The Eastern Chou period refers to the 550 years between the transfer of the capital of the Chou royal house to Lo-yang in 771 B.C. and the unification of China by the First Emperor of Ch'in in 221 B.C. The Eastern Chou is further divided into the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period at around 450 B.C. By the Eastern Chou period, the Western Chou feudal system, under which the lords of the various states recognized the suzerainty of the Chou king, was in disintegration, and the regional lords contended with each other to increase their domains and gain hegemony. The Chou ritual system that had symbolized and perpetuated the feudal hierarchy gradually eroded, and from the great lords of states down to lesser officials, many no longer observed the Chou rituals and roles appropriate to their positions─a situation lamented in traditional historiography as the "collapse of propriety and music."
From 1935 to 1937, the Institute carried out a series of excavations in Honan Province at Shan-piao-chen, in Chi-hsien, and Liu-li-ko, in Hui-hsien, uncovering a number of undisturbed large tombs dating to the time of the great social and political changes of the Eastern Chou, particularly to the time period between the Middle Spring and Autumn period and the Early Warring States period (late seventh—late fifth century B.C.). Excavations at Shan-piao-chen uncovered one large-scale tomb, seven small tombs, and one horse-and-chariot pit. Fifty Eastern Chou burials were excavated at Liu-li-ko.
In addition to tombs excavated at Liu-li-ko and Shan-piao-chen, other large-scale Eastern Chou tombs have also been unearthed in Honan, Shansi, Anhui, and Hupei provinces. In their ostentation and extravagance, these tombs reflect, perhaps, the "collapse of propriety and music" and the new pursuit of luxury in the lives of the ruling class. They also, however, fully reveal the great degree of sophistication in craftsmanship and developments in the arts at this time. Just as the Hundred Schools of thought contended in the philosophical writings of the Warring States period, so too members of the ruling class in the Eastern Chou contended with one another to display the artistic achievements of their states in their tombs.