The Zhou Dynasty, also spelled "Chou," was the longest dynasty in the history of China. Though exact dates are unknown, scholars and archaeologists place the Zhou Dynasty reign from about 1046 B.C. to 256 B.C.
The Zhou Dynasty followed the Shang Dynasty, which was the first era of Chinese history to be documented, due to the invention of the Chinese writing system during that time. Non-Chinese invaders and rebellious Chinese lords banded together in 771 B.C. and sacked the royal court and the capitol, leading to the establishment of a new capitol city in the east. Historians refer to the period prior to 771 B.C. as West Zhou and the period afterward as East Zhou. Due to the disintegration of the royal blood lines, the court lost its power, which led to the Warring States Period at the end of the Zhou Dynasty.