Eastern Zhou Music

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History of music development during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty

General information

Author Wiki Users
English title Eastern Zhou Music
Publication Music-China.org
Date of publication

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Traditional, History

Geographical span of this epoch

Zhou dynasty 1000 BC.png


A bo bell of the Duke of Qin

The Eastern Zhou was characterized by an accelerating collapse of royal authority, although the king's ritual importance allowed over five more centuries of rule. It lasted from 771 BC - 256 BC. The Confucian chronicle of the early years of this process led to its title of the "Spring and Autumn" Period. The partition of Jin in the mid-5th century BC initiated a second phase, the "Warring States". In 403 BC, the Zhou court recognized Han, Zhao, and Wei as fully independent states; in 344 BC, the first Duke Hui of Wei claimed the royal title of king for himself. A series of states rose to prominence before each falling in turn, but Zhou was a minor player in these conflicts.

The last Zhou king is traditionally taken to be Nan, who was killed when Qin captured the capital Chengzhou in 256 BC. A "King Hui" was declared, but his splinter state was fully removed by 249 BC. Qin's unification of China concluded in 221 BC with Qin Shihuang's annexation of Qi.

The Eastern Zhou, however, is also remembered as the golden age of Chinese philosophy: the Hundred Schools of Thought which flourished as rival lords patronized itinerant shi scholars is led by the example of Qi's Jixia Academy. The Nine Schools of Thought which came to dominate the others were Confucianism (as interpreted by Mencius and others), Legalism, Taoism, Mohism, the utopian communalist Agriculturalism, two strains of Diplomatists, the sophistic Logicians, Sun-tzu's Militarists, and the Naturalists.[1] Although only the first three of these went on to receive imperial patronage in later dynasties, doctrines from each influenced the others and Chinese society in sometimes unusual ways. The Mohists, for instance, found little interest in their praise of meritocracy but much acceptance for their mastery of siege warfare; much later, however, their arguments against nepotism were used in favor of establishing the imperial examination system.

Musical Development during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty

It is recorded in the chapter on "The Imperial Music Bureau in The Spring Ministry" (from The Rites of the Zhou 周 禮) that in the Zhou Dynasty the imperial court set up the Imperial Music Bureau to collect and edit ancient melodies and folk songs. It had on its staff a number of musicians, senior and junior musical officers, senior and junior masters, drum players, tuners, qing players, sheng players, fu 鎛 players, dancers, apprentices and errand boys, numbering 1,463 people. The bureau had as its three main divisions the Section of Music Administration, the Section of Music Education and the Section of Music Performance. The scale was large and the constitution was elaborate and systematic.[2]

Further information



  1. .Carr, Brian & al. Companion Encyclopaedia of Asian Philosophy, p. 466. Taylor & Francis, 2012. ISBN 041503535X, 9780415035354.
  2. Chinese Civilisation Centre, City University of Hong Kong. "The Imperial Court Music". Retrieved on 2013-10-10.