Although historians do not agree on the exact starting time, the Zhou dynasty in China lasted approximately from 1046 to 221 B.C. and is the longest dynasty in the history of the nation. It is also called the Chou dynasty. Under this dynasty, most of China operated under one government for the first time.
The idea of "the Mandate of Heaven" came about during this dynasty. The mandate stipulated that emperors rule by heaven's allowance, there is only one emperor at a time, an emperor must be virtuous in order to rule, and a dynasty does not have the right to last forever. This mandate gave the people the right to overthrow an emperor they did not believe to be virtuous. King Wen founded the Zhou dynasty, which ruled in the latter years of the Chinese Bronze Age, though his son, King Wu, was in power before the Shang Dynasty actually ended. The utilization of iron increased greatly in this time, and the Chinese preceded the Europeans in the widespread use of the metal. Confucius lived during the Zhou dynasty, and Taoism was established as a religion. Agriculture developed greatly in these years so hunting was no longer necessary for acquiring food. By the waning years of the dynasty, the empire had divided into three groups known as the Wei, Han and Zhao. The Qin dynasty succeeded it.