The Chou period is sometimes referred to as feudal, but whether one has the Western Chou or the Eastern Chou in mind, the designation is not applicable. To be sure, the Chou king parceled out people and pieces of territory to real and fictive family members for them to govern, but at that point the similarity to Western feudalism ends. Three characteristics of Western feudalism highlight the differences. First, the relationship between a lord and his vassals in the West was a legal one in which the two parties were equals before the law; the notion of a legally binding contract between equals was not present in the Chou period, nor was it to become a feature of later Chinese laws. Second, at the base of the pyramid of Western feudalism was the mounted knight; above him was a lord who might be at the same time lord over that knight but vassal to a higher lord. The process of subinfeudation by which this vassalic pyramid was built, although not totally unknown in China at this time, was not common. The Chou king himself created most of the small states. The leaders of those states owed family loyalty, not a legally defined obligation, to the king, not to some intermediate lord. Third, the primary function of the Western knight was to fight for his lord; in Chou China there were simply no knights. Hence, the most fundamental building block of European feudalism is missing in China. Indeed, in the Western Chou period there was no cavalry.
I'm no expert in the structure of government during the Zhou, so how accurate is this assessment? Specifically, were there subdivisions in the fiefs granted by the Zhou king? For example, did the vassals of the Zhou king grant parcels of their own fief to their retainers? And wasn't there a class of warriors (the shi) who, although they were chariot based aristcratic warriors instead of cavalry based, functioned in the same way knights did? I've also read somewhere that the shi were also granted land, and owed their allegiance to the lord of the fief, similar to the relationship between a knight and his lord. If this was not the case, then what exactly was the role of the shi, and the relationship to his superior? Did he serve the emperor directly?