The name for this period derives from the Spring and Autumn annals, a record of history in the state of Lu, one of the semi-independent fiefdoms of the Zhou dynasty
. This time is characterised by a slow crumbling of the power of the Zhou king in Luoyang
A lot of the formation of Chinese philosophy occured in this time. The varied doctrines that sprang up during this period became known as the "hundred schools of thought". Whether they actually number a hundred I don't know. Probably not. Notable ones include:
- Taoism: The word Dao, in Chinese, means the way, or path, or perhaps the right way. Taoism, a pseudo-religious philosophy, is embodied in such works as Daodejing, the Classic of the Way and of Virtue. The origin of the chinese mind that sprang Zen buddhism shows itself in the innate contradictions and mysticism that is Taoism.
Taoism holds that the right state of man is a natural state, and the right action of man is the natural one. Only by not striving to change oneself or others, can he be in tune with the universe. Thus saying, governments suppress individual spontaneity, and thus the natural order of man.
- Confucianism: Confucius (Gongzi) was from the state of Lu, and believed that a state would be well, if all acted according to their roles and places in society, and according to moral conscience. Confucianism is associated with the rule of authority.
Mencius, (Mengzi) expanded Confucianism and added the idea that all people have virtue, which can be cultivated to fulfillment through diligence, and that individual ability was more important than status or birth.
- Legalism: Legalists believed that through authority, method, and law, one could acheive a harmonious and effective state, which would last forever. The state would survive and prosper if everyone were to do what was best for the country. This could be acheived through the appropriate punishment and reward. The ultimate expression of the Legalist philosophy was the state of Qin, which came to overpower all others in the Warring States period, and establish the next ruling dynasty.
During this time, Sunzi wrote the Art of War (Sunzi Pingfa).
The demarcation between this era and the Warring states period is blurry, but it gradually came about that arguments between states started to be settled through full scale warfare.
Other notable developments include the creation of the position of Hegemon (pa), which came about through a treaty between the states and the King of Zhou for defence against non-Han peoples, gradually evolved until it became a system not unlike that of the Shogun in Japan.
The states that existed during the end of this period were: Chu, Qin, Han, Wei, Yuan, Chao, Chi.