Mandate of Heaven
By: Yasira Smith and Collin Wallace
The Zhou overthrew the Shang and setup their own dynasty in 1027 BCE. They explained their actions by claiming the Mandate of Heaven, or divine right of rule. A dynasty would remain in power only as long as it was providing good government. When a dynasty went into decline, and began to abuse its power, it was said to lose the Mandate of Heaven, or the favor of the gods. A strong leader would usually emerge to claim the Mandate, and establish a new dynasty.
The Mandate of Heaven is what the people of the Zhou Dynasty believed gave their rulers the right to be king or emperor. It meant that the gods had blessed that person with the right to rule. A ruler had to be well behaved to keep the Mandate of Heaven. When a ruler or dynasty lost power, this meant that they must also have lost the Mandate of Heaven. The Zhou Dynasty is the longest ruling dynasty in the history of China, the Zhou Dynasty first used the Mandate of Heaven to justify their rule. Much of the land was ruled by feudal lords who were relatives of the Zhou family.
Why is The Mandate of Heaven important?
The Mandate of Heaven is important because it gives a possible ruler automatic acceptance by Heaven, an important cultural aspect in the Chinese culture. This way a possible ruler is accepted by Heaven and then by the people. Losing the Mandate of Heaven causes the ruler to loose power, in various ways [revolts due to natural disasters, economic recessions or "signs" that are interpreted as messages from Heaven saying that the ruler should not rule anymore].
How did it end?
The Zhou kingdom had been divided into several small territories, some of which evolved into powerful states that challenged the Zhou ruler. In 403 BC civil war broke out, beginning the period of the Warring States. Also more powerful weapons, made from iron formed. Eventually one of the warring states ( the Qin) took control, creating the new dynasty.