Warring States Period (403 B. C. — 221 B. C.) — Wars Among the Seven Kingdoms 

Unearthed Sword of Goujian the King of Yue — Hubei Museum 

Facts about the Warring States Period


1 There were seven great kingdoms in this period: Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei, and Qin. 


Each of them has its language, character, currency, etc. 

Seven Kingdoms and their Different Scripts for "Horse" and "Peace"

2 The former feudal lords now all announced themselves the king.

3 Many kingdoms implemented influential reforms, trying to improve their strength and win over others. 

4 The most successful reform was implemented in the Kingdom Qin, by Great Strategist Shang Yang.

5 Civilians could get noble titles based on their military achievements.

Unearthed Bronze Carriage of the Warring States Period — Nanjing Museum 

6 Wars of this era were aimed at perishing other countries and were full of death and conspiracies.


7 War in this period usually lasted for months or years, in which tens of thousands of people were involved.  


8 There were about two million people who had lost their lives because of war during this era, and the General Bai Qi of the Kingdom Qin was responsible for one million. 

​9 After Kingdom Qin defeated the other six and established the unified Qin Dynasty, the Warring State Period was ended. 

Unearthed Jade Mythical Animal of the Warring States Period — The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Photo by Dongmaiying) 

Brief History of the Warring States Period

Contention Over Seven Kingdoms and Hundred Schools of Thoughts

After hundreds of years of intense contentions over the hegemony, there were seven powerful kingdoms left, plus a small central government of the Zhou Empire

During this period, whoever stronger could get more power and land; all the former lords claimed themselves kings, who were aimed at perishing other kingdoms and unifying the whole of the nation.

Because of fewer hierarchy constraints and more communications among the kingdoms, more ideas were exchanged and developed during this era, which was defined as “Hundred Schools of Thoughts”.

 Unearthed Exquisite Decorative Accessories of the Warring States Period (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Implementation of Reforms and the Broken Balance


The intense wars and competitions required every kingdom to try its best to attract talented people and to implement reforms, to take advantage of the constant competition.


Great general, reformist Wu Qi was a remarkable example, who prospered all the kingdoms that he had served.

The seven kingdoms were all well developed when everyone had both won and failed some times.

The balance was broken, since the year 356 B. C. to 350 B. C., when Shang Yang implemented his great reform, which provided the Kingdom Qin with the most advanced system and aggressive troops. 

Seeing Kingdom Qin was getting stronger, the other six kingdoms allied together to fight against the Qin. But later, an excellent strategist named Fan Ju broke up the ally of these Six Kingdoms. 

Measuring Vessel Implemented in the Reform of Shang Yang — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Defeating of Six Kingdoms and Establishing the Unified Qin Dynasty

Then, General Bai Qi led Qin’s army and severely weakened the other six countries’ forces. 

Afterward, the Kingdom Qin became the strongest empire. Even the other six kingdoms allied again, they could never win over the Qin. 

After King Ying Zheng ascended to the throne, he stepped up the pace of reunification. 

Led by General Wang Jian and his son Wang Ben, the strong troop of the Kingdom Qin perished the other six kingdoms within a decade.

Those other six kingdoms that were perished had extraordinary generals like Qin’s, however, none of them had a great monarch like King Ying Zheng, one of the greatest emperors in the history of China. Consequently, they gradually disappeared in history. 

In the year 221 B. C., King Ying Zheng, also honored as Qin Shi Huang, built a unified and centralized empire, the Qin Dynasty, and brought an end to the Warring States Period.

Bronze Water and Wine Container Decorated with Hundreds of Dragons, the most Exquisite Bronze Wares in the Warring States Period (Unearthed from Tomb of Zeng Hou Yi) — Hubei Museum

Systems of the Warring States Period




Around 30 million. 


Political System:


The County System was widely applied; governors of the counties were assigned and assessed by kings. Those incapable ones would be dismissed.  


Official Selection System:


Aristocrats hereditary, as well as recruitment and recommendation of talented people, military achievements, etc. 




  • 1/10 of farmland products;


  • capitation tax;


  • military or labor services.

Different Currencies of the Seven Kingdoms

Military Service:


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


  • More rewards were given to soldiers with military achievements, included noble titles, money, exemption from duty, etc. 


Land System:


Shang Yang’s Reform privatized land, after which civilians can own and sell their farmland while paying a certain amount of taxes. 

 Unearthed Lacquerware, Bronze Food Containers and Colander of the Warring States Period — Hubei, Jingzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Scientific Development


  • Gan Shi Xing Jing: the earliest sidereal table, the first astronomical masterpiece in the world, which documented movement laws of Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn, recorded the names of over 800 fixed stars and accurately located 121 of them. 


  • Great philosopher Mohist, and the inventions of Mohism, which includes the earliest demonstration of the Pinhole Imaging, Specular Imaging principles, etc. ​

Bronze Pliers and Gear of the Warring States Period  (Photo by Dongmaiying)

  • Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine): First masterpiece about the theory of traditional Chinese Medicine.


It connected the Yin Yang and Five Elements theory to the human body, explained the basic philosophy and cosmology of Chinese Medicine.


Many advanced medical technologies, including anatomy knowledge, were demonstrated too. 


  • The invention of the Crossbow. 

 Unearthed Weapons of the Warring States Period (Photo by Dongmaiying)

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