According to ancient history, China saw the rise and fall of many dynasties, among them was the Qin Dynasty. Of all the dynasties written in history, the Qin dynasty was notably the most important dynasty to have existed. This is because it had the largest impact on China as a whole.
The dynasty was famously known as the first dynasty of a unified country, China. It was also the dynasty that had the first-ever declared emperor of China. This was the first dynasty famed to have unified China for the first time in history.
During the reign of the dynasty, China became a multinational state with centralized political power. There was a standardized unit of measurement, currency, and writing system. Qin dynasty is also known for the building of the famed great wall of China and the Terracotta army. This dynasty is said to have had a large influence on the next dynasties to come.
What Is the Qin Dynasty?
The name Qin is said to be the ancestral name for the modern-day European name China. Some scholars, however, dispute this fact. The dynasty rose from the State of Qin, one of the seven warring states. It was established by Shi Huang, the self-proclaimed first Emperor of China, in 221BC after the defeat of the Zhou dynasty. Under the leadership of Shi Huang, then known as King Zheng of Qin, the dynasty is said to have conquered all the warring seven states. This led to the first-ever recorded unification of China, making the Qin dynasty the first dynasty of a unified state. The Qin dynasty, however, had the shortest reign which ended in 207BC.
The reign of the dynasty was characterized by a centralized government that was highly bureaucratic and followed the philosophical teachings of Legalism by the scholar Feizi. As a result, the regions formed by the first emperor were not ruled over by nobility, rather appointed officials who were dedicated to the task. The hierarchy of these officials who all reported to the first emperor was what formed the government. This allowed the emperor to have control over all of the states. This method of leadership would be later employed by other dynasty rulers.
The dynasty was also characterized by standardizing, to create a more united atmosphere where all the people shared a common idea. All aspects of life were standardized, from the language to the writing system, to the currency. Individual rights were undervalued especially if they went against the government of the emperor. The reign of the dynasty was significant in laying the foundation for many of the developments that came later in China.
Why Is the Qin Dynasty Important?
As mentioned, the Qin dynasty is the most significant of all dynasties recorded in Ancient Chinese history. It was the first dynasty to reign over a united country. This is thanks to King Zheng who conquered all seven states ending the warring states period. He later gave himself the title of Emperor, hence becoming the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. In his reign, he carried out a lot of reforms to solidify the unity.
To begin with, he did away with the Feudal form of governing and instead employed a more bureaucratic form of government, following the Legalism doctrine. He restructured the local counties taking away control from nobility and appointing officials, dedicated to the task to administrate under him. The political power and military affair were all under his control.
He also overcame the cultural barriers of the different states to establish a unified empire by standardizing various aspects of life. To begin with, he standardized the writing system by making Qinzhuan the standard font. He also standardized the units of measurements and weights and choose the round gold coin with a square hole as the common currency across the country.
To promote a singular belief and idea as a country, Qin Shi Huang enforced the Legalism doctrine and discouraged any other schools of thought that went against it. This led to the infamous tale of “the burning of books and burying of scholars”. According to the tale, Qin Shi Huang was said to have burnt many books that went against the philosophical teachings of Legalism. He is also said to have buried about 460 scholars alive for speaking against Legalism.
He also paid a lot of attention to infrastructure. He established improved irrigation systems and built better roads. He was responsible for the building of the Lingqu canal that helped with his expansion towards the south. Under his rule, the greatest attraction of the world, the great wall of China was built. He had the great wall built to defend his kingdom from barbarians and enemies from the north.
Although he was a tyrant ruler, the economy of China thrived under his reign. He contributed to the development that would later be witnessed in China.
What Are the 5 Achievements of The Qin Dynasty?
Being the most significant dynasty in the history of China, the Qin dynasty has many notable achievements from its reign. Among them, the top five are:
The First Dynasty in History to Unify China.
During the Warring States period, the seven states namely, Qin, Yan, Zhao, Wei, Qin, Chu, and Han, were at war over who would dominate over the rest. It was Qin Shi Huang’s (then called King Zhe of Qin) campaign to conquer the six other states that led to China’s first unification. He first started with Han, then Zhao, followed by Yan and then Wei. The final states to be conquered by him were the powerful Qin and Chu. It took him less than 10 years, to put an end to the war that had been going on for over 5 centuries.
Standardized the Writing System.
Before the unification, there was a variation of local character styles that made up the “Six Scripts of China”. This made communication, trade, and taxing difficult in the new unified Qin dynasty. For that reason, the Qin dynasty’s Prime Minister Li Si, in 220BC, set the standardized form of the Small Seal Script originally used by the Qin State, as the standard writing system for all states. The Qinzhuan was set as the standard font. This ensured that the writing system in China was uniform across the whole country. It went a long way in unifying the different Chinese cultures thanks to easier communication.
Established China’s First Meritocratic Administrative System.
In his reign, and with the help of Li Si, Qin Shi Huang got rid of the feudal system of governing that was there initially. He divided the Qin dynasty into 36 prefectures, which were made up of several counties. The counties were in turn divided into several towns which were in turn divided into small rural administrative units. These units were governed by an official who was appointed on merit, unlike in past dynasties that were based on heredity. The centralized government further reinforced the unification of the country. This system would be used later as the basis of China’s administration for over 200 centuries to come.
Engineered the Dujianyang Irrigation System.
During the time of the Qin dynasty, there was the Min river which was the largest tributary of the Yangtze River. The Min river passed through Sichuan province and would annually flood the banks along with it. Due to this, the engineer Li Bing who was the administrator of the Qin State at the time started and oversaw the engineering of the Dujianyang irrigation system under the rule of Qin Shi Huang. The system harnessed the water from the river by dividing and channeling it, leading to the floods making Sichuan a very prosperous agricultural province. This was done in 256BC and the system is still in use even today.
Initiated the building of the Great Wall of China.
As part of the unification process, Qin Shi Huang ordered that the fortifications that separated the different states be brought down. He ordered a great wall, connecting the fortifications along the northern frontier of the empire, be constructed instead. The wall was being built as a defense against, Qin dynasty’s northern enemies, the Xiongnu. This wall was considered the precursor of the Great wall of Chin
How Many Emperors Did the Qin Dynasty Have?
Given that the Qin Dynasty had the shortest reign of all the dynasties to have ever existed, there weren’t a lot of successions before its fall. The dynasty only has three known emperors, two of which ruled for short periods. The three were, Qin Shi Huang, who established the dynasty, his son Hua Hai (Qin Er Shi), and Hua’s nephew Ziying (Qin San Shi).
Although Qin Shi Huang was the reason behind the unification of China, he was a tyrant. He used brutal techniques and the legalist doctrine to exact and expand his power. Under his rule, the people especially those from the lower class were oppressed and extorted. When he died, prime minister Li Si and Chief Eunuch Zhao Gao altered his will and placed his impressionable son Hu Hai on the throne so they could use him as a puppet. Hua was, however, killed by Zhao who was later executed by Ziying when he came into power. He was, however, unable to stop the revolt that was taking place then and hence ended up being killed.
Why Did the Qin Dynasty Fall?
The fall of the great Qin Dynasty, begun with Qin Shi Huang’s paranoia about death. This was after he had survived three assassination attempts. As a result, he became obsessed with immortality and tried contacting every alchemist and sorcerer, to find the elixir of life. Ironically this he how he died.
Prime Minister Li Si and Chief Euchun Zhao Gao put Huang’s gullible son as his successor for their gain. He was also a bad ruler executing random innocent people and when that would be. Both the unfair and tyrant rule of Shi Huang and Hu Hai’s rule gave rise to the revolting of the poor. They attacked the government officials and declared themselves King. Hua’s nephew witnessed the unrest of the people. After the death of Hua, Ziying took his place, attempting to establish his authority and that of the throne. Unfortunately, he failed and was executed. His death meant that was the end of the Qin Dynasty.
How Did the Qin Dynasty Influence Chinese History?
Although a tyrant, many of the controversial policies that unified China and maintained his reign, are still used even today. His actions as the first emperor of China have had a great impact on Chinese history. The following are some of the ways:
A centra rule.
Using the principles of Legalism, the Qin dynasty built a centralized power structure that was an effective way to govern. A lot of the dynasties after it borrowed from it.
Uniform Writing System.
Shi Huang improved communication by establishing the standard writing script. It made it easier for scholars to share information and different cultures to interact. Later on, it made it possible and easier for other dynasties to communicate with nomadic tribes.
Improvement of trade and commerce.
By standardizing the units of weight and measurements as well as the currency, the Qin Shi Huang improved the commerce and trade of many regions. Later dynasties were able to easily come up with a tax system thanks to the common currency and units of measurements. Even the building of roads helped connect the provinces better
The Terracotta Warriors.
In preparation for his death, Shi Huang had the peasant build him a mausoleum and a vast number of life-like terracotta warriors who carried real weapons. These warriors were said to be there to protect him even after his death. The tomb was discovered in the 19th century. Since then, it has become one of the main tourist attraction sites for China.
Despite having the shortest reign, the Qin dynasty managed to have the greatest impact on China’s development. The effects of its reign are still felt even today. Although he was a tyrant in the end his contributions were great.