Spring & Autumn Period

proliferation of new ideas

The Spring Autumn Period

Talking about Chinese business mindset, we’ll have to talk about the chun qiu zhan guo, or the Spring & Autumn Period (770 BC to 476 BC) and the Warring States (475 BC to 256 BC) that followed. 

The period was named after a book The Spring and Autumn Annals associate with Confucius.

While it was a time of choas and turbulence where the various states fought bloody battles for survivals, it was also the golden age of Chinese philosophies, an era described as 'the Contention of the Hundred Schools of Thought (百家争鸣)'.  

Three three schools of thoughts that have enduring influence on the ways Chinese think and behave include:

  1. Confucianism
  2. Taoism
  3. Legalism

A book that has far-reaching impact on strategy planning for businesses was also written during this period. It was The Art of War by Sun Tzu.


Confucianism is based on the Confucius teachings (551–479 BC), which believes that every individual has a prescribed role to play in each social organizations that he is in, from family to a state. The prescribed role leads to prescribed relationships with others. "Let the ruler be a ruler and the subject a subject," he said.

He advocated that leaders, from heads of households to rulers of states, must be virtuous in order to rule properly. Every aspects of life had to be sustained by ethical values.


Taoism is attributed to the legendary sage Lao Tzu (Laozi). In contrast to Confucianism that stresses an individual's social roles and responsibilities, Taoism seeks adjustment and adaptation of oneself to the rhythm of the natural.

While it may sound contradicting to the rigidity of Confucianism, it reflects the other side of the coin -- the softer side of the mindset.

It is equally important for understanding how the Chinese think and behave.


Legalism was baed on the doctrines of Han Feizi and Li Si. It maintains that human nature is incorrigibly selfish. The only way to preserve social order is to impose discipline and see to a strict enforcement of laws.

The Art of War

As far as management thinking is concerned, one of the most notable books written during this period was The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

It was originally a book of military strategy, but business communities of both East and West have found wonderful insights in it on business strategic management.

Read more about the Chinese history: The First Emperor of China.

Read more about the Chinese culture.

Read more about Chinese Business Mindset.

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