An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Government, Administration, and Law of the Zhou Period

Mar 14, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

The system of regional states

The Shang 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE) had controlled a vast network of polities during the Erligang 二里岡 (1600-1400 BCE) and the early Anyang 安陽 (1250–1050 BCE) periods, but depended on the goodwill of their allies during the late Anyang phase. The Zhou 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE) had learnt from this weakness and established a novel system of control with a handful of residences in the west (Khayutina 2008) and a military garrison in the east, and regional states governed by kinsmen and close supporters.

Historians combine several socio-political concepts to describe the system of the Zhou dynasty. Marxist historians identified the socio-economic system of the Shang and Zhou as that of a 'slaveholder society' (nuli shehui 奴隸社會) because of the existence of slaves or people without rights who worked for a class of exploiters (land owners), and could, moreover, be transferred or sold to others like objects (see Zhou society). In their view, the Spring and Autumn period marked the transition to a hierarchical 'feudal society' (fengjian shehui 封建社會) with a separation between proto-capitalist guilds in the cities and the realm of landowners who possessed all rights over the land and extensive rights over peasant serfs. Western historians used to interpret the political system of the Zhou as a 'feudal' one because the king conferred the rights over land to the nobility who in turn had the duty to serve the king, mainly during war.

Yet there were great differences between the European feudal system in its various forms and the Zhou-period system which was called fengjian 封建 "bestowment of an official duty in combination with land" (Feng 2003). The word feng 封 means "to allot a certain tract of land to someone". In the case of Zhou-period China, this land was used to nourish a functionary and was thus a form of salary. Moreover, functions and land were bestowed on close relatives to the Zhou kings, and not to politically independent leaders ('dukes') of communities or tribes. The highest functionaries, operating in the central government, were gong 公 (conventionally translated as "dukes"). The regional level of functionaries—the regional rulers—was called hou 侯 ("marquesses"), which is actually a modern form of hou 后 "lord" (si 司 "supervisor, commander" turned around, compare the name Hou Ji 后稷). Functionaries of smaller entities were given the titles bo 伯 ("earls"), zi 子 ("viscounts"), nan 男 ("barons"; see titles of nobility), and others, depending on whether their lands were located in the royal domain or in the east.

Traditional historiography (Shiji 史記, 4 Zhou benji 周本紀) holds that the first round of appointments was granted to descendants of the ancient mythological emperors: The land of Jiao 焦 was given to descendants of Shen Nong 神農, Zhu 祝 to those of the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di 黃帝), Ji 薊 to the descendants of Emperor Yao 堯, Chen 陳 to those of Emperor Shun 舜, and Qi 杞 to the descendants of the Xia dynasty 夏 (21th-17th cent. BCE). During the reign of King Wen 周文王, the rulers of Yu 虞, Dongguo 東虢, Xiguo 西虢, and San 散 were invested.

The next group of appointments went to a prince of the Shang. Lufu 祿父, called Prince Wu Geng 武庚, was made regent over Bei 邶. He was advised and controlled by two brothers of the dynastic founder King Wu 周武王 to whom was given land nearby: Guan Shu Xian 管叔鮮 in Yong 鄘, and Cai Shu Du 蔡叔度 in Wei 衛 (together called the three "supervised" territories, San Jian 三監). King Wu thereafter entrusted Shi, the Duke of Shao 召公奭 with Beiyan 北燕 and the military commander Shang Fu 尚父 (i.e. Lü Shang 呂尚) with Qi 齊.

After the rebellion of Wu Geng, who was supported by the two lords of Guan and Cai, a further round of appointments was carried out. The Classic Zuozhuan 左傳 (Xigong 僖公 2) enumerates the regional states created at that time: Guan 管, Cai 蔡, Cheng 郕 (Cheng Shu Wu 成叔武), Huo 霍 (Huo Shu Chu 霍叔處), Lu 魯, Wei 衛, Mao 毛 (Mao Shu Ran 毛叔聃), Ran 聃, Gao 郜, Yong 雍, Cao 曹, Teng 滕, Bi 畢, Yuan 原, Feng 酆, and Xun 郇 were governed by sons of late King Wen, i.e. brothers or half-brothers of King Wu. Yu 邘, Jin 晉 (Tang Shu Yu 唐叔虞), Ying 應, and Han 韓 were governed by sons of King Wu. Fan 凡, Jiang 蔣, Xing 邢, Mao 茅, Zuo 胙, and Ji 祭 were governed by sons of Dan, the Duke of Zhou 周公旦, i.e. nephews of King Wu.

These statelets with their garrisons served as a "shield" (fanping 蕃屏) for the Zhou dynasty towards the east. The last prince of the Shang, Weizi 微子, was entrusted with the governance over Song 宋. Another paragraph in the Zuozhuan (Zhaogong 昭公 9) explains that the Zhou saw the statelets of Wei 魏, Yi 駘, Rui 芮, Qi 岐, and Bi 畢 as the western, and original area of the Zhou, while after the conquest of the Shang, Pugu 蒲姑 and Yan 奄 in the east came into the orbit of the Zhou, as well as Ba 巴, Pu 濮, Chu 楚, and Deng 鄧 in the south, and Sushen 肅慎, Yan 燕, and Bo 亳 in the north.

It is important to note that of the 71 regional states that the Zhou created after the conquest period, 53 were governed by members of the house of Zhou (figures according to Xunzi 荀子, ch. Ruxiao 儒效). The Zhou empire was thus an 'enterprise' of the family Ji 姬. For this reason, the lineage rules (zongfa 宗法) of the house of Zhou were of great significance for the appointment of regional rulers. Regional rule was otherwise given into the hands of loyal supporters of King Wu, forming a kind of meritocracy (baofeng 褒封; Gu 2002), or into those of families related by marriage, like the family Jiang 姜. King Wu destroyed the Shang-period structure of tribal power by allegiance and alliance and replaced it by a multi-layered (duochongxing 多重性) system of rule by kinship in which independent states like the barbarian polity of Xu 徐 in the Huai River 淮河 region found no proper place.

The head of state

One of the forefathers of the Zhou, Gu Gong Danfu 古公亶父, selected his third son Ji Li 季歷 to be his successor, and not the older ones Tai Bo 太伯 (who became, according to legend, the ruler of Wu 吳 in the far southeast) and Yu Zhong 虞仲 (who became ruler of Yu 虞). Yet with the foundation of the dynasty by King Wen and his son King Wu, the role of successor to the throne fell to the first son of the primary consort. The Zhou were the creators of primogeniture. King Wu's order of succession of only the oldest son of a primary consort prevented struggles for the throne, but made necessary an arrangement of rulership.

These novel rules of ancestry (zongfa 宗法, see Zhou religion) gave all rights into the hands of the oldest son of the principal consort (di zi 嫡子). He and his descendants were the main lineage (dazong 大宗) of the ruling house, while the sons of a secondary consort (shu zi 庶子, bie zi 別子) and their descendants (yet only those by primary consorts) constituted lesser lineages (xiaozong 小宗, jibie 繼別, jimi 繼禰). These "lesser lineages" venerated other forefathers than the main lineage. For this reason, the regional lords were not allowed to found a royal ancestral temple (wangmiao 王廟) in their territory, and their grand masters (dafu 大夫), local administrators and usually descendants of the regional rulers, were not allowed to venerate the ancestors of the regional rulers in their temples.

The Zuozhuan (Huangong 桓公 2) therefore compares the Zhou empire with a family: each regional ruler had his own house (jia 家), each regional minister (qing 卿) a "wing" (ceshi 側室, i.e. lodge of younger brothers), each grand master's younger or half-brothers had secondary altars (erzong 貳宗), and each serviceman (shi 士, also offspring of regional houses or those of grand masters) and commoner was treated in a similar way.

With the appointment of rulers over the regions of his empire which were tied to him by a strict system of kinship, the king of Zhou was not any more primus inter pares, but the master of the regional rulers, as the philosopher and historian Wang Guowei 王國維 (1877-1927) asserted (Yang 1994: 77). The regional rulers were not independent and free to decide over whether supporting the king of Zhou or not: they were functionaries, not more. This system of dependency was cascaded down to the lowest level of local administration.

The position of the king of Zhou was reinforced by the metaphysical concept of the Mandate of Heaven (tianming 天命, see Zhou religion) given into the hands of the house of Zhou. Heaven, as the master of the world, had appointed Ji Fa 姬發 (King Wu) king of the empire, as a kind of functionary himself. Even the role of the king was embedded into a kinship network, by alleging that he was the "Son of Heaven" (tianzi 天子), as the Classic Shangshu 尚書 says (ch. Shaogao 召誥): Huangtian Shangdi, gai jue yuanzi 皇天上帝,改厥元子 "August Heaven, the High Ancestor, changed his primary son (King Wu of Zhou instead of King Zhou 紂 of the Shang)." This ideology bolstered the position of the Zhou king fundamentally. According to the theorem of the Mandate of Heaven, the king had obtained power on the grounds of the "virtue" (de 德) of the dynastic founders King Wen and Wu, who again were granted the right to rule by Heaven. The ancestral cult of the Zhou ensured the continuance of the founding king's lives (by way of commemoration), which means that the later kings King Cheng 周成王, Kang 周康王, and so on, were just agents on behalf of King Wen and Wu (Li 2008: 295).

Figure 1. The pyramid of appointment

Right in the beginning of the Western Zhou period, a circumstance emerged that became paradigmatic for the question of rulership and regency. When King Wu died, his son, King Cheng, was allegedly too young to rule, and political matters were therefore taken over by his uncle, the Duke of Zhou. The Duke received the regional rulers and military commanders in the Bright Hall (mingtang 明堂), bearing an axe as the symbol of royal power, just as the Son of Heaven did. The Duke of Shao likewise supported his nephew. When King Cheng was facing death, he followed this paradigm and entrusted the dukes of Shao and Bi with the regency of the empire. Whether the Duke of Zhou was only acting as a regent whether he was ruling as a king, is still under debate, and it might be that the Duke was by other ministers, mainly Duke Shi of Shao, forced to retire (Shaugnessy 1997).

The king of Zhou was the supreme military commander, but he could also lay supreme command into the hands of trusted and experienced functionaries. All appointments (ceming 冊命), be they temporary or permanent, were made in the framework of ceremonies carried out at the ancestral altar (see Zhou religion). The ritual classic Zhouli 周禮 (part Chunguan 春官, ch. Dazongbo 大宗伯) enumerates the nine types of etiquette (jiu yi 九儀) according to which functionaries were appointed and ranked, namely nominal offices (zhi 職), robes (fu 服), positions [at the royal court] (wei 位), ritual vessels (qi 器), concessions for regulations (ze 則), appointing own functionaries (guan 官), concession for a regional state (guo 國), establishment of pastures [for breeding war horses] (mu 牧), and the concession of "first-class" regional lord (bo 伯).

Even when high dignitaries executed official appointments at certain occasions, the king presided them as the one who bestowed favour on the candidates. It seems that the Zhou king regularly toured the settlements (xunshou 巡狩) in his domain and at such occasions carried out appointments in the local royal temple or pronounced edicts. In this way, the Zhou king actively engaged in the administration process, which was in fact carried out by local dignitaries and officials (Li 2008: 142).

Appointment ceremonies were accompanied or initiated with religious ceremonies, as can be seen, for instance, in the ritual Classic Liji 禮記 (ch. Jitong 祭統). Royal visits appear to have been frequent, particularly in the first quarter of the year. During such visits, the king did not only appoint fresh officials (even if the decision over the personnel might not have been in his hands but followed rules of the 'bureaucratic autonomy' of the local nobility), but likewise confirmed the position holders of offices. The creation of a bureaucratic apparatus liberated the Zhou kings (particularly the weaker ones among them) from deciding over each single case in routine appointments.

Policy making in the Western Zhou

Even if the king of Zhou was an absolute monarch, it was common that high dignitaries gave him advice. King Wu trusted the military advice of Lü Shang, Grand Duke of Qi (Qi Taibo 齊太伯 or Qi Taigong 齊太公), and the military and civilian support of the dukes of Zhou, Shao, and Bi 畢. King Cheng relied on the support of the Duke of Zhou as "Grand Commander" (taishi 太師, usually translated as "Grand Preceptor"), and the Duke of Shao as Grand Guardian or Grand Protector (taibao 太保). In the first seven years of the reign of King Cheng, the Duke of Zhou was regent, and made all political decisions—not without debates with the Duke of Shao. The attack on the Shang prince Wu Geng and his supporters, the destruction of the Huaiyi 淮夷 tribes in the east, the relocation of the Shang people, and the construction of an eastern capital seat, were all decisions of the Duke of Zhou. The highest advisors of the king of Zhou were called the "Three Dukes" (sangong 三公).

Yet the kings also relied on the hints of oracles (see Zhou religion) to make political decisions easier. Before attacking King Zhou of the Shang, Ji Fa made a divination. The Duke of Zhou made a divination when selecting an ideal place for the eastern stronghold Chengzhou 成周, the eventual Luoyang 洛陽, Henan.

Yet suggestions for policy making might come from all levels of the nobility and even from commoners, as the Shiji (4 Zhou benji) alleges. Such from the ranks of functionaries were common. Ji Gong Moufu 祭公謀父 (a posthumous honorific name actually meaning "counsellor-father"), for instance, voted against King Mu's 周穆王 war against the Quanrong 犬戎 tribes. Rui Liangfu 芮良父 and the Duke of Shao criticized the military plans of King Li 周厲王 (r. 878-841 BCE).

Decisions of the court were made public by proclamations (gao 誥) to the nobility.

The central government of the Zhou

Even if the Zhou kings regularly toured their empire, they had fix residences in their homeland in the west. King Wen once destroyed the Shang outpost of Chong 崇 and thereupon transferred his seat from Qishan 岐山 (close to present-day Baoji 寶雞, Shaanxi) to Feng 豐 (酆) farther east (just west of Xi'an 西安). His son, King Wu, created a new seat not far away, in Hao 鎬. The Feng-Hao region was called Zongzhou 宗周 "Ancestral Zhou". King Mu 周穆王 created a new residence in Zheng 鄭, Xizheng 西鄭, or Huaili 槐里 (also called Yulin 棫林, Quanqiu 犬丘 or Junqiu 軍丘), close to present-day Xingping 興平, Shaanxi. After the victory over the Shang, the Duke of Zhou decided to establish a secondary capital in the east, mostly for military reasons, to be ready if rebellions should break out. This capital was called Chengzhou (today's Luoyang, Henan). Throughout the Western Zhou period, the Zhou kings thus used a network of residences, part of which was connected with memory in the ancestors, while others served as garrisons, like Chengzhou (Khayutina 2008).

The core of the central government was a kind of royal council consisting of "dukes" (gong). The dukes were related to the royal house by kinship. In a similar way, the government on each level consisted of a nobleman and his relatives as advisors: "ministers" (qing) gave advice to the regional rulers, younger brothers (ceshi) to the "ministers", second-born scions (erzong) to the grand masters (dafu), "friends" (pengyou 朋友) to the servicemen (shi), and all state employees had relatives "which assisted them" (according to a commentary by Du Yu 杜預, 222-284, on Zuozhuan).

The semi-classic Da Dai Liji 大戴禮記 (ch. Baofu 保傅) explains that there were Three Dukes (sangong), namely the Duke of Shao (lord of Yan) as Grand Guardian (taibao), the Duke of Zhou (lord of Lu) as Grand Mentor or Preceptor (taifu 太傅), and the Grand Duke of Qi as Grand Commander (taishi). The Duke of Bi might have been Grand Astrologer (taishi 太史), who was also the chief archivist of the royal house (Wang & Yang 1996: 333). He also occasionally played a role in central government decisions.

Recent research based on bronze inscriptions shows that the Zhou empire was practically divided into two zones, one covering the 'colonized east' governed by regional states (waifu 外服 "exterior services"), and the other the western region and Luoyang (i.e. the royal domain) directly under the control of the royal house (neifu 內服 "interior services"). Regional rulers of the east were called hou 侯 (in rare circumstances, like the state of Xu 許, nan 男人, or dian 甸), those of the west were called bo 伯 (rarely zhong 仲, shu 叔, and ji 季—actually terms expressing family relationships), and on lower levels bang 邦, cai 采, or wei 衛 (dignitaries who had authority over certain areas of land). The word bang 邦 referred to polities in the west, but not to particular regional states in the east. These two zones were founded, organized, and governed in different ways (Li 2008: 47-48).

The daily business of the central government was run by two sections of officials, namely the Ministerial Department (qingshiliao 卿事寮), and the Department of the Grand Astrologer (taishiliao 太史寮). Both terms are not mentioned in transmitted Classics, but are reconstructed on the base of bronze inscriptions, and neglected sources. The structure of the Zhou government as described in the ritual classic Zhouli, with six ministers (liu qing 六卿) as heads of six departments or "ministries" related to the seasons (see Six Ministries) does not fit with other sources like bronze inscriptions, the Shangshu, or later writings.

The concept of the central government as composed of two departments was first described by Yang Kuan (1984). It was criticized by Zhang Zhikang (1988), who said that Yang relied too much on bronze inscriptions and totally ignored written sources, particularly the Zhouli. Zhang points at the multiple functions that the highest dignitaries of the central government took over. This makes it nearly impossible to speak of a regular structure of administration.

Table 1. The central government of the Western Zhou (neifu 內服)
Grand Commander (taishi 太師)
Grand Guardian (taibao 太保)
Grand Mentor (taifu 太傅)
Ministerial Department (qingshiliao 卿事寮) Department of the Grand Astrologer or Grand Secretariat (taishiliao 太史寮)
1. Administrator of State Affairs (changren 常任)
Overseer of the Masses (situ 司徒)
Overseer of Works (sikong 司空)
Overseer of Mounts (sima 司馬)
2. Balancer of Justice (zhunren 準人)
Overseer of Bandits (sikou 司寇)
Overseer of Functionaries (sishi 司士)
3. Administrator of the Royal Domain (changbo 常伯)
Royal Guard (huben 虎賁)
Grand Astrologer (taishi 太史)
Astrologer-Recorder (shi 史)
Censor (xingshi 省史)
Grand Supplicator (zhu 大祝)
Overseer of Divination (sibu 司卜)
Royal Household Administration
Grand Steward or Superintendent (zai 宰)
Junior Steward (neizai 內宰)
Food Steward (shanfu 膳夫)
Palace Steward (shougong 守宮)
Steward of Coaches (yuzheng 御正), Chief Interior Scribe (neishiyin 內史尹), Chief Book Maker (zuoceyin 作冊尹)

The Ministerial Department administered the "three affairs" (sanshi 三事, san you si 三有司) and the four regions (sifang 四方). The "three affairs" were managed by the functionaries called Administrator of State Affairs (changren 常任), Balancer of Justice (zhunren 準人), and Administrator of the Royal Domain (changbo 常伯). All these offices are not mentioned in the Zhouli, but appear in bronze inscriptions (e.g. Mao Gong ding 毛公鼎, Ling yi 令彞) as well as in the Classic Shangshu (ch. Lizheng 立政).

The Administrator of State Affairs (changbo), was superior of three functionaries, which are occasionally called "three dukes" (sangong 三公) or the Three Supervisors (sanyousi 三有司, also written 𤔲), namely the Overseer or Supervisor of the Masses (situ 司徒, in the early Western Zhou called Overseer of Land (situ 司土), the Overseer of Works (sikong 司空, or Supervisor of Constructions, sigong 司工), and the Overseer of Mounts (sima 司馬). They were assisted by the "many officials" (zhuyin 諸尹), document makers (zuoce 作冊), and scribes (shi 史).

The Overseer of the Masses (situ 司徒, da situ 大司徒, also called situ 司土, zhong situ 冢司土; according to the Zhouli head of the "Terrestrial Offices"), was responsible for registering land (ji tian 藉田) and census. Apart from these civilian duties, he was also commander of infantry of the divisions of Chengzhou (see Zhou military) and assisted the king during appointment ceremonies.

The Overseer of Works (sikong 司空, also written sigong 司工; according to the logic of the Zhouli head of the "Hibernal Offices") controlled the construction of military roads, canals, and of buildings used by the king. Occasionally, the Overseer of Works might take over jurisdictional matters as Overseer of Bandits (sikou 司寇; according to the Zhouli head of the "Autumnal Offices").

The third person was the Commander of Mounts (sima 司馬; according to the Zhouli head of the "Aestival Offices") who took over command during military campaigns – but quite interestingly, no source has been found yet proving that the sima took really part in battles (Wang & Yang 1996: 336-337).

The royal guard (huben, huchen 虎臣) also belonged to the jurisdiction of the Administrator of the Royal Domain. It consisted usually of 800 men (Wang & Yang 1996: 337), and protected the king in daily life and during his tours and ceremonies, but might also take over attacks during military campaigns. During the conquest of the Shang, the guard was allegedly 3,000-strong. In a wider sense, the Six and Eight Armies (see Zhou military), commanded by marshals (shi 師), were likewise subordinated to the central government.

The department of justice (sifaguan 司法官), headed by the Balancer of Justice (zhunren), consisted of the sections of the Overseer of Bandits (sikou 司寇), a kind of Minister of Justice, and the Overseer of Functionaries (sishi 司士). The first Minister of Justice was the Duke of Su 蘇公 (Su Fensheng 蘇忿生), his successor the "Uncle" Duke of Kang 康叔. The Overseer of Functionaries was responsible for discipline among the "hundred offices" (bailiao 百寮) and thus a kind of judiciary official. This post might correspond to the office of "Master of the Elite" (shishi 士師) in the Zhouli.

The civil department (minshiguan 民事官) of the Administrator of the Royal Domain (changbo) was supervising local administration, scattered tribes, and important passes.

The Department of the Grand Astrologer (taishiliao) was responsible for appointments (ceming), salaries (zhilu 制祿), records and maps, sacrifices, divination, rituals, astronomy and astrology, and the observation of agriculture, i.e. a kind of secretarial and cultural branch of government. It might correspond to the "Spring Offices" in the Zhouli. Head of the Department was the Grand Astrologer (taishi 太史, gong taishi 公太史). His rank was only second to that of Grand Commander (taishi) or Grand Guardian (taibao). The first Grand Astrologer of the Zhou was the Duke of Bi 畢. All affairs handled by the Grand Astrologer were minutely recorded, and he thus also served as the chief secretary of the royal government, a kind of 'Grand Secretary'.

During sacrifices or other ceremonies, the Astrologer-Recorder (shi 史) read aloud the king's proclamations. He was also responsible for documenting all events and sacrifices and for archiving them. The function of "heralding" the royal proclamations was during sacrifices also taken over by the Supplicator or Invocator (zhu 祝). The function of the Censor (xingshi 省史) was to control and perhaps punish officials. Concerning the status and rank of the supplicators, sources are contradictory. While the Classic Liji (ch. Quli 曲禮 B) and bronze inscriptions rank this office quite high, the Zhouli sees it as a rather subaltern office. The Overseer of Divination (sibu 司卜) corresponds to the Grand Diviner (dabu 大卜) in the Zhouli. Divination was an important aspect of policy making (Wang & Yang 1996: 343).

In the very beginning of the Zhou period, both capitals, Zongzhou (Feng-Hao) the west and Chengzhou (Luoyang) in the east had a full staff of the two Departments. The eastern one was supervised by the Duke of Zhou, and the western one by the Duke of Shao. This parallel structure was one reason why many dignitaries bore the suspicion that the Duke of Zhou planned to create a kind of counter-government. When King Cheng took over full regency, he abolished the civilian character of Chengzhou and reduced it to a military garrison (Wang & Yang 1996: 340).

The needs of the royal household were managed by the Grand Steward (zai 宰), an office which already existed under the Shang, and gradually emerged as a political one with great responsibility, the Counsellor-in-chief. The Duke of Zhou is occasionally called zai, which means that he controlled both the affairs of the royal household and grand politics, as regent for King Cheng. The Grand Steward supervised all the King's officials (zhenzhishi 朕執事).

Bronze inscriptions give a hint at the existence of a Grand Steward and a Junior Steward (neizai 內宰, gongzai 宮宰), as in the Zhouli (xiaozai 小宰). The latter was also called yanyin 奄尹 "Manager of the Interior". It might have been that the Junior Steward was responsible for the royal household internally, and the Grand Steward for external affairs, like proclamations or else. The Food Steward or Provisioner (shanfu 善夫, in the Zhouli written 膳夫) cared for provisions, royal banquets, and the reception of guests. He was also entitled to transmit orders by the king, even such to the eight divisions. The Palace Steward (shougong 守宮, in the Zhouli called gongzheng 宮正) cared for security in the palace. The head of the royal coaches was called yuzheng 御正. King Mu's chief coacher was Zao Fu 造父. The Grand Steward gained more importance as assistant (youzhe 右[=佑]者) to the king in court ceremonies during the later part of the Western Zhou period. In his place, the Food Steward became the head of the Royal Household (Li 2008: 94-95).

Zuoce neishi 作冊內史 or zuoming neishi 作命內史, or simply neishi 內史 or neishi yin 內史尹 were recorders, scribes, archivists, keepers of records, and took part in cadastral records and recorded the daily activities of the king. Apart from these duties of clerical work, the chief recorder was entitled to receive tributes and presents for the queen, supervised the casting of ritual bronze vessels, made proclamations in the ancestral temple, inquired regional rulers, took care for the royal banners and insignia (Wang & Yang 1996: 347).

The Shangshu (ch. Lizheng) adds to these keepers of the robes (zhuiyi 綴衣), equerries (quma 趣馬), heads of palatial departments (xiaoyin 小尹), personal attendants (zuoyou xipu 左右攜僕), and treasurers (shufu 庶府).

Li (2008) elucidates the development of the central administration of the Western Zhou, which began as a mixed military-civilian administration, in which the Ministerial Department, the office of the Astrologer-Scribe, the Royal Household, and the religious institution with the Grand Invocator were progressively expanded horizontally (number of offices and personnel) and vertically (central and local). Thus, local branches of these offices were set up in all parts of the royal domain as well as in the regional states.

During the mid-Western Zhou period, the royal household (wangjia 王家) gained more prominence, and the offices of the Overseer of the Masses and the Overseer of Bandits emerged. In the garrison places where the Eight and Six Royal Divisions were found, a civilian bureaucracy came up. Military personnel perhaps carried out civilian functions (Li 2008: 81). The organization in six armies moreover corresponded, quite probably, to the civilian organization in six districts (liu xiang 六鄉).

The traditional distinction between civilian (wen 文) and military (wu 武) was apparently not known in the early Western Zhou period, but the martial atmosphere of the first century of the period was perhaps one reason why by and by a civilian apparatus emerged in the central government as a counterpart to the military realm, first among the interior secretarial body, and then in the official body of the 'Grand Secretariat' (Li 2008: 94).

The administration of the royal domain

The royal domain in the west of the early Zhou empire consisted of landed property owned by the royal house (wangji 王畿 "royal fields"), land owned by the aristocratic lineages, and estates managed by the state. 'Royal property' were various palaces, temples (Taimiao 太廟, Kanggong 康宮, Zhaogong 昭宮) and other architecture like the royal school (xuegong 學宮) located in the major settlements as well as gardens, parks, pastures, lakes (as Lake Biyong 璧雍) and estates scattered in the suburbs (jiao 郊) of the royal residences, including the quarters of people serving in and working for the royal household (e.g. workshops). They were managed by "my [the king's] officials" (zhenzhishi 朕執事) (Li 2008:151-154).

The estates of the aristocratic lineages like Jing 井, Rong 榮, Liangqi 梁其, Qiu 裘, Guo 虢, or San 散, were located in the countryside, but some had also possessions and residences in the capitals.

State-administrated land (yi 邑 "settlement surrounded by land", tian 田 "specific land") farther away from the royal residences constituted the main source of revenues for the royal house. The land was managed by local officials appointed by the king. When the king awarded land to dignitaries, it came from this royal property. The five 'cities' of the Zhou (wuyi 五邑), namely Qi 岐, Cheng 程, Feng, Hao, Zheng 鄭, Huaili, and also Ban (?) and Bi 畢,were not only ceremonial settlements with temples and palaces, but included residences of the aristocracy, garrisons, workshops producing objects for the royal household or the royal army, government headquarters, and also dwellings of commoners, mainly peasants who worked on the fields of the royal estates in the vicinity.

The 'cities' were administrated by officials appointed by the king, each of them having a defined jurisdiction, like horses, workshops, dykes, religious ceremonies, or the supervision of farmers (Li 2008: 167). The cities of the Zhou domain were focuses of the political and administrative power of the royal state. Yet there was no city government. Administration was subject to royal control. Apart from officials responsible for one single city, there was probably a staff of officials responsible for all "five cities". Although each city accommodated multiple social and economic functions, it did not constitute an independent political entity. Despite the centralized control of the cities, there was an administrative body existing in each of them, like supervisor of land, of multitudes, of construction.

In the countryside there were settlements of the royal domain, lineage settlements (zuyi 族邑, their residential place), and affiliated settlements (shuyi 屬邑, belonging to the lineage). Such settlements were managed by a variety of petty officials like the supervisor of marshes and forests (yu 虞) or the little doorkeeper (xiaomen 小門) (Li 2008: 187). Rural settlements were administered by lijun 里君 "village administrators" or bangjun 邦君 "regional administrators" (Li 2008: 182-183). The concept of 'district' (xiang 鄉) as an administrative unit of the Western zhou domain is doubtful because it only appeared as late as the Spring and Autumn period. The distinction between guoren 國人 "people living close to the royal residence" and yeren 野人 "people living in the countryside" likewise dates from the Eastern Zhou period.

Presentations like in the Zhouli chapters Da situ 大司徒 and Suiren 遂人 are therefore to be taken with caution. The figures would result in 168,750 households controlled by the royal house.

Table 2. Putative local administration according to the Zhouli
Six interior districts (liu xiang 六鄉)
1 xiang interior district 鄉大夫 xiang dafu interior district grand master
5 zhou township 州長 zhouzhang township head
25 dang ward 黨正 dangzheng ward rectifier
125 zu precinct 族師 zushi precint commander
625 village 閭胥 lüxu village assistant
3,125 bi neighbourhood 比長 bizhang neighbourhood head
15,625 jia households [家主 jiazhu] [family head]
Six exterior districts (liu sui 六遂)
1 sui exterior district 遂大夫 sui dafu exterior district grand master
5 xian township 縣正 xianzheng township rectifier
25 bi ward 鄙師 bishi ward preceptor
125 zan precinct 酇長 zanzhang precinct heads
500 li village 里宰 lizai village head
2,500 lin neighbourhood 鄰長 linzhang neighbourhood head
12,500 jia household [家主 jiazhu] [family head]
Zhouli 周禮, part Diguan 地官, ch. Da situ 大司徒 and Suiren 遂人. Translations, as far as possible, according to Hucker (1985).

Sales of land was possible, as can be seen in the inscription of the San shi pan 散氏盤 plate. From the mid-Western Zhou period on the kings bestowed ever smaller pieces of land to the aristocracy, often found in different locations. This practice, and the selling of land, led to a mosaic pattern of landownership in the royal domain in late Western Zhou period. (Li 2008: 157).

The regional states during the Western Zhou period

The region outside the royal domain (waifu 外服) was governed by regional rulers (fangbo 方伯, later usually called zhuhou 諸侯), functionaries or governors entrusted with the control of a certain territory on behalf of the king. The functionaries would take care of the defence and economy ("the people") of the territory and would be allowed to live of the soil. The bestowment of the territory was called feng 封, a character showing a hand 寸 and a surveying tool 圭 or boundary markers. Depending on the size of the territory, the regional lords might be given ranks like hou 侯, dian 甸, nan 男 (or ren 任), and wei 衛 (according to Shangshu, ch. Jiugao 酒誥), or hou, tian 田 (=dian), and nan (inscription of Ling yi 令彞), or hou, dian, nan, cai 采, and wei (Shangshu, ch. Kanggao 康誥).

The Western Zhou states (both the royal domain and the regional states) were not territorial ones. Between the settlements controlled by the Zhou state, there were spaces left inhabited by population beyond the control of the Zhou.

Regional states were neither city-states nor territorial states, feudal states, or segmentary states, but—according to the state of the art—"settlement states" (yūsei kokka 邑制国家, a term created by Matsumoto Mitsuo 松本光雄). These were hierarchically subject to the royal capital and bound together by (real or fictional) kinship relation. Li Feng (2003) therefore calls the Western Zhou system "delegatory kin-ordered settlement state". The regional rulers were bound to the royal house not just by kinship (at least the greater part of them), but also by a sworn alliance (meng 盟), "not to hurt each other" (wu xiang hai 無相害). Some of the regional states were given special duties. Lu, for instance, the state of the Duke of Zhou, was allowed to deliver sacrifices to King Wu, and to praise the virtue of the late Duke. The state of Wei 衛 was granted the right to venerate Kang Shu. The state of Qi had the special duty to take over military campaigns in the east, and over time produced quite a few "military strategists".

The king's control over the regional states was realized in a ceremonial, and in a practical way. The ceremonial way consisted in the duty to keep to the rules of kinship, and to regularly repeat the oath of allegiance towards the king. During those ceremonies, the king might present the regional lord a bronze vessel inscribed with a text narrating the background and reiterating the text of the investiture, and give him precious objects as a gift, like chariots, horse covers, bells or other furnishings for chariots, or cowry shells—a kind of proto-currency.

The practical control consisted of the king's right to appoint the highest ministers of the regional states. All three ministers in the larger states were appointed by the king, while he was content to appoint two of the three ministers of the states of secondary rank. The regional rulers were obliged to deliver tributes to the royal court, which was actually an early form of taxes collected locally and then partially delivered to the central government treasury.

Most important in administrative matters is that the regional rulers possessed not just administrative authority, but also military and legal authority. Nonetheless, the regional rulers were responsible to guarantee the political and social stability of their state as part of the whole Zhou empire. A regional ruler failing to do so could be punished by the King of Zhou.

The duties of the regional rulers might include service in the central government. The most famous examples are the dukes of Zhou and Shao, which were nominally entrusted with the governance of the regional states of Lu and Yan, respectively, but held the post of Grand Commander, and Grand Guardian. Transmitted sources explain that after the final destruction of the rebellious Shang prince Wu Geng and his Zhou supporters, the Duke of Zhou ordered the regional rulers to assemble at the royal court in Zongzhou (Feng-Hao). At that occasion he created the state offices and fixed the rules for ceremonies and ritual music (according to Shiji, 4 Zhou Benji). From then on, the regional rulers payed the royal court a small visit (xiaopin 小聘) every second year, a great visit (dapin 大聘) every third year, and convened to a grand audience (chao 朝) in the Bright Hall (mingtang) every five years (Liji, ch. Wangzhi 王制).

Tribes not incorporated into the world of regional states also delivered tributes. The Sushen 肅慎 in the northeast, for instance, delivered arrows and sound stones, the state of Chu in the middle Yangtze region bows and arrows, the polity of Shu 蜀 in Sichuan precious stones, and the Huaiyi tribes various clothes (Wang & Yang 1996: 354). Even if the tributes were not worth a lot, they were part of a ceremonial system, and the refusal to deliver tributes might result in a punitive campaign.

The control over the empire was held up by regular hunting tours which combined military prowess by regular visits to the regional states. The king thus "toured" (xun 巡) the empire by merging hunting (shou /ɕĭəu/ 狩) with defence (shou /ɕĭəu/ 守). The regional rulers for their side were obliged to regularly attend court audiences which combined various other ceremonies. The spring audience was called chao 朝, the summer audience zong 宗, the autumn audience jin 覲, and the winter audience yu 遇. The king had the right to punish regional rulers or even attack them militarily for not appearing for an audience.

Figure 2. The Duke of Shao as a representative of the King of Zhou
The longest jade ge dagger-axe (Tai bao yu ge 太保玉戈) ever found (today held by the Freer Gallery of Art), with a length of 67.1cm and a width of 10.2cm, bears a short inscription reporting of an inspection tour of the Duke of Shao to the south, on behalf of King Cheng (?) of Zhou. The inscription, encarved in minuscule characters, says: 六月丙寅,王才(=在)豐,令太保眚(=省)南或(=國),帥(=率)漢,{ㄔ■}(=出){宀殷}(=殷)南,令濮(𨽂?厲?)侯辟,用鼄(=酬,=騶?),走百人。“In the sixth month, the day with the cyclical signs bingyin, the King was residing in Feng; he ordered the Grand Guardian to inspect the southern regions. [The Duke of Shao] followed the course of River Han [downwards], assembled [the lords] of the south, and invested [in the King's name] the Marquis of Pu, and presented him with one hundred guardsmen." There are several possible interpretations of the characters, and hence, varying translations. From Chen (2019), see also Wang (2019).

Control over the regional states was also carried out by the Ministerial Department (qingshiliao). This central government institution transmitted the orders of the king and punished regional lords refusing to obey the royal orders.

Last but not least, the regional lords had the duty to protect the king. This became most evident in the very late Western Zhou period, when the lords of Shen 申 and Zeng 繒 cooperated with the Xianyun 玁狁 tribes to punish King You 周幽王 (r. 781-771) for his misdoings. When his heir, King Ping 周平王 (r. 770-720 BCE), fled to the east, he was supported by the lords of Qin 秦, Jin, and Zheng 鄭. This situation proved that the royal house had not any more the power to control the regional rulers, but depended from their support.

Over time, the one or other regional state became stronger and more independent. The founder of the state of Qi, for instance, reported annually to the Duke of Zhou, while the latter's successor, Bo Qin 伯禽, reported only every three years to the throne. Moreover, the home state of the Duke of Zhou, Lu, was not able to exert the same mode of power as Qi, and became a 'subject' of Qi. The state of Jin was from the time of King Kang allowed to settle regional disputes by its own, without inquiring the royal court. The dukes of Jin thus became more independent from the royal house.

The decisive events destroying the Western Zhou balance between centre and region were King Xuan's 周宣王 (r. 827-782 BC) meddling into the succession crisis in the state of Lu in 796, and King Yi's 周夷王 unjust murder of the lord of Qi, Duke Ai 齊哀公.

The system of regional states—originally built as a shield of defence—was also unable to protect the house of Zhou from the south and from the west, and the kings of Zhou repeatedly suffered defeat by tribal units standing outside the system of regional states.

Bronze inscriptions show that regional states were managed by civil administrators like situ or sigong and their secretaries or other 'officials' (li 吏, zhengli 正吏), and the household of the regional rulers by Grand Superintendents ( 太宰) and provisioners (shanfu). A really unique office not found in the central government was that of inspector (jian 監). The existence of inspectors in many regional states must have been an institutional royal attempt at tight control over the regional states (Li 2008: 251). The regional states were equipped with all functions of a 'state', but it seems that the process of bureaucratization as it can be observed in the Western Zhou central government was not unfolded in the regional states.

The ranks of ministers and grand masters in each state was clearly defined, as can be seen in Zuozhuan, Chenggong 成公 3. The highest minister (shangqing 上卿) in a mid-size state had thus a lower rank than that in a greater, and a higher rank than that in a small state. The same practice was known for grand masters, as Mengzi 孟子 (ch. Wan Zhang 萬章 B) confirms.

Information about the administration of the regional states in the east is totally lacking until the beginning of the Spring and Autumn period (Li 2008: 149). The regional states of the Western Zhou were not independent kingdoms, as they would be during the Warring States period, but they were 'branches' of the Zhou central government. The government of each regional state was thus more or less a copy of the central administration (Wang & Yang 1996: 349). It is also quite probable that the local administration was divided into great settlements ([da]yi), lineage settlements (zuyi), and affiliated settlements (shuyi). An early form of local administration were the domains of grand masters (caiyi 采邑) that can be interpreted as 'proto-districts' administered by 'proto-magistrates'.

Regional states were inhabited by "ranked population", the highest layer of which consisted of the Zhou elite (the regional ruler and his officials) and "their people", i.e. immigrants having come from the west (Zhou and allied non-Zhou tribes, or Shang people), while the native population stood at the base of this social pyramid. It is difficult to discern such local ethnicities and cultures in the Western Zhou, but it seems that Zhou "immigrants" and locals maintained different cultures for a long time (Li 2008: 243).

The differences in local conditions between the regional states made local policy necessary. The state of Qi, for instance, had a large population of Shang people, subjects of the former enemy, and the state of Lu was inhabited by many "uncivilized" Yi tribes 夷. The lords of Qi and Lu therefore adapted their policy to these people and thus deviated somewhat from the main line of the Zhou regulations. The state of Wei 衛, new homeland of many Shang people, preserved much of their customs and habits (Wang & Yang 1996: 329; Gu 2002).

Regional rulers regularly visited the Zhou capital in the west, an occasion at which usually bronze vessels were cast commemorating the ceremonies carried out during the visit, for instance, a new appointment or the confirmation of a past one or of the transition of rulership to the son of a deceased regional ruler. The king of Zhou visited the eastern states only on rare occasions (Li 2008: 260). The frequency of visits by regional rulers to the Zhou courts in Chengzhou or Zongzhou declined in the mid- and late Western Zhou period.

The state system of the Spring and Autumn period

After the escape of the house of Zhou to the east, their domain was not larger than 600 square li 里 (150km2), moreover, in the course of the 7th century, the kings of Zhou presented parts of their domain to neighbouring lords, mainly Guo and Zheng, in order to reward them for their support. In the end, the domain of the Eastern Zhou encompassed no more than 1-200 square li (25-50km2) (Wang & Yang 1996: 368), and the Zhou impoverished, seen in their impotence of financing burials or state coaches.

Similar fates had many of the smaller regional states, while others like Qi, Jin, and Qin gradually won power and enlarged their territories, and thus went over from a network of domains and garrisons to territorial states. The landscape of 147 regional states and 34 non-Zhou polities (Rong and Di 狄 tribes) diminished to a dozen of strong states, namely Qi, Jin, Qin, Zheng, Lu, Song, Wei, Chen, Cai, Cao, and Yan, and the southern state of Chu, which had until then not been part of the Zhou empire. In the far southeast, the non-Zhou states of Wu and Yue emerged as important players.

The house of Zhou was also beset by numerous internal conflicts about the throne succession, like in 693, when Heijian 黑肩, the then-Duke of Zhou 周公, killed King Zhuang 周莊王 (r. 697-682); in 675, when Prince Tui 穨 asked Yan and Wei 衛 for support to expel King Hui 周惠王 (r. 677-652); in 649, when Prince Dai 帶, supported by the Di tribes, chased King Xiang 周襄王 (r. 652-619) from the throne; or in 520, when Prince Gai 匄 (or 丐; future King Jing 周敬王, r. 520-476) asked Jin for support in order to outplay the righteous heir, Prince Chao 朝.

Conflicts between dignitaries at the Zhou court also occurred frequently, like in 613 between Yue, Duke of Zhou 周公閱, and Prince Gongsun Su 公孫蘇; in 603 between Prince Su and the Dukes of Shao and Mao; or in 580 between Chu, the Duke of Zhou 周公楚, and Minister Bo Yu 伯輿.

In 706, the sovereign of the southern semi-barbarian state of Chu, Xiong Tong 熊通, asked King Huan of Zhou 周桓王 (r. 720-697) to be invested as a regional ruler, but the King ignored his request. Xiong Tong thereupon assumed the title of King of Chu (i.e. King Wu 楚武王, r. 741-690). A hundred years later, King Ling 楚靈王 (r. 541-529) of Chu even marched towards the capital and demanded to be shown (and implicitly, handed over) the nine tripods (jiuding 九鼎), symbolic objects of the royal power of the Zhou. Royal Grandson Prince Man 王孫滿 was finally able to order the sovereign of Chu to withdraw. His argument was that if Chu would appropriate the Nine Tripods, none of the other states would accept her suzerainty. In the same timeframe, the regional state of Zheng, just located east of the Zhou domain, challenged the royal power. Duke Zhuang of Zheng 鄭莊公 (r. 743-701) even attacked the royal army. Similar pretensions to question the royal prerogative came from the side of Duke Wen of Jin 晉文公 (r. 636-628) by ordering King Xiang to participate in the alliance of the regional rulers concluded at Jiantu 踐土 (Yuanyang 原陽, Henan) in 632.

In spite of such violent clashes with the royal house, none of the regional states dared to wipe away the house of Zhou. The regional rulers were still bound by the rules of etiquette and the knowledge that the Zhou empire was an enterprise of kinship in which all ruling houses were related to each other. In the same framework of rituals and etiquette, the kings of Zhou ordered the regional rulers to punish those among them who had disobeyed the royal command, not treated their partners with respect, or refused to deliver tributes.

Yet it was increasingly difficult for the kings of Zhou to enforce their ordinances. Duke Huan of Qi 齊桓公 (r. 685-643) therefore decided to take over the role of a protector over the royal order and thus created a novel system of power in the Zhou empire. Lord-protectors (ba 霸, usually translated as "hegemons"), cared for law and order, arranged for defence alliances and punitive expeditions, repelled non-Zhou tribes, but also organized inter-state meetings during which general alliances were created and refreshed. Some of these meetings had the intention to end military conflicts by "relaxing the arms" (mibing 弭兵). In 651, at the meeting of Kui 葵, the lords of Lu, Qi, Song, Wei 衛, Zheng, Xu, and Cao, met with the Duke of Zhou. In 632, during the meeting of Jiantu, the lords of Lu, Jin, Qi, Song, Cai, Zheng, Wey and Ying convened.

After Duke Huan, the unofficial position of lord-protector was more or less institutionalized, and its duties were taken over by Duke Wen of Jin, Duke Xiang of Song 宋襄公 (r. 650-637), and Duke Mu of Qin 秦穆公 (r. 659-621). The function of lord-protector was in most cases only achieved after military struggles, and in the later phase of the Spring and Autumn period, several sovereigns contended for the title, some of them pretenders from the non-Zhou area, like King Zhuang of Chu 楚莊王 (r. 613-591), King Helü of Wu 吳王闔閭 (r. 514-496), and King Goujian of Yue 越王句踐 (r. 495-465)

As many conventional rites were ignored during the Spring and Autumn period, irregular customs found their way into daily procedures, as for instance, the succession of younger sons or that of a secondary wife, instead of the oldest son (e.g. Duke Xian of Jin 晉獻公, r. 677-651, desired to be succeeded by Prince Xiqi 奚齊, son of a concubine); the enthronement of a prince with the support of the dignitaries of a state (e.g. Luan Shu 欒書 and Xun Yin 荀寅 brought Duke Dao 晉悼公, r. 573-558, to the throne); the enthronement of a sovereign with foreign support (e.g. Duke Wen of Jin, who came to the throne with the support of Qin); usurpations (e.g. King Mu of Chu 楚穆王, r. 626-614, who killed his father); or abdications (e.g. Duke Xuan of Song 宋宣公, r. 747-729, who resigned in favour of his brother, Duke Mu 宋穆公, r. 728-720).

The primary consorts (di 嫡) of regional rulers were all daughters of other regional rulers, and in many instances, noble houses exchanged brides on regular terms, like Qi and Lu. Apart from the primary consort, the secondary consorts (zhi 姪, di 娣) of a regional ruler were "supplementary brides" (ying 媵) from different states. The oldest son of the primary consort was usually the heir apparent (taizi 太子). He had a high position and lived in his own palace, had guard of its own, and was instructed by preceptors.

A thoroughly new system was the invention of the posthumous honorific titles (yi 謚) for deceased rulers. At the same time, the taboo system (hui 諱) emerged with did not allow to mention a direct ancestor's personal name.

Political changes in the Warring States period

Even if there is no exact date to tell the beginning of the Warring States period, there were two political events marking decisive changes in the traditional structure. First, Tian Chang 田常, scion of a noble house from Chen, usurped in 481 the throne of Qi and pushed away one of the most eminent dynasties, the Jiang 姜, once invested by King Wu of Zhou. Second, three of the Six Ministers-Commander (liuqing 六卿), noble houses in the state of Jin, wiped away the three others and made an end of the old state of Jin, kin of the house of Zhou (family Ji 姬), by dividing it into three new states, namely Zhao 趙, Wei 魏, and Han 韓. In 403, the king of Zhou invested the heads of the three houses as regional rulers in their own rights. From then on, the king of Zhou was no more than a puppet, and regional states became factional states.

In 344, the lord of Wei 魏 appropriated the title of king. Even if the non-Zhou states of Chu, Wu, and Yue had used the title of king since a long time, it had been a prerogative of the house of Zhou to bear this title. In 334, King Xian of Zhou 周顯王 (r. 369-320) met with the duke of Qi in Xuzhou 徐州 (Tengxian 藤縣, Shandong), and both decided to entitle each other to bear the title of king. In 325, the sovereign of Qin followed suit, in 323 the lords of Han and Yan, in 323 the sovereign of Zhongshan 中山, and in 318 the duke of Song. In 288, the kings of Qin and Qi decided to adopt the titles of Emperor of the West (Xidi 西帝, i.e. Qin), and Emperor of the East (Dongdi 東帝, i.e. Qi), but Su Dai 蘇代 advised King Min of Qi 齊湣王 (r. 324-284) to give up the title to put the blame of usurpation and blasphemy on Qin, whereupon Qin also discarded the title. Yet none of the Warring States dared using the title of "Son of Heaven".

The dozen of states shrank to a number of seven (qixiong 七雄), namely the new ones Zhao, Wei 魏, Han, as well as Qi in the east, Yan in the northeast, Qin in the west, and Chu in the south. Chu swallowed the non-Zhou state of Yue in 306. Some of the weaker states of the Central Plain were devoured by their neighbours, namely Zheng, Song, and Lu—the small state of Wei 衛 survived until 206 but nominally. For only a short period of time, a new state emerged, namely Zhongshan, founded by the leader of a Di tribe. The house of Zhou itself split apart in an eastern branch (Dongzhou 東周, residing in Gong 鞏) and a western branch, thus limiting the ancient royal power once more.

Practically all states carried out reforms in the administrative, financial, and judicial apparatus, most of them initiated by legalist reformers (usually known as fajia 法家), like Li Kui 李悝 in Wei, Shen Buhai 申不害 in Han, Wu Qi 吳起 in Chu, Gongzhong Lian 公仲連 in Zhao, Zou Ji 鄒忌 in Qi, or Shang Yang 商鞅 in Qin. They had in mind the strengthening of the central government, the raising of administrative efficiency, and the increasing of tax revenues.

Formal, ceremonially founded alliances (meng 盟) had been during the Spring and Autumn period a common instrument of castigating a state having trespassed the limits of commonly acknowledged law and order. Some alliances were led by lord-protectors, others not. When wars continued over many years, there was occasionally the attempt to convoke the sovereigns and their representatives to peace conferences. During the Warring States period, the aim of war was not just punishment, but the annihilation of foreign states and the appropriation of their territory. Yet from time to time, states created alliances with others to offer more resistance to offensive enemies. There were two types of alliances, namely such of several weak states against one stronger state (hezong 合縱, "vertical"), and the alliance of two stronger states to attack several weaker ones (lianheng 連橫). In 322, for instance, six states attacked Qin, and in 318 and 287, five states. A typical lianhe ("horizontal") alliance was that between Qi and Qin against Chu in 301.

In order to prevent the rise of internal challenges by the nobility, the rulers of the Warring States increased the power of the sovereign and diminished that of the nobility. The status of the oldest son of the primary consort was elevated, and his rights as heir apparent bolstered in order to prevent succession struggles as during the Spring and Autumn period. The heir apparent was from the beginning regarded as the future ruler, and received according education in civilian and military matters. The teachers of the heir apparent had also the potential to be nominated regents for him in case he came to the throne in early years. The king's orders and the status of the heir apparent were critical when the worst came to the worst, as in the case of King Huai of Chu 楚懷王 (r. 329-299), who was a prisoner of the king of Qin, and whose heir apparent was a hostage in Qi. Minister Zhao Sui 昭睢 refused to enthrone another son of King Huai until Prince Heng 橫 (King Qingxiang 楚頃襄王, r. 299-263) was back from Qi.

Yet deviations from this rule were possible. King Wuling of Zhao 趙武靈王 (r. 326-299, d. 295 BCE) nominated his son He 何 heir apparent, born by his beloved secondary wife. His oldest son, Gongzi Zhang 公子章, therefore rose in rebellion. The heir apparent was from the beginning regarded as the future ruler, and received according education in civilian and military matters. The teachers of the heir apparent had also the potential to be nominated regents for him in case he came to the throne in early years.

With the growing importance of the heir apparent, the status of his mother increased, and a regular system of royal consorts emerged, with one primary consort (wanghou 王后), several secondary consorts (qie 妾, furen 夫人), and various consorts of lower levels (meiren 美人, liangren 良人, bazi 八子, qizi 七子, zhangshi 長使, and shaoshi 小使). These consorts held official ranks and had at their disposal an income measured in grain, just like state officials (see female officials).

When a king died and was succeeded by his heir apparent, the latter's mother (and the primary consort of the late king as well?) was given the title queen dowager or "queen mother" (taihou 太后). In the late Warring States period, a Queen Mother Xuan 宣太后 reigned for her under-age son King Zhuangxiang 秦莊襄王 (r. 250-247), while her brother, Marquis Rang 穰侯, acted as regent or Counsellor-in-chief. This was the first attested case of a female regent. A similar situation was found in the state of Zhao, where the Queen Dowager reigned for King Xiaocheng 趙孝成王 (r. 266-245). King Zheng 政 of Qin (the future First Emperor 秦始皇帝, r. 246-210 BCE) came to the throne as a boy, but the name of his reigning mother is not known. Her Counsellor-in-chief was Lü Buwei 呂不韋.

With the increasing number of regular consorts, the matters of the Private Palace (hougong 後宮) came into the hands of eunuchs (yanren 奄人, gongren 宮人; in Chu called sigong 司宮; in Zhao called huanzhe ling 宦者令).

Policy making in the Eastern Zhou

The sovereign of a regional state had the last decision in all policy matters. High dignitaries were allowed to make suggestions and bolster them with arguments. Only when the sovereign approved a plan, it was promulgated as an edict, and carried out by the administrative apparatus. In some instances, figures of the personal service of a sovereign, like a palace attendant (dayin 大尹), prevented direct contact between a lord and his officials, or the forwarding of petitions and memorials.

The king of Zhou and the regional rulers as well had the jurisdiction over appointment, dismissal, reward, and punishment of functionaries, even if many offices were hereditary (shiguan 世官) and held in the hands of individual families for several generations. The sovereigns owned the highest military command, and could allow or prohibit the use of 'private' military forces by the nobility. Finally, regional rulers could determine the way of succession, even if their wishes contradicted to the ancestral lineage system (zongfa) of the Zhou. In Qi, Duke Huan's advisor Guan Zhong 管仲 briefly summarized the "six handles" (liubing 六柄) of the ruler as "life and death; rich and poor; high and low" (sha sheng, gui jian, pin fu 殺生、貴賤、貧富; Guanzi 管子, ch. Xiaokuang 小匡).

Yet the power of regional rulers was also restricted, partially by legal means, and partially by circumstances. In some states, noble houses (called guoren 國人 or min 民—not referring to the common folks!) dominated the succession and political decisions, like the Three Huan 三桓 families in Lu (Jisun 季孫, Shusun 叔孫, and Mengsun 孟孫), the Seven Mu 七穆 families in Zheng (Si 駟, Han 罕, Guo 國, Liang 良, Yin 印, You 游, and Feng 豐), the Six Families in Song (Hua 華, Yue 樂, Huang 皇, Zhong 仲, Ling 靈, and Yu 魚), and the Six Ministers-Commander (liuqing) in Jin (Zhao 趙, Han 韓, Wei 魏, Zhi 智, Fan 范, and Zhonghang 中行). In such a situation, the one or other ruler indulged in pleasures and was indifferent to politics. Should a ruler dominated by the nobility attempt to gain back his sovereignty, this was in most cases not possible without bloodshed. Duke Zhao of Lu 魯莊公 (r. 694-662) resorted to the help of Earl Zhao of Hou 郈昭伯 in order to get rid of the regent Ji Pingzi 季平子. Yet the latter was supported by the houses Mengsun and Shusun, for fear that they might be the next, and forced Duke Zhao into exile.

In many political decisions, mainly military matters, regional rulers were dependent on the support of the nobility. If the major part of them resisted the wish of a regional ruler, he had no chance to realize it, first because the opinion of the dignitaries was ritually to be accepted, and second, because the nobility presented the majority of armed forces.

The capital seat of regional rulers consisted of a palace and a city, both surrounded by walls. The book Zhouli (part Chunguan, ch. Dianming 典命) fixes the size of a ducal city as 9 li in length (c. 4.5km), and the palace at 900 paces of length (1,242m). One side of the city wall of a marquis or earl was 7-li long, and the palace 700 paces; and the residence of a 'viscount' (zi) or 'baron' (nan) was a palace of 500 paces length and a city with a length of 5 li. In the early Spring and Autumn period, transgression of these rules was still punished, as in the case of Gong Shu Duan 共叔段, whose residence was larger than that of the duke of Zheng. An archaeological survey of reality shows that the city of Linzi 臨淄, capital of the dukes of Qi, had a length of 4.5×4km, and the palace a size of 1,400×2,200m. This fits more or less with the rules fixed in the Zhouli (Wang & Yang 1996: 411).

A palace consisted of public buildings (gongshi 宮室) and private quarters (qindian 寢殿). The most outstanding example of an early Eastern-Zhou period palace is that of the dukes of Qin in Yong 雍 found in Majiazhuang 馬家莊 in Fengxiang 鳳翔, Shaanxi. The building complex is 326m-long consists of five compartments with courts in a sequence connected by gates. In front of the whole complex is a solitary, 25-m wide wall (waiping 外屏) to ward off evil spirits. The "far gate" (gaomen 皋門) opens to the first court, the "magazine gate" (kumen 庫門) to the second court which included some storerooms or arsenals (ku 庫) and stables (jiu 廄). The "pheasant gate" (zhimen 雉門) opened to the third court, which included the building of the outer court (waichao 外朝). The Pheasant Gate was also a place for public announcements (Wang & Yang 1996: 413). The outer court was the place for general political decisions, the dispense of justice, or proclamations.

The "Responsive Gate" (yingmen 應門), also called "main gate" (zhengmen 正門) or "gate to the court" (chaomen 朝門) gave way to the fourth court, where the duke held audiences (neichao 內朝, zhichao 治朝). This part of the inner court was the place where a regional ruler conferred with his ministers and advisors each day. The meeting was usually held in the early morning.

The last gate, the "Gate of the Way" (lumen 路門), "Purple Gate" (zimen 紫門), or "Tiger Gate" (humen 虎門), was the entrance to the private quarters of a regional ruler. This space was also called "banquet court" (yanchao 燕朝), as it was the usual venue for banquets in which only close relative of the sovereign participated.

The system of five gates is described in a commentary by Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200) on the chapter Mingtang 明堂 in the ritual Classic Liji. Yet this description is valid for the palace of the Son of Heaven. This means that in the Spring and Autumn period, regional rulers appropriated the privileges of the king of Zhou.

Political decisions were this made in a legalized framework. Yet rulers might be influenced by two other factors, namely diviners, and intimate persons (usually called zuoyou 左右 "those [constantly] being to the left and right"), like the spouse, minions, or eunuchs. Duke Xian of Jin 晉獻公 (r. 678-651), for instance, was influenced by his consort Li Ji 驪姬, Duke Ding of Wei 衛定公 (r. 589-577) by his wife Ms Jiang 姜氏, and Duke Jing's 齊景公 (r. 548-490) decisions in Qi were directed by his minion Liangqiu Ju 梁丘據. In 597, an oracle compelled Duke Xiang of Zheng 鄭襄公 (r. 605-587) not to make peace with Chu, but the outcome was that he had to accept a humiliating surrender.

The kings of the Warring States were holders of political, military, and judicial power and controlled the officialdom. In order to achieve such a powerful position, reforms were necessary, and in many cases, the nobility resisted, as in the case of King Dao of Chu 楚悼王 (r. 402-381), whose reforms, carried out by Wu Qi, were abolished after the king's passing away. Shang Yang initiated reforms in Qin with the support of Duke Xiao 秦孝公 (r. 362-338), but when the latter died, the reforms were—at least to a certain extent—reversed. It can be seen that changes in the political structure depended from the will of a sovereign.

Success and failure likewise depended from the will of a ruler. The Warring States period was the age of political advisors or "diplomatists" (zonghengjia 縱橫家) who travelled around and counselled sovereigns (you shuo zhi shi 遊說之士) how to overcome difficult situations, and proposed "stratagems" (ce 策) or "intrigues" to triumph over an enemy. Sometimes rulers neglected (bu ting 不聽 "the king did not listen") the warnings of advisors, like King Huai of Chu, who travelled to Qin, was arrested, and died there. The most famous travelling advisor was Su Qin 蘇秦, who hailed from Luoyang, and gave advice to the rulers of Qin, Zhao, and Yan. Zhang Yi 張儀 hailed from Wei and served the kings of Chu and Qin. The influence of travelling advisors was so huge that King Zheng of Qin decided to "expel" all foreign advisors (zhu ke 逐客). Counsellor Li Si 李斯 submitted a remonstrance writing to the King, urging not to do this because it would deprive him of his most competent advisors. An example for the influence of a courtier and a consort is the imprisonment of Zhang Yi in Chu. Zhang had contact to Jin Shang 靳尚, who influenced Zheng Xiu 鄭袖, a concubine of King Huai of Chu. She put in a good word for Zhang Yi, who was set free and thereupon trapped King Huai into a disastrous coalition.

The supreme power of the king can be seen in the many death penalties applied to high ministers, like Shang Yang and Marquis Wei in Qin. Private preferences determined careers. General Yue Yi 樂毅 in the state of Yan was treated with great respect by King Zhao 燕昭王 (r. 312-279), but the latter's successor King Hui 燕惠王 (r. 279-272) dismissed the general. Most outstanding is the case of general Li Mu 李牧, who was a victim of a machination by the general of Qin, who manipulated Guo Kai 郭開, a minion of King Youmiu of Zhao 趙幽繆王 (r. 236-228). The king dismissed all competent generals and in their place appointed newcomers who had no chance to hold the capital of Zhao against the army of Qin.

The kings of the Warring States period used several mechanisms to gain supreme control. First, they clearly separated military from civilian matters, and appointed civilian counsellors and supreme commanders with separate jurisdictions. Rarely did high ministers take over the command over armies in the mid- and late Warring States period. The control over armed forces was lying in the hands of the king. He sent orders marked with his seal (guoxi 國璽), and generals were given tallies as a proof of their dependence from the king. The tallies were of bronze, had the shape of a tiger (thus called hufu 虎符) and consisted of two parts. One part was remaining in the hands of the king, while with the other, a general could verify that he was a commander on a legitimate mission.

The oldest known case of the use of seals was in 544 in the state of Lu (Guoyu 國語, Luyu 魯語). In the civilian administration, seals were very common during the Warring States period. Yet even if seals are mentioned in transmitted texts, no Zhou-period seal was found to date.

Even if the kings of the Warring States wielded great power, their decisions were not autocratic. Each day, a morning audience was carried out during which the king discussed political issues with his ministers, and made a decision. In 306, for instance, Shang Yang advocated reform, and fiercely disputed with Gan Long 甘龍 and Du Zhi 杜摯 the advantages of administrative changes. In 303, King Huai of Chu listened to the vivid debates of his ministers about an alliance with Qi against Qin. Apart from regular audiences, the kings might convoke extraordinary meetings to discuss urgent matters, like in 318, when counsellor Zou Ji debated with the generals Tian Ji 田忌 and Sun Bin 孫臏 at the court of Qi about relief troops for Han. In other cases, the sovereign conferred with individual persons before bringing the matter to the court or deciding directly, like King Wuling of Zhou, who first heard counsellor Fei Yi's 肥義 opinion about the adoption of "barbarian" clothes for the cavalry of Zhao, and then with counsellor Lou Huan 樓緩.

The decisions of a king were proclaimed as case-related edicts (ling 令, ming 命, or gao 告), or as general laws ( 律).

Central governments and local administration in the Eastern Zhou

The executive part of the government in each regional state was led by a counsellor-in-chief, who was variously called taizai 太宰 (at the royal court), xiang 相 (in Qi), yuanshuai 元帥 (actually "supreme commander", in Jin), dangguo 當國 (in Zheng), lingyin 令尹 (Prime Minister, in Chu), or zhizheng 執政 "regent". The Counsellor-in-chief was either appointed directly by the sovereign, or the office was taken over by a functionary in the military field, like in Jin, or in turn by several high dignitaries (who were concurrently ministers of the one or other 'ressort'), like in Lu. Confucius, for instance, was concurrently counsellor, and Minister of Justice, sikou; Hua Yuan 華元 in Song was Chief Counsellor and Commander to the Right (youshi 右師), and Zihan 子罕 concurrently Minister of Works (sicheng 司城, a title only used in Song). In some instances, counsellors in office recommended a successor to the sovereign, as is the case with Guan Zhong, who was recommended by Bao Shu Ya 鮑叔牙. Yet in some states, the office of counsellor was inheritable, as in Wei 衛, where the family Ning 寧 held the post for seven generations. In Lu and Jin, the office rotated between just a few noble families.

Counsellors-in-chief were entrusted with civilian, ceremonial, fiscal, judicial, and military matters and had therefore to master fields with different challenges. Their subordinated collaborators were the "Minister of the Masses" (situ), who was responsible for military and labour conscription with the help of household registers; the Minister of War (sima; in Chu being vice counsellor) was responsible for military organization, and in some states also received military command; the Minister of Works (sikong, in inscriptions called sigong 司工) was responsible for construction work (buildings, roads, city walls—in Song therefore called sicheng) and cadastral matters. The Minister of Justice (sikou; in Jin called li 理, in Chu called sibai 司敗, at the royal court called weishi 尉氏) was responsible for justice and public security. The Messenger (xingren 行人, or daxing 大行, senior messenger) was responsible for receiving guests and managing diplomatic matters.

With the development of written law codes during the Spring and Autumn period, the position of the Minister of Justice rose (Li 2008: 253-254).

In the royal household, the offices of the Three Dukes (Grand Commander, Grand Guardian, Grand Preceptor) were still important, as was the office of provisioner (shanfu). Yet in the regional states, the titles taifu, taishi and taibao were purely honorific, and did not entail power. The office of Minister of Rites (zongbo 宗伯), who was responsible for the ancestral sacrifices, had only high importance in the state of Lu. The other states appointed *ancestral supplicators (zhuzong 祝宗) or ancestral intendants (zongren 宗人). While the royal household retained grand scribes (taishi) and interior scribes (neishi), the regional rulers had only grand scribes to record and archive documents, apart from Chu, whose king had a left scribe (zuoshi 左史, and perhaps also a right one).

The scribe was important for the moral uprightness of historiographical accounts. When Cui Zhu 崔杼 killed Duke Zhuang of Qi 齊莊公 (r. 553-548), the Grand Scribe recorded this fact correctly, and was killed by the regicide for his sincerity. In another case, Grand Scribe Dong Gu 董狐 erroneously noted down that Zhao Dun 趙盾 (and not Zhao Chuan 趙穿) had killed the duke of Jin, with the consequence that Dun had to flee.

The superintendents of the ducal households were often entrusted with diplomatic missions to other states or the Zhou court in Chengzhou (Luoyang). In the state of Song, there was also a minor superintendent, and in Wei 衛, responsibility was divided between left and right supervisors.

The regional rulers also relied on diviners (buren 卜人, bushi 卜士, in Chu called buyin 卜尹). The masters of the households were called pu dafu 僕大夫 (in Chu called sigong 司宮, and a eunuch). As music was an important ritual and ceremonial feature at the courts of the king and the regional rulers, the sovereigns were served by music masters (dashi 大師) and dance masters (wushi 舞師).

The domains in the regional states were administered in the same way as during the Western Zhou period, with a difference between dependencies of the lord's seat (guo 國, like "ducal domain", or "marquisate's domain"), and 'public land' beyond the royal domain, and belonging to the state (ye 野 or bi 鄙). In the state of Qi, counsellor Guan Zhong carried out a more systematic approach and created four levels of administration in the inner domains and five in the outer domains and determined administrators. This arrangement was combined with the possibility to draft males for labour and military service. Five townships obeyed a commander (shuai 帥).

Table 3. Local administration by Guan Zhong in Qi (Guanzi, ch. Xiaokuang)
Inner domain
1 xiang district 良人 liangren district administrator
10 lian community zhang chief
40 li village si officer
400 gui neighbourhood zhang leader
2,000 jia family [家主 jiazhu] [family head]
Outer domain
1 shu dependency 大夫 dafu commander
3 xiang district 良人 liangren district administrator
30 zu colony zhang commandant
300 yi camp si officer
1,800 gui neighbourhood zhang leader
9,000 jia family [家主 jiazhu] [family head]
Translation of terms (mostly) according to Rickett 1985.

The term xian 縣, usually translated as "district", is seen in a few Western Zhou-period inscriptions. Rare transmitted sources (Yizhoushu 逸周書, ch. Zuo Luo 作雒; Zuozhuan, Aigong 哀公 2) refer to three levels of administration, namely district (xian), sub-district (jun 郡; later known as 'commandery'), and community (bi 鄙). Districts were directly managed by the central government, which appointed grand masters (in Chu called gong 公 or yin 尹) to supervise them.

Members of the noble houses inside regional states had their own household management, headed by managers (yizai 邑宰), who were assisted by horse supervisors (mazheng 馬正), construction supervisors (gongshi 工師) and house officials (jiachen 家臣). Confucius' disciple Zilu 子路, for instance, was household manager (zai) of the family Jisun.

Not all polities of the Warring States followed the same pattern of change in the course of the centralization of politics, and therefore, terms and procedures differed from each other.

The most important functionary of the central governments of the Warring States was the Counsellor-in-chief, in Chu called lingyin (Prime Minister), and in the other states variously xiang, xiangbang 相邦 (in Han-period sources called xiangguo 相國, in order to avoid the private name of the dynastic founder, Liu Bang 劉邦), chengxiang 丞相, zaixiang 宰相, zhongzai 冢宰, and similarly. The person of the Counsellor-in-chief was, since the Spring and Autumn period, so important that he was close to be a regent (zhizheng) for the king.

The state of Qin created in 309 the office of chengxiang, and this became the common term in the early imperial period. The office was first divided into two positions, namely the Counsellor to the Left (zuo chengxiang 作丞相) Chuli Ji 樗里疾 (Chulizi 樗里子), and the Counsellor to the Right (you chengxiang 右丞相) Gan Mao 甘茂.

The Counsellor was an advisor to the sovereign and head of the "hundred state officials" (baiguan 百官, liebaiguan 列百官). He had the right to choose and evaluate the head of each department, to determine the jurisdiction of duties of each position, recommend individuals for reward and promotion, or for applying discipline. The only field the Counsellor was not relevant was the military. In the state of Qin, for instance, Marquis Rang was given the supreme command as General-in-chief (shang jiangjun 上將軍, or the antiquated term da sima 大司馬). In the states of Chu and Zhao, the General-in-chief was also called "pillar of state" (guozhu 國柱), a term otherwise reserved for the Counsellor-in-chief. Yet in some cases, the positions were mixed. Lin Xiangru 藺相如, for instance, was Counsellor and general.

Financial affairs were regulated by the Chamberlain (neishi 內史, the former "grand scribe"), like Xu Yue 徐越 in Zhao. The term neishi is also used in the Qinlü 秦律 code. The neishi was responsible for collecting the revenues of the current and calculating those of the coming year (Wang & Yang 1996: 594), the breeding of horses and other domestic animals in the districts, reports on construction work, and the official belongings and finance of local administration units. The neishi in Qin was supported by subordinated officials like the chamberlain for the treasury (danei 大內; responsible for metal objects), *chamberlain for currencies (shaonei 小內; responsible for monetary policy), the chamberlain for the granaries (taicang 太倉; responsible for grain and cattle), and others. In Zhao, taxes were managed by the master of the field department (tianbuli 田部吏).

Official construction work and state manufactures were supervised by the Minister of Works (sikong or sigong; in Chu called dagongyin 大工尹). In the state of Yan, there were a Left and Right Minister of Works, responsible for the casting of bronze weapons (in Chu called tongguan 銅官), left and right arsenal masters (kugongshi 庫工師), left and right pottery masters (taoyin 陶尹; in Qi called taozheng 陶正). In Qin, there was an office of iron master (tieguan 鐵官).

Judicial matters, mainly penal law, was managed by the Minister of Justice (sikou, in Qi called shishi 士師 or zhifa 執法; in Qin called tingwei 廷尉; sometimes called dali 大理).

Diplomatic relations with other states were managed by messengers (xingren; in Qi called zhuke 主客), but in case of need, diplomats or 'ambassadors' (shizhe 使者) were sent which were appointed according to the circumstances. Guests in the royal palaces were received and entertained by a special official called receptionist (yezhe 謁者).

In the local administration, the order of xian and jun was turned around, with jun (then called "commandery") becoming the larger unit of administration. Wei 魏 was the first state who created the unit of jun as the highest in the local administration, perhaps in the late 4th century. The reversal of the denomination might be derived from the position of the old (smaller) jun units in peripheral regions located in the direction of other states. Administrative units in border regions were usually larger. The growth of the population in these regions made perhaps necessary the creation of sub-units in these jun, for which the traditional term xian was used (Wang & Yang 1996: 541). Newly conquered territory, be it that from other states, or territory outside the 'Zhou empire' like the Sichuan Basin, was usually administered in commanderies. The English term reflects the military status of this type of administrative unit. The only state not using the term jun was Qi, a state divided into five regions (du 都).

While practically all states transformed the largest part of their territories into bureaucratically administered commanderies, districts (xian) were made the lowest bureaucratic unit on the local level, in Qin side by side with dao 道, units inhabited by non-Zhou population. The number of districts per commandery ranged from 15 to more than 30. The authorities discerned between small, mid-size, and large districts. Below the district level, there were various units in the individual states like townships (xiang 鄉), settlement clusters (ju 聚), villages (li 里), hamlets (zhou 州), settlements (yi 邑), or areas (du 都).

The administrators of commanderies were called governors (shou 守 or taishou 太守), while in Qi, the unit of du was governed by a region grand master (du dafu 都大夫). Districts were administered by magistrates (ling 令 or xianling 縣令; in the Qin code called sefu 嗇夫), assisted by vice magistrates (cheng 丞), military commanders (wei 尉), cavalry commanders (sima 司馬), and construction officers (sikong 司空). On the township (xiang) level, there were petty officials called township heads (xiangzhu 鄉主), on the village (li) level village elders (lidian 里典), and else.

The existence of these administrative units does not mean that the whole territory was owned by the state. There were still the royal domain and that of the princes and the nobility, as well as the "salary fields" of the various officials. Moreover, a new title of nobility was introduced in the Warring States period, namely jun 君, usually translated as "lord". The most famous bearers of this title were Wei Yang 衛鞅 (Lord of Shang 商君, therefore called Shang Yang 商鞅), Zhang Yi (Lord of Wuxin 武信君), Wei Ran 魏冉 (Lord of Rang, better known as Marquis Rang 穰侯), Huang Xie 黃歇 (Lord of Chunshen 春申君), Zhao Sheng 趙勝 (Lord of Pingyuan 平原君), Tian Wen 田文 (Lord of Mengchang 孟嘗君), or general Yue Yi (Lord of Chang 昌國君). The lords were bestowed territory to live of, but had no jurisdictional or military rights over their territories, and had limited rights of inheritance (three generations at the longest).

Recruitment, ranking, and payment of state officials

In the first century or so of the Western Zhou period, offices were handed down on the base of heritage. Yet from the mid-Western Zhou period on the king appointed more officials from non-hereditary sources than before. Even hereditary officials could have no guarantee that they could serve in their father's office. The appointment practice of the Western Zhou government was established on the idea that all social elites could somehow participate in the administration of the empire. Promotion was a practice to reward those performing good, for instance, by first giving an assistant post to learn practice, and later promoting them to senior posts. Personal merit (mieli 蔑歷) was thus an important factor apart from affiliation (Li 2008: 230).

Officials could also be promoted horizontally across administrative divisions, and in both the civilian and military realm. Late Western Zhou officials thus constituted a body of professional bureaucrats (Li 2008: 233). The title shi 師 for instance, usually seen as "marshal", was perhaps a title born by ex-officers serving in civilian positions.

The states of the Spring and Autumn period relied on three means to recruit their personnel, first, on a hereditary basis (shizhi 世職), second, recommendation, and third, schooling.

Offices handed down on a hereditary base were, for instance, the diviner (guanshi 觀氏) and musician (zhongshi 鐘氏) in Chu, or the recorders (jishi 籍氏) in Jin. The salary (lu 祿) of officials consisted of land (caiguo 采國, caiyi 采邑), yet while the land was bequeathed to offspring, it was not always the case that the office was passed on to a son. In the case of "hereditary offices" (shiguan 世官), the office was passed on, in the case of "hereditary position" (shizhi 世職) it was not.

The result of this practice was that the highest state offices remained in the hands of just a few families, like Guo 國, Gao 高, Chen 陳, and Bao 鮑 in the state of Qi; Hua 華, and Yue 樂 in the state of Song; Sun 孫 and Ning 甯 in the state of Wei; the six families monopolizing the offices of ministers-commander (Liuqing 六卿) in the state of Jin; the seven families descending from Duke Mu 鄭穆公 (Qimu 七穆) in the state of Zheng; and the three families descending from Duke Huan 魯桓公 (Sanhuan 三桓) in the state of Lu. These families had not just great political influence, but had also great wealth. In many instances, they supported each other against common enemies, like the Three Huan in Lu, or fought against each other, like the Six Qing in Jin that were in the end reduced to three families (Sanjin 三晉), which finally divided the state of Jin among them.

The oldest commonly known example of recommendation is Bao Shu Ya's suggestion to Duke Huan of Qi to make Guan Zhong his counsellor. In Chu, Ziwen 子文 recommended Ziyu 子玉 as counsellor, and in Qin, Baili Xi 百里奚 suggested to Duke Mu to choose Jian Shu 蹇叔 his counsellor. Qi Xi 祁奚 in the state of Jin recommended first his own adversary Jie Hu 解狐 for the post of commander in the Central Army (zhongjun wei 中軍尉), but when Jie died, Qi Xi recommended his own son Qi Wu 祁午. The state of Qi introduced a system of threefold selection (sanxuan 三選) consisting of a selection on the district level (xiangxuan 鄉選), by the head of the office the candidate might be eligible to (guanxuan 官選), and finally the selection by the sovereign himself (junxuan 君選) (Guoyu, ch. Qiyu 齊語; Guanzi, ch. Xiaokuang 小匡).

Sovereigns occasionally appointed foreign consultants to high offices, just after having considered the usefulness of their plans, like Shang Yang in Qin, or Wu Qi in Chu.

All sons of the nobility from all levels, down to the servicemen, were educated in schools where they were trained in civil and military matters, namely rites, music, writing, calculating, archery, and steering a chariot (see liuyi 六藝 "the six skills"). Confucius had perhaps founded the first private school to train the scions of noble houses (Wang & Yang 1996: 485).

Mengzi (ch. Wan Zhang B) speaks of five ranks (jue 爵) of the nobility, namely the Son of Heaven, duke (gong 公), marquesses (hou 侯), earls (bo 伯), as well as—on the same rank level—viscount (zi 子) and baron (nan 男); and of six ranks of offices, namely the sovereign (jun 君), ministers (qing 卿), grand masters (dafu 大夫), superior servicemen (shangshi 上士), average servicemen (zhongshi 中士), and inferior servicemen (xiashi 下士). The state of Chu knew ten ranks of nobility (Zuozhuan, Zhaogong 7), namely the king (wang 王), dukes (gong 公), grand masters (dafu 大夫), servicemen (shi 士), *menials (zao 皂), charioteers (yu 輿), *servants (li 隸), *attendants (liao 僚), *footmen (pu 僕), *servitors (tai 台), cavalry commanders (yu 圉), and overseers of cattle herds (mu 牧).

The state of Qin introduced a ladder of 20 ranks bestowed for military honours (see ershideng jue 二十等爵). The designations of the ranks are derived from the old Western Zhou terms (like dafu), the military field (like shuzhang 庶長 "chief of a host" or yougeng 右更 "right member of the watch"), and also from the ducal workshops (like shangzao 上造 "producer for the ruler"). The four highest ranks were All-Penetrating Marquis (chehou 徹侯), Marquis within the Passes (guanneihou 關內侯), Great Chief of a Host (da shuzhang 大庶長), and Senior Producer for the Ruler (da shangzao 大上造).

The appointment of high officials was made by pronouncing ordinances (ming 命). The higher the office, the 'heavier' the ordinance, for instance "the duke ordered XY with a threefold ordinance Commander of the Central Army" (gong yi san ming ming XY jiang zhongjun 公以三命命某將中軍). The 'number' of ordinances was also expressed in the size of the residence, the type of carts, banners, robes and hats of an official, as well as in the number of music instruments (bells and drums) and of ritual vessels a dignitary was allowed to make use of. The rank of office was also seen in the salary, i.e. the size of fields. A minister (qing) had salary fields with a size of 50,000 mu (Wang & Yang 1996: 488), able to nourish 500 persons, and a superior grand master (shang dafu) salary fields of 10,000 mu. A grand master might live from a district (xian), a serviceman from a sub-district (jun 郡). The salary field of a grand master included one or several settlements, so-called salary settlements (luyi 祿邑) of office settlements (guanyi 官邑; see also salary fields). In the late Warring States period, salary in kind (fengsu 奉粟, zhisu 致粟) was introduced in some states, for instance, Lu, and Wei 魏.

The Zhouli (part Diguan 地官, ch. Xiang dafu 鄉大夫) prescribed that at the end of each year, district grand masters (xiang dafu) in the royal domain submit a report of their work. It was evaluated every three years in a "great matching" (dabi 大比). "Worthies" (xianzhe 賢者) and "competent persons" (nengzhe 能者) were promoted, while evildoers were punished or even executed (part Diguan, ch. Da situ, Xiao situ 小司徒). The variables evaluated were civilian instruction of the people (ping jiaozhi 平教治), performance in administrative matters (zheng zhengshi 正政事), the size of the population and the number of houses (kao fuwu 考夫屋), as well as the condition of the six types of domestic animals and of weapons. Similar procedures of evaluation are described in the book Guanzi (ch. Xiaokuang), concerning the state of Qi.

The age of retirement (zhishi 致仕, zhishi 致事, qinglao 請老) was seventy sui (Liji, ch. Quli). Retired officials were called "elders of the state" (guolao 國老).

Legal system

Transmitted sources speak of a legal code of nine chapters (xingshu jiupian 刑書九篇) or "nine punishments" (jiu xing 九刑) of the early Zhou. While the cipher 9 might stand for a number of chapters, it might also refer to nine types of punishments, as Zheng Xuan's 鄭玄 (127-200) commentary on the Shangshu (ch. Lüxing 呂刑) holds: tattooing (mo 墨), cutting off the nose (yi 劓), cutting off the knee caps or feet (yue 刖), castration (gong 宮), and the death penalty (dapi 大辟, see Five Punishments), as well as banishment (liu 流), monetary redemption (shu 贖), lashes with the whip (bian 鞭), and beating with the stick (pu 撲).

These "regular punishments" (zhengxing 正刑) are to be contrasted with eight "consultative punishments" (yixing 議刑, bayi 八議, babi 八辟) which allowed the exemption from or reduction of punishment for certain persons, namely relatives of the king (qin 親), friends of the king (gu 故), "worthies" (xian 賢), competent persons (neng 能), persons of merit (gong 功), high nobles (gui 貴), diligent persons (qin 勤), and honoured guests (bin 賓, or descendants of any of the former group).

Apart from such regular cases of exemption from common punishment, there might have been cases when the penal statutes were not appropriate to determine a correct punishment. In such cases, the delinquent was "rectified" by the five penalties (wu xing bu jian, zheng yu wu fa 五刑不簡,正於五罰), which consisted of monetary payment, namely 100 huan 鍰 (a monetary unit, see Zhou money) instead of tattooing, 200 for cutting off the nose, somewhat less (bei cha 倍差) for cutting off a foot, 600 for castration, and 1,000 for the death penalty. A further reduction of penalty was to reckon the charge among the "five cases of error" (wu guo 五過, i.e. misdoings in office). Yet in such a case the judges were guard against the influence of power, private grudge, female solicitation, bribes, or applications

Punishments followed the "principles of ritual" (li ze 禮則), and were thus subject to strict procedures, among others, interviews of the claimant and the accused. The Shangshu chapter Kanggao explains that when both parties were present, with their documents and witnesses all complete, the judges listened to the fivefold statements (wuci 五辭, namely words, colour, respiration, ears, and eyes; Zhouli, part Qiuguan 秋官, ch. Xiaosikou 小司寇) that may be made. When they had examined and fully made up their minds on those, they adjusted the case.

During the reign of King Mu, the penal code Lüxing was created which listed allegedly 1,000 crimes to be punished with tattooing, 1,000 crimes for which the delinquent's nose was cut off, 500 crimes punished by cutting out the knee-cap or off the foot, 300 crimes punished by castration, and 200 crimes for which the death penalty was due. The code was created by the Marquis of Lü 呂侯 (also called Lü Fu 呂甫). Its creation is described in the Shangshu chapter of the same name.

Apart from laws already existing (like the [putative] Xia code Shuxing 贖刑), new ones were promulgated by the Zhou kings, including the pre-dynastic ruler King Wen. Such promulgations are quoted in the Shangshu chapters Kanggao, Jiugao or Duoshi 多士.

The chapter on the Minister of Justice (sikou) in the Zhouli explains that the rulers of regional states were punished according to three principles (sandian 三典), namely lightly for young states, with a middle strictness for average states, and severely for states in disorder or rebellion. For each realm of function in the state, there were different criteria of assessment and five objectives which the Zhou hoped to fulfil with the help of punishments.

Quotation 1. Control of the empire by punishment according to the Zhouli
以五刑糾萬民,一曰野刑,上功糾力。 [The government] controls the population by the five types of punishment. First, the punishment of the countryside for which the efforts [of the cultivators] are the criterion and by which physical forces are rectified.
二曰軍刑,上命糾守。 Second, the punishment of the army for which the [execution of] orders is the criterion and by which defence is rectified.
三曰鄉刑,上德糾孝。 Third, the punishment of the districts for which moral conduct is the criterion and by which filial piety is rectified.
四曰官刑,上能糾職。 Fourth, the punishment of functionaries for which competence is the criterion and by which duties are rectified.
五曰國刑,上愿糾暴。 Fifth, the punishment of the royal domain for which attention is the criterion and by which violence is checked.
Translation according to Biot, Vol. 2, 309.

With the help of punishments, the functionaries of the state were caused to serve the government at its best. Yet labourers were also tested for their performance. Peasants cultivating state-owned land or building roads, dykes, and temples, were strictly supervised by the government. The other people could be controlled by the instrument of appealing to "virtuous" or "filial conduct".

The most severe punishment was the extirpation of several generations, as was the case with the rebels Wu Geng, Guan Shu and Cai Shu. As "virtue" played an important role in the philosophical legitimacy of the Zhou dynasty (see Zhou philosophy), violation of principles as filiality were severely punished. Regional rulers might be decreased in their rank, or their territory reduced.

The same chapter of the Zhouli described the methods by which the Minister of Justice interviewed delinquents to find out more about the case (Wang & Yang 1996: 373). Delinquents were usually put into jail (huantu 圜土).

Generally seen, the penal law of the Zhou seemed to have been somewhat softer than that of the Shang which made use of cruel punishments as burning alive or cutting out the bowels (see Shang law). The Zhou kings therefore admonished their functionaries to use corporal punishments with caution and after deliberate consideration. All crimes, even lesser ones, were to be punished, but according to reasonable standards. The king warned his functionaries, "deal reverently and intelligently in your infliction of punishments" (jing ming nai fa 敬明乃罰; Shangshu, ch. Kanggao).

Legal disputes among high dignitaries had to be resolved by the royal court, as seen in the inscriptions of the Hu Ding 曶鼎 tripod (II, III) and the San shi pan 散氏盤 plate. In the first case, the arbiter was Xing Shu 邢叔, in the second one a grand master from the family Donggong 東宮 (Cook, Goldin 2016: 131-135).

The political and administrative changes during the Spring and Autumn period made necessary changes in the legal administration. It was necessary to write down and make public laws, and to change them in some instances.

The state of Lu adhered in Confucius' times still to the "canons of the Duke of Zhou" (Zhou Gong zhi dian 周公之典), and these were to be preserved by any means, for instance, when the ducal palace caught fire. In a great annual ceremony, these canons were exhibited to the public by hanging them at the roof of the Xiangwei Watch 象魏 (Zhouli, part Qiuguan, ch. Da sikou).

The laws of the state of Chu were called Puqu zhi fa 僕區之法 and Maomen zhi fa 茅門之法, perhaps referring to places where they were pronounced or displayed to the public.

In the state of Song, laws were in 564 already incised in "penal tools" or "penal [law] tools" (xingqi 刑器), perhaps precursors to custom of having laws inscribed into a tripod, as organized by Zichan 子產 (d. 522) in the state of Zheng in 536 (see Zichan xingding 子產刑鼎), and then in Jin in 513. Deng Xi 鄧析 (c. 545-501), often called a legalist master (see the book Dengxizi 鄧析子), had laws written on bamboo strips (zhuxing 竹刑 "bamboo penal law").

Guan Zhong in the state of Qi revised the ancient laws by selecting good ones and discarding outdated ones. The state of Jin five times revised its code. The oldest code allegedly dated from the time of Kang Shu's investment with the state of Jin. This code was revised in 633 by Duke Wen, after having convened all dignitaries in the Beilu Hall 被廬. In 621, the duke assembled the dignitaries of Jin in Yi 夷 to revise the code again, but this version was yet amended during a convent in Dong 董, and became the "permanent code" (changfa 常法) of Jin until 593. This version was again refined by Shi Hui 士會 (Fan Wuzi 范武子) to respect better traditional propriety. This code was reworked twenty years later by Shi Gai 士匄 (Fan Xuanzi 范宣子), and this version was in 513 by Zhao Yang 趙鞅 (Zhao Jianzi 趙簡子) and Xun Yin 荀寅 inscribed on the (inner?) surface of an iron tripod (zhu xingshu 鑄刑書; Zuozhuan, Zhaogong 29).

Confucius discussed with Shu Xiang 叔向 about the law tripods of Jin and Zheng. Both criticized this procedure with the argument that in this way, the common people would gain knowledge of the laws and begin to dispute about it (ju min zhi you zheng xin 懼民之有爭心), where the prerogative of discussing law laid in the hands of the authorities—"noble and common were confused" (gui jian wu xu 貴賤無序). The Master was afraid that written laws would destroy human relationships and result in a dehumanization of society.

Quotation 2. Confucius renounces the institution of written law
仲尼曰:「晉其亡乎!失其度矣。夫晉國將守唐叔之所受法度,以經緯其民,卿大夫以序守之,民是以能尊其貴,貴是以能守其業。貴賤不愆,所謂度也…今棄是度也,而為刑鼎,民在鼎矣,何以尊貴?貴何業之守?貴賤無序,何以為國?… Zhongni 仲尼 (Confucius) said, "Jin is going to ruin! It has lost its [proper] rules [of administration]. Jin ought to keep the laws and rules which Tang Shu 唐叔 (founder of the state of Jin) received for the regulation of his people. If the ministers and great officers would keep them in their several positions, the people would be able to honour their higher classes, and those higher classes would be able to preserve their inheritances. There would be nothing wrong with the noble or the mean. We should have what might be called the [proper] rules… When those rules are now abandoned, and tripods with the penal laws on them are formed instead, the people will study the tripods, and not care to honour their men of rank. But when there is no distinction of noble and mean, how can a state continue to exist?"
From Lunyu 論語, translation according to Legge (1895).

Laws were at that time still seen as derivate of rituals and propriety (Guanzi, ch. Shuyan 樞言). The "standard code" of Zhao Dun 趙盾 (Zhao Xuanzi 趙宣子) included measures to enrich the country, appoint officials, and nourish the people; articles of penal character; articles concerning the processing of cases (pi xing yu 辟刑獄); concerning arrest of fugitives (dong butao 董捕逃); concerning the use of written contracts (you zhi yao 由質要); the validity of outdated articles (zhi jiu kua 治舊洿); the observance of propriety and etiquette (ben zhi li 本秩禮), the appointment into vacancies (xu chang zhi 續常職), and the selection of worthy candidates (chu zhi yan 出滯淹).

The first written code was Li Kui's Fajing 法經. Li Kui, counsellor of Marquis Wen of Wei 魏文侯 (r. 424-387), studied the law codes of all regional states, for instance, Shen Buhai's Xingfu 刑符 from Han, or the code Guolü 國律 of Zhao, and compiled a code of his own. Only fragments of the Fajing have survived, and of the other penal codes, only the names are known. Shang Yang, who served King Xiao of Qin, adopted Li Kui's code and developed the code of Qin, Qinlü 秦律, an original copy of which was discovered in 1975 in a tomb in Shuihudi 睡虎地 near Yunmeng 雲夢, Hubei. The find included the codes Qinlü, Xiaolü 效律, Qinlü zachao 秦律雜抄, as well as commentaries like Falü dawen 法律答問, and rules of legal procedure, as Fengzhenshi 封診式. The kingdom of Chu had the code Xianling 憲令.

Li Kui's Fajing regulated the punishment of robbery (dao 盜) and rebellious banditry (zei 賊) (ch. 1-4), "miscellaneous crimes" like fraud (qingjiao 輕狡), climbing over a city wall (? yuecheng 越城), gambling (boxi 博戲), falsehood (jiajie bulian 假借不廉) and licentiousness (yinchi 淫侈) (ch. 5), and the range of verdicts according to circumstances (ju qi jiajian 具其加減, ch. 6). While these regulations concerned penal matters, the range of the Qin law also pervaded to administrative matters, like fields, canals, forests, stables, granaries, local treasuries, corvée labour, construction work, the appointment, promotion, or dismissal of officials, or the forwarding of official messages.

The central governments of each regional state had Ministers of Justice (sikou), but on the district level, district grand masters (xiang dafu) were responsible. In many aspects, their function corresponded to the later district magistrates (ling) who were at the same time civilian administrators, and judges. Cases in which local administrators were not able to pass a judgment on were submitted to the central government (bu neng duan, yi yu shang 不能斷,以獄上). Yet in some cases, the King of Zhou even sought for support by a regional ruler, as in the case between Wang Shu 王叔 (Chen Sheng 陳生) and Bo Yu 伯輿 which was resolved and judged over by Fan Xuanzi, a high functionary of Jin. The legal system also allowed the support by a solicitor, as is seen in the case of Duke Cheng of Wei 衛成公, who unintentionally killed a nobleman from Jin, Shu Wu 叔武. Duke Cheng was supported by three persons, namely Ning Wuzi 甯武子 as "defendant" (fu 輔), Zhen Zhuangzi 鍼莊子 as substitute for the accused (zuo 坐), and Shi Rong 士榮 as "advocate" (dashi 大士), while the killed nobleman was represented by Yuan Xuan 元咺 (Zuozhuan, Xigong 28).

The Zuozhuan (Zhaogong 28) records a case of attempted corruption, when Wei Shu 魏舒 (Wei Xianzi 魏獻子) was regent and supreme judge of Jin. Venality (yuyu 鬻獄) was a crime punished with the death penalty. In 528, Shu Dai 叔代 accepted a bribe (a slave girl) from Yongzi 雍子, who litigated with the Marquis of Xing 邢侯 over land. Shu Dai sentenced the Marquis guilty, who thereupon killed both his opponent, and the judge, but he was for his murder condemned with execution (Zhaogong 14).

During the Warring States period, the central government still had a Minister of Justice (sikou, shishi 士師, tingwei 廷尉), but the administration of the local government was developed. The Qin code required that plaintiffs may appeal to the local court (ting 廷), namely the district magistrate (xianling 縣令), the vice magistrate (xiancheng 縣丞) or the governor of a commandery (junshou 郡守). Inquiries and notes were taken by clerks (lingshi 令史), who were also responsible for judicial matters. Even village heads (xiangzhang 鄉長, lidian 里典) cooperated with the authorities in judicial matters, for instance, when corvée labourers had deserted.

Even if the Qin law might have been harsh in modern terms, it regulated the process of investigations and deliberating a verdict. Judges had to inspect the crime scene, to inquire witnesses, plaintiff, and accused, and to care for the making of files. Beating or torture for achieving confessions was explicitly disapproved (wu chi lüe er de ren qing 毋笞掠而得人情; text of Fengzhenshi), and if a culprit was beaten, the recorders had to note it down in the file. Verdicts were expected to be fair and just. Yet the authorities expected the cooperation with the people, urged to notify evildoers, and even rewarded cooperation. Cognisance without notification to the authorities was punished, but on the other hand, wrong accusations and testimonies were likewise punished severely. Individuals were thus stuck between social obligations towards their relatives and loyalty towards the authorities.

As can be seen from the content of the Qin laws, civil administration became a new focus of Warring States-period law—apart from penal law. The politician and philosopher Han Fei 韓非 depicted state officials as the main enemies of the sovereign. For this reason, a surveillance system was introduced by which state officials were controlled. The state of Qin therefore created the office of Censor-in-chief (yushi dafu 御史大夫), who was in control of the personal files of each state official. Regionally, the officials were controlled by regional inspectors (cishi 刺史). The office of censor was not entirely new. It is mentioned among the Spring Offices in the Zhouli (may date from the late Eastern Zhou) as a person in charge of legal documents and archives, but is not mentioned in the Zuozhuan. Yet in the early 3rd century, several states knew the office of yushi 御史, an officer in charge of documents and a close collaborator of the sovereign. The Censor in Qin received annual reports of the commandery governors. In times of war, the Censor was responsible for the assessment of individual merits of generals and officers.

There were three grades of punishment during the Spring and Autumn period, namely heavy penalties (daxing 大刑), medium-heavy penalties (zhongxing 中刑), and light penalties (boxing 薄刑). Heavy penalties consisted of killing by way of military law, for instance, the annihilation of bandits, execution with the axe or other ways of beheading, quartering with the help of chariots or oxen (chelie 車獵, huan 轘), dismembering and "pickling" (hai 醢), "mincing to death" (shi 施, later called lingchi 凌遲), and extinction of a family (miezu 滅族), i.e. clan liability. Medium-heavy punishments were the other four of the "five penalties" (wuxing), namely castration, cutting off the feet or the kneecaps, cutting off the nose, and tattooing. Light penalties were flogging or blows with the cane.

Apart from that, the legal system knew the punishment of exile or banishment into remote borderland regions (liu 流 or qian 遷). Commoners were exiled together with their families, but officials were sent alone. The way into exile was minutely observed by local administrators.

These standards basically continued into the Warring States period, with a new term for corporal punishment, namely "flesh punishments" (rouxing 肉刑). In addition to the traditional penalties, penal service (tu) became more and more prevalent, and served each state in the field of construction and in state-owned workshops. The death penalty, castration, and cutting off the feet were reserved for severe crimes, and less often applied than in earlier times.

It was possible to pay oneself free from punishment, a method willingly used by many rulers to increase revenues. Redemption by payment flourished during the Warring States period, backed by the increasing monetarization of the economy. One year of exile cost, for instance, 2,880 cash (Wang & Yang 1996: 556).

State finance

Field tax

The philosopher Mengzi 孟子 (ch. Tengwen Gong 滕文公 A) holds that the Xia Shang, and Zhou dynasties had different tax systems, many gong, zhu, and che. In fact, the veracity of this statement cannot by proved by sources. One possible solution to this question is that the Western Zhou used all three types of taxation at once, but for different purposes, for instance, levies from the harvest of the royal domains, and tributes from the regional rulers. Yet it seems that the che system, a kind of tithe levied from the harvest, was a novel levy introduced by the Zhou (Zhou 2000: 979).

Quotation 1. Field tax according to Mengzi
夏后氏五十而貢,殷人七十而助,周人百畝而徹,其實皆什一也。 The sovereign of the Xia dynasty enacted the fifty-[mu 畝] allotment, and the payment of a tax (gong 貢). The founder of the Yin (Shang) enacted the seventy-[mu] allotment, and the system of mutual aid (zhu 助). The founder of the Zhou enacted the hundred-[mu] allotment, and the share system (che 徹). In reality, what was paid in all these was a tithe.
Transl. according to Legge 1895.

The revenue of the Zhou state was identical to that of the royal house. In the same way, each regional state had a system of revenue and expenditure of its own. The 'treasury' of all polities worked according to the principle "set expenditure off against income" (liang ru yi wei chu 量入以為出; Liji 禮記, ch. Wangzhi 王制). This duty was taken over by the Minister of State (or Prime Minister, zhongzai 冢宰), in cooperation with the Minister of the Masses (situ 司徒), who was responsible for the most important source of income, the field tax. Yet the Minister of War (sima 司馬) was also involved in the calculation because military service or the delivery of objects for the army (junfu 軍賦) were likewise an important obligation for people living in the royal domain. Finally, the Minister of Works (sikong 司空) controlled the corvée service, for instance, the erection of city walls, buildings, or roads.

Among the "eight principles" (baze 八則) by which the Grand Steward (dazai 大宰, i.e. the Minister of State) managed the royal capital and other cities, as described in the ritual Classic Zhouli, were the control of the use of revenues, and the control of the services to be delivered by the masses. The chapter enumerates nine types of taxes or tributes (jiufu 九賦) by which the Grand Steward "amassed riches and values" (lian caihui 斂財賄), namely the taxes of the centre of the kingdom (bang zhong 邦中), the four environments (sijiao 四郊), the royal fields (bangdian 邦甸), the farther territories of the noble families (jiaxiao 家削), the dependent townships (bangxian 邦縣), the appanages (bangdu 邦都), then customs and levies from the markets (guan shi 關市), levies from the mountains and marshes (shan ze 山澤), and "thousand other" objects from local origin (qianyu 千餘).

The Zhouli 周禮 discerns nine types of tributes (jiugong 九貢), namely such destined for sacrifices (sigong 祀貢, i.e. animals), "women's work" (pingong 嬪貢, i.e. brocades or other silks), instruments for the ancestral altars (qigong 器貢), fabric and precious objects (bigong 幣貢), timber or precious wood? (caigong 財貢), objects of value like cowries (huogong 貨貢), clothes (fugong 服貢), banners (yougong 斿), and local goods (wugong 物貢, anything from fabric or weapons to shells, ivory, or slaves).

While these constituted the revenues of the kingdom, the expenditure was likewise controlled by the Grand Steward, according to "nine proportions" (jiushi 九式), namely those for sacrifices, entertainment of guests, funerals and times of famine, food and robes, the royal workshops, presents of silks to visitors, hay and fodder, various distributions (feiban 匪頒), and for amenities (haoyong 好用).

The Minister of the Masses was the most important functionary for the collection of revenues. He was supported by a staff including "mentors of labour" (daishi 載師), supervisors of villages (lüshi 閭師), township preceptors (xianshi 縣師), market shop supervisors (chanren 廛人), overseers of merchants (gushi 賈師), gatekeepters (simen 司門), supervisors of customs duties (siguan 司關), gardeners (changren 場人), granary masters (linren 廩人), and many more.

The chapter Luogao 洛誥 in the Classic Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents" admonishes the officialdom to check whether the regional rulers had paid their tributes (xiang 享) or not. The tribute system was part of the ceremonial or 'ritual' system (yi 儀) of the Zhou empire. Tributes the regional rulers had to deliver to the house of Zhou were graded (bangong 班貢) according to the economic potential of their state. The Duke of Zhou 周公 had set up statutes (dian 典) or "foundations" (jie 藉) for the payment of tributes by each regional state. The principles created by the Duke of Zhou were precursors of the Confucian principle of "liberality in giving, moderation in undertaking affairs, and thriftiness in collecting taxes" (shi qu qi hou, shi ju qi zhong, lian cong qi bo 施取其厚,事舉其中,斂從其薄, Zuozhuan 左傳, Aigong 哀公 11).

The regional states required tributes from the nobility within their territory.

The revenues of the Western Zhou kingdom were tied to certain purposes, and were divided into five categories or "services" (wu fu 五服). The closer a region to the seat of the Zhou, the higher was the duty. The "services" of the royal domain (dianfu) were to be delivered daily, the income from the marquisates (the regional rulers, houfu) each month, the "guest services" for every three months, the xxx annually, and the tributes from the “barren lands” once in a reign.

Dianfu Daily Daily sacrifices to heaven and earth Houfu Monthly X Binfu Seasonally X Yaofu Annually X huangfu Reign X

The royal domain lived from the harvest of the royal fields (jietian 藉田, datian 大田, futian 甫田), the products of the royal workshops, and from the earnings of royal forests, pastures, fishery, and hunts. The products of "mountains and forests" (shan ze 山澤) were collected by officials called supervisors of forestry and hunting (shanyu 山虞) and supervisors of marshes (zeyu 澤虞); the revenue of forests was assessed by forest measurers (linheng 林衡), and canals were controlled by guardians of the waterways (chuanheng 川衡). In remote regions, mines yielded ores useful for the production of bronze objects. They were administered by mining superintendents (gongren 卝人).

High dignitaries living of their fields located within the royal domain retained one third of their revenue (can shi zhi yi 參食之一), and delivered two thirds as a tax to the royal household. This was true for salary fields (caitian 采田, lutian 祿田), and fields presented by the king (shangdi 賞地). Other fields obtained by extraordinary means from the royal domain (jiatian 加田) were not taxed (Zhou 2000: 990). The "services of the domain fields" (dianfu) were thus a combination of tax and land rent.

The fields tax (tianshui 田稅, tianzu 田租, zushui 租稅, zu 租, tianfu 田賦) during the Warring States period consisted of part of the harvest, in north China mainly millet (su 粟), but other types of grain were also taken into state granaries, as can be seen in the regulations Canglü 倉律 of the Qin Law (Qinlü 秦律). Rice, a grain which ripened late in the year, was often taxed in the following spring, while millet levies were collected in autumn. Apart from grains, the government collected hay and fodder (chugao 芻稾). A typical yield of a levy was 10,000 or 20,000 shi 石 of grain (see weights and measures) per district, in the case of the Qin capital Xianyang 咸陽 even 100,000 shi, and 20,000 shi of fodder per levy (ji 積).

Commoners and the nobility were taxed alike. When the Lord of Pingyuan 平原君 refused to pay taxes, he was admonished by Zhao She 趙奢, who appealed to the lord's honesty and 'patriotism'. The "field law" (Tianlü 田律) of the Qin Code suggests that the tax was assessed according to the size (and quality?) of land: the harvest was pre-calculated and the household taxed accordingly (zi su er shui 訾粟而稅). The chapter on Food and Commodities (24 Shihuo zhi 食貨志 A) in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 quotes the legalist politician Li Kui 李悝 who reckons that a household of five persons, cultivating 100 mu of land, yielded a harvest of 150 shi of millet, from which the tithe was levied (Zhou 2000: 1674). Yet the same chapter quotes Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒 (179-104 BCE) from the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) who lamented that under Shang Yang 商鞅 (390-338 BCE), the field tax was twenty timer higher than in earlier ages.

Poll and household taxes

Poll taxes (koushui 口稅, kousuan 口算) and household taxes (hufu 戶賦) were a new levy created during the Warring States period. They are mentioned in the book Huainanzi 淮南子 (ch. Fanlun xun 氾論訓) and were measured in "baskets" (ji 箕, in the Qin Code called bao 畚) in which monetary payment was collected. The baskets had a capacity of 1,000 coins and were sealed by the authorities. As to the height of the poll tax, the book Guanzi 管子 (ch. Haiwang 海王) says that it was a monthly tax with 30 coins (qian 錢) per month. A fragment from the book Shizi 尸子 adds that in cases of an epidemic, the poll tax was not levied (Zhou 2000: 1675). Like the field tax, the poll tax was not restricted to commoners, but was also levied from the households of the nobility and high functionaries. The only exception was the region of Sichuan, where the state of Qin occasionally did not tax the native tribes (Yi 夷), neither collecting the field tax, nor the poll tax.

Household taxes were introduced in the state of Qin in 348 BCE, for the purpose of financing war. Each household had to pay for adult males, but not more than for two. It is still mentioned in the Qin Code (Falü dawen 法律答問). The existence of a poll or household tax, paid in money, in other states is attested in various quotations from the time.

The Guanzi (ch. Guochu 國蓄) explains that a government could rely on five types of levies, to be combined as needed or appropriate, namely taxation (ji 籍) of domestic animals or cattle (liuchu 六畜), of land size (tianmu 田畝), of adult (male?) persons (zhengren 正人), of a household (zhenghu 正戶), or of buildings (shiwu 室廡). Yet Guan Zhong 管仲, putative author of the Guanzi, warned not to make use of all these levies simultaneously, for this would ruin the economy.

Various levies from the royal domain

Commoners living on the fields in the royal domain (sanjiao 三郊, liuxiang 六鄉) were subject to three types of levies and corvée, namely military service (including the payment of equipment like armour, helmets, bow and arrows, lances, etc.), labour for civilian purposes (like construction of city walls or buildings), and income tax from the harvest, at least part which served to feed the royal army and their horses. The amount of tax payable for 1 jingtian 井田 (area, 100 mu?, c. 1.6 ha) was 1 zong 稯 (640 hu 斛, 6,400 l) of millet (he 禾), one bing 秉 (240 dou 斗, 480 l?) of hay or fodder (chu 芻), and 1 fou 缶 or yu 庾 (16 dou, 32 l) of rice (mi 米), according to a statement in the Guoyu 國語 (Luyu 魯語 B). Widows, orphans, and the sick were not taxed. Du Yu, commenting on the Zuozhuan, lists the number of horses, oxen, and chariots various administrative units (qiu 丘 [= 4 yi 邑 = 16 jing 井 = 144 males], and dian 甸 = 4 qiu 丘) had to deliver to the government, and how many armoured (jiashi 甲士) and (non-armoured) infantrymen (buzu 步卒) each village had to recruit. 1 dou=c. 2 l, 1 hu = 5 dou = c. 10 l 1庾 = 16斗, 10庾 = 1秉, 1秉= 240(160!)斗, 4秉=1筥, 10筥=1稯, 1稯(籔?)=640斛 1 mu = 16100.7 m2 1 ar = 100 m?, 1 ha = 10,000 m?

The Spring and Autumn period saw a drastical shift in the mode of taxation. The financial ‘autonomy’ of functionary-nobles declined, and their lands (caiyi 采邑, caitian 采田) were taxed just as those of the farmers cultivating fields of the domain of the sovereign of a regional state. The first two states experimenting with such measures were Qi and Lu, and in both, the nobility resisted the tax reform. In the state of Zheng 鄭, the tax reform of Zichan 子產 and Zisi 子駟 even ended in a rebellion of some nobles against the ducal house. In the state of Chen 陳, Yuan Po 轅頗 was forced into exile. In the state of Lu, the tax reform was carried out in 594 by levying the tithe according to acreage (chu shui mu 初稅畝), and a second time in 590 by requesting armoured soldiers per district (zuo qiu jia). Chu divides land into nine qualities, shanlin souse lingling, chunlu, jiangliao, yandu, yuanfang, xihao, yanwo. 蒍掩書土、田:度 山林,鳩藪澤,辨京陵,表淳鹵,數疆潦,規偃豬,町原防,牧隰皋,井衍沃,量 入脩賦,賦車、籍馬,賦車兵、徒(卒)〔兵〕、甲楯之數。 Wei Yan recorded the conditions of resources and land: he measured the timber of the mountains forests, examined wetlands and marches, made distinctions between high altitudes and lesser mounds, market out saline fields with trees, defined districts with dense soil liable to flooding, drew boundaries for reservoirs, divided lands up into smaller parcels for cultivation used wetlands for pastures, established subdividions for flat, fertile lands, calculated the domain’s revenues and regularizes levies, and determined the contributin of chariots, or horses, and of the weapons for chariot drivers and for foot soldiers, as well as the number of armour suits and shields. There was originally a difference between fu 賦 and shui 稅, the former being a kind of levy aimed at supporting the army (compare the component 武, meaning “military”), the latter being a levy on the (potential) harvest of a field of a certain quality and size. In the course of time, the difference blurred, and the two types of levies were more or less merged in the late Spring and Autumn period. The military tax of Lu in the time of Confucius was levied in grain, and not as service or the procurement of animals or equipment. In some states, the levy was as high as two thirds of the harvest (er ru yu gong, er yi shi qi yi 二入於公而衣食其一; Zuozhuan, Zhaogong 3). (Zhou 2000: 1352). The practice of the military tax as carried out during the Spring and Autumn period is still not very clear. It might be that the regional states followed different methods. In Jin it was called zuo zhou bing 作州兵, in Lu zuoqiujia 作丘甲, in Zheng zuo qiu fu 作丘賦, and in Chu liang ru xiu fu 量入修賦. Yet there were two common aspects in all states, namely that all inhabitants delivered services for the army—the inhabitants of the ducal domains (guoren) and those living outside (yeren ) alike, and all had to provide beasts, chariots, weapons and other equipment to the state army. Military service or levies were charged on administrative units like qiu 丘 or zhou 州. One qiu had to deliver one horse and three oxen; four qiu had to deliver one chariot with four horses, twelve oxen, and to send three armoured infantrymen and 72 unarmoured infantrymen (Du Yu commenting on the Zhouli) (Zhou 2000: 1353).

Scholars are discussing the issue whether peasants had to produce the chariots, armour and weapons by themselves, had to purchase them, or if the state provided the equipment. One argument against the last thesis is that with the increasing frequency of warfare, the output of state workshops might not have been sufficient. Animals like horses or draft oxen were quite probably raised by peasants, and in case of need delivered to the army. There might have been a change from recruitment of troops to the procurement of animals, food, and fodder (Zhou 2000: 1355). In the late Spring and Autumn period, the state of Jin operated a system in which arms and armour were stored locally “by the people”, and not centrally by the government (tuzhzong cang bingjia 徒眾藏兵甲).

The procurement of army equipment was a typical duty requested from criminals, as a kind of compensation (shuzui 贖罪) exacted by the purchase or manufacturing of armour, shield, halberds, or the like. This practice is mentioned in Guoyu (Qiyu) and still seen in legal texts of the Qin period.

xxx Corvée for construction citywalls, palaces, pavilions, parks, etc. In some cases, powerful lords were able not just to mobilize the own population, but also those of lesser states, like in 644, when Qi ordered the states of Lu, Song, Chen, Wey, Zheng, Xing and Cao to provide labour force for the construction of a citywall for Zeng 鄫, or in 510, when the King of Zhou, poor in resources and labour force, asked the state of Jin to send labourers for the construction of the citywall of Chengzhou 成周.

Relatively new in the spectrum of corvée was the transport of grain, like laboures of Zhao Jianzi for the king of Zhou in 518, or in 647, when Qin supported Jin, which had a disastrous harvest, with grain ferried across the Yellow River.

Customs and sales tax

Levies on commodities were taken at customs stations (guanqia 關卡) and on markets. This kind of levy was not known under the Shang, but was introduced in the mid-Western Zhou period, with the gradual development of a merchant economy. A statement in the Guoyu (ch. Luyu B) suggests that merchants were taxed according to their business volume. The supervisors of customs duties (siguan 司關), whose duties are described in the Zhouli (part Diguan 地官), collected levies at the customs stations and likewise controlled whether merchants attempted to transport goods not allowed for sale (see commerce), and confiscated such. They also checked sales permits (huojie 貨節) and their accordance with the prescriptions of gates and markets. Quite interesting is the regulation that in times of famine or pestilence, no levies were collected at customs and gates, but the supervisors retained the right to question merchants as to the number and type of commodities they transported. They also welcomed honoured guests, and checked the permits (jiechuan 節傳) of messengers. Smuggling was prohibited.

The number of custom stations is not known in detail. In the state of Lu, Zang Wenzhong 臧文仲 established six customs stations (Zhou 2000: 1373).

Concerning the tax rate, it is known that Duke Huan lowered it to 2 per cent, which means that it had been higher before. The idea was that lower customs duties would boost the economy. Yet Zuozhuan, Zhaogong 20 reports that there were customs stations in the state of Qi even inside the territory (bijie 偪介), and not just at the borders. They were "exacting heavy duties on private property" (bao zheng qi si 暴征其私).

Names of customs stations are known from the Warring States period. The book Lüshi chunqiu (ch. Youshi 有始) lists the "nine great passes" (jiusai 九塞) of that time, namely Dafen 大汾 of Wei, Ming'e 冥阨, Jingruan 荊阮, and Fangcheng 方城of Chu, Yao 殽 of Qin, Jingjing 井陘 and Gouzhu 勾注 of Zhao, as well as Lingci 令庛 and Gouyong 勾庸 of Yan. In the late Warring States period, when territories were permanently exchanged between states, places like Shangdang 上黨 experienced a sad history as border towns, being taxed from multiple sides.

Wares and permits were also checked at city gates by gatekeepers (simen 司門). They, too, had the right to confiscate illegal commodities, and supported visitors from abroad.

The book Guanzi (ch. Wenpian 問篇) explains that in the state of Qi, commodities taxed at the customs would not be taxed on markets, and vice versa (zheng yu guan zhe, wu zheng yu shi 征於關者,勿征於市). Empty carts were not taxed (according to the rules), and people carrying goods on their shoulders (and not in carts), were likewise free from levies. Boats as means of transport played a greater role only in the water-rich southern states, like in Chu. Most famous is the tally allowing the merchant 'fleet' of the Lord of E exemption from customs duties.

The quota of levies on merchandise on markets was apparently not really fixed, but changed according to need, i.e. when the state was in need of revenues (Zhou 2000: 1370). The Guanzi (ch. Chengma 乘馬) explains that on markets in Qi, for each hundred yi 鎰 (20-24 liang) in gold, the tax was one qie 篋 (weight unknown) in gold, and for goods with a value of one basket of grain, the levy was ten qie of grain. For each group of thirty merchants, and elder was determined who was responsible for the collection of the fees.

The director of markets (sishi 司市) was responsible for regularisation, instruction, and jurisdiction on the markets. There was, according to the Zhouli (part Diguan, ch. Yiren 遺人), a market scheduled every fifty li (c. 25km).

The director checked weights and measures, the arrangement of market booths, the quality of products, as well as of contracts like guaranty titles for large purchases (zhi 質) or shared titles for smaller purchases (ji 劑). He also cared for the supply of money. As a judge, he took an eye on theft, fraud and counterfeiting (even if twenty per cent of forgeries were allowed!). Finally, the director could purchase leftovers and hand out credits. There were three market sessions in the royal capital (and perhaps that of the regional states), namely a large market (dashi 大市) in the afternoon, designed for "the people" (? baixingchaoshi 朝市) for resident and ambulant merchants (shang gu 商賈), and a night market (xishibanfu banfu 販夫販婦).

The aim of markets and their administration was "to provide what is missing" (wang zhe shi you 亡者使有), "to make profitable what is useful" (li zhe shi fu 利者使阜), "to suppress what is harmful" (hai zhe shi wang 害者使亡), and "to diminish what is superfluous" (mi zhe shi wei 靡者使微). Markets did not only serve the needs of the regional courts or the common populace, but had a special function in the supply for groups of visitors from other states during interstate meetings or for the logistics of armies.

Apart from regular markets, military markets (junshi 軍市) took over the function of provisioning armies. The book Shangjunshu (ch. Kenling) established regulations for military markets: Females had no access. Merchants were to prepare all necessary goods needed by the troops, but the procurement of grain was not allowed for private entrepreneurs.

In case of famine or epidemics, or when the sovereign had passed away, no levies were charged.

Mercantile controllers (zhiren 質人) checked titles for purchases (zhi, ji), contracts (shuqie 書契), weights and measures, and the uniform length and width of fabric. Market shop supervisors (chanren 廛人) collected fees paid for the sales of fabric (cibu 絘布), repayment for credit cums (zongbu 總布), fees for sales titles (zhibu 質), fees paid as punishment (fabu 罰布), or fees for market booths (chanbu 廛布).

These market levies (shishui 市稅, shifu 市賦, shizu 市租, shizheng 市征) were collected in the treasury (quanfu 泉府). Leftovers of butchers were stored in the food treasury (shanfu 膳府), and unsold valuables in the jade treasury (yufu 玉府) (in the original mistaken). The overseers of merchants (gushi 賈師) examined quality and prices. In case of famine, "grand sales" (guo zhi maijia 國之賣儥), and during military campaigns or large visits they prohibited price exlosions. Market shop inspectors (sizhang 肆長) organised the display of merchandise. The book Mengzi (ch. Gongsun Chou A), as well as the chapter Wangzhi of the Liji hold that in the time of the Western Zhou, there was no fee for markt booths.

The treasurers for market taxes (quanfu 泉府) did not only keep the treasury and make accountings (kuai qi chu ru 會其出入), but also cared for the supply of money and steered, by purchasing and sales, market prices. They handed out credits and determined the interest rate.

The states of Qi and Qin created a state monopoly on the transport and marketing of iron and salt. Merchants had to pay the state a fee of 30 per cent of the market price for transport and marketing licences (Zhou 2000: 1681).

Booty and military supplies

Finally, successful military campaigns yielded substantial revenue for the royal court. The conquest of the Shang kingdom, for instance, brought booty of tens of thousands of jades, bronze vessels, and chariots (Zhou 2000: 997). Also statements on later wars as made in bronze inscriptions show that horses, cattle, bronze, and cowries belonged to the booty of the Zhou armies.

During the Spring and Autumn period, larger, more powerful states often exacted tributes from the smaller ones. This usually happened in the frame of interstate meetings during which alliances (meng) were concluded or confirmed. Apart from military power, the rank of nobility also played a role whether a higher-ranking stated might request contributions from lower ones. The earl (bo) of Cao, for instance, was subordinated to the duke (gong) of Jin, and could not but answer to the demands of Jin. During the reign of Duke Wen, Jin was the most powerful state of the Yellow River plain, and requested tributes from many of the smaller states.

While the ancient Western Zhou system required the visit of a mission (pin 聘) every three years and personal visits (chao 朝) every fifth year, the inter-state meetings for alliances, as introduced by the hegemonial lords (ba), were irregular and thus allowed the dominating state to raise support from the smaller states whenever needed. The state of Zheng was for a long time the most exploited polity. It was pressurised by Jin in the north and Chu in the south. Both requested military support from Zheng, as well as supplies for the army. Armes did in this way not only ravage the countryside of opponents, but also that of allied states.

Zhou 2000: 1376, 450 meetings for chaopin menghui.

State expenditure (guoyong 國用)

The chronicle Zuozhuan (Chenggong 成公 13) summarized the most important fields of policy: sacrifices and war (guo zhi da shi zai si yu rong 國之大事在祀與戎). Sacrifices played an important role not just in the field of religion, but also for the state. The revenue from the “five services” was therefore closely tied to certain types of sacrifices: xxx.

The Zhou had a standing army in the western capital region as well as in the east. Nearly every king of the Western Zhou experienced problems in certain regions of the empire and had to pacify rebellious regional rulers or tribes in the borderlands. King Xuan, for instance, fought against the Xianyun in the west, the Huaiyi tribes and the barbarian state of Xu in the east, and the Jing tribes in the south, what was to become the king of Chu. The cost of these wars cannot be measured in money, but they certainly drained substantial revenues from the state treasury of the Zhou.

If taking literally the enumeration of state officials as presented in the Zhouli, the Western Zhou empire must have been operated by nearly 4,000 persons (Zhou 2000: 1000), including high-ranked officials as well as servants and maids. Of these, more than half were responsible for the royal household, including food, robes, implements, ornaments, buildings, and all daily necessities. Wang Shenxing 王慎行 (b. 1942), author of Gu wenzi yu Yin-Zhou wenming 古文字與殷周文明, found out that one single meal included twelve meat dishes (or rather, tripods). The royal banquet was usually entertained by musicians and dancers. Banquets were even more lavishly when the king received guests, for instance, the regional rulers which had to pay regular visits to the royal residence.

Presents by the king to the regional rulers were a substantial part of investiture ceremonies. Bronze inscriptions list the precious objects the king handed over to the regional rulers. Such were sacrificial wine, ceremonial jades, robes and caps, chariots or metal decorations for them, horses and decorative horsegear, banners, weapons, sacrificial vessels, cowries, bronze, and the like. One might speak of a circular tribute system because many of the presents given by the king had found their way into the royal treasury in the shape of tributes to the king.

No other thinker of the time was as critical as Mo Di towards the ever-increasing state expenditure of the Warring States period. Several chapters in his book Mozi are dedicated to lowering spending, be it war, banquets, or funerals. He does not only address individuals, but also states. The size of armies of the Warring States period was considerable. Qi and Chu had “a million” (bai wan 百萬) armoured troops (daijia 帶甲) each, a thousand chariots, and 10,000 cavalrymen. Other states, like Zhao, Wei, Han, Qi, and Yan, had armoured infantry of several ten thousand. Yan had 700 chariots, and more than 6,000 cavalry. The state of Wei had an army of 200,000 infantrymen (wuli 武力), 200,000 “blue-head” xxx 蒼頭, 200,000 armoured men (fenji 奮擊), 100,000 廝徒, 600 chariots, and 5,000 cavalry (Zhou 2000: 1685-1686). Their equipment was provided by the government. Sieges might last for years, as Wei’s long-lasting attack on Handan, Zhao’s siege of the capital of Zhongshan, or the joint campaign of Qi, Han, and Wei against Chu. These campaigns, lasting for three or even five years, consumed tremendous amounts of money. Mozi’s condemnation of offensive warfare (ch. Feigong 非攻 B) reminds his audience that huge amounts of equipment, weapons and beasts are lost on the battlefield and must be replaced. Mo Di (ci. Ciguo 辭過) also criticized the lavishly built palaces of the time, causing sovereigns to increase taxes and seize materials from the people. A ruler, having passed away, was buried amidst of all the wealth he enjoyed during lifetime, from gold, jades and silks to carriages and horses (ch. Jiezang 節葬 C). Mozi even mentions accompanying death. Another item in expenditure were salaries (fenglu) to functionaries. These were usually paid out in grain. Confucius, for instance, being Minister of Justice (sikou) in Lu, received an annual salary of 60,000 dou of grain. In the state of Wey, salaries were measured in the unit pen 盆“basin”, in Qi in the unit zhong 鍾. The imperial units dou and shi originated in the state of Qin, but were also known in Yan. The salary in Qin ranged from 100 to 600 shi. The state of Chu paid out functionaries in “loads” (dan 擔) of grain (Zhou 2000: 1688). In the state of Qi, retired functionaries were given villages (tianli 田里) to live off. Rewards were used to stimulate persons to fulfill demanding duties. The amounts were paid out in cash (qian 錢), e.g. a million cash for catching Ai Lao alive, or in gold (jin 金), or in other amounts of money, (yi 金益), or in real value like chariots. The books Zhanguoce and Shiji speak of many occurrences when political decisions of other states were influenced by generous donations of money. The ceding of districts to buy peace or alliances also belongs to this kind of expenditure. Not every expenditure was made with belligerent aims or because of luxury. The many construction projects like city walls or defensive walls, canals, dams and dykes, or of roads, profited the security of a state and supported its economy. The existence of a neishi 內史 and shaofu 少府 or shaonei 少內 or similar offices is known from many states of the period. It was the central institution of registering and storing the grain taxes and fodder, as described, for instance, in the Qin Code Canglü 倉律. The law Jinbu lü 金布律 suggests that the neishi also kept monetary reserves. The granary/reserve/treasury of the central government in Qin was called danei 大內, those of the districts xian shaonei 縣少內. The chapter Shihuo zhi of the Hanshu explains that in Qin, field tax was administered by the neishi, and poll tax (koufu) and the levies of the salt and iron monopolies by the shaofu or shaonei. In some states, the central treasury was also a kind of arsenal for weapons or other objects. Levies from the customs and markets were managed by the guanshi 關市. On the township level, the tax collectors were called xiangzuo 鄉佐, and were assisted on the village level by buzuo 部佐, village heads responsible for organization. Economic matters and the organization of financial matters by the state are mentioned not just in fragments of Li Kui’s code Fajing 法經, but in nearly all parts of the Qin Code, including Tianlü 田律, Canglü 倉律, Jinbulü 金布律, Sikonglü 司空律, Yaolü 徭律, Guanshi 關市, or Neishi za 內史雜. The basis for comprehensive tax collection was the registering of peasant households (hukou 戶口) all over the country. Household registers (huji 戶籍) were combined with registers checking the distribution and quality of land. As corv´´ee and military service constituted an integral part of the tax system, households were grouped in “handfull”(wu 伍). Even if such a system is described in the book Guanzi which allegedly dates to the 8th century BCE, the earliest thorough registering of households was part of the reform carried out by Shang Yang in the state of Qin in the 4th century. Households were compiled and checked in regular intervals to delete dead persons and enter new ones, all with their sex and age. In this way, the state was able to levy taxes and request corv´´ee from adult males and females, and allowing exemption to under-age persons and the elderly. Persons registered as tax-liable were subject to fuji 傅籍or fulü 傅律. The Qin law foresaw harsh punishments for underreporting or evading registration. Even if merchants were ordered to register, itinerant merchants were able to evade this system. Throughout imperial times, the tax system of the Chinese state was founded in the payment of taxes by the resident peasant population. An accounting system is mentioned in Xunzi (ch. Wangba). It was carried out at the end of each year and determined the officialdom’s performance. It is also known in the books Shangjunshu (ch. Jinshi), the Hanfeizi (ch. Waichu shuozuo B) and Huainanzi (ch. Renjian xun). The annual settlement was compiled by the central treasury, as based on the financial statement (jishu 籍書, bushu 簿書) of district administrations. Based on the settlement, a calculation for the coming year was drawn up, in two copies (quan券, quanxie券契, quanshu券書), one retained by the central government, and the other by the local administrations. The pre-calculation of the budget was the base for the assessment of the functionaries’ performance. The budget included thirteen types of figures, namely granaries and residents (cang kou 倉口), adult men and women (zhuangnan zhuangnü 壯男壯女), adult and inform (lao ruo 老弱), officials and men-of-service (guan shi 官士), “those who obtain emoluments by talking” (yi yan shuo qu shi zhe 以言說取食者), beneficial people (limin 利民), horses, oxen, hay, and straw (ma niu chu gao 馬牛芻稾) (transl. according to Pines 2017). Details on the collection and storage of grain and fodder are found in the Qin Code, ch. Canglü, Xiaolü 效律. Alt:

The revenue of the states of the Warring States period consisted of land taxes, commercial taxes (both called shui 稅), dues or services (fu 賦), and tributes (gong 貢). The Confucian philosopher Mengzi once suggested to Duke Wen of Teng 滕文公 (r. 324-316) to re-introduce the ancient well-field system (jingtian 井田), according to which the fields of the ducal/royal domains delivered the tithe of the harvest as tax (fu), and those of the wider domains (ye) a ninth as tax (zhu 助). The farmers living on the closer domain had to deliver services, like labour, or military services, for which reason their amount of tax was lighter.

Quotation 3. Mengzi on the well-field system
請野九一而助,國中什一使自賦。 I would ask you, in the remoter districts, observing the nine-squares division, to reserve one division to be cultivated on the system of mutual aid, and in the more central parts of the kingdom, to make the people pay for themselves a tenth part of their produce.
Translation according to Legge (1895).

Mengzi, as a true Confucian, desired going back to the early Western Zhou times, but in the late Spring and Autumn period, the difference between guo and ye was long blurred, and the regional rulers treated both types of land in a similar way, in order to have higher yields from grain taxes and services. In places where the public or communal field (gongtian 公田, in Qi called futian 甫田) still existed as part of rural communities, they were often left fallow (Wang & Yang 1996: 467). This means that the regional rulers did not make use of the system as described by Mengzi, but resorted to other means of taxation.

According to the chronicle Zuozhuan (Xuangong 宣公 15), a regular land tax payable in kind (grain) was introduced in the state of Lu. The first step into this direction was the commutation of services, namely planting, caring, and harvesting grain on the ducal domain (the "common plot" of Mengzi's well-field system), into payment in kind. The second step was tax collection not according to the nominal or theoretical size of a common field, but according to the size of the fields owned by a family. Moreover, no difference was made between people living in the close ducal domain (guoren) and such in the other parts of the dukedom (yeren). With this measure, cultivated areas were taxed which until then were lying outside the field quota of the traditional system. In the first years after this reform, this new procedure was criticized as "not concordant with the rules" (fei li 非禮) from the Western Zhou period.

Taxation respecting the quality of the soil was introduced in 685 by Guan Zhong in Qi. The assessment of field quality according to several categories made the farmers feel treated more fairly, and decreased the tendency to migrate to other places. The state of Qi collected field taxes every two years, and took a third of the harvest in good years, twenty percent in average, ten per cent in years of meagre harvest, and no taxes in years of crop failure. In 645, the state of Jin adopted the system (called zuoyuantian 作爰田), which is by some scholars interpreted as a land reform (Wang & Yang 1996: 469). Chu introduced field taxes in 548, and Zheng in 543. In some cases, the field tax was as high as 60 per cent of the harvest.

Commercial taxes were either collected as tolls at "passes" (guan 關), or as market taxes. The first instances of such a tax is recorded for the state of Jin (Guoyu, ch. Jinyu 晉語), and Lu (Zuozhuan, Wengong 文公 2). The state of Qi also knew the system of toll collection (Zuozhuan, Zhaogong 20). Yet the state of Song might have been the first who introduced tolls, during the reign of Duke Wu 宋武公 (766-748). The ritual Classic Zhouli (part Diguan) knows the office of market shop supervisor (chanren 廛人), who assessed the commodities displayed on market booths, and taxed them.

The size and quality of fields not only served the authorities to collect taxes in kind, but also in services, mainly military service, or objects for the logistics, be it material for chariots, horses, armour, or weapons. The state of Jin had the system of zuozhoubing 作州兵, according to which villages (zhou 州) delivered weapons. A similar system in Lu was called zuoqiubing 作丘兵. In 483, Lu regularized this system and adapted it to the field tax system, giving it the name yongtianfu 用田賦. The state of Zheng also used the system.

The tribute system was an ancient mode of presenting precious objects to the king of Zhou from the side of the regional rulers. The tribute was a duty delivered on the base of their offices, therefore called "office tribute" (zhigong 職貢). The height depended on the status of the office, the size of the regional state. Tributes were delivered annually, and therefore known as "year tributes" (suigong 歲貢). From the Spring and Autumn period on, tributes were not any more delivered to the kings of Zhou, but to the lord-protector (ba), who fixed the height of payment. This type of authoritative order was called "listen to the instruction" (tingzheng 聽政), "listen to the height [of payment]" (tingshu 聽數), or "conventional rectification" (huizheng 會正).

Powerful regional rulers did not shrink back from punishing the refusal of delivering tributes, like Chu which annihilated the statelet of Huang 黃 in 648 because Huang did not pay tributes. Yet the powerful states might also reduce the tribute burden, like Jin which lowered in 548 the amount of tributes after Zichan from Zheng had remonstrated. The height of tributes was denominated in fabric (bo 帛, also called bi 幣, a word from which the word for 'currency' is derived) or grain, mostly in amounts of wagon loads (Wang & Yang 1996: 477). Apart from annual tributes, the more powerful states expected presents on occasions of congratulations (hefu 賀福) like an accession to the throne, weddings, the birth of a heir, or the inauguration of a palace, as well as presents to express condolence (diaoxing 吊凶).

The aim of most strategists of the Warring States period was to "enrich the state and strengthen the military" (fu guo qiang bing 富國強兵). The only way to do this was to raise agricultural production and draft young men for military service. Agricultural production could be raised by opening new fields, changing cultivation methods, intensified irrigation, or by increasing labour input, and also by diversification, which would lower the impact of natural disasters. Shang Yang in Qin went so far to make people choose between either agriculture of war—other types of business were seen as needless.

There were basically three types of taxes during the Warring States period, namely land taxes, household taxes, and commercial taxes. The chapter on food and commodities (24A Shihuozhi 食貨志) in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書records a calculation allegedly made by Li Kui from Wei, estimating the living conditions of a family.

Quotation 4. Li Kui on heavy taxes
今一夫挾五口,治田百畝,歲收畝一石 半,為粟百五十石,除十一之稅十五石,餘百三十五石。食,人月一石半,五人終歲為粟九十石,餘有四十五石。石三十,為錢千三百五十,除社閭嘗新春秋之祠, 用錢三百,餘千五十。衣,人率用錢三百,五人終歲用千五百,不足四百五十。 The family of one man encompasses five persons cultivating one hundred mu 畝 of land, with an annual yield of 1.5 shi 石 per mu, making a total of 150 shi. Apart from paying the tithe of 15 shi, they have a remainder of 135 shi. If one person eats 1.5 shi per month, making 90 shi per year, they have a rest of 45 shi. 30 shi correspond to 1,350 cash (qian 錢). Subtracting the cost of sacrifices through the year, with 300 cash, they have a rest of 1,050 cash. Expenditure the for clothing of five persons runs to 1,500 cash, which means that the family will contract a debt of 450 cash at the end of the year.
Translation according to Nancy Lee Swann xxx.

Apart from grain, farmers had to deliver fodder for military horses and cattle (Wang & Yang: 586). Household taxes were in fact services to be delivered to the authorities. Liable were male and female persons from the age of 17 sui. For this reason, exact household registers were drawn up in regular intervals which served the local government to fall back on labour force in case of need. New-borns were added to the old registers, and the names of deceased persons eliminated. Changes of the seat (gengji 更籍) were also recorded. Instead of services, some local governments allowed payment in money or fabric, as a kind of currency (Wang & Yang 1996: 587).

Long-distance merchants carried with them tallies in the shape of bamboo segments (jie 節) recording where to pay tolls, and which places could be passed without paying tolls, as can be seen in the tallies of the Lord of E from the state of Chu (E Jun Qi jie 鄂君啟節) discovered in 1957 in Shouxian 壽縣, Anhui (Yu 1963). Taxes were collected on markets according to the sales volume, and also according to assets in store.

The number and size of state-owned workshops increased during the Warring States period, and the sovereigns of the individual states owned domains. The revenue of these institutions, be it tools, clothes, agricultural produce, timber, or cattle, was owned by the state. The growing commodification of the economy entailed the need for monetization. Each single state had its own currency, or even several types of non-standardized types of coins. The states of Han, Wei, Zhao, Zheng, and the kings of Zhou used "spade-shaped coins" (bubi 布幣; this name suggests that the coins were a substitute for currency fabric), Yan and Qi knife-shaped coins (daobi 刀幣), Qin round coins (huanqian 圜錢), and Chu so-called "ant-nose coins" (yibi tongqian 蟻鼻銅錢) and gold coins (Yingyuan 郢爰). These gold coins of Chu was the only gold currency ever used in premodern China. Yet silk fabric was a currency used everywhere. For this purpose, standardized sized of fabric (in Qin, for instance, 8×2.5 chi 尺) expressed a certain value (in this case, 11 cash). Coins were cast in the capitals of each state as well as in important cities. Coins were inscribed with the place of origin.

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