Spring and Autumn Period (770 B. C. — 403 B. C.) — Era of Great Philosophers & Contention of Warlords

Unearthed House Shaped Bronze Incense Burner of the Spring and Autumn Period — Sen-oku Hakuko Kan Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Facts about the Spring and Autumn Period


1 This period is named after a historical book that was written by Confucius


Spring was the season of planting and holding sacrifice ceremonies, Autumn was about harvest and wars. 


Therefore, the most important events in ancient China happened in the spring and autumn. 


2 During the Spring and Autumn Period, 109 states were documented in historical records. 

3 Lords of each vassal state kept fighting against each other, to occupy more land and people. They still cared about their reputation and respected the kings of the Zhou Kingdom as their monarch. 

4 Wars in this era were more about hegemony.


During this period, about 52 vassal states perished, 36 monarchs were assassinated, and nearly 500 wars were initiated. 

Unearthed Bronze Sword of the Spring and Autumn Period — Hebei Provincial Institute of Archaeology (Photo by Dongmaiying)

5 Though many small states were annexed and perished, wars in this period still followed certain rules and etiquettes:


  • Delivery of War Book in advance was important;

  • Wars usually lasted less than a day;


  • Winners wouldn’t chase or bully the losers;


  • Injured soldiers wouldn't be hurt for the second time;


  • People shouldn’t wound the enemy too hard;


  • Wars should not be combated in the farmland;


  • Captives could be bought back.

Unearthed Bronze Weapon Ge with Inlaying Gold Patterns and Inscriptions (Wang Zi Yu Ge) — Shanxi Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

6 In this era, Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi of the Taoism, Confucius and Mencius of Confucianism, Mohist of the Mohism, Legalism, Sun Zi of the Military Strategist, all finished their masterpieces and had extensively presented and discussed their ideas.


7 Private Schools appeared, which allowed commoners to get educated.


Since then, education was no longer a privilege of the nobles. 

Brief History of the Spring and Autumn Period


After Ji Gongsheng, the King You of Zhou departed, the Zhou Dynasty stepped into another stage when many vassal states kept fighting against each other to occupy more land and people. 


Lv Xiaobai of the State Qi flourished his realm and became the first powerful overlord in this period. After his tragic death, Lord Ji Chonger of the State Jin was in actual dominant of the whole nation. 


Decades later, some other ambitious overlords gained the hegemony, while large numbers of small states were annexed. 

Unearthed Jade Dragons (Yu Jue) of the Spring and Autumn Periods— Nanyang Antique Archaeology Institute (Photo by Dongmaiying)

In the year 473 BC, the Kingdom Yue perished the Kingdom Wu, with the assistance of the first honey trap Xi Shi


The Lord of Kingdom Yue then became the last overlord in the Spring and Autumn Period.

In the year 403 BC, the powerful State Jin was carved up by three nobles into three kingdoms, which was the end of the Spring and Autumn Period.

Unearthed Spear of the King of Wu (Fu Chai) — Hubei Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Systems of the Spring and Autumn Period




Around 10 million. 


Political System:


  • King of Zhou was still the honorable monarch in the name; other lords, no matter how strong and powerful, wouldn’t announce themselves as kings. 


  • But most of the lords already stopped paying tributes to the kings of Zhou, who now were political puppets for powerful overlords. 


  • Those lords reign their vassal states independently. 


Official Selection System:


Hereditary Aristocrats.

Unearthed Crystal and Agate Accessory — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)



Civilians needed to pay a certain amount of products, based on the area of their farmland; military, or labor services.


Military Service:


  • Everyone in the kingdom had the obligation to fight in their army and protect their family.

  • The nobles and civilians could serve as warriors, while slaves were only allowed to do miscellaneous affairs. 


Land System:


Changing from public to private ownership.

Unearthed Bronze Tiger with Inlaying Gold and Silver of the Spring and Autumn Period — British Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Scientific Development


  • Invention and application of the four ways of diagnosis (look, listen, question, and feel the pulse), which set the fundamental inquiry and diagnosis method of Chinese Medicine, by Qin Yueren (Bian Que).

  • Application of the Pig Iron Smelting. ​

Unearthed Iron Sword with Gold Hilt — Baoji Antique Archaeology Institute  (Photo by Dongmaiying)

  • Wide utilization of Grafting Technology in agriculture. 


  • Extensive application of Fraction Numbers. 


  • Suan Chou: a type of counting equipment, which includes 270 rods of the same size. 

Unearthed Suan Chou in the Spring and Autumn Period — Hebei Museum

Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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