw out the assassins. King Min complied with Su's request and killed him, putting an end to the first generation of Vertical alliance thinkers.Shi Ji, chapter 69


The first horizontal alliance (300–287 BC)

King Min of Qi came to be highly influenced by Lord Mengchang of Qi, Lord Mengchang, a grandson of the former
King Wei of Qi King Wei of Qi (), whose personal name was Tian Yinqi (田因齊), was the king of the northern Chinese state of Qi during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, ...
. Lord Mengchang made a westward alliance with the States of Wei and
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...
. In the far west, Qin, which had been weakened by a succession struggle in 307, yielded to the new coalition and appointed Lord Mengchang its chief minister. The alliance between Qin and Qi was sealed by a Qin princess marrying King Min. This "horizontal" or east-west alliance might have secured peace except that it excluded the Zhao (state), State of Zhao. Around 299 BC, King Huiwen of Zhao, the ruler of Zhao became the last of the seven major states to proclaim himself "king". In 298 BC Zhao offered Qin an alliance and Lord Mengchang was driven out of Qin. The remaining three allies, Qi, Wei and Han, attacked Qin, driving up the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
below Shanxi to the Hangu Pass. After 3 years of fighting they took the pass and forced Qin to return territory to Han and Wei. They next inflicted major defeats on
Yan Yan may refer to: Chinese states * Yan (state) Yan (; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, official ...
and
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
. During the 5-year administration of Lord Mengchang, Qi was the major power in China. In 294 BC Lord Mengchang was implicated in a ''coup d'état'' and fled to Wei. His alliance system collapsed. Qi and Qin made a truce and pursued their own interests. Qi moved south against the Song (state), State of Song whilst the Qin General Bai Qi pushed back eastward against a Han/Wei alliance, gaining victory at the Battle of Yique. In 288 BC King Zhao of Qin and King Min of Qi took the title "Di", (帝 ''literally emperor''), of the west and east respectively. They swore a covenant and started planning an attack on Zhao.


Su Dai and the second vertical alliance

In 287 BC Su Dai, the younger brother of Su Qin and possibly an agent of Yan, persuaded King Min that the Zhao war would only benefit Qin. King Min agreed and formed a 'vertical' alliance with the other states against Qin. Qin backed off, abandoned the presumptuous title of "Di", and restored territory to Wei and Zhao. In 286 Qi annexed the state of Song.


The second horizontal alliance

In 285 BC the success of Qi had frightened the other states. Under the leadership of Lord Mengchang, who was exiled in Wei, Qin, Zhao, Wei and Yan formed an alliance. Yan had normally been a relatively weak ally of Qi and Qi feared little from this quarter. Yan's onslaught under general Yue Yi came as a devastating surprise. Simultaneously, the other allies attacked from the west. Chu declared itself an ally of Qi but contented itself with annexing some territory to its north. Qi's armies were destroyed while the territory of Qi was reduced to the two cities of Ju and Jimo, Shandong, Jimo. King Min himself was later captured and executed by his own followers. King Min was succeeded by King Xiang of Qi, King Xiang in 283 BC. His general Tian Dan (Qi), Tian Dan was eventually able to restore much of Qi's territory, but it never regained the influence it had under King Min.


Qin-Zhao war (278–260 BC)

General Bai Qi of
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
attacked from Qin's new territory (from 316) in
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

Sichuan
to the west of Chu. The capital of Ying (Chu), Ying was captured and Chu's western lands on the
Han RiverHan River may refer to: *Han River (Guangdong) (''Han-jiang'', 韩江), southeast China, flows into the South China Sea *Han River (Hubei) (''Han-shui'', 漢水 or ''Han-jiang'', 漢江), the longest tributary of the Yangtze, China *Han River (Korea ...
were lost. The effect was to shift Chu significantly to the east. After Chu was defeated in 278, the remaining great powers were Qin in the west and Zhao in the north-center. There was little room for diplomatic maneuver and matters were decided by war in 265–260. Zhao had been much strengthened by King Wuling of Zhao (325–299). In 307 he enlarged his cavalry by copying the northern nomads. In 306 he took more land in the northern Shanxi plateau. In 305 he defeated the north-eastern border state of
Zhongshan Zhongshan (; ) is a prefecture-level city in the south of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Provinces of China, province, China. As of the 2020 census, the whole city with 4,418,060 inhabitants is now part of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen conurbati ...
. In 304 he pushed far to the north-west and occupied the east-west section of the Yellow River in the north of the Ordos Loop. King Huiwen of Zhao (298–266) chose able servants and expanded against the weakened Qi and Wei. In 296 his general Lian Po defeated two Qin armies. In 269 BC Fan Sui became chief advisor to Qin. He advocated authoritarian reforms, irrevocable expansion and an alliance with distant states to attack nearby states (the twenty-third of the
Thirty-Six Stratagems The ''Thirty-Six Stratagems'' is a Chinese essay used to illustrate a series of stratagems used in politics, war, and civil interaction. Its focus on the use of cunning and deception both on the battlefield and in court have drawn comparisons t ...
). His maxim "attack not only the territory, but also the people" enunciated a policy of mass slaughter that became increasingly frequent. In 265 King Zhaoxiang of Qin made the first move by attacking the weak state of Han which held the Yellow River gateway into Qin. He moved north-east across Wei territory to cut off the Han exclave of
ShangdangShangdang Commandery or Shangdang Prefecture () was an administrative subdivision of ancient China from the time of the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records ...
north of Luoyang and south of Zhao. The Han king agreed to surrender Shangdang, but the local governor refused and presented it to King Xiaocheng of Zhao. Zhao sent out Lian Po who based his armies at Battle of Changping, Changping and Qin sent out general Wang He. Lian Po was too wise to risk a decisive battle with the Qin army and remained inside his fortifications. Qin could not break through and the armies were locked in stalemate for three years. The Zhao king decided that Lian Po was not aggressive enough and sent out Zhao Kuo who promised a decisive battle. At the same time Qin secretly replaced Wang He with the notoriously violent Bai Qi. When Zhao Kuo left his fortifications, Bai Qi used a Battle of Cannae, Cannae maneuver, falling back in the center and surrounding the Zhao army from the sides. After being surrounded for 46 days, the starving Zhao troops surrendered in September 260 BC. It is said that Bai Qi had all the prisoners killed and that Zhao lost 400,000 men. Qin was too exhausted to follow up its victory. Some time later it sent an army to besiege the Zhao capital but the army was destroyed when it was attacked from the rear. Zhao survived, but there was no longer a state that could resist Qin on its own. The other states could have survived if they remained united against Qin, but they did not.


End of Zhou dynasty (256–249 BC)

The forces of King Zhao of Qin defeated King Nan of Zhou and conquered West Zhou in 256 BC, claiming the Nine Tripod Cauldrons, Nine Cauldrons and thereby symbolically becoming The Son of Heaven. King Zhao's exceptionally long reign ended in 251 BC. His son King Xiaowen of Qin, King Xiaowen, already an old man, died just three days after his coronation and was succeeded by his son King Zhuangxiang of Qin. The new Qin king proceeded to conquer East Zhou, seven years after the fall of West Zhou. Thus the 800-year Zhou dynasty, nominally China's longest-ruling regime, finally came to an end.
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
contradicts himself regarding the ultimate fate of the East Zhou court. Chapter 4 (The Annals of Zhou) concludes with the sentence "thus the sacrifices of Zhou ended", but in the following chapter 5 (The Annals of Qin) we learn that "Qin did not prohibit their sacrifices; the Lord of Zhou was allotted a patch of land in Yangren where he could continue his ancestral sacrifices".


Qin unites China (247–221 BC)

King Zhuangxiang of Qin ruled for only three years. He was succeeded by his son Zheng, who unlike the two elderly kings that preceded him was only 13 years old at his coronation. As an adult Zheng would turn out to be a brilliant commander who, in the span of just nine years, unified China.


Conquest of Han

In 230 BC,
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
conquered
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...
. Han, the weakest of the
Seven Warring States The Seven Warring States or Seven Kingdoms () were the seven leading states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper) ...
, was adjacent to the much stronger Qin, and had suffered continuous assaults by Qin in earlier years of the Warring States period. This went on until Emperor Qin Shi Huang sent general Wang Jian (Qin), Wang Jian to attack Zhao. King An of Han, frightened by the thought that Han would be the next target of the Qin state, immediately sent diplomats to surrender the entire kingdom without a fight, saving the Han populace from the terrible potential consequences of an unsuccessful resistance.


Conquest of Wei

In 225 BC, Qin conquered Wei. The Qin army led a direct invasion into Wei by besieging its capital but soon realized that the city walls were too tough to break into. They devised a new strategy in which they utilized the power of a local river that was linked to the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
. The river was used to flood the city's walls, causing massive devastation to the city. Upon realizing the situation, King Jia of Wei hurriedly came out of the capital and surrendered it to the Qin army in order to avoid further bloodshed of his people.


Conquest of Chu

In 223 BC, Qin conquered
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
. The first invasion was however an utter disaster when 200,000 Qin troops, led by the general, Li Xin, were defeated by 500,000 Chu troops in the unfamiliar territory of Huaiyang, modern-day northern Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. Xiang Yan, the Chu commander, had lured Qin by allowing a few initial victories, but then counterattacked and burnt two large Qin camps. In 222 BC, Wang Jian was recalled to lead a second military invasion with 600,000 men against the Chu state. High in morale after their victory in the previous year, the Chu forces were content to sit back and defend against what they expected to be a siege of Chu. However, Wang Jian decided to weaken Chu's resolve and tricked the Chu army by appearing to be idle in his fortifications whilst secretly training his troops to fight in Chu territory. After a year, the Chu defenders decided to disband due to apparent lack of action from the Qin. Wang Jian invaded at that point, with full force, and overran Huaiyang and the remaining Chu forces. Chu lost the initiative and could only sustain local guerrilla-style resistance until it too was fully conquered with the destruction of Shou County, Shouchun and the death of its last leader, Lord Changping, in 223 BC. At their peak, the combined armies of Chu and Qin are estimated to have ranged from hundreds of thousands to a million soldiers, more than those involved in the campaign of Changping between Qin and Zhao 35 years earlier.


Conquest of Zhao and Yan

In 222 BC, Qin conquered Zhao and
Yan Yan may refer to: Chinese states * Yan (state) Yan (; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, official ...
. After the conquest of Zhao, the Qin army turned its attention towards Yan. Realizing the danger and gravity of this situation, Crown Prince Dan of Yan had sent Jing Ke to assassinate King Zheng of Qin, but this failure only helped to fuel the rage and determination of the Qin king, and he increased the number of troops to conquer the Yan state.


Conquest of Qi

In 221 BC, Qin conquered Qi. Qi was the final unconquered warring state. It had not previously contributed or helped other states when Qin was conquering them. As soon as Qin's intention to invade it became clear, Qi swiftly surrendered all its cities, completing the Qin's wars of unification, unification of China and ushering in the
Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a Romanization of Chinese, romanization system for Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Francis Wade, during the mid-19th ...

Qin dynasty
. The last Qi king lived out his days in exile in Gong and was not given a posthumous name after death, therefore he is known to posterity by his personal name Jian. The Qin king Zheng declared himself Qin Shi Huangdi, "The first Sovereign Emperor of Qin". In the rule of the Qin state, the union was based solely on military power. The feudal holdings were abolished, and noble families were forced to live in the capital of China, Xianyang, in order to be supervised. A national road as well as greater use of canals was used in order for deployment and supply of the army to be done with ease and speed. The peasants were given a wider range of rights in regards of land, although they were subject to taxation, creating a large amount of revenue to the state.


Military theory and practice


Increasing scale of warfare

The Chariot (Ancient China), chariot remained a major factor in Chinese warfare long after it went out of fashion in the Middle East. Near the beginning of the Warring States period there is a shift from chariots to massed infantry, possibly associated with the invention of the crossbow. This had two major effects. First it led the dukes to weaken their chariot-riding nobility so they could get direct access to the peasantry who could be drafted as infantry. This change was associated with the shift from aristocratic to bureaucratic government. Second, it led to a massive increase in the scale of warfare. When the Zhou overthrew the Shang at the Battle of Muye they used 45,000 troops and 300 chariots. For the Warring States period the following figures for the military strengths of various states are reported: * Qin
1,000,000 infantry, 1,000 chariots, 10,000 horses; * Chu
same numbers; * Wei
200–360,000 infantry, 200,000 spearmen, 100,000 servants, 600 chariots, 5,000 cavalry; * Han
300,000 total; * Qi
several hundred thousand; For major battles, the following figures are reported: *
Battle of Maling The Battle of Maling () took place in Maling, currently Dazhangjia Town (), Shen County (), Henan Province Henan (; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China, in the central part of the country. Henan is often referred to a ...

Battle of Maling

100,000 killed; * Battle of Yique
240,000 killed; * General Bai Qi is said to have been responsible for 890,000 enemy deaths over his career. Many scholars think these numbers are exaggerated (records are inadequate, they are much larger than those from similar societies, soldiers were paid by the number of enemies they killed and the Han dynasty had an interest in exaggerating the bloodiness of the age before China was unified). Regardless of exaggeration, it seems clear that warfare had become excessive during this period. The bloodshed and misery of the Warring States period goes a long way in explaining China's traditional and current preference for a united throne.


Military developments

The Warring States period saw the introduction of many innovations to the art of warfare in China, such as the use of iron and of cavalry. Warfare in the Warring States period evolved considerably from the Spring and Autumn period, as most armies made use of infantry and cavalry in battles, and the use of Chariot (Ancient China), chariots became less widespread. The use of massed infantry made warfare bloodier and reduced the importance of the aristocracy, which in turn made the kings more despotic. From this period onward, as the various states competed with each other by mobilizing their armies to war, nobles in China belonged to the literate class, rather than to the warrior class as had previously been the case. The various states fielded massive armies of infantry, cavalry, and chariots. Complex logistical systems maintained by efficient government bureaucracies were needed to supply, train, and control such large forces. The size of the armies ranged from tens of thousands to several hundred thousand men. Iron weapons became more widespread and began to replace bronze. Most armour and weapons of this period were made from iron. The first official native Chinese cavalry unit was formed in 307 BC during the military reforms of King Wuling of Zhao, who advocated 'nomadic dress and horse archery'. But the war chariot still retained its prestige and importance, despite the tactical superiority of cavalry. The crossbow was the preferred long-range weapon of this period, due to several reasons. The crossbow could be mass-produced easily, and mass training of crossbowmen was possible. These qualities made it a powerful weapon against the enemy. Infantrymen deployed a variety of weapons, but the most popular was the dagger-axe. The dagger-axe came in various lengths, from 9 to 18 feet; the weapon consisted of a thrusting spear with a slashing blade appended to it. Dagger-axes were an extremely popular weapon in various kingdoms, especially for the Qin, who produced 18-foot-long pike-like weapons.


Military thought

The Warring States was a great period for military strategy; of the Seven Military Classics of China, four were written during this period: *''The Art of War''
It is attributed to
Sun Tzu Sun Tzu ( ; zh, t=孫子, p=Sūnzǐ) was a Chinese general, military strategist A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially a ...
, a highly influential study of strategy and tactics. *''Wuzi''
It is attributed to
Wu Qi Wu Qi (, 440–381 BC) was a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world ...

Wu Qi
, a statesman and commander who served the states of Wei and then Chu. *''Wei Liaozi''
of uncertain authorship. *''The Methods of the Sima''
It is attributed to Sima Rangju, a commander serving the state of Qi.


Culture and society

The Warring States period was an era of warfare in ancient China, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation; the major states, ruling over large territories, quickly sought to consolidate their powers, leading to the final erosion of the Zhou court's prestige. As a sign of this shift, the rulers of all the major states (except for Chu, which had claimed kingly title much earlier) abandoned their former feudal titles for the title of 王, or King, claiming equality with the rulers of the Zhou. At the same time, the constant conflict and need for innovative social and political models led to the development of many philosophical doctrines, later known as the Hundred Schools of Thought. The most notable schools of thought include Mohism (expounded by Mozi), Confucianism (represented by Mencius and Xun Kuang, Xunzi), Legalism (Chinese philosophy), Legalism (represented by
Shang Yang Shang Yang (; c. 390 – 338 BC), also known as Wei Yang () and originally surnamed Gongsun, was an ancient Chinese philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφο ...
, Shen Buhai, Shen Dao and Han Fei) and Taoism (represented by Zhuang Zhou, Zhuangzhi and Lao Tzu). The many states that were competing between each other attempted to display their power not only militarily but in their courts and state philosophy. Many differing rulers adopted the differing philosophies in their own advantage or that of their kingdom. Mencius attempted to instate Confucianism as a state philosophy through proposing that through the governing of moral principles like benevolence and righteousness, the state would win popular support from one state and those neighboring, eliminating the need of a war altogether. Mencius had attempted to convince King Hui of Liang, although was unsuccessful since the king saw no advantage in the period of wars. Mohism was developed by Mozi (468–376 BC) and it provided a unified moral and political philosophy based on impartiality and benevolence. Mohists had the belief that people change depending on environments around. The same was applied to rulers, which is why one must be cautious of foreign influences. Mozi was very much against warfare, although he was a great tactician in defense. He defended the small state of Song from many attempts of the Chu state. Taoism was advocated by Laozi, and believed that human nature was good and can achieve perfection by returning to original state. It believed that like a baby, humans are simple and innocent although with development of civilizations it lost its innocence only to be replaced by fraud and greed. Contrarily to other schools, it did not want to gain influence in the offices of states and Laozi even refused to be in the minister of the state of Chu. Legalism created by Shang Yang in 338 BC, rejected all notions of religion and practices, and believed a nation should be governed by strict law. Not only were severe punishments applied, but they would be grouped with the families and made mutually responsible for criminal act. It proposed radical reforms, and established a society based on solid ranks. Peasants were encouraged to practice agriculture as occupation, and military performance was rewarded. Laws were also applied to all ranks with no exception; even the king was not above punishment. The philosophy was adapted by the Qin state and it created it into a well-organized, centralized state with a bureaucracy chosen on the basis of merit. This period is most famous for the establishment of complex bureaucracies and centralized governments, as well as a clearly established legal system. The developments in political and military organization were the basis of the power of the Qin state, which conquered the other states and unified them under the Qin dynasty, Qin Empire in 221 BC.


Nobles, bureaucrats and reformers

The phenomenon of intensive warfare, based on mass formations of infantry rather than the traditional chariots, was one major trend which led to the creation of strong central bureaucracies in each of the major states. At the same time, the process of secondary feudalism which permeated the Spring and Autumn period, and led to such events as the partition of Jin and the usurpation of Qi by the Tian clan, was eventually reversed by the same process of bureaucratisation. Under the demands of warfare, the states adopted bureaucratic reforms in the Warring States period. Wei adopted these in 445 BC, Zhao in 403 BC, Chu in 390 BC, Han in 355 BC, Qi in 357 BC and Qin in 350 BC. Power was centralised by curbing the landed aristocrats and sinecures and creating a new hierarchy based on meritorious service to the state, which were drawn from the lower rungs of society. Systematic auditing and reporting systems, and fixed salaries for officials were created. The reforms of Shang Yang in Qin, and of Wu Qi in Chu, both centred on increased centralisation, the suppression of the nobility, and a vastly increased scope of government based on Legalist ideals, which were necessary to mobilise the large armies of the period.


Sophisticated arithmetic

A bundle of 21 bamboo slips from the Tsinghua Bamboo Slips, Tsinghua collection dated to 305BC are the world's earliest example of a two digit Tsinghua Bamboo Slips#Decimal multiplication table, decimal multiplication table, indicating that sophisticated commercial arithmetic was already established during this period. Rod numerals were used to represent both negative and positive integers, and rational numbers, a true positional number system, with a blank for zeroUnicodes 1D360—1D37F : Counting Rod Numerals
/ref> dating back to the Warring States period.


Literature

An important literary achievement of the Warring States period is the Zuo Zhuan, Zuo Commentary on the
Spring and Autumn Annals The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or ''Chunqiu'' is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated ...
, which summarizes the preceding Spring and Autumn period. The less famous work Guoyu (book), Guoyu is thought to be by the same author. Many sayings of Spring and Autumn philosophers, which had previously been circulated orally, were put into writing in the Warring States. These include the Analects and The Art of War.


Economic developments

The Warring States period saw the proliferation of History of ferrous metallurgy, iron working in China, replacing bronze as the dominant type of metal used in warfare. Areas such as
Shu Shu may refer to: China * Sichuan, China, officially abbreviated as Shu (蜀) * Shu (state) (conquered by Qin in 316 BC), an ancient state in modern Sichuan * Shu Han (221–263) during the Three Kingdoms Period * Western Shu (405–413), also k ...
(present-day
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

Sichuan
) and Yue (present-day Zhejiang) were also brought into the Chinese cultural sphere during this time. Trade also became important, and some merchants had considerable power in politics, the most prominent of which was Lü Buwei, who rose to become Chancellor of Qin and was a key supporter of the eventual Qin Shihuang. At the same time, the increased resources of consolidated, bureaucratic states, coupled with the logistical needs of mass levies and large-scale warfare, led to the proliferation of economic projects such as large-scale waterworks. Major examples of such waterworks include the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, which controlled the Min River (Sichuan), Min River in Sichuan and turned the former backwater region into a major Qin logistical base, and the Zhengguo Canal which irrigated large areas of land in the Guanzhong Plain, again increasing Qin's agricultural output.


See also

* Sengoku period – A period in Japanese history named after this period * Three Kingdoms * Warlord Era


References


Citations


Sources

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Further reading

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External links


Warring States Period - World History EncyclopediaWarring States Project
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Rulers of the warring states
– Chinese Text Project
China's Warring States Period
BBC Radio 4 discussion with Chris Cullen, Vivienne Lo & Carol Michaelson (''In Our Time'', Apr. 1, 2004) {{Authority control 5th-century BC conflicts 4th-century BC conflicts 3rd-century BC conflicts Zhou dynasty History of ancient China 5th-century BC establishments in China