Qin Dynasty
Overview
 
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty
Dynasties in Chinese history
The following is a chronology of the dynasties in Chinese history.Chinese history is not as neat as is often described and it was rare for one dynasty to change peacefully into the next. Dynasties were often established before the overthrow of an existing regime, or continued for a time after they...

 of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state
Qin (state)
The State of Qin was a Chinese feudal state that existed during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods of Chinese history...

 derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist
Legalism
Legalism may refer to:In philosophy:* Legalism , Chinese political philosophy based on the idea that a highly efficient and powerful government is the key to social order....

 reforms of Shang Yang
Shang Yang
Shang Yang was an important statesman of the State of Qin during the Warring States Period of Chinese history. Born Wei Yang in the State of Wei, with the support of Duke Xiao of Qin Yang enacted numerous reforms in Qin...

 in the 4th century BC, during the Warring States Period
Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

. In the mid and late third century BC, the Qin accomplished a series of swift conquests, first ending the powerless Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

, and eventually destroying the remaining six states of the major states
Seven Warring States
The Seven Warring States or Seven Kingdoms refers to the seven warring states in China during the Warring States period of Chinese history...

 to gain control over the whole of China, resulting in an unified China.

During its reign over China, the Qin Dynasty achieved increased trade, improved agriculture, and military security.
Encyclopedia
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty
Dynasties in Chinese history
The following is a chronology of the dynasties in Chinese history.Chinese history is not as neat as is often described and it was rare for one dynasty to change peacefully into the next. Dynasties were often established before the overthrow of an existing regime, or continued for a time after they...

 of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state
Qin (state)
The State of Qin was a Chinese feudal state that existed during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods of Chinese history...

 derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist
Legalism
Legalism may refer to:In philosophy:* Legalism , Chinese political philosophy based on the idea that a highly efficient and powerful government is the key to social order....

 reforms of Shang Yang
Shang Yang
Shang Yang was an important statesman of the State of Qin during the Warring States Period of Chinese history. Born Wei Yang in the State of Wei, with the support of Duke Xiao of Qin Yang enacted numerous reforms in Qin...

 in the 4th century BC, during the Warring States Period
Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

. In the mid and late third century BC, the Qin accomplished a series of swift conquests, first ending the powerless Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

, and eventually destroying the remaining six states of the major states
Seven Warring States
The Seven Warring States or Seven Kingdoms refers to the seven warring states in China during the Warring States period of Chinese history...

 to gain control over the whole of China, resulting in an unified China.

During its reign over China, the Qin Dynasty achieved increased trade, improved agriculture, and military security. This was due to the abolition of landowning lords, to whom peasants had formerly held allegiance. The central government now had direct control of the masses, giving it access to a much larger workforce. This allowed for the construction of ambitious projects, such as a wall on the northern border, now known as the Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups...

. The Qin Dynasty also introduced several reforms: currency, weights and measures were standardized, and a better system of writing was established. An attempt to purge all traces of the old dynasties led to the infamous burning of books and burying of scholars
Burning of books and burying of scholars
Burning of the books and burying of the scholars is a phrase that refers to a policy and a sequence of events in the Qin Dynasty of Ancient China, between the period of 213 and 206 BC. During these events, the Hundred Schools of Thought were pruned; legalism survived...

 incident, which has been criticized greatly by subsequent scholars. The Qin's military was also revolutionary in that it used the most recently developed weaponry, transportation, and tactics, though the government was heavy-handed and bureaucratic.

Despite its military strength, the Qin Dynasty did not last long. When the first emperor died in 210 BC, his son was placed on the throne by two of the previous emperor's advisers, in an attempt to influence and control the administration of the entire dynasty through him. The advisors squabbled among themselves, however, which resulted in both their deaths and that of the second Qin emperor. Popular revolt broke out a few years later, and the weakened empire soon fell to a Chu
Chu (state)
The State of Chu was a Zhou Dynasty vassal state in present-day central and southern China during the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States Period . Its ruling house had the surname Nai , and clan name Yan , later evolved to surname Mi , and clan name Xiong...

 lieutenant, who went on to found the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

.The first emperor of the Qin had boasted that the dynasty would last 10,000 generations; it lasted only about 15 years. (Morton 1995, p. 49) Despite its rapid end, the Qin Dynasty influenced future Chinese empires, particularly the Han, and the European name for China is thought to be derived from it.

Origins and early development

Feizi
Feizi
Feizi was a Zhou Dynasty Chinese royal horse trainer and breeder. King Xiao of Zhou rewarded him with him the surname of Ying and a fief in the city of Qin , which later became the state of Qin, whose rulers revered him as an ancestor, known as Qin Ying.----...

, a descendant of the ancient political advisor Gao Yao
Gao Yao (Xia Dynasty)
Gao Yao was a political advisor of the Yu the Great in China during the Xia Dynasty. His son was Bo Yi .He is cited admonishingly saying to his king: "[The] Heaven can see and hear, and does so through the eyes and ears of the people; Heaven rewards the virtuous and punishes the wicked, and does...

, was granted rule over Qin City.The modern city of Tianshui
Tianshui
Tianshui is the second largest city in Gansu province in northwest China. Its population is approximately 3,500,000.Tianshui lies along the route of the ancient Northern Silk Road at the Wei River, through which much of trade occurred between China and the west...

 stands where this city once was.
During the rule of King Xiao of Zhou
King Xiao of Zhou
King Xiao of Zhou or King Hsiao of Chou was the eighth sovereign of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. Estimated dates of his reign are 891–886 BC or 872–866 BC ....

, the eighth king of the Zhou Dynasty, this area became known as the state of Qin. In 897 BC, under the regency of Gonghe
Gonghe
The Gonghe Regency ruled China from 841 BC to 828 BC after King Li of Zhou was exiled by his nobles....

, the area became a dependency allotted for the purpose of raising and breeding horses. One of Feizi's descendants, Duke Zhuang
Duke Zhuang of Zheng
Duke Zhuang of Zheng was the third ruler of the State of Zheng during the Spring and Autumn Period in ancient China. His ancestral name is Ji,given name is Wusheng , which means "a difficult birth". In 743 BC, he became the duke of Zheng, and later defeated his brother Gongshu Duan, who had led a...

, became favoured by King Ping of Zhou
King Ping of Zhou
King Ping of Zhou , also referred to as Crown Prince Yijiu or King P'ing of Chou was the thirteenth sovereign of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty and the first of Eastern Zhou Dynasty...

, the thirteenth king in that line. As a reward, Zhuang's son, Duke Xiang, was sent eastward as the leader of a war expedition, during which he formally established the Qin.

Qin state first sent a military expedition into central China in 672 BC, though it did not engage in any serious incursions due to the threat from neighbouring tribesmen. By the dawn of the fourth century BC, however, the neighbouring tribes had all been either subdued or conquered, and the stage was set for the rise of Qin expansionism.

Growth of power

Lord Shang Yang
Shang Yang
Shang Yang was an important statesman of the State of Qin during the Warring States Period of Chinese history. Born Wei Yang in the State of Wei, with the support of Duke Xiao of Qin Yang enacted numerous reforms in Qin...

, a Qin statesman, introduced a number of militarily advantageous reforms from 361 BC until his death in 338 BC, and also helped construct the Qin capital, Xianyang
Xianyang
Xianyang is a former capital of China in Shaanxi province, on the Wei River, a few kilometers upstream from Xi'an. It has an area of...

. This latter accomplishment commenced in the mid-fourth century BC; the resulting city greatly resembled the capitals of other Warring States.

Of Shang Yang's reforms, the most notable one was advocating the philosophy of Legalism
Legalism (Chinese philosophy)
In Chinese history, Legalism was one of the main philosophic currents during the Warring States Period, although the term itself was invented in the Han Dynasty and thus does not refer to an organized 'school' of thought....

, which encouraged practical and ruthless warfare. In contrast, during the Zhou Dynasty and the ensuing Warring States Period, the prevalent philosophy had dictated war as a gentleman's activity; military commanders were instructed to respect what they perceived to be Heaven's laws in battle. For example, during the Warring States Period, Duke Xiang of Song
Duke Xiang of Song
Duke Xiang of Song was the leader in the state of Song in the Spring and Autumn Period. His name was Zifu and he took his throne in 650 BC....

Not to be confused with any Duke of the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 of a later period.
was at war with the state of Chu, and had an opportunity to attack the enemy force, commanded by Zhu, while they were crossing a river. Instead, however, he waited for them to finish crossing, and allowed them to marshal their forces. He was decisively defeated in the ensuing battle, and when, later, his advisors admonished him for such excessive courtesy to the enemy, he retorted, "The sage does not crush the feeble, nor give the order for attack until the enemy have formed their ranks." The Qin disregarded this military tradition, taking advantage of their enemy's weaknesses. A nobleman in the state of Wei
Wei (state)
The State of Wei was a Zhou Dynasty vassal state during the Warring States Period of Chinese history. Its territory lay between the states of Qin and Qi and included parts of modern day Henan, Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong...

 accused the Qin state of being "avaricious, perverse, eager for profit, and without sincerity. It knows nothing about etiquette, proper relationships, and virtuous conduct, and if there be an opportunity for material gain, it will disregard its relatives as if they were animals." It was this Legalist thought combined with strong leadership from long-lived rulers, openness to employ talented men from other states, and little internal opposition that gave the Qin such a strong political base.
Another advantage of the Qin was that they had a large, efficient armyThis was due to the large workforce available as a result of their landowning policies (implemented by Shang Yang), described in the "Culture and society" section. and capable generals. They utilised the newest developments in weaponry and transportation as well, which many of their enemies lacked. These latter developments allowed greater mobility over several different terrain typesThese, along with the weaponry, are elaborated upon in the section describing the Qin's military and government. which were most common in many regions of China. Thus, in both ideology and practice, the Qin were militarily superior.

Finally, the Qin empire had a geographical advantage due to its fertility and strategic situation, protected by mountains that made the state a natural stronghold.This was the heart of the Guanzhong
Guanzhong
Guanzhong , or Guanzhong Plain, is a historical region of China corresponding to the lower valley of the Wei River. It is called Guanzhong or 'within the passes' to distinguish it from 'Guandong' or 'east of the pass', that is, the North China Plain. The North China Plain is bordered on the west by...

 region, as opposed to the region of the Yangtze River
Yangtze River
The Yangtze, Yangzi or Cháng Jiāng is the longest river in Asia, and the third-longest in the world. It flows for from the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai eastward across southwest, central and eastern China before emptying into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It is also one of the...

 drainage basin, known as Guandong. The warlike nature of the Qin in Guanzhong evolved into a Han Dynasty adage: "Guanzhong produces generals, while Guandong produces ministers." (Lewis 2007, p. 17)
Its expanded agricultural output helped sustain Qin's large army with food and natural resources; the Wei River
Wei River
The Wei River is a major river in west-central China's Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. It is the largest tributary of the Yellow River and very important in the early development of Chinese civilization....

 canal built in 246 BC was particularly significant in this respect.

Conquest of other states

During the Warring States Period preceding the Qin Dynasty, the major states vying for dominance were Yan
Yan (state)
Yān was a state during the Western Zhou, Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods of Chinese history. Its capital was Ji...

, Zhao
Zhao (state)
Zhao was a significant Chinese state during the Warring States Period, along with six others...

, Qi
Qi (state)
Qi was a powerful state during the Spring and Autumn Period and Period of the Warring States in ancient China. Its capital was Linzi, now part of the modern day city of Zibo in Shandong Province....

, Chu
Chu (state)
The State of Chu was a Zhou Dynasty vassal state in present-day central and southern China during the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States Period . Its ruling house had the surname Nai , and clan name Yan , later evolved to surname Mi , and clan name Xiong...

, Han
Han (state)
Han was a kingdom during the Warring States Period in China, located in modern-day Shanxi and Henan. Not to be confused with South Korea which shares the same character....

, Wei
Wei (state)
The State of Wei was a Zhou Dynasty vassal state during the Warring States Period of Chinese history. Its territory lay between the states of Qin and Qi and included parts of modern day Henan, Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong...

 and Qin. The rulers of these states styled themselves as kings, rather than using the titles of lower nobility they had previously held. However, none elevated himself to believe that he had the "Mandate of Heaven," as the Zhou emperors had claimed, nor that he had the right to offer sacrifices—they left this to the Zhou rulers.

Before their conquest in the fourth and third centuries BC, the Qin suffered several setbacks. Shang Yang was executed in 338 BC due to a grudge by the leader King Wu over a student who had been executed because of Shang Yang's insistence that law applied even to nobility. There was also internal strife over the Qin succession in 307 BC, which decentralised Qin authority somewhat. Qin was defeated by an alliance of the other states in 295 BC, and shortly after suffered another defeat by the state of Zhao, because the majority of their army was then defending against the Qi. The aggressive statesman Fan Sui (范雎), however, soon came to power as prime minister even as the problem of the succession was resolved, and he began an expansionist policy that had originated in Jin and Qi, which prompted the Qin to attempt to conquer the other states.

The Qin were swift in their assault on the other states. They first attacked the Han, directly east, and took the city of Yangdi in 230 BC. They then struck northward; the state of Zhao surrendered in 228 BC, and the northernmost state of Yan followed, falling in 226 BC. Next, Qin armies launched assaults to the east, and later the south as well; they took the Wei city of Daliang
Kaifeng
Kaifeng , known previously by several names , is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, Central China. Nearly 5 million people live in the metropolitan area...

 (now called Kaifeng) in 225 BC and forced the Chu to surrender by 223 BC. Lastly, they deposed the Zhou Dynasty's remnants in Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

 and conquered the Qi, taking the city of Linzi
Linzi
Linzi was the capital of Qi from 859 BC to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period in China. The ruins of the city lie in modern day Linzi District, Shandong, China. The city was one of the largest and richest in China during the Spring and Autumn Period...

 in 221 BCE.

Dominion of China

When the conquests were complete in 221 BC, King ZhengHis personal name was Yíng Zhèng.who had first assumed the throne of the Qin state at age 13became the effective ruler of China. He solidified his position as sole ruler with the abdication of his prime minister, Lu Buwei
Lü Buwei
Lü Buwei , Lord Wenxin 文信侯 was a Warring States Period merchant who schemed his way into governing the State of Qin. He served as Chancellor of China for King Zhuangxiang of Qin, and as regent and Chancellor for the king's young son Zheng, who became Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China...

. He then combined the titles of the earlier Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors into his new name: Shi Huangdi or "First Emperor".As the modern Chinese habit is to include dynasty names as a surname, this became Qin Shihuangdi. Later, this was abridged to Qin Shihuang, because it is uncommon for Chinese names to have four characters. The newly declared emperor ordered all weapons not in the possession of the Qin to be confiscated and melted down. The resulting metal was sufficient to build twelve large ornamental statues at the Qin's newly declared capital, Xianyang
Xianyang
Xianyang is a former capital of China in Shaanxi province, on the Wei River, a few kilometers upstream from Xi'an. It has an area of...

.

In 214 BC Qin Shihuang secured his boundaries to the north with a fraction (100,000 men) of his large army, and sent the majority (500,000 men) south to seize still more land. Prior to the events leading to Qin dominance over China, they had gained possession of much of Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

 to the southwest. The Qin army was unfamiliar with the jungle terrain, and it was defeated by the southern tribes' guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 tactics with over 100,000 men lost. However, in the defeat Qin was successful in building a canal to the south, which they used heavily for supplying and reinforcing their troops during their second attack to the south. Building on these gains, the Qin armies conquered the coastal lands surrounding Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

,Formerly known as Canton. and took the provinces of Fuzhou
Fuzhou
Fuzhou is the capital and one of the largest cities in Fujian Province, People's Republic of China. Along with the many counties of Ningde, those of Fuzhou are considered to constitute the Mindong linguistic and cultural area....

 and Guilin
Guilin
Guilin is a prefecture-level city in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of far southern China, sitting on the west bank of the Li River. Its name means "forest of Sweet Osmanthus", owing to the large number of fragrant Sweet Osmanthus trees located in the city...

. They struck as far south as Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

. After these victories in the south, Qin Shihuang moved over 100,000 prisoners and exiles to colonize the newly conquered area. In terms of extending the boundaries of his empire, the First Emperor was extremely successful in the south.

However, while the empire at times was extended to the north, the Qin could rarely hold on to the land for long. The tribes of these locations, collectively called the Hu
Wu Hu
Wu Hu was a Chinese term for the northern non-Chinese nomadic tribes which caused the Wu Hu uprising, and established the Sixteen Kingdoms from 304 to 439 AD.-Definition:...

 by the Qin, were free from Chinese rule during the majority of the Dynasty. Prohibited from trading with Qin Dynasty peasants, the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

 tribe living in the Ordos
Ordos Desert
The Ordos Desert is a desert and steppe region lying on a plateau in the south of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China . The soil of the Ordos is a mixture of clay and sand and, as a result, is poorly suited for agriculture. It extends over an area of...

 region in northwest China often raided them instead, prompting the Qin to retaliate. After several campaigns and much effort, the region was conquered and agriculture was established; the peasants, however, were discontented and later revolted. The succeeding Han Dynasty also expanded into the Ordos due to overpopulation, but depleted their resources in the process. Owen Lattimore
Owen Lattimore
Owen Lattimore was an American author, educator, and influential scholar of Central Asia, especially Mongolia. In the 1930s he was editor of Pacific Affairs, a journal published by the Institute of Pacific Relations, and then taught at Johns Hopkins University from 1938 to 1963...

 said of both Dynasties' attempts to conquer the Ordos, "conquest and expansion were illusory. There was no kind of success that did not create its own reaction." Indeed, this was true of the dynasty's borders in multiple directions; modern Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

, Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

, Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

, Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in the northern region of the country. Inner Mongolia shares an international border with the countries of Mongolia and the Russian Federation...

, and regions to the southeast were foreign to the Qin, and even areas over which they had military control were culturally distinct.

Fall from power

Three assassination attempts were made on Qin Shihuang's life, leading him to become paranoid and obsessed with immortality. He died in 210 BC, while on a trip to the far eastern reaches of his empire in an attempt to procure an elixir
Elixir
An elixir is a clear, sweet-flavored liquid used for medicinal purposes, to be taken orally and intended to cure one's ills. When used as a pharmaceutical preparation, an elixir contains at least one active ingredient designed to be taken orally....

 of immortality from Taoist
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 magicians, who claimed the elixir was stuck on an island guarded by a sea monster. The chief eunuch
Eunuch
A eunuch is a person born male most commonly castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences...

, Zhao Gao
Zhao Gao
Zhao Gao was the chief eunuch during the Qin Dynasty of China. He played an instrumental role in the downfall of the Qin Dynasty.- Early life :...

, and the prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

, Li Si
Li Si
Li Si was the influential Prime Minister of the feudal state and later of the dynasty of Qin, between 246 BC and 208 BC. A famous Legalist, he was also a notable calligrapher. Li Si served under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, king of Qin and later First Emperor of China—and his son, Qin Er Shi...

, hid the news of his death upon their return until they were able to alter his will to place on the throne the dead emperor's most pliable son, Huhai, who took the name of Qin Er Shi
Qin Er Shi
Qin Er Shi , literally Second Emperor of Qin Dynasty, personal name Huhai, was emperor of the Qin Dynasty in China from 210 BC until 207 BC.-Name:...

. They believed that they would be able to manipulate him to their own ends, and thus effectively control the empire. Qin Er Shi was, indeed, inept and pliable. He executed many ministers and imperial princes, continued massive building projects (one of his most extravagant projects was lacquering the city walls), enlarged the army, increased taxes, and arrested messengers who brought him bad news. As a result, men from all over China revolted, attacking officials, raising armies, and declaring themselves kings of seized territories.

During this time, Li Si and Zhao Gao fell out among themselves, and Li Si was executed. Zhao Gao decided to force Qin Er Shi to commit suicide due to Qin Er Shi's incompetence. Upon this, Ziying
Ziying
Ziying was the last ruler of the Qin Dynasty of China, ruling as King of Qin from mid-October to the beginning of December 207 BC, and being known posthumously as Qin San Shi...

, a nephew of Qin Er Shi, ascended the throne, and immediately executed Zhao Gao. Ziying, seeing that increasing unrest was growing among the peopleThis was largely caused by regional differences which survived despite the Qin's attempt to impose uniformity. and that many local officials had declared themselves kings, attempted to cling to his throne by declaring himself one king among all the others. He was undermined by his ineptitude, however, and popular revolt broke out in 209 BC. When Chu rebels under the lieutenant Liu Bang attacked, a state in such turmoil could not hold for long. Ziying was defeated near the Wei River
Wei River
The Wei River is a major river in west-central China's Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. It is the largest tributary of the Yellow River and very important in the early development of Chinese civilization....

 in 207 BC and surrendered shortly after; he was executed by the Chu leader Xiang Yu
Xiang Yu
Xiang Yu was a prominent military leader and political figure during the late Qin Dynasty. His given name was Ji while his style name was Yu ....

. The Qin capital was destroyed the next year, and this is considered by Derk Bodde
Derk Bodde
Derk Bodde was a prominent 20th century American Sinologist and historian of China. He authored pioneering work in the history of the Chinese legal system....

, as well as other historians, to be the end of the Qin empire.The first emperor of the Qin had boasted that the dynasty would last 10,000 generations; it lasted only about 15 years. (Morton 1995, p. 49) Liu Bang then betrayed and defeated Xiang Yu, declaring himself Emperor GaozuMeaning "High Progenitor". of the new Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

. Despite the short duration of the Qin Dynasty, it was very influential on the structure of future dynasties.

Domestic life

The aristocracy of the Qin were largely similar in their culture and daily life. Regional variations in culture were considered a symbol of the lower classes. This idea stemmed from the Zhou and was seized upon by the Qin, as such variations were seen as contrary to the unification that the government strove to achieve.

Commoners and rural villagers, who made up over 90% of the population, very rarely left the village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s or farmsteads where they were born. Common forms of employment differed by region, though farming was almost universally common. Professions were hereditary; a father's employment was passed to his eldest son after he died. The Lüshi Chunqiu
Lüshi Chunqiu
The Lüshi Chunqiu is an encyclopedic Chinese classic text compiled around 239 BCE under the patronage of the Qin Dynasty Chancellor Lü Buwei...

A text named for its sponsor Lü Buwei
Lü Buwei
Lü Buwei , Lord Wenxin 文信侯 was a Warring States Period merchant who schemed his way into governing the State of Qin. He served as Chancellor of China for King Zhuangxiang of Qin, and as regent and Chancellor for the king's young son Zheng, who became Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China...

; the prime minister of the Qin directly preceding the conquest of the other states.
gave examples of how, when commoners are obsessed with material wealth, instead of the idealism of a man who "makes things serve him", they were "reduced to the service of things".

Peasants were rarely figured in literature during the Qin Dynasty and afterwards; scholars and others of more elite status preferred the excitement of cities and the lure of politics. One notable exception to this was Shen Nong, the so-called "Divine Father", who taught that households should grow their own food. "If in one's prime he does not plow, someone in the world will grow hungry. If in one's prime she does not weave, someone in the world will be cold." The Qin encouraged this; a ritual was performed once every few years that consisted of important government officials taking turns with the plow on a special field, to create a simulation of government interest and activity within agriculture.

Architecture

Warring States-era architecture had several definitive aspects. City walls, used for defense, were made longer, and indeed several secondary walls were also sometimes built to separate the different districts. Verticality in federal structures was emphasised, to create a sense of authority and absolute power. Architectural elements such as high towers, pillar gates, terraces, and high buildings amply conveyed this.

Philosophy and literature

The written language of the Qin was logographic
Logogram
A logogram, or logograph, is a grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme . This stands in contrast to phonograms, which represent phonemes or combinations of phonemes, and determinatives, which mark semantic categories.Logograms are often commonly known also as "ideograms"...

, as that of the Zhou had been. As one of his most influential achievements in life, prime minister Li Si
Li Si
Li Si was the influential Prime Minister of the feudal state and later of the dynasty of Qin, between 246 BC and 208 BC. A famous Legalist, he was also a notable calligrapher. Li Si served under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, king of Qin and later First Emperor of China—and his son, Qin Er Shi...

 standardized the writing system to be of uniform size and shape across the whole country. This would have a unification effect on the Chinese culture for thousands of years. He is also credited with creating the "lesser-seal" (Chinese: 小篆, Pinyin: xiǎozhuàn) style of calligraphy, which serves as a basis for modern Chinese and is still used in cards, posters, and advertising.

During the Warring States Period, the Hundred Schools of Thought
Hundred Schools of Thought
The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished from 770 to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period , an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China...

 comprised many different philosophies proposed by Chinese scholars. In 221 BC, however, the First Emperor conquered all of the states and governed with a single philosophy, Legalism
Legalism (Chinese philosophy)
In Chinese history, Legalism was one of the main philosophic currents during the Warring States Period, although the term itself was invented in the Han Dynasty and thus does not refer to an organized 'school' of thought....

. At least one school of thought, Mohism
Mohism
Mohism or Moism was a Chinese philosophy developed by the followers of Mozi , 470 BC–c.391 BC...

, was eradicated, though the reason is not known. Despite the Qin's state ideology and Mohism being similar in certain regards, it is possible that Mohists were sought and killed by the state's armies due to paramilitary activities.

Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

's school of thought, called Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

, was also influential during the Warring States Period, as well as throughout much of the later Zhou Dynasty and early imperial periods.The term "Confucian" is rather ill-defined in this context—many self-dubbed Confucians in fact rejected tenets of what was known as "the Way of Confucius," and were disorganized, unlike the later Confucians of the Song
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 and Yuan
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

 Dynasties.
This school of thought had a so-called Confucian canon of literature, known as the "six classics": the Odes, Documents, Ritual, Music, Spring and Autumn Annals
Spring and Autumn Annals
The Spring and Autumn Annals is the official chronicle of the State of Lu covering the period from 722 BCE to 481 BCE. It is the earliest surviving Chinese historical text to be arranged on annalistic principles. The text is extremely concise and, if all the commentaries are excluded, about 16,000...

, and Changes, which embodied Chinese literature at the time.
During the Qin Dynasty, Confucianism--along with all other non-Legalist philosophies--was suppressed by the First Emperor; early Han Dynasty emperors did the same. Legalism denounced the feudal system and encouraged severe punishments, particularly when the emperor was disobeyed. Individuals' rights were devalued when they conflicted with the government's or the ruler's wishes, and merchants and scholars were considered unproductive, fit for elimination. One of the more drastic measures employed to accomplish the eradication of the old schools of thought was the infamous burning of books and burying of scholars
Burning of books and burying of scholars
Burning of the books and burying of the scholars is a phrase that refers to a policy and a sequence of events in the Qin Dynasty of Ancient China, between the period of 213 and 206 BC. During these events, the Hundred Schools of Thought were pruned; legalism survived...

 incident, which almost singlehandedly gave the Qin Dynasty a bad reputation among later scholars. The First Emperor, in an attempt to consolidate power, ordered the burning of all books on non-Legalist philosophical viewpoints and intellectual subjects. This decree was passed in 213 BC, and also stipulated that all scholars who refused to submit their books to be burned would be executed by premature burial
Premature burial
Premature burial, also known as live burial, burial alive, or vivisepulture, means to be buried while still alive. Animals or humans may be buried alive accidentally or intentionally...

. Only texts considered productive by Legalists were preserved, most on pragmatic subjects, such as agriculture, divination, and medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

.
However, controversy remains about the “burning of books and burying of scholars”. Nowadays, many Sinologists argue that the “burying of scholars”, as recorded in Grand Historian, slanders the First Emperor and is not true.

Government and military

The Qin government was highly bureaucratic, and was administered by a hierarchy of officials, all serving the First Emperor. The Qin put into practice the teachings of Han Fei
Han Fei
Han Fei was a Chinese philosopher who, along with Li Si, Gongsun Yang, Shen Dao and Shen Buhai, developed the doctrine of the School of Law or Legalism...

, allowing the First Emperor to control all of his territories, including those recently conquered. All aspects of life were standardized, from measurements and language to more practical details, such as the length of chariot axles. Zheng and his advisers also introduced new laws and practices that ended feudalism in China, replacing it with a centralized, bureaucratic government. Under this system, both the military and government thrived, as talented individuals could be more easily identified in the transformed society. Later Chinese dynasties emulated the Qin government for its efficiency, despite its being condemned by Confucian philosophy. Such a system, however, could be manipulated by power-hungry individuals; one example of such an occurrence was documented in the "Records of Officialdom". A commander named Hu ordered his men to attack peasants, in an attempt to increase the number of "bandits" he had killed; his superiors, likely eager to inflate their records as well, allowed this.

Qin Shihuang also improved the military, despite the fact that it had already undergone extensive reforms. The military used the most advanced weaponry of the time. The invention of the sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 during the Warring States Period was a great advance. It was first used mostly in bronze form, but by the third century BC, the Qin were using stronger iron swords. The demand for metal this produced resulted in improved bellows
Metal bellows
Metal bellows are elastic vessels that can be compressed when pressure is applied to the outside of the vessel, or extended under vacuum. When the pressure or vacuum is released, the bellows will return to its original shape .Bellows technology of the 20th and 21st century is centered on metal...

. The crossbow
Crossbow
A crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, often called bolts or quarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.Historically, crossbows played a...

 had been introduced in the fifth century BC and was more powerful and accurate than the composite bow
Composite bow
A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

s used earlier. It could also be rendered ineffective by removing two pins, which prevented enemies from capturing a working crossbow.
The Qin also used improved methods of transportation and tactics. The state of Zhao had first replaced chariot
Chariot
The chariot is a type of horse carriage used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and also built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two wheeled...

s with cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 in 307 BC, but the change was swiftly adopted by the other states because cavalry had greater mobility over the terrain of China.

The First Emperor developed plans to fortify his northern border, to protect against the nomadic Mongols. The result was the construction of the Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups...

,which was built by joining and strengthening the walls made by the feudal lords, which would be expanded and rebuilt multiple times by later dynasties, also in response to threats from the north. Another monument built during Qin Shihuang's rule was the Terracotta army
Terracotta Army
The Terracotta Army or the "Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses", is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China...

, intended to protect the emperor after his death. As opposed to the Great Wall, which is visible from space,The Great Wall is generally not visible to the naked eye, even in low-earth orbit. However, photos taken from the International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

 have been determined to show sections of the wall.
the Terracotta army was inconspicuous due to its underground location, and was not discovered until 1974.

Religion

The dominant religious belief in China during the reign of the Qin, and, in fact, during much of early imperial China, was focused on the shen
Shen (Chinese religion)
Shen is a keyword in Chinese philosophy, Chinese religion, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.-Pronunciation:Shén is the Modern Standard Chinese pronunciation of 神 "spirit; god, deity; spiritual, supernatural; awareness, consciousness etc". Reconstructions of shén in Middle Chinese Shen is a...

(roughly translating to "spirits"), yin ("shadows"), and the realm they were said to live in. The Chinese offered sacrificesSacrifices were always animals; human sacrifice had been abolished in ancient China. in an attempt to contact this other world, which they believed to be parallel to the earthly one. The dead were said to simply have moved from one world to the other. The rituals mentioned, as well as others, served two purposes: to ensure that the dead journeyed and stayed in the other realm, and to receive blessings from the spirit realm.Mystics from the state of Qi, however, saw sacrifices differently—as a way to become immortal.

Religious practices were usually held in local shrines and sacred areas, which contained sacrificial altars. During a sacrifice or other ritual, the senses of all participants and witnesses would be dulled and blurred with smoke, incense, and music. The lead sacrificer would fast
Fasting
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day , or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive,...

 and meditate
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

 before a sacrifice to further blur his senses and increase the likelihood of perceiving otherworldly phenomena. Other participants were similarly prepared, though not as rigorously.

Such blurring of the senses was also a factor in the practice of spirit intermediaries, or mediumship
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

. Practitioners of the art would fall into trances or dance to perform supernatural tasks. These people would often rise to power as a result of their art—Luan Da
Luan Da
Luan Da was a religious figure during the early Han Dynasty from the state of Yue. He professed to know the secret to immortality and be able to communicate with spiritual beings. Possessing the gift of gab and adept at confidence tricks, Luan Da gained the favour of Emperor Wu of Han, also known...

, a Han Dynasty medium, was granted rule over 2,000 households. Noted Han historian Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

 was scornful of such practices, dismissing them as foolish trickery.

Divination
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

—to predict and/or influence the future—was yet another form of religious practice. An ancient practice that was common during the Qin Dynasty was cracking bones or turtle shells to gain knowledge of the future. The forms of divination which sprang up during early imperial China were diverse, though observing natural phenomena was a common method. Comet
Comet
A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

s, eclipse
Eclipse
An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer...

s, and drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

s were considered omens of things to come.

Sovereigns of Qin Dynasty

Posthumous name
Posthumous name
A posthumous name is an honorary name given to royalty, nobles, and sometimes others, in East Asia after the person's death, and is used almost exclusively instead of one's personal name or other official titles during his life...

s / title
Chinese family names and given name
Chinese name
Personal names in Chinese culture follow a number of conventions different from those of personal names in Western cultures. Most noticeably, a Chinese name is written with the family name first and the given name next, therefore "John-Paul Smith" as a Chinese name would be "Smith John-Paul"...

s
Period of Reigns
Convention: "Qin" + posthumous name
Zhaoxiang (昭襄 Zhāoxiāng)
King Zhaoxiang of Qin
King Zhaoxiang of Qin or King Zhao of Qin was the son of King Huiwen and younger brother of King Wu. After the death of Wu in 306 BC, Zhao contended for the crown of Qin with his younger brother. With the support of King Wuling of Zhao, Zhao finally ascended the throne...

Ying Ze (嬴則 qíng zé) or Ying Ji (嬴稷 yíng jì) 306 BC–250 BC
Xiaowen (孝文 Xiàowén)
King Xiaowen of Qin
King Xiaowen of Qin had a very brief reign. Indeed, he only became King of the Qin for less than 1 year, and 3 days after his coronation he died.This gave rise to many theories as to his short reign...

Ying Zhu (嬴柱 yíng zhù) 250 BC
Zhuangxiang (莊襄 Zhuāngxiāng)
King Zhuangxiang of Qin
King Zhuangxiang of Qin , personal name Yiren , later renamed to Zichu , was the ruler of the Qin state during the 3rd century BC in the Warring States Period of Chinese history.-Biography:...

Ying Zichu (嬴子楚 yíng zi chǔ) 249 BC–247 BC
Shi Huangdi (始皇帝 Shǐ Huángdì) Ying Zheng (嬴政 yíng zhèng) 246 BC–210 BC
Er Shi Huangdi
Qin Er Shi
Qin Er Shi , literally Second Emperor of Qin Dynasty, personal name Huhai, was emperor of the Qin Dynasty in China from 210 BC until 207 BC.-Name:...

 (二世皇帝 Èr Shì Huángdì)
Ying Huhai (嬴胡亥 yíng hú hài) 210 BC–207 BC
Ziying was often referred using personal name or
Qin Wang Ziying (秦王子嬰 qín wáng zi yīng)
Did not exist Ying Ziying
Ziying
Ziying was the last ruler of the Qin Dynasty of China, ruling as King of Qin from mid-October to the beginning of December 207 BC, and being known posthumously as Qin San Shi...

 (嬴子嬰 yíng zi yīng)
206 BC

Further reading

  • Bodde, Derk. (1986). "The State and Empire of Ch'in," in The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521243270.
  • Yap, Joseph P. (2009). Wars With The Xiongnu, A Translation from Zizhi tongjian. AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A. ISBN 978-1-4490-0604-4.

External links

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