General Introduction to Qin Dynasty

Qin dynasty Qin Dynasty was the first unified, multi-national and power-centralized state in the Chinese history. It lasted from 221 BC to 207 BC. Although surviving only 15 years, the dynasty held an important role in Chinese history and it exerted great influence on the following dynasties. Only two emperors, Yingzheng - Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor in the Chinese history, and Emperor Hu Hai ever ruled the state, which was finally overthrown by the people's uprising.

 

was the ruling Chinese dynasty between 221 and 206 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The Qin's strength had been consolidated by Lord Shang Yang during the Warring States Period, in the 4th century BC. In the early third century BC, the Qin accomplished a series of swift conquests; the state subjugated the Chu, remnants of the Zhou Dynasty, and various other states to gain undisputed control of China.

 

During its reign over China, the Qin Dynasty enjoyed increased trade, 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. The Qin Dynasty also introduced several reforms; weights and measures were standardized, use of currency started, 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 incident, which has been criticised 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.

 

Origins and Early Development of Xia Dynasty

Feizi, a descendant of the ancient political advisor Gao Yao, was granted rule over Qin City.[note 2] During the rule of King Xiao of Zhou, the eighth king of the Zhou Dynasty, this area became known as the state of Qin. In 897 BC, under the regency of Gonghe, the area became a dependency allotted for the purpose of raising and breeding horses. One of Feizi's descendants, Duke Zhuang, became favoured by King Ping of Zhou, the thirteenth king in that line. As a reward, Zhuang's son, Duke Xiang, was sent eastward as the leader of a war expedition, where he formally established the Qin.

 

Political History

During the late Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC), the state of Qin was in its full development. When Emperor Yingzheng was in his reign, he defeated the other six states (Han, Zhao, Wei, Yan, Chu and Qi), from 230 BC to 221 BC. So ending the chaos caused by wars among vassals that had lasted over 500 years. He established a unified and centralized country and declared Xianyang, in Shaanxi Province, the capital city of the Qin. A series of effective measures has been taken during the reign of Yingzheng. The Emperor contributed much to the development of his country. However, during the late period of his reign, he was cruel and oppressive to his people, and caused dissatisfaction. After he died, Hu Hai succeeded him. However, he was so fatuous that caused the uprising led by peasants, Chen Sheng and Wu Guang. Later the insurgency was led by Xiang Yu and Liu Bang. In 207 BC, Xiang Yu's army defeated the Army of Qin and Liu Bang swept into the capital which finally ended the Qin Dynasty.

Conquest of other states

During the Warring States Period preceding the Qin Dynasty, the major states vying for dominance were Yan, Zhao, Qis of these states fancied themselves kings, rather than the titles of lower nobility they had previously held, 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 against the state of Zhao due to the fact that the majority of their army was then defending against the Qi. The aggressive statesman Fan Sui, however, soon came to power as prime minister even as the problem of the succession was resolved, and he began an expansionist policy, which had originated in Jin and Qi, which prompted the Qin to attempt to conquer the other states.

Dominion of China

When the conquests were complete in 221 BC, the leader of the Qin, King Zheng, who had first assumed the throne of the Qin state at age 13, became the effective ruler of China. He assumed his position as king with the abdication of his prime minister, Liu Buwei. He took on the name Qin Shihuang Di, meaning "First Emperor of the Qin". 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. 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 to the southwest. The Qin army was unfamiliar with the jungle terrain, and was defeated by the southern tribes' guerrilla warfare 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, and took the provinces of Fuzhou and Guilin. They struck as far south as Hanoi. After these victories in the south Qin Shi Huang moved over 100,000 prisoners and exiles to the newly conquered area to colonize them. In terms of extending the boundaries of his Dynasty, the First Emperor was extremely successful in the south.

 

Fall of Qin dynasty

Three assassination attempts were made on Qin Shihuang's life, leading him to be 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 of immortality from Daoist magicians, who claimed the elixir was stuck on an island guarded by a sea monster. The chief eunuch, Zhao Gao, and the prime minister, Li Si, hid the news of his death upon their return until they were able to alter his will to place the dead emperor's most pliable son, Huhai, on the throne, who took the name of Qin Er Shi. They believed that they would be able to manipulate him to their own means, 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, a nephew of Qin Er Shi's, ascended the throne, and immediately executed Zhao Gao. Ziying, seeing that increasing unrest was growing among the people 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 in 207 BCE and surrendered shortly after; he was executed by the Chu leader Xiang Yu. The Qin capital was destroyed the next year, and this is considered by Derk Bodde, as well as other historians, to be the end of the Qin empire. Liu Bang then betrayed and defeated Xiang Yu, declaring himself Emperor Gaozu of the new Han Dynasty. Despite the short duration of the Qin Dynasty, it was very influential on the structure of future dynasties.