Warring States Period

From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search
This article is about the Warring States Period in Chinese history; for the period by the same name in Japanese history, see Sengoku Period.
  • Dates: 450-220 BCE
  • Chinese/Japanese: 戰國時代 (Zhànguó Shídài / sengoku jidai)

The Warring States period was the second of two periods of Chinese history which fall within the span of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, coming after the Spring and Autumn Period, and running from 450 to 220 BCE. It ended in the unification of China proper under the Qin Dynasty.

The period saw the lives of some of China's most influential philosophers, including Mencius and Xunzi.

As the various states nominally under the authority of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty fell into further disunity and violence, the scale of war expanded. Battles in the Spring and Autumn Period took place chiefly on flat terrain, and rarely featured more than 30,000 charioteers and infantry warriors. Campaigns rarely lasted longer than a year. In the Warring States period, by contrast, records suggest that armies may have consisted of as many as 600,000 men, though some more skeptical historians suggest 100,000 as a more reasonable figure. Campaigns were often fought for one to five years. Iron weapons appeared around 600 BCE, and by the Warring States period, crossbows and lamellar armor were common. Further, whereas Spring and Autumn battles were generally fought only by elites, in the Warring States period, members of all social classes fought alongside one another, in part because of eroding social hierarchical distinctions. Whereas in the Spring and Autumn period, there was a clear hierarchy of nobles (卿, qīng), aristocrats (士, shì), and commoners (民, mín), this was no longer so starkly the case in the Warring States period.

Preceded by:
Spring and Autumn Period
Warring States
450-220 BCE
Succeeded by:
Qin Dynasty


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 28-29.