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By J. A. G. Roberts (auth.)

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Extra resources for A History of China

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The first was to formalize the system of bureaucratic government which had been introduced under the Qin. The emperor was assisted by three senior officials, known as the Three Excellencies, and they in turn were supported by nine ministers, each of whom had a defined area of responsibility. To restrict the power of the senior officials, the terms of their appointment made them mutually dependent. Likewise ministers and military officials were often appointed in pairs with overlapping responsibilities.

State governments became more centralized, administrative units were established and junior members of the aristocracy were appointed to supervise them. A class of men known as shi, or gentlemen, began to emerge in the seventh century Be and by the fifth century shi had eclipsed the former elite in government. At the same time major technological and economic changes were taking place. The use of bronze became much more widespread, and recent discoveries have shown that by this time bronze agricultural tools were in common use in the lower Yangzi valley.

The Shang court may have been attended by shamans, and the king himself was perhaps a shaman. If these suggestions are correct, then the character of Shang religion was very different from the rational approach of the philosophical schools which were to gain influence during the Zhou period. THE WESTERN ZHOU PERIOD The Zhou dynasty is traditionally dated from 1122 to 256 Be, and this immensely long period is divided into the Western Zhou, from 1122 to 771 Be, and the Eastern Zhou, the latter age being further subdivided into the Spring and Autumn period, from 771 to 481 Be, and the Warring States period, from 403 to 221 Be.

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