During the pre-Zhou era, the Zhou people undertook several migrations before finally settling at Zhouyuan and prospering to become one of the most important fang states in the west during the late Shang dynasty. King Wu of Zhou overthrew the Shang dynasty (circa 1046 B.C.E.) and established the Zhou dynasty. During the early Western Zhou, the Zhou kings expanded their territory and established structured systems. Beyond the middle Western Zhou, the unambiguous presentation of the feudal and patriarchal systems in the sumptuary system of ding arrays and overall artistic style confirmed the establishment of a unique Zhou culture. Years later, the Quanrong entered Haojing (circa 771 B.C.E.) and the Zhou were forced to abandon the "Zong Zhou" heartland. The Zhou moved their capital to Chengzhou (near what is now Luoyang of Henan Province) and established the Eastern Zhou dynasty. The Western Zhou dynasty had succumbed to a potent mix of internal strife and external invasion.
Zhouyuan oracle bones with inscriptions such as "Yu Zhou", "Wang Ji", and "Wen Wang" confirmed the accuracy of ancient histories, which recorded that during the pre-Zhou era, the ancestor, Gugongdanfu settled at Qishan, and was succeeded by King Ji and then King Wen. Engravings upon bronzes affirmed that after King Wu overthrew the Shang, King Cheng established a new city in the east, Chengzhou, establishing another administrative center for the dynasty.
The Zhou were a conscientious people careful in meting out punishment. With an orderly ceremonial system and strict observance of law in the feudal states, their achievements even attracted the neighboring foreign tribes to emulate. Figurines of ethnic tribespeople in various styles of dress have been unearthed at archaeological sites, some of which has clear imitations of Zhou ceremonial artifacts. Such was the cohesive power of Zhou culture.
During the late Western Zhou, political and economical changes led to conflicts between the Zhou King and his nobles, resulting in the exile of King Li. Power fell into the hands of the nobles until the restoration of King Xuan. Thus King Li does not enjoy a favorable opinion in history. Three bronzes commissioned by King Li are currently known, including the bronze zhong bell of Zong Zhou in the Museum's collection, as well as the bronze zhong bell of Hu and the bronze gui food vessel of Hu in this exhibition. The bronzes are elegant and exquisite, with a distinct air of royalty. The engravings comprise ritual verses for the worship of heaven, earth, and ancestors, attesting to the care in which the Zhou kings adhered to the ceremonial system.
Skirmishes between the Zhou and the northwestern tribes were frequent during the late Western Zhou, such as the repelling of the Guifang described in the engraving of the bronze ding cauldron of Shi Tong. However, the heartland of Zong Zhou was bereft of natural barriers. By the time of King You, political instability provided an opening for the Quanrong to overrun the royal domain of Guanzhong, leading to the fall of Zong Zhou.