With the collapse of the Shang dynasty in 1046 BCE its successors, the Zhou, began a reign that would last nearly eight centuries. That statement requires immediate modiﬁ cation, however, because for most of that period the Zhou kings had symbolic status but little power. Increasingly, as time went on, they were treated by the rulers of the quasi-independent states that made up the Zhou realm as being politically irrelevant. By the time the last Zhou king died without an heir in 256 BCE the royal dynasty was a faint vestige of its former self. Hardly anyone noticed that it was gone.