How does the relationship between the government and people of China change over time? Aside from taxes, how do most people interact with officials? Is the Imperial institution generally becoming more powerful,…
How does the relationship between the government and people of China change over time?
How does the relationship between the government and people of China change over time? Aside from taxes, how do most people interact with officials? Is the Imperial institution generally becoming more powerful, less powerful or trading duties with other Chinese institutions and power centers?
Social, political, and cultural changes
The years from the 8th century BCE to 221 BCE witnessed the painful birth of a unified China. It was a period of bloody wars and also of far-reaching changes in politics, society, and intellectual outlook.
The decline of feudalism
The most obvious change in political institutions was that the old feudal structure was replaced by systems of incipient bureaucracy under monarchy. The decline of feudalism took its course in the Chunqiu period, and the rise of the new order may be seen in the Zhanguo period. The Zhou feudalism suffered from a continual dilution of authority.
As a state expanded, its nobility acquired vassals, and these in turn acquired their own vassals. The longer this went on, the more diluted the family tie became and also the more dependent the ruler became on the combined strength of the vassals.
At a certain point, the vassals might acquire an advantageous position, and the most dominant figures among them might eclipse the king. The Zhou royal house perhaps reached the turning point earlier than the other feudal states.
As a result, the Zhou royal domain and its influence shrank when Pingwang moved his court to the east. The ruling houses of other states suffered the same fate. Within a century after the Zhou court had moved to the east, the ruling houses in most of the feudal states had changed. In some cases a dominating branch replaced the major lineage, and also in others a powerful minister formed a strong vassaldom and usurped the authority of the legitimate ruler.
Bloody court intrigues and power struggles eliminated many established houses. The new power centres were reluctant to see the process continue and therefore refused to allow further segmentation and subinfeudation. Thus, the feudal system withered and finally collapsed.