Timeline of Sun Tzu's Era

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The following timeline shows the major political and military events of the "Spring and Autumn" period of China during which Sun Tzu lived before the unification of the Chinese empire under the first Chinese (Qin) emperor. We provide it to illustrate the dynamic environment of the period that led to the writing of The Art of War. The map shown is China at about  about 500 BC.

  • 722 BC Beginning of Spring and Autumn period .
  • 685-643 Rule of Duke Huan of Qi (Chi), first hegemon. Main advisor is Guag Zhong, who wrote the early philosophical treatise Guanzi. Invented more impersonal state institutions. State monopoly of iron and salt. Taxation of territories to support central army.
  • 650 (approx.) Some Chinese states start minting coins. (Chin did not start using coins until the 4th century. Not until the 5th century did gold start being used as money.)
  • 656 Duke Huan invades Chu.
  • 655 Jin (Tzin) conquers small state of Guo and Yu (related ruling houses).
  • 651 First union of central kingdoms against Chu under new hegemon of Duke Huan.
  • 641 State of Song defeats state of Zeng and puts Zeng ruler to death as sacrifice to ancestors.
  • 636 A noble named Chonger succeeds Jin (Tzin) as Duke Wen (Wen-Kung).
  • 632 Duke Wen inflicts massive defeat on Chu at battle of Chengpu and is named second hegemon of Zhou. Starts period of Jin (Tzin) dominance.
  • 598 Battle of Pi, Chu defeats Jin (Tzin). Ch'i attacks Jin after, but loses and recognizes Jin's dominance.
  • 594 Lu institutes first tax based upon amount of land.
  • 567 Battle of Yenling, last of three great battles between Jin (Tzin) and Ch'u. Jin wins.
  • 552 First time rank is bestowed on basis of battle by ruler of Qi.
  • 551 Birth of Confucius.
  • 546 Sung (small state between Chu and Tzin) calls delegates of eleven states to capital in Shangch'iu to sign nonaggression pact, creating peace that lasts for 40 years.
  • 544 Sun Tzu (Sun Wu) is born.
  • 514 Beginning of rule of King Helu of Wu, who employed Sun Tzu.
  • 510 Approximate date Sun Tzu created The Art of War text and was hired by Wu.
  • 506 Peace between major states broken by Wu, who was not a signatory of the pact of Shangch'iu.
  • 505-502 Dominance of Yang Hu in state of Lu.
  • 500 Many northern states start building walls against northern barbarians (start of the Great Wall).
  • 496 Death of King Helu and possibly Sun Tzu.
  • 490 Fan Li, famous merchant and advisor to Yueh, amasses huge fortune in 19 years.
  • 485 Wu Zixu, famous counselor to king of Wu, Guajian, ordered to commit suicide. Predicts fall of Wu.
  • 482 Wu becomes most powerful state in China.
  • 481 Chen Chengzi kills Duke of Qi (Chi). From this time, Chen dominates Qi (Chi). Grandson later usurps throne. Sometimes considered start of Warring States period.
  • 479 Death of Confucius.
  • 472 Destruction of Wu by Yue.
  • 470 Powerful merchant Tzu Kung (former student of Confucius) "saved Lu, deranged Chi, defeated Wu, strengthened Tzin, and raised Yeuh."
  • 464 Last year covered by the Zuo Zhuan, or Spring and Autumn Annals.