The Chinese civilization primarily originates in the central plains, where an intensive agricultural economy prevailed and the blood ties didn't collapse even in the civilization of society. Consanguineous organizations melted into state forms, shaping basic patterns for the patriarchal and fief society.
China's early regime had features that were distinctive from that in ancient Greece, the origin of western civilization. In ancient Greece, crisscrossing mountains and rivers led to diverse production and living styles, and the development of navigation and trade increased interpersonal communications, which further led to disintegration of family organizations. When entering the class society, Greece saw a separation among political authorities, financial power and theocracy as well as their alliance to overthrow the unitary clan leadership. Greece also established regime on the basis of a slavery system and implemented citizen politics. The Chinese civilization primarily originates in the central plains, where an intensive agricultural economy prevailed and the blood ties didn't collapse even in the civilization of society. The needs from water control, external wars and other public affairs increasingly strengthened the blood relation-based family organizations that connected the single, separated natural agricultural economies. This further consolidated the rights and positions of clan leaders, who later turned into members of the new ruling class that integrated political power, religious authority, financial and military power as well as theocracy. Consanguineous organizations melted into state forms, shaping basic patterns for the patriarchal and fief society.
The Xia and Shang dynasties saw backward traffic conditions and group inhabitation of people based on blood relations. The clustering tribes were called "Fangguo" (Clan State). The ruling of the country depended more on traditional clans and ties of kinship and the country was ruled on the basis of the relationship of subordination among clans. This kind of relationship was actually a union of Clan States whose influence didn't directly penetrate into the neighboring kingdoms.
Patriarchal and fief systems
In the early Western Zhou Dynasty, Zhougong established ritualism as well as patriarchal and fief systems to beef up the state's rule over neighboring regions. That resulted in further intensified state administrative functions.
The patriarchal system based inheritance of land, property and position on blood relations. The King of Zhou called himself the "son of Heaven." The throne of the Zhou Dynasty would be inherited by the eldest son of the legal wife, who was called "Dazong" of the state. The brothers of the eldest son inherited part of the king's property and were honored as vassals, who were "Xiaozong" of the state but "Dazong" within their own jurisdiction. The same principle would apply to the lower ministers, scholars and ordinary people.
Based on the patriarchal principle, the fief system was designed to enfeoff the royal relatives to cement the rule of Zhou Dynasty. The awarded vassals would be given "both citizens and land"and were supposed to manage local affairs, pay visits and tributes regularly and offer services to fulfill their liability of safeguarding the court. The fief system based on the vassals of the same surname broke the old kin-based state borders, helped establish authority in some rich regions, key strategic areas and military places, resulting in a network from the central government to the local areas. This contributed to the country's stability and pushed the economic and cultural development of peripheral areas. While in neighboring areas, a small number of relatives-in-law, heroic ministers and descendants of nobles were awarded with a view to unifying other tribes and stabilizing political situations.
The Xia, Shang and Western Zhou dynasties, which differentiated political positions based on kin relationships, were class societies with stringent hierarchies. As The Commentary by Zuo on the Spring and Autumn Annals goes, "There are 10 social hierarchies, just as there are different days in life." The king ruled over ministers, who were superior to scholars who were followed by servants at lower levels. Nobles with various privileges were often administrative officials at all levels, constituting the ruling class. The imperial family and nobles owned many slaves who were prisoners or criminals, and could be given away or sold. In addition to being used for hard labor, slaves were also killed as sacrifices to ancestors or buried alive with deceased nobles. More than 500 slaves were offered as sacrifices in a festival during the Shang Dynasty. However, strict patriarchal ties of kinship ensured that ordinary clansmen did not decline as "speaking tools."The ordinary clansmen had their own families and production tools. As the main laborers of the agricultural and handicraft industry, they belonged to the civilian class and undertook services for the court and for nobles.
In order to conquer those outside and oppress those in-side their kingdom, the Shang and Zhou dynasties regarded a powerful army as a major issue. Jails and cruel criminal laws involving execution, burying alive, and cutting off noses and feet were established as important means to maintain the reign of the nobles.
In Xia, Shang and Western Zhou dynasties, both nobles and civilians were living in the social networks weaved by clan or patriarchal ties. In addition to the establishment of the kin and region-integrated patriarchal clan system and the fief system, a series of ritual and musical systems regulating behavior were formulated to "differentiate and rank the nobles and the commoners"and maintain hierarchy and social order.
In the Western Zhou Dynasty, offering sacrifice to ancestors had equal importance with wars, and was an important rite to safeguard the patriarchal clan system and enhance national integration. Guided by the idea of "destiny is conditional and favors those with virtues," the Zhou abandoned the Shang's blind belief in ghosts and gods and promoted the morality of respecting ancestors and the thought of "holding moral and caring people in high esteem." That helped enlighten the masses and safeguard the hierarchical system and social orders, showing a certain degree of rationalism.