The Zhou Dynasty

The Zhou Dynasty in China lasted from 1046 to 221 B.C. It is usually divided into Western Zhou (1046-771 B.C.) and Eastern Zhou (770-221 B.C.) to denote the moving of the capital from Shaanxi province to Luoyang in Henan province. The Eastern Zhou is often further divided into the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.) and the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.), in which several military innovations took place. The Zhou, overall, was a period of many inventions, in fields ranging from artistry and agriculture to technology, culture and architecture.


Bronze coins were first made during the Zhou dynasty.

Iron and bronze were used to create new and impressive pieces during the Zhou period, such as large bronze bells. Bronze pieces were often stamped with a particular symbol, suggesting the invention of a form of mass production. Bronze coins were developed now, too, although cowry shells were still used, at least during the Western Zhou period. Another new development was that of small-scale reproductions of real life objects to be placed in tombs.

Agriculture and Commerce

Agriculture was developed during the Zhou period.

During the Western Zhou period, the well-field system of agriculture was developed. In this system, a central public field was surrounded by six privately owned fields in a square formation. The name well-field was derived from the pictogram for well, which resembled this formation. In addition, crops were planted and harvested in rows.

Innovative tools like the iron plow and hoe improved the quality of harvested crops. New canals for transporting goods helped distribute this increased agricultural bounty.

Technology and Warfare

The crossbow was used by the Zhou military.

Though they did not invent the crossbow, Zhou military men improved upon its design; it became a preferred weapon during the Warring States period of the Eastern Zhou. Large navy ships resembling fortresses were developed in this period. The trebuchet was also invented during the Zhou period. The trebuchet enabled soldiers to shoot projectiles at the enemy via a pulley and ropes.

Cultural Innovations

Kites were invented during the Zhou dynasty.

Literature, recreation and everyday life were improved by inventions during the Zhou Dynasty. Kites were invented during this period, as was an improved version of written script. Medical records and reports were established during the Zhou Dynasty. Royal physicians were classified in terms of their specialties, such as nutrition or surgery.


The Zhou period introduced new innovations in architecture.

Earth tiles were invented during the Western Zhou, as was strong, durable flooring made of soil, lime and sand plaster. Another architectural invention was dougong (corbel brackets). These were innovative eaves supports at the top of columns on buildings. They would become typical, almost ubiquitous, features of traditional Chinese buildings.