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Historical Periods of Warring

The Era of the Warring States

A very intensified warfare, not in number of battles, but in length and professionalism of the particular campaigns gave this period its name. The old army of a fighting aristocracy was replaced by a general led infantry (similar to old Greece and Rome and the European Middle Age), with peasants pressed to be human material and commanders almost being independent from their lord. New weapons like halberds and crossbows came up, chariots and archers supported the armor and iron helmet protected infantry. The warring states erected garrisons and walls along their frontiers, military advisors tried to defeat foreign armies, and wandering persuaders (the most famous being Su Qin 蘇秦) proposed the best alliances with other and against other states. In this time of political division, a great diversity of thinkers (called the "Hundred Schools" baijia 百家) tried to persue different rulers to make their best way.

Coalitions to Rule the World

The Warring States Period began with the brutal extinguishing of the ruling house of Qi (the Jiang 姜 clan) by the house of Tian 田. The Tian clan took over the rulership of Qi in 481 BC. In the small state of Lu 魯, already in 562 BC the three Huan 桓 families had replaced the house of Ji 姬. At the begin of the 5th century, five families in the state of Jin 晉 began to engage in a civil war for the rulership of this state. Three of them, the clans Wei 魏, Hann 韓 (written with two "nn" to distinguish it from the Han 漢 Dynasty) and Zhao 趙, finally overcame their rivals and founded their own states, dividing Jin. In 424 BC they mutually recognized their independence. The king of Zhou only recognized this partition in 403 BC.

A century later, when the different states had already begun many of their interal strucural reforms, marquis Hui of Wei was the first ruler to call himself king (wang 王): King Hui the Benevolent of Liang 梁惠王. Besides the "barbarian" (Non-Chinese) states of Chu 楚, Wu 吳 and Yue 越 in the south, he was the first ruler to disrespect the traditional position of the powerless kings of Zhou. One by one, the other states followed.

But they were in no case united against the kings of Zhou: the Zhou rulers were not more than the lords of a small territory. Warfare became the normal situation for the next century. Seven major states, Qin, Wei, Hann, Zhao, Yan 燕, Qi and Chu, fought in ever changing coalitions (zongheng 縱橫) against each other. In the end, only the well-reformed and half-barbarian state of Qin was able to overcome the others, being "like a wolf or a tiger". King Ying Zheng 贏政 of Qin conquered one state after the other and proclaimed himself the First Emperor in 221 BC, having unified the whole territory of ancient China.

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