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A Study on the Oath of Alliance in Zhou Dynasty

Author: LiJianXin
Tutor: YuanJunJie
School: Henan University
Course: History of Ancient China
Keywords: Zhou dynasty oath of alliance evolvement social system historic significance
CLC: K224
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2008
Downloads: 304
Quote: 5
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Oath of alliance was a quite common phenomenon in Zhou dynasty and was one of the prominent characters in the temporal social life. As an important system in ancient China, oath of alliance possessed an obvious color of being supervised and adjudicated by gods. In a society of adoring divine right, oath of alliance was established as“trust”and had a legal effect. In Zhou dynasty, whatever people between the superior and subordinate, from a same rank, or those from other forces, they often took oaths for the sake of some common benefit or necessity of abiding by something. Oath of alliance turned into a tool of maintaining the stability and ensuring the normal operation of the society and thus was used extensively in various fields.During the periods of Xia and Shang dynasties, due to the strong royal power, the system of oath of alliance was underdeveloped and was mainly used in controlling the vassals and in military wars, and the host and guest covenanters had obviously unequal statuses. In this period, oath of alliance played an incomparable role in both of the political life and military life.In the Western Zhou Period, the monarch established a rank system of affiliation by way of subinfeudation, and the royal family and aristocratic stratum were situated at the upper level of such a ranking construction. The system of oath of alliance guided by the royal nobility gradually turned into a mature one, in which most of the swear words were to intensify morality and were used mainly in political dominion, military wars and lawsuit. The royal nobility made use of the convention of oath of alliance already existed in the clan society to overrule the country and dealt with lawsuit cases in the society. Such a way played a crucial role in ensuring the stability of and maintaining the social system, which was provided with a bright color of society-law connection.In the Spring and Autumn Period, the patriarchal clan political system was struck along with the collapse of nine-square system and the social system was going to pieces, at that time oath of alliance became the main measure of disposing various matters between different vassal states and also inside those states. Here the host covenanter greatly changed his status, the moral constriction of swear words weakened and the power of punishment increased, thus the original moral and ethic system went to pieces. The transformation of the social structure would naturally spur the ascending of new forces. Holding the flag of“honoring the king and eliminating the other peoples”, the monarchs of vassal states established and solidified their overlord statuses by dint of the oath of alliance, which impersonally maintained the social stability and accelerated the intercommunication between different cultures and thus played a role of politics-law transition from Western Zhou dynasty to the Warring States Period. With the breakage of the original system of rule by courtesy, people began to seek for new social interpersonal relations beyond clans. In this way, a new system advocating morality and ethics was established, taking the oath of alliance as the main body, which fetched up the lack of morality and law in such an era and made the oath of alliance overflow with the ethics-politics color.During the Warring States Period, the new squirearchy gradually won power and implemented political reforms one after another. The strong squirearchy did not believe the effect of oath of alliance any more but advocated forces, thus military wars turned into the mainstream of the society. Therefore, along with the decline of divine right ideology, the ascending of humanistic thought and implementation of the statute law, the oath of alliance gradually stepped down from the stage of history and turned into promise.

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CLC: > History, geography > History of China > The 21st century slave society ( about BC ~ 475 BC ) > Three generations ( 21th century BC - 770 BC ) > Western Zhou Dynasty ( 11th century BC - 770 BC )
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