THE Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE) was the longest-lasting of ancient China’s dynasties. It followed the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600-1046 BCE) and it finished when the army of the state of Qin captured the city of Chengzhou in 256 BCE. The long history of the Zhou Dynasty is normally divided in two different periods: Western Zhou (1046-771 BCE) and Eastern Zhou (770-256 BCE), so-called following the move of the Zhou capital eastwards where it was safer from invasion.
The most influential minds in the Chinese intellectual tradition flourished under the Zhou, particularly towards the last period of the Zhou Dynasty, considered a time of intellectual and artistic awakening. Many of the ideas developed by figures like Laozi, Confucius, Mencius and Mozi, who all lived during the Eastern Zhou period, would shape the character of Chinese civilization up to the present day.
Heaven won’t fail the dedicated heart. Sleeping on brushwood and tasting gall, 3,000 Yue soldiers at long last can defeat the Wu.
The “nine familial exterminations” or “nine kinship exterminations” was the most extreme punishment someone could receive in ancient China. Our first record of this punishment comes from a history of the Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty. Apparently it was common for military officers to threaten before battle that if a subordinate disobeyed orders, all their family would be killed.
This eventually evolved into an elaborate, and legal, method of punishment. The nine familial exterminations varied by dynasty, and how often it was used varied as well. Generally, those to be executed included:
- the criminal’s living parents
- their living grandparents
- all children over a certain age (which varied) and all their children’s spouses
- all grandchildren over a certain age, and all their grandchildren’s spouses
- siblings and their sibling’s spouses
- the criminal’s uncles and aunts, as well as their spouses
- cousins (in Korea, this could go to second and third cousins)
- nieces and nephews, and their spouses
- the criminal’s spouse
- the criminal’s spouse’s living parents
- the criminal
This bronze bell is one and a half feet tall! That’s a half a meter! It comes from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty circa 500s BCE. It is beautifully decorated with thirty-six studs around the body and the taotie motif—fangs, horns, and brows snaking around protruding eyes—near the lip.
These bells were an integral part of ancient court rituals. A full set consists of more than sixty bells of varying sizes. The bells had no clapper, and were struck instead with a mallet.
Acoustically, each bell is capable of producing two tones depending on where it is hit: Striking along the side produces one tone, and striking along the middle results in a tone three degrees—or the equivalent of a major or minor third—away.