What Is the Qin Dynasty Known for?(221 BC -206 BC)

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?

how long did the qin dynasty last? 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, but rather by 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 was it called the qin dynasty

The country name “秦” (Qin) during the Qin Dynasty in ancient China originated from the state of Qin, which was initially one of the vassal states during the Zhou Dynasty. Its founding ancestor, Bo Yi, contributed to flood control under the rule of Emperor Yu and was granted the surname “嬴” (Ying) by Emperor Shun. Bo Yi’s descendant, Feizi, served as the horse caretaker for King Xiao of Zhou and excelled in horse breeding. As a result, King Xiao of Zhou granted him the area of Qin Valley (located southwest of present-day Tianshui City, Gansu Province). This is the origin of the name “秦” (Qin).

Later, King Ying Zheng of Qin successfully conquered the six eastern states, achieving national unification and establishing the first centralized, authoritarian state in Chinese history with the Huaxia people as the main body and a harmonious coexistence of multiple ethnic groups. The country was named “秦” (Qin), and the era was referred to as the Qin Dynasty. King Ying Zheng assumed the title of Qin Shi Huang. In English translation, “秦朝” (Qin Dynasty) can be rendered as “Qin Dynasty” and “秦始皇” (Qin Shi Huang) as “Qin Shi Huang” or “First Emperor of Qin.”

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 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 measurement 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?

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?

Emperors of the Qin Dynasty:

Qin Shihuangdi (reigned 246 BC – 221 BC)

Qin Er Shi (reigned 210 BC – 207 BC)

Ziying (reigned 207 BC)

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.

qin dynasty famous characters

The Qin dynasty in China had many famous characters, some of whom include:

  • Qin Shi Huang – the first emperor who completed the unification of China and built the Great Wall of China.
  • Li Si – a chancellor who was instrumental in establishing the legalist system of governance in the Qin dynasty.
  • Meng Tian – a general who led the construction of the Great Wall of China and fought in several battles for the Qin dynasty.
  • Zhao Gao – a eunuch who played a significant role in the downfall of the Qin dynasty.
  • Zhang Liang – a strategist who helped Liu Bang overthrow the Qin dynasty and establish the Han dynasty.
  • Xiang Yu – a military commander who fought against Liu Bang for control of China after the fall of the Qin dynasty.
  • Han Fei – a philosopher and legalist who wrote extensively on governance and law during the Qin dynasty.

what was the social structure of the qin dynasty?

The Changes and Effects Caused by Shang Yang’s Reforms:

The Double-edged Sword of the Military Merit System

The most significant change brought about by Shang Yang’s reforms was the emphasis on rewarding those who had achieved military merit. Conversely, those who had not accomplished any military feats would lose a lot of power, especially within the royal court. Without being evaluated for their military achievements, they would not be eligible for inclusion in the aristocratic genealogy.

For the common people, as long as they worked hard and had a good harvest, they would be exempted from corvée labor. They could also earn land, houses, and even servants as rewards through military achievements in farming and warfare. Although this provided convenience for them, most people’s lives gradually deteriorated, and they became proletarians.

Heavier Burden on Peasant Taxation

Shang Yang’s reforms also had a fatal impact on the peasants, as they increased the burden of taxation. The government increased the head tax based on the land tax, which meant that land rent was collected based on the amount of land, and household tax was collected based on the number of people. Those without land were even more troubled, as they still had to serve corvée labor.

The burden of corvée labor and military service was also heavy. At that time, any male over the age of seventeen had the obligation to undertake corvée labor and military service. Moreover, local and foreign corvée labor would not be reduced. When the Battle of Changping broke out, males over the age of fifteen had the obligation to go to war for the country.

Priority Given to Agriculture over Commerce, and Private Ownership of Land

Before the reforms, merchants were still considered a middle-class group. However, after Shang Yang’s reforms, merchants became a low-level class, and anti-commerce and anti-merchant sentiments were very strong. All commercial activities were suppressed, and even marrying a merchant’s daughter could result in punishment.

The change in social status was also apparent, with corvée labor being at the same level as that of criminals. In the thirty-first year of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s reign, the phenomenon of land privatization was recognized.

After that, the landlord class began to disrupt the market, and the phenomenon of land consolidation became more and more serious. More and more people were forced to lose their land and even became slaves.

The implementation of Shang Yang’s reforms led to a change in the social structure within the country. Under the heavy burden of corvée labor and the phenomenon of land consolidation, more and more people in Qin gradually became representatives of the lower class. The wealth gap continued to widen, and the society’s structure developed into a “dumbbell-shaped” structure at its peak. Faced with this situation, most of the impoverished people could only change their destiny through violent means, leading to war and accelerating the fall of the Qin Dynasty.

The social structure of the Qin Dynasty can be divided into two periods:

I. The Composition of the Middle Class in the Early Warring States Period

The Merchant Group and Low-Level Officials

During the reign of Duke Mu of Qin, commerce was highly valued, and commercial districts had already been established. Although the position of the commodity economy was not dominant, it did not hinder its development. However, commercial transactions could only take place in cities.

By the time of Duke Xian of Qin, business activities could be carried out in various regions of the country, and thus, the few merchants at that time were able to develop and elevate their economic status.

Low-level officials refer to those below the rank of dou-shi who can support a family of five and still have surplus. Therefore, they are also representatives of the middle class.

Farmers under the Land Allotment System

The Land Allotment System mentioned in Shang Yang’s reforms mainly involved two aspects: first, cultivating state-owned land and paying rent on time, thus forming a group of tenant farmers.

At this time, the overall development of the Qin State was still relatively good, and the burden of the people’s taxes and labor was not particularly heavy, so these farmers had enough surplus to support their own development. In addition, there were also a small number of skilled craftsmen.

II. The Composition of the Social Structure in the Mid- to Late-Qin Dynasty

The Aristocracy and Officials

As the Qin Dynasty continued to expand, a powerful aristocracy emerged, and the social structure became more hierarchical. The aristocrats monopolized power, resources, and wealth, while the officials became their loyal subordinates.

The Peasantry and Slaves

The peasantry remained the foundation of society, and they were mostly tenant farmers or self-sufficient farmers who owned small plots of land. Slaves were still present, but their numbers declined as the Qin Dynasty implemented policies to limit their use.

Artisans and Merchants

Artisans and merchants continued to occupy a significant position in society, but their status was relatively low, and they were often looked down upon by the aristocrats and officials.

qin dynasty time period

qin dynasty timeline

Here are some important events that occurred during the Qin Dynasty timeline:

221 BCE: Qin Shi Huang becomes the first emperor of China and unites the Warring States, marking the start of the Qin Dynasty.

214 BCE: The construction of the Great Wall of China begins under the direction of Qin Shi Huang.

213 BCE: Qin Shi Huang orders the burning of all books and the burying of 460 scholars alive in an attempt to suppress dissent and control intellectual thought.

210 BCE: The Qin Dynasty defeats the last of its rivals and solidifies its hold on China.

210 BCE: Construction of the Terracotta Army, a vast collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, begins.

210 BCE: Qin Shi Huang dies, and the empire is passed to his son, Qin Er Shi.

210 BCE: The Qin Dynasty begins to decline due to widespread unrest and rebellion, as well as economic difficulties caused by heavy taxes and forced labor.

209 BCE: The rebellion of Chen Sheng and Wu Guang marks the beginning of the Chu-Han Contention, a period of civil war that ultimately leads to the downfall of the Qin Dynasty.

202 BCE: Liu Bang, the leader of the Han rebellion, declares himself the first emperor of the Han Dynasty and establishes a new era of Chinese history.21

what was the religion of the qin dynasty?

The Qin Dynasty unified China and established a great empire. Its religious beliefs and philosophical thoughts gradually formed after the unification of the six states under the rule of Qin Shihuang. Firstly, the religious beliefs of the Qin Dynasty were relatively simple, mainly centered on ancestor worship and witchcraft. People prayed for happiness and safety by offering sacrifices to their ancestors and used witchcraft to avoid misfortune and disasters.

Secondly, the philosophical thoughts of the Qin Dynasty were also relatively singular, mainly consisting of two schools of thought: Confucianism and Taoism. Confucianism emphasizes mutual respect, understanding, and support between people. In the family, society, and country, one should follow traditional moral concepts such as ceremony, righteousness, honesty, and humility. Taoism emphasizes the philosophy of nature and the Tao, reflecting on oneself and pursuing spiritual freedom and happiness, rather than material possessions.

Overall, although the religious beliefs and philosophical thoughts of the Qin Dynasty were not as diverse and abundant as those of later dynasties, they had unique characteristics that significantly influenced the formation and development of Chinese history and culture.

qin dynasty achievements and inventions

The Qin Dynasty was a short but significant period in Chinese history, known for its military conquests and impressive achievements in various fields. Some of the notable achievements and inventions of the Qin Dynasty include:

Unification of China: The most significant achievement of the Qin Dynasty was the unification of China, which ended the period of Warring States and brought peace and stability to the region. This was made possible through the military campaigns of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the dynasty.

Construction of the Great Wall: Qin Shi Huang also ordered the construction of the Great Wall, which was built by connecting and expanding existing fortifications. The wall served as a barrier against invading armies and helped to protect the northern border of the empire.

Standardization of weights, measures, and currency: The Qin Dynasty implemented a system of standard weights, measures, and currency, which helped to facilitate trade and commerce and promote economic growth.

Legalist philosophy: The Qin Dynasty was known for its Legalist philosophy, which emphasized strict laws and harsh punishments as a means of maintaining social order and promoting obedience to the state.

Terracotta Army: One of the most famous inventions of the Qin Dynasty is the terracotta army, which was created to protect the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. The army consists of thousands of life-sized terracotta figures of soldiers, horses, and chariots.

Iron casting: The Qin Dynasty was also known for its advancements in iron casting technology, which helped to improve the production of weapons and tools.

Overall, the Qin Dynasty made significant contributions to Chinese history and culture, laying the foundation for future dynasties and shaping the country’s identity as a unified empire.

qin dynasty colors

The military flag of the Qin Dynasty was black. The use of black as a military flag was due to cultural reasons. The Water Deity was associated with the color black. Secondly, a black flag was easy to conceal and was resistant to dirt. After Qin Shihuang unified China, he designated black as the national color of Qin.

The people of Qin revered black. From nobles to commoners, even servants and slaves, all wore clothes with black as the main color. The ministers in the court all wore black clothes. Even the decoration style of the court was different from that of other countries. It was dominated by black.

The reason for this is that the people of Qin worshiped black for a reason. In the “Book of Han·Laws and Calendars”, compiled by historians of the Eastern Han Dynasty, there is a record that says, “Today Qin changes Zhou, the time of the Water Deity. In the past, Duke Wen of Qin went hunting and caught a black dragon. This was a sign of the Water Deity.” This means that Duke Wen of Qin had caught a black dragon while hunting in the past, which was a symbol of the Water Deity in the Five Elements.

Therefore, the rulers of Qin believed that they were the Water Deity and worshiped water. The color black was the symbol of the Water Deity in the Five Elements. Therefore, from the Qin state in the Spring and Autumn Period to the Qin Empire that unified the country, black was revered.

In terms of men’s clothing, Emperor Qin Shihuang stipulated that the formal dress should be a black top and bottom, both of which were mourning clothes, and that black should be the highest color. (The totem of the Zhou people was fire, but because Qin Shihuang was very superstitious about the theory of yin and yang and the Five Elements, he believed that Qin’s water had extinguished Zhou’s fire. Black is the main color of water, so it was revered.) Furthermore, officials of the third rank or above wore green robes, while ordinary people wore white robes.

qin dynasty flag

The military flag of the Qin Dynasty was black. There are two reasons for using black as the color of the military flag. First, it is due to cultural reasons. The ruler of water element is associated with black. Second, a black military flag is easy to conceal and is resistant to dirt. After the unification of China, Qin Shihuang designated black as the official color of the Qin Dynasty.

The people of Qin Dynasty revered black. From the nobles to the common people, even the servants and slaves all wore clothes mainly in black. The ministers in the court all wore black clothes. Even the decoration style of the court was different from other countries’ splendid gold and glitter, and was dominated by black color.

The reason for the Qin people’s reverence for black has a historical basis. The “Annals and Calendar” in the “Book of Han” compiled by historians in the Eastern Han Dynasty recorded: “Today, Qin changed the Zhou dynasty during the reign of the ruler of water element. In the past, Duke Wen of Qin went hunting and caught a black dragon. This is the auspicious sign of the ruler of water element.” This passage means that in his earlier years, Duke Wen of Qin went hunting and caught a black dragon. This was the symbol of the ruler of water element in the Five Elements.

Therefore, the rulers of the Qin Dynasty believed that they were the rulers of water element and revered water. In the Five Elements, the corresponding color of the ruler of water element is black. Therefore, from the Qin state in the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period to the Qin Empire that unified China, black was always revered.

Qin Dynasty script

1.The unified writing system during the Qin dynasty is called Xiaozhuan or Small Seal Script.

After the unification of China by the Qin dynasty, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the standardization of the writing system. Li Si, a prominent advisor, based the new script on the widely used Dazhuan (Large Seal Script) of the Warring States period and incorporated the simplified strokes of the Kuaizi (Cursive Script) from Qi and Lu, creating a new writing system with uniformity and simplicity called Xiaozhuan or Small Seal Script. This became the official standardized writing system, and other variant characters were abolished.

2. Qin Lishu or Qin Clerical Script

Lishu, or Clerical Script, is a style of calligraphy that modified the rounded strokes of Seal Script into straighter, more angular ones while also simplifying the structures. With the increased demands of governmental affairs in the post-unification era, the slow writing of Seal Script became inadequate for administrative tasks. Thus, Lishu, which uses straighter and more angular strokes, became prevalent, and the Qin Lishu was the form of Lishu used during the Qin dynasty. Later on, during the Han dynasty, another form of Lishu, called Han Lishu, was developed.

In the Eastern Han dynasty, Lishu underwent significant changes, becoming more flat and featuring powerful waves and spikes. This resulted in the unique character of Han Lishu, characterized by a rich variety of strokes and influencing the development of other styles such as Kaishu. Even today, Lishu remains a widely used script and is cherished as a calligraphic art form.

“Shu Tong Wen” (writing with the same characters) does not refer to just one type of font. During the Qin Dynasty, there were eight different fonts used. In 221 BC, after the Qin Emperor united China, he ordered that “chariots should have the same track, and writing should use the same characters.” Which type of script did the Qin Emperor use after unifying the writing system? Some say it was Xiaozhuan (small seal script), while others say it was Lishu (clerical script). In fact, both of these claims are true and false at the same time. This is because after the Qin Emperor unified the writing system, eight fonts were used, with Xiaozhuan and Lishu being two of them.

During the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties, the writing was also “Shu Tong Wen,” with the official script being in the form of Jinwen (inscriptions on bronze vessels), which had a relatively consistent structure. However, after the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, the writing in each state began to develop regional differences. This situation hindered the exchange of economy and culture among different regions, and also affected the effective implementation of central government policies and laws. Therefore, after Qin unified the Central Plains, the Qin Emperor ordered his prime minister Li Si and others to carry out the work of organizing and unifying the writing system.

On the basis of the Da Zhuan (large seal script) and Zhuwen (clerical script) used in Qin, Li Si, Zhao Gao, and Hu Mu Jing simplified the characters, abolished the variant characters of the other six states, and created a unified form of writing, which is Xiaozhuan. However, apart from Xiaozhuan, Dazhuan was still in use, and there were six other fonts that were commonly used during the Qin Dynasty. “The Qin Emperor burned the Xian Dian (previous dictionaries) and abandoned the ancient writing, using the eight fonts instead.”

The eight styles of Chinese calligraphy mentioned are: Dazhuan, Xiaozhuan, Kefu, Moyin, Chongshu, Shushu, Shushu, and Lishu.

  • Xiaozhuan is a simplified version of Dazhuan with evenly balanced strokes, standardized characters, and a square-shaped form, which laid the foundation for the modern Chinese character “square word.” During the Qin Dynasty, Xiaozhuan or Dazhuan was used to write official decrees, historical records, and other formal documents.
  • Kefu is a type of seal script used for carving symbols and signs. As it was carved on metal with a knife, the strokes are relatively flat and the characters are almost square.
  • Moyin is a style of calligraphy used for copying and carving characters onto printing blocks. Since the blocks come in different sizes, they must be carefully drawn before carving, which is why it is called “moyin.”
  • Chongshu is a type of calligraphy used for writing on flags and symbols. Some of the characters resemble birds or insects, hence the name “chongshu,” which means “insect script.”
  • Shushu refers to the calligraphy written on inscribed plaques.
  • Shushu is the calligraphy written on weapons.
  • Lishu was created by Cheng Miao. This type of calligraphy is convenient to write and not as strict as seal script, also known as “history book” or “supporting script.” As it is easier to write, it gradually replaced seal script as the main style of calligraphy in the Han Dynasty.

Qin bamboo slips and wooden

The Qin bamboo slips and wooden tablets are the written records of the Qin Dynasty, which were inscribed on bamboo, wood, and silk. In late 1975, bamboo slips were unearthed from a Qin tomb in Yunmeng County, Hubei Province. In 1980, wooden tablets were discovered in a Qin tomb in Haojiaping, Qingchuan County, Sichuan Province. The script on these slips and tablets is Li-style calligraphy, which originated in the middle of the Warring States period and was developed during the Qin Dynasty. At that time, small seal script was the official script of the Qin Dynasty, but the society preferred the ancient Li-style calligraphy, which had already been in use among the people. After the fall of the Qin Dynasty, Li-style calligraphy completely replaced small seal script and became the universal script of the Han Dynasty. The Qin bamboo slips and wooden tablets are the oldest examples of Li-style calligraphy, and studying them can reveal the true brushwork of ancient calligraphers and the spirit of ancient Li-style calligraphy. Therefore, one must study the Qin bamboo slips and wooden tablets to truly understand Li-style calligraphy.

qin dynasty currency

The currency of the Qin Dynasty was the banliang coin, a type of copper coin widely used in China during the Warring States period and early Han Dynasty. After unifying the six states, Qin Shi Huang established uniform laws, measures, currency, and writing systems, and abolished the old coins used in the late Warring States period. Based on the banliang coin of the Warring States period, the circular square-hole banliang coin of the Qin Dynasty was improved and became the currency used throughout the country, putting an end to the chaotic state of ancient Chinese currencies with different shapes and weights.


The first type: The diameter of the coin is relatively large, with the largest being 3.7 cm, generally above 3 cm. The heaviest is 11g, and generally between 6-7g. The coin hole is mostly irregular, and there is flowing copper around the edges. The coin inscriptions are primitive and rough, without a certain standard, and are believed to have been made using clay molds. There are a total of 148 pieces, accounting for 16% of the total.

The second type: The coins vary in size, thickness, and weight, and are generally small, light, and thin. The diameter of the coin is generally 2.5-2.8 cm, and the weight is 3-6g, with poor casting quality. There are a total of 738 pieces, accounting for 79.80%.

The third type: The coins are heavy, large, and thick, with standardized specifications, and have a diameter of about 3-3.2cm and a weight of about 6g, which is equivalent to the Qin system’s eight 5,6 jin (unit of weight). The coin hole is square and the casting technology is advanced.

qin dynasty and the great wall

In the 33rd year of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s reign (214 BC), Meng Tian was ordered to lead 300,000 troops to attack the Xiongnu and seize the “Henan territory” (i.e., the Hetao region), where Emperor Qin Shihuang established 34 counties and relocated people to strengthen the border counties. However, as the nomadic tribes such as the Xiongnu and Donghu were active on the grasslands for a long time, it was easy to defeat them, but it was extremely difficult to completely eliminate them. However, the Xiongnu often raided southward, and given that the northern border of Qin was too long, guarding against the Xiongnu required deploying a large number of soldiers in various places, which would impose a great burden and cost on Qin and the border people. In order to guard against the Xiongnu and ensure the safety of the border, Emperor Qin Shihuang ordered Meng Tian to station troops in the border areas and began to order the construction of the Great Wall from the 34th year of his reign (213 BC).

The “Annals of Emperor Qin Shihuang” in the “Records of the Grand Historian” records that the construction of the Great Wall by Emperor Qin Shihuang involved “demolishing city walls, opening up pass defenses, and leveling dangerous obstacles.” Based on the situation after Emperor Qin Shihuang seized the Hetao region, it can be inferred that the main construction of the Great Wall involved two aspects: firstly, dismantling the long walls that were used for mutual defense between the seven former states and connecting the Zhao and Yan walls in the north. Secondly, due to the occupation of the Hetao region, the Qin Great Wall could no longer meet the defense requirements, so a new Qin Great Wall was built in the north of the Hetao region.

Therefore, the main part of the Great Wall construction during Emperor Qin Shihuang’s reign was the northern section of the Qin Great Wall. Compared with the more than 10,000 miles of Great Wall rebuilt during the Han Dynasty, the construction volume during Emperor Qin Shihuang’s reign was relatively small.

It is unclear from the “Records of the Grand Historian” how many people were mobilized for the construction of the Great Wall during Emperor Qin Shihuang’s reign. However, it records that in the 34th year of his reign, those officials who were not upright in enforcing the law were sent to the border areas to build the Great Wall or to garrison the southern Yue region.

It is often said that Emperor Qin Shihuang’s construction of the Great Wall took away over a million or even several million people. However, based on various historical records, the total population of China at that time was only around 20 million.

qin dynasty crossbow

The origin of the crossbow can be traced back to the late primitive society, but it was not until the late Spring and Autumn period that the crossbow began to be valued as an important long-range weapon in military use. By the Warring States period, the crossbow had become a widely used weapon among the states, with advanced bronze crossbow mechanisms paired with strong composite bows greatly improving the range and lethality of the crossbow.

During the mid-Warring States period, the crossbow mechanisms were made of bronze, with no bronze casings, and were directly mounted on wooden crossbow arms that could not withstand too much tension. By the late Warring States period, bronze casings were added to the crossbow mechanisms to strengthen the slot, allowing for the increased tension from the foot-operated cocking mechanism. These powerful crossbows had thick and sturdy bows that required considerable force to draw the string, hence the need for even stronger mechanisms.

By the time of the Qin dynasty, crossbows were made with the precision of modern automatic rifles. They could be fired with a delay or aimed accurately, unlike bows that relied solely on arm strength to draw the string. Most Qin crossbows were foot-cocked bows, meaning they were cocked with the feet while the arms pulled the string back to the waist, using the full force of the body to draw the string. While crossbows had a slower firing rate than bows, the arrows they fired had much greater power, flying at several times the speed of arrows from bows. As a result, when a crossbow was fired, the arrow pierced the air and the bowstring snapped back with a fierce friction against the air, producing a sharp whistling sound.

Qin crossbows were uniformly produced by the state. The bow arms were generally made of mulberry wood, with a flattened round shape and a length of 130-145 centimeters. However, they were not what is known as a simple bow, as the entire bow arm was wrapped tightly with leather strips. This not only strengthened the structure of the bow arm, but also provided excellent flexibility and elasticity, allowing the bow to store more energy. The composite bow arm made of mulberry wood as the core and wrapped with leather strips combined the elastic force of plants and animals in nature.

The range and penetrating power of the crossbow were also astonishing. According to archaeologist Mr. Wang Xueli’s estimation, the most powerful crossbow had a range of more than 600 steps, equivalent to 831.6 meters today, and a tension of more than 12 shi, equivalent to 738 kilograms. It was very difficult for a person to draw such a powerful crossbow using only arm strength, so the foot-cocking mechanism was likely necessary. Strong bows and crossbows throughout the land were all made by the state of Han. Based on the basic principles of weapons mechanics, if the 12 shi Han crossbow could shoot more than 800 meters with full force, then halving the propelling force would reduce the range by only about one-third. Therefore, the 6 shi Qin crossbow could shoot about 500 meters with great power.

The Qin crossbowmen were divided into two types: light armor, called “Yin Qiang,” and heavy armor, called “Jue Zhang,” which were named after the different ways of pulling the bow. Yin Qiang refers to using the arm to pull the bowstring, while Jue Zhang uses the foot to step on the bowstring. When the enemy approached, the standing shooter would first fire a strong crossbow, followed by the kneeling shooter firing arrows, alternating and continuously shooting to create a sustained attack wave, which would curb the enemy’s charge. At the same time, the Jue Zhang heavy crossbows would also form an exceptionally dense firepower in front and on both sides of the army formation. In an era of close combat, being able to deliver continuous attacks to the enemy in a non-contact state was also an important reason for the strong combat effectiveness of the Qin army.

The Qin crossbow consists of three parts: the bow, the crossbow arm, and the crossbow machine. The bow is mounted horizontally at the front end of the crossbow arm, and the crossbow machine is installed at the rear of the crossbow arm. The crossbow arm is used to support the bow, hold the string, and support the user. The crossbow machine is used to cock the string and fire the arrow. The key component of the crossbow is the crossbow machine, and the structure can be seen from the numerous excavated copper crossbow machines. The machine components inside the copper frame include the sighting mount, trigger, hook, and two keys that combine all the components into a whole. When the string is stretched and the arrow is loaded, the user pulls the sighting mount, and the hook rises, with its lower teeth hooked onto the trigger notch, which can hold the bowstring. The arrow is then placed in the slot above the crossbow arm, with its tip on the string between the two teeth. The user aims at the target through the sighting mount, pulls the trigger back, and the hook lowers, causing the string to snap back and the arrow to shoot out.

In Liu Xi’s book “Shi Ming Shi Bing” written during the Han Dynasty, it is written: “The crossbow is angry, with a handle called an arm, resembling a human arm. The hook of the bowstring is called the tooth, resembling a tooth. The outer part of the tooth is called the frame, which is the rule of the tooth. The lower part is called the trigger, with a distinct shape. The mouth that contains the speaking mechanism is called the machine, meaning the ingenuity of the machine, and also meaning the door hinge’s opening and closing with a rhythm.” The crossbow weapon evolved from the bow and is a long-range weapon with delayed firing. However, unlike the bow, there is an arm crosswise in the back of the bow, and the arrow is fired not by human power but by a mechanism. The crossbow is powerful and has a longer range than the bow, so it is also aptly called a crossbow.

qin dynasty armor

The armor worn by soldiers in the Qin Dynasty was the standard attire for ordinary soldiers, and is the most common armor style found among Qin Terracotta Warriors. The chest armor pieces of Qin soldiers were overlapped with the upper piece on top of the lower piece, while the abdominal armor pieces were overlapped with the lower piece on top of the upper piece for greater flexibility. From the centerline of the chest and abdomen, all armor pieces were stacked from the middle to the sides, with the combination of shoulder armor pieces being the same as those on the abdomen. The armor pieces on the shoulders, abdomen, and neck were all connected with a belt, and each armor piece was fastened with two to six rivets. The length of the armor, both front and back, was 64 centimeters, with the hem usually rounded and without an additional border.

qin dynasty architecture

The powerful Qin dynasty, after unifying the country, embarked on a series of massive construction projects.

Qin’s Straight Road

The Qin Straight Road is an ancient “highway” built by the Qin people. It is between 30 and 60 meters wide, and its starting point is Xianyang, stretching across mountains and valleys all the way to Baotou in Inner Mongolia, with a total length of over 700 kilometers.

With the Qin Straight Road, the Qin army was able to transport food and supplies continuously northward, reaching the foot of the Yin Mountains in just three days and three nights. From then on, the Xiongnu “dare not come south to graze their horses, and their soldiers dare not draw their bows in revenge.”

Lingqu Canal

The Lingqu Canal is an ancient canal built by the Qin people and is one of the world’s earliest artificial canals. It was excavated in 214 BC, flowing from east to west, connecting the Xiang River and the Li River, thus linking the two major southern water systems of the Yangtze River and the Pearl River, connecting the entire eastern and southern regions of China, and making great contributions to establishing stable rule in the southern region of the country.

The Lingqu Canal was built by the First Emperor of Qin to conquer the Lingnan region and provide logistical support for the Qin army’s pacification of the region. For more than two thousand years since its completion, this artificial canal has become an important water hub connecting Huguang with Lingnan in ancient times, playing a huge role in promoting economic and cultural exchanges between the Central Plains and the Lingnan region.

Zhengguo Canal

In 246 BC (the first year of King Zheng’s reign in Qin), the Han water engineer Zheng Guo was appointed to oversee the construction of the Zhengguo Canal, which was completed about ten years later.

Out of fear of Qin’s invasion, the Han people sent spies to help Qin build the Zhengguo Canal to consume Qin’s national strength. However, after the completion of the Zhengguo Canal, tens of thousands of hectares of farmland in Guanzhong were irrigated, turning the Guanzhong plain into a fertile land, greatly enhancing Qin’s economic strength. The construction of the Zhengguo Canal made a significant contribution to the unification of Qin.

Five-Foot Path

The Five-Foot Path, first built during the Qin Dynasty, now has a remaining length of about 350 meters. It is five feet wide and each step varies in width and height. Since the Qin Dynasty, it has been an essential route for traffic between Yunnan and Sichuan.

To strengthen control over the prefectures and counties in the southwestern regions such as Yelang and Dian, Emperor Qin Shi Huang excavated the Five-Foot Path. Only five feet wide, it was the earliest official road connecting Yunnan with the central plains, laying the foundation for the central dynasties’ establishment of governance in the southwestern regions.

Rapid Road

In 221 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified the six states. In the following year (220 BC), he ordered the construction of the Rapid Road and the Suspension Bridge. The construction of these roads and bridges was a large-scale road-building project during the Qin and Han periods, which had significant importance in promoting economic and cultural exchange and facilitating the development of land transportation.

The Rapid Road was a highway project of the Great Qin Empire. It was centered in Xianyang and expanded in all directions. The Rapid Road greatly strengthened the control of the Qin Empire over the regions and facilitated Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s national tour.

Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang

Since its discovery, the Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang has amazed the world with its immense scale, grandeur, and advanced scientific and artistic levels.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang began building his mausoleum upon ascending to the throne. The construction was planned and designed by Prime Minister Li Si and supervised by General Zhang Han. The project lasted 38 years and set a precedent for the luxurious and extravagant burials of feudal rulers throughout Chinese history.

Dujiangyan Irrigation System

Words cannot fully describe the greatness of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, one of the world’s oldest and only surviving water conservancy projects that is still in use today. In 256 BC, during the reign of King Zhaoxiang of Qin, Li Bing, the governor of Shu Prefecture, was responsible for its construction.

The Dujiangyan Irrigation System not only reduces flood risks but also irrigates farmland and transforms harmful floods into benefits. Its appearance has turned the disaster-prone Chengdu Plain into a fertile “Land of Abundance.”

The Dujiangyan Irrigation System has been in use for over 2,000 years, making it a miracle in the history of world water conservancy projects.

Great Wall of Qin

After unifying the country, the Qin Dynasty faced threats from the increasingly powerful Xiongnu in the north.

In 214 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered General Meng Tian to build a wall in northern China to defend against the Xiongnu’s southern invasion. He connected the walls of Yan, Zhao, and Qin, forming the Great Wall, which stretched from Lin Tao in Gansu to Liaodong in the east and spanned over 10,000 li (over 5,000 km), making it one of the Eight Wonders of the World.

In Sima Qian’s “Biography of Meng Tian” in Records of the Grand Historian, he wrote, “After unifying China, Qin sent Meng Tian with 300,000 soldiers to drive away the barbarians, recover Henan, and build the Great Wall. Following the terrain and using strategic locations, the wall stretched from Lintao to Liaodong for over 10,000 li, crossing rivers and mountains and extending for more than a decade.”

Aofang Palace

The Aofang Palace, although unfinished in history, is still regarded as the “number one palace in the world”. “The Shu Mountain stands tall, and the Aofang Palace emerges. It covers more than 300 miles, isolating the sky and sun. The Lishan Mountain stretches north and bends west, straight to Xianyang. The two rivers merge and flow into the palace walls. Every five steps, there is a building; every ten steps, there is a pavilion. The corridors twist and turn, and the eaves are high and sharp.” These few lines of description by Du Mu are truly awe-inspiring.

qin dynasty burning books

The root of Qin’s ability to achieve unification lies in the Shang Yang’s reforms, which advocated for the rule of law. Shang Yang established Qin’s governance philosophy as Legalism, and even after Qin became the Qin dynasty, Legalism’s dominant position remained unshaken.

In feudal society, Legalism and Confucianism were the two most sharply conflicting schools of thought, as both served the ruling class. The academic works of Confucianism, such as the Book of Poetry and the Book of Documents, emphasized governance through benevolence and righteousness, which in the eyes of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, were completely incompatible with “law.”

Furthermore, as Qin became powerful with Legalism at its core, it was unlikely to abandon Legalism after the conquest of the six states. The burning of the books was actually intended to suppress Confucianism and strengthen its own rule. However, the books that were burned were only those that contradicted Legalism and were detrimental to governance. The agricultural, medical, and other books were not burned by Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Moreover, when the books were burned, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered his prime minister to make a backup copy, which was not completely burned and was stored in the Palace of Eternal Life. Later, it was burned by Chu’s Xiang Yu, so in terms of cultural disruption, it was not just Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s fault, but Xiang Yu was also responsible.

qin dynasty beliefs

The four principles of Legalism, which was highly advocated by the Qin Dynasty, centered on using violence as a means of governance. Legalism advocates for the ruling class to use severe punishments to force the people into agricultural production, thus increasing crop yields and achieving national prosperity, although at the cost of the people’s suffering.

Similarly, in times of military need, Legalism employs heavy punishment to force the people to participate in brutal wars. In peacetime, the government’s main approach is to impose punishments on those who violate laws and regulations to maintain stability, thereby achieving social order.

This approach to governance may not be readily accepted by the people, but it was the most suitable for the Qin Dynasty’s development at the time. Initially, the Qin Dynasty mainly developed agriculture and animal husbandry, which allowed the people to benefit from the “more work, more gain” principle, making this approach quite popular among the people.

Culturally, the Qin Dynasty was founded relatively late, and strict hierarchies and systems were not established initially. Therefore, Legalism’s principles of “driving the people to farming and war,” “uniform punishment regardless of status,” and “rewarding based on merits” were very applicable to the early Qin Dynasty and were easily accepted by the people.

Through this approach of violence, the Qin Dynasty quickly achieved Legalism’s goals of making the people obedient, the country prosperous, and the military strong. At that time, the country was in a state of division, and the Qin Dynasty took advantage of this trend to achieve unification. Therefore, the Qin Dynasty’s unity was closely related to Legalism’s principles of violence.

Although this approach allowed the Qin Dynasty to develop rapidly, it also had its flaws. Legalism advocates for a strong state and weak people, believing that only when the people are extremely poor will they be willing to follow the country’s laws and regulations. The early Qin Dynasty implemented this approach, but the ultimate outcome of this way of thinking was that the people did not love the country, and the burden of taxation and labor was too heavy.

After the Qin Dynasty conquered the six states, Emperor Qin Shi Huang began to rely on “pleasure through punishment and killing” and even studied various cruel punishments to establish his authority. It was precisely this heavy emphasis on punishment that led to the first peasant uprising in China, and the Legalist Qin Dynasty, as a result, lasted only fifteen years before it was overthrown.

qin dynasty capital

The traditional capital of the Qin people was built in a location where the royal mausoleum would be relocated. The Qin people moved their capital frequently, going through nine different capitals and eight relocations, starting from Xiqiandiu and ending at Xianyang.

From the establishment of the Qin state by Shang Yang to the unification of the six states by Qin Shi Huang, there were a total of eight capitals for the Qin people. During specific historical periods, each of these eight capitals fulfilled its historical mission.

From the actual results, the terrain of the capital cities in the eight hundred li of the Qin River became increasingly open, and the land and transportation became more developed.

Qinyi: The ancestral land of Shang Yang

Qinyi was an ancient place name and was the location where the Qin state’s ancestor Shang Yang divided the land. It is located in present-day Qingshui County and Zhangjiachuan Hui Autonomous County in Gansu Province, where there are Qinting and Qingu.

During the reign of King Xiao of Zhou, Shang Yang was enfeoffed in Qinyi (in present-day northeast Qingshui County, Gansu) as a vassal and revived the worship of the Ying family, and was called Qin Ying. Later, Duke Xiang of Qin formally established the Qin state.

After three years and six months of archaeological work, the Qin Culture Joint Archaeological Team finally determined that the Liya site was the location of Shang Yang’s enfeoffment.

Xichui: Early capital

Xichui was a general term for the western borderland during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, roughly equivalent to present-day southeastern Gansu Province.

The early capital of the Qin state was Xichui, also known as Xiqiandiu. It is a major puzzle in the study of early Qin history that has yet to be solved. Although many Qin history experts, scholars, and local historians in China have been tirelessly searching for it over the past century, the results have been minimal.

There are various opinions on the specific location of the Xichui capital, but the most influential academic viewpoint is that of Dong Yue, Wang Guowei, and Guo Moruo, who believe that the site was in the Western County during the Han Dynasty, which is now the area of present-day Xihe County and Li County.

Qinyi: Strategic Stronghold

Qinyi, which is near the current county town of Longxian, Shaanxi, was the capital of Qin Xianggong. Like other places not mentioned in “Records of the Grand Historian,” it was at best only a strategic stronghold and lacked the function of a capital city.

Qinyi is located on the second terrace of Qianhe, south of the county town of Longxian, within a range of 3 kilometers from Zhengjia Gou to Bianjia Cun. Perhaps more than 2,700 years ago, due to the wide surface of the Qianhe River, the current Zhengjia Gou line was the shore of the Qianhe River at that time.

The Confluence of the Qian and Wei Rivers: Together with Qinyi in the Same Place

One hundred and forty-three years after the establishment of Feizi Yi, Qin Wengong, the sixth generation successor, went eastward to hunt at the confluence of the Qian and Wei Rivers and built a capital city there.

Feizi Yi reigned for 48 years, and Qin Wengong arrived at the confluence of the Qian and Wei Rivers less than a century later.

After Feizi Yi, historical records clearly state that Qin Zhuanggong lived on Quanqiu, and the Qin people may have used Qinyi as their capital city for a longer time. In such a short period of time, the Qin people should not forget the place where “I, the first Qin, won here.” Therefore, when Qin Wengong arrived at the confluence of the Qian and Wei Rivers, he boldly proclaimed that this was the place where “I, the first Qin, won here.”

Qin Wengong’s statement provides strong historical evidence for Qinyi’s presence near the confluence of the Qian and Wei Rivers.

Pingyang: Vigorous Expansion to the East

In 2014, archaeologists from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology discovered the fifth city site among the nine capital cities of Qin, namely, the Pingyang City site. At the same time, experts also found a Qin Gong’s tomb that was 110 meters long from east to west.

Pingyang City was built by Qin Xiangong and housed four Qin Gong consecutively: Wugong, Degong, Xuangong, and Chengong. However, only one tomb has been found so far, and experts speculate that Qin Wugong’s tomb is the most likely one.

Pingyang was the fifth capital city built by Qin, and the third capital city built after moving into Guanzhong, which was used for a total of 36 years. Before Qin moved to the next capital city, Yongcheng, Pingyang was comparatively large, with city walls.

Yong City: Beneficial for Defense

From Duke De of Qin in 677 BC to Duke Xian of Qin in 383 BC, the Qin people established their capital in Yong City for a period of 294 years, during which 19 Qin monarchs ruled the kingdom. Yong City, located in the present-day Fengxiang District of Baoji, Shaanxi, was a “river-based city” built along the riverbanks, surrounded by four rivers: the Yongshui River, Zhifang River, Tasi River, and Fenghuang Spring River. Due to the steep terrain in the northwest and low elevation in the southeast, the rivers’ swift currents and deep valleys became the primary defense facilities. The city was built along the rivers, similar to Qin’s early defensive systems in Dabaosi Mountain and Yuandongzi Mountain in Lixian.

The sophisticated river defense system of Yong City allowed Qin to go without city walls for nearly 200 years, until they were finally built. Today, the Yong City ruins cover an area of approximately 11 square kilometers and are one of China’s top ten archaeological sites.

Jingyang: Expanding Eastward

During the reign of Duke Ling of Qin, he wanted to expand the territory established during the reign of Duke Mu, recapture the lost Hexi, and relocated the “headquarters” to the front lines, making it easier to inspire and command. In the Warring States period, as Wei, Zhao, Han, and others were busy competing for resources left behind by the Jin state, Qin was given an opportunity to expand eastward. Thus, Qin relocated its capital to Jingyang (present-day Jingyang County, Shaanxi), which was relatively close to the east. In 383 BC, during the reign of Duke Xian of Qin, the capital was relocated to Liyang (present-day Yanliang District, Xi’an, Shaanxi).

Liyang: Determined to Recapture Hexi

Liyang was the capital of Qin during the reigns of Duke Xian and Duke Xiao. In 383 BC, Qin relocated its capital to Liyang, which was located in Wutun Village and Gu Chengtun Village in Yalan District, Xi’an, Shaanxi.

During the 34 years of Liyang’s capital status, Qin was transitioning from weakness to strength, making Liyang an important city in Chinese history. Liyang is also famous for the Shang Yang Reforms.

Qin relocated its capital to Liyang because it was close to the border between Qin and Wei and allowed for timely intelligence gathering and flexible deployment of troops. During the 34 years that Qin made Liyang its capital, Qin dominated Wei in military conflicts. After multiple defeats, the Wei army began building a Great Wall to defend against Qin’s attacks and turned to a defensive stance. As the number one power in the early Warring States period, Wei’s defeat boosted Qin’s confidence, and the kingdom continued to shift its strategic focus eastward, relocating its capital to Xianyang.

Xianyang: The Transfer of Political Center

Xianyang is located in the heart of the 800-mile-long Qinling Plain in Shaanxi Province. The Wei River flows to the south and the Zongshan Mountains stretch to the north, making it a city with abundant natural resources and beautiful scenery.

Xianyang was the first stop on the ancient Silk Road and an important gateway from the Central Plains of China to the Northwest.

During the reign of Duke Xiao of Qin, a series of reforms were carried out by Shang Yang, which transformed the poor and weak Qin state into one of the most advanced and prosperous nations among the Warring States. This laid a solid foundation for Qin Shi Huang’s unification of China.

In 374 BC, Qin established Liyang County.

In 350 BC, Shang Yang issued a second set of reforms in Liyang, and moved the capital from Liyang to Xianyang.

The decision to move the capital to Xianyang was not only influenced by subjective factors but also due to its advantageous objective conditions. There are two main reasons:

Firstly, during the reign of Duke Xiao of Qin, Shang Yang was appointed to carry out the reforms. Although these reforms achieved significant results, they encountered strong resistance from the old forces in Qin’s Liyang. In order to reduce the obstacles encountered during the reforms, Duke Xiao decided to move the capital to Xianyang.

Secondly, compared with the previous capital of Qin, Xianyang is located at the crossing of the Wei River, with flat terrain and the Jiuyun Mountains to the north, which is easy to defend and difficult to attack. It not only has high military value but also abundant natural resources and a large population, making it an ideal location for the capital city.

qin dynasty Confucianism

After the unification of Qin, the rulers used a certain degree of blindness when it came to the ideology used to govern the country. During this period of historical transformation, the rulers of Qin also attempted to construct a ideological system that was suitable for the unified empire. However, in order to stabilize the situation and keep the state machinery running smoothly, Qin Shihuang devoted most of his energy to the construction of the bureaucratic system. While using the Legalist school of thought to establish an autocratic rule, he also incorporated elements of Confucianism, Mohism, Yin-Yang and other schools of thought into his governing ideology. Of course, this does not mean that he had a fixed system of governing ideology. In fact, it is difficult to say that the rulers of Qin had seriously thought about this major issue, so in the early period of Qin’s governance, the Legalist school of thought was still the basic foundation, and elements of other schools of thought such as Yin-Yang were also adopted.

Qin set up the position of the “Doctor”, and scholars from all schools of thought, including Confucianism, could be appointed to this position. This indicates that although Qin Shihuang may not have attached great importance to Confucianism, he did not exclude it at the beginning. Therefore, Qin Shihuang said that he had “summoned a large number of scholars and experts in various fields”, and “held a banquet in Xianyang Palace, with seventy doctors in attendance”. Many of these “scholars and experts” and “doctors” were Confucians. Throughout the late Qin period, the activities of Confucian scholars on the historical stage were recorded in history. For example, in the 28th year of Qin Shihuang’s reign, “he discussed with the Confucian scholars of Lu to inscribe stone tablets to praise the virtues of Qin, and discussed the ceremony of offering sacrifices to mountains and rivers”; Prince Fusu said, “all scholars recite the laws of Confucius”; Qin Ershi “summoned the doctors and Confucian scholars for questioning”, and more than 30 doctors and Confucian scholars cited the meaning of the “Gongyang Commentary” in response; Shusun Tong surrendered to Han, “followed by more than a hundred disciples of Confucian scholars”.

The “Burning of Books and Burying of Confucian Scholars” by Emperor Qin Shi Huang does not mean the extinction of Confucianism. It was precisely because of the influence of Confucianism on politics that it suffered this fate. At the same time, the direct purpose of the “Burning of Books and Burying of Confucian Scholars” was to limit the influence of Confucian scholars and make them comply. If the goal was to eliminate Confucianism, only Confucian classics should have been burned during the book burning, not the “One Hundred Schools of Thought.” Furthermore, while banning the public from collecting “The Book of Songs” and “The Book of Documents,” the imperial palace and the court should not have been allowed to keep copies. The so-called “Burying of Confucian Scholars” was caused by the failure of alchemists to create an elixir of life, and the 460 people who were buried were not all Confucian scholars. Their alleged crime was “spreading heretical words to disturb the people,” not based on Confucianism. Therefore, Jiao Yi, a Ming scholar, wrote in his “Jiaoshi Bicheng” that “Confucian scholars and classics were still in use during the Qin Dynasty.” Kang Youwei’s “New Examination of Pseudo-Classics” also believed that “using the Burying of Confucian Scholars to kill Confucian scholars is not true and only adds to the confusion.” “Burying Confucian Scholars” to eliminate Confucianism is also a false claim.

Of course, the “burning of books and burying of scholars” by Emperor Qin Shi Huang was a inevitable result of the implementation of Legalist centralized politics, and the thoughts of various schools, including Confucianism, were certainly restricted to some extent. As the creator of a new and unprecedentedly unified feudal empire, Emperor Qin Shi Huang had no experience to draw upon, and he had to use what he considered reasonable from various schools of thought in his ruling ideology. Sima Tan’s “Essential Pointers on the Six Schools of Thought” states: “The Confucians are broad but lack focus, toiling but with little effect, making it difficult to fully implement their teachings. However, their system of ritual propriety for the relationships between ruler and minister, father and son, and husband and wife cannot be changed.” This view was particularly appropriate for Qin. Qin rulers attached great importance to Confucian ethical thought. The Lüshi Chunqiu is a work that is based on Confucian thought, and this is particularly evident in its ethical propositions. When Lü Buwei was the prime minister of Qin, Confucian thought occupied an important position. Even after the Lü Buwei group was overthrown, Confucian ethical thought, especially the principles governing the relationships between ruler and minister, father and son, and husband and wife, remained unchanged. Confucius’s ideas of loyalty, filial piety, propriety, and righteousness held a dominant position during the Qin dynasty.

However, after the “burning” and “burying” events, the development of many schools of thought was to some extent restricted, and Confucianism was particularly affected, losing its original position on the political stage. Volume 86 of the Taiping Yulan cites the Yiyuan: “After Emperor Qin Shi Huang buried scholars and burned classics, he opened Confucius’s tomb and wanted to take his classics.” Confucius’s position was clearly diminished at that time, and the plight of Confucian scholars took a sharp turn for the worse. They dared not publicly propagate or teach their ideas. This cultural policy of high pressure incited great resentment among the people. When Chen Sheng rose up in rebellion against Qin, “the Confucian scholars of Lu returned with Confucius’s ceremonial vessels,” and Kong Fui, the ninth generation descendant of Confucius, even became his “doctorate.” Confucian scholars joined the ranks of those who opposed Qin.

qin dynasty story

The Emperor And The Assassin

In 227 BC, Jing Ke was sent by the Crown Prince of Yan to assassinate the King of Qin, Ying Zheng. Jing Ke brought with him a map of the states of Yan and Dai and the head of a criminal named Fan Yuqi, and headed to the Qin Kingdom. Before leaving, many people bid farewell to Jing Ke by the Yi River, and the scene was very sad. “The wind is blowing over the Yi River, and the water is cold. The hero goes away, and will never return.” This was the poem Jing Ke sang when he bid farewell.

When Jing Ke arrived in the Qin Kingdom, the King of Qin invited him to the Xianyang Palace. Jing Ke presented the map of Yan and Dai and Fan Yuqi’s head, but then attempted to assassinate the king. Ying Zheng dodged and ran around a pillar, while Jing Ke pursued him. Ying Zheng drew his sword and fought Jing Ke. After twenty rounds, Ying Zheng made a final attack and killed Jing Ke. Ying Zheng then commented, “What a pity that you were not a citizen of Qin. Otherwise, you would have been a great swordsman by my side.”

 call a stag a horse — deliberately misrepresent

Zhao Gao was a man of deceit and ambition who desired to seize power in the court. When Emperor Qin Shi Huang died, Zhao falsely claimed to have received an imperial edict ordering the execution of the emperor’s eldest son, Fusu, and instead enthroned the young and inexperienced Hu Hai as the new emperor, known as Qin Er Shi. Zhao then became the chancellor and held absolute power, but he was not satisfied and plotted to seize the throne. However, he feared that the other court officials would not support him, so he devised a plan to test them. One day, Zhao followed Qin Er Shi while riding a deer, and when the king asked why he was riding a deer, Zhao replied that it was a horse. Qin Er Shi then asked other courtiers for their opinion, and some said it was a deer while others said it was a horse. Qin Er Shi ultimately believed Zhao’s lie over his own eyes and the truth. This story has since been condensed into the phrase “calling a deer a horse” to describe intentionally confusing right and wrong.

cut off all means of retreat

In 208 BC, after suppressing the uprising led by Chen Sheng and Wu Guang and capturing Handan, the Qin general Zhang Han forced the anti-Qin rebels Zhao King Xie and Zhang Er to retreat to Julu (now southwest of Pingxiang, Hebei) and surrounded them with 200,000 soldiers led by Wang Li. Zhang Han stationed his troops in the thorny field south of Julu and built a passage with earthen walls on both sides to transport supplies to Wang Li’s camp. The Zhao general Chen Yu led a few thousand troops to station in the north of Julu but did not dare to rescue the besieged rebels due to a shortage of troops.

Chu King Huai sent Song Yi as the commander-in-chief and Xiang Yu as the second-in-command with an army of 200,000 to rescue Zhao. After arriving at Anyang (now southeast of Cao County, Shandong), Song Yi camped there for 46 days without taking any action. Xiang Yu was very dissatisfied and told Song Yi, “The Qin army has surrounded Julu, and the situation is urgent. Let’s cross the river quickly and attack the Qin army with the Zhao army, and we will surely defeat them.”

Song Yi replied, “Let’s wait until the Qin and Zhao armies have fought each other before we take action. In terms of fighting skills, I am not as good as you, but if we need to come up with strategies, you are not as good as me.”

Xiang Yu said, “There is no food in the camp now, but the commander-in-chief is still idle. This is not how a great general should behave, ignoring the country and neglecting the soldiers.”

The next day, Xiang Yu drew his sword and killed Song Yi during the morning court. He held up Song Yi’s head and told the soldiers, “Song Yi betrayed the king (referring to Chu King Huai), and I have executed him on the king’s orders.” The soldiers then rallied behind Xiang Yu as their new commander-in-chief. Xiang Yu’s killing of Song Yi shook the Chu kingdom and made him famous among the feudal lords.

After that, Xiang Yu led all his troops to cross the Yellow River to rescue Zhao and lift the siege of Julu. After all the Chu troops crossed the Zhang River, Xiang Yu ordered the soldiers to eat a full meal and bring three days of dry rations each, then issued the order: “Sink the ships and break the pots and pans.” This meant to destroy the boats used for crossing the river, smash the pots and pans used for cooking, and burn down the nearby houses. This was called “burning the boats and bridges,” showing Xiang Yu’s determination to win without retreat.

In this way, the Chu soldiers, with no way back, fought bravely against the enemy, and the sound of killing shook the earth. After nine fierce battles, the Chu army finally defeated the Qin army. Some of the Qin generals were killed, some were captured, and some surrendered. This battle not only lifted the siege of Julu but also shattered the morale of the Qin army. Two years later, the Qin dynasty was overthrown.

qin dynasty vs mauryan empire

The Qin Dynasty and the Mauryan Empire were both powerful empires in ancient times, but they existed in different regions of the world and at different times.

The Qin Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that existed from 221 to 206 BCE. It was founded by the Qin state, which conquered the other states of the Warring States period to unify China for the first time. The Qin Dynasty is known for its centralization of power, legalism, and building projects such as the Great Wall of China. The first emperor of the Qin Dynasty was Qin Shi Huang, who is also known for his terracotta army.

The Mauryan Empire, on the other hand, was an ancient Indian empire that existed from 321 to 185 BCE. It was founded by Chandragupta Maurya, who conquered the Magadha region of eastern India. The Mauryan Empire was known for its strong centralized government, Buddhist influence, and the reign of Emperor Ashoka, who promoted nonviolence and religious tolerance.

In terms of military power,  the Qin Dynasty had more advanced military technology, such as crossbows and chariots, which gave them an advantage in battle.

Overall, while both the Qin Dynasty and the Mauryan Empire were powerful empires in their respective regions, they had different cultural, political, and military characteristics that made them distinct from each other.

qin dynasty vs roman empire

The Qin dynasty and the Roman Empire were both powerful states that existed during different time periods and in different regions of the world. Here are some key differences and similarities between them:

Time period: The Qin dynasty existed in China from 221-206 BCE, while the Roman Empire existed from 27 BCE-476 CE.

Geography: The Qin dynasty was centered in China, while the Roman Empire was centered in the Mediterranean world.

Political system: The Qin dynasty was an absolute monarchy, with the emperor as the supreme authority, while the Roman Empire was a republic before becoming an empire, with elected officials and a system of checks and balances.

Military: Both the Qin dynasty and the Roman Empire had powerful militaries and were able to conquer and expand their territories through warfare.

Infrastructure: The Qin dynasty was known for its impressive infrastructure projects, including the construction of the Great Wall of China and the creation of a standardized system of weights, measures, and currency. The Roman Empire was also known for its impressive infrastructure, including roads, aqueducts, and public buildings.

Legacy: The Qin dynasty is remembered in China for its short-lived but highly centralized rule, and for the unification of the warring states that preceded it. The Roman Empire is remembered for its long-lasting impact on Western culture and its legacy of law, language, and architecture.

Overall, the Qin dynasty and the Roman Empire were both powerful states with distinct political, cultural, and geographical contexts. While they shared some similarities, they also had significant differences that shaped their legacies and impact on world history.

qin dynasty vs zhou dynasty

The Qin Dynasty and the Zhou Dynasty are two important periods in Chinese history. Here are some key differences between the two:

Time Period: The Zhou Dynasty lasted from 1046 BC to 256 BC, while the Qin Dynasty lasted from 221 BC to 206 BC.

Political System: The Zhou Dynasty was a feudal system, in which the king ruled over a number of lords who held power over their own territories. The Qin Dynasty was a centralized, bureaucratic system, in which the emperor held absolute power over the entire country.

Military: The Zhou Dynasty relied on a decentralized military system, in which individual lords were responsible for raising and commanding their own armies. The Qin Dynasty, on the other hand, had a centralized military system, in which the emperor controlled the army.

Philosophy and Religion: The Zhou Dynasty was known for its emphasis on the concept of the Mandate of Heaven, which held that the king had a divine right to rule, but could be overthrown if he ruled unjustly. The Qin Dynasty, however, did not place as much emphasis on religion or philosophy.

Legalism: The Qin Dynasty was known for its adherence to Legalism, a political philosophy that emphasized strict laws and harsh punishments to maintain order and control. The Zhou Dynasty did not have a specific political philosophy like Legalism.

Culture and Art: The Zhou Dynasty is known for its contributions to Chinese literature, including the Book of Songs and the Analects of Confucius. The Qin Dynasty, on the other hand, is known for its achievements in architecture, such as the construction of the Great Wall of China.

Overall, the Qin Dynasty represented a shift towards centralized power and a more bureaucratic system of government, while the Zhou Dynasty represented a more decentralized feudal system with a greater emphasis on philosophy and culture.

qin dynasty vs han dynasty

The Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) and the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) were two of the most important dynasties in Chinese history. Here are some key differences and similarities between the two:


Length of Reign: The Qin Dynasty only lasted for 15 years, while the Han Dynasty lasted for over 400 years.

Legalism vs Confucianism: The Qin Dynasty was characterized by a strict Legalist philosophy, which emphasized strict laws, harsh punishments, and the absolute power of the emperor. In contrast, the Han Dynasty adopted Confucianism as its official philosophy, which emphasized moral virtue, education, and the importance of government officials acting as role models for society.

Political Organization: The Qin Dynasty was highly centralized, with power concentrated in the hands of the emperor and his close advisers. In contrast, the Han Dynasty had a more decentralized system, with power shared between the emperor, his officials, and the regional governors.

Military Conquest: The Qin Dynasty was known for its military conquests and expansionist policies, while the Han Dynasty was more focused on consolidating and maintaining its existing territory.

Infrastructure: The Qin Dynasty is remembered for its impressive infrastructure projects, including the construction of the Great Wall of China and the creation of a network of roads and canals. The Han Dynasty continued these projects and also developed a sophisticated bureaucracy and educational system.


Legal System: Both the Qin and Han Dynasties established legal codes and systems of punishment, and both emphasized the importance of law and order.

Standardization: Both dynasties introduced standardization to various aspects of Chinese life, including weights and measures, currency, and the written language.

Expansion: While the Han Dynasty was less focused on conquest than the Qin Dynasty, it still expanded China’s territory through military campaigns and diplomacy.

Imperialism: Both the Qin and Han Dynasties were imperialistic, with the emperor as the ultimate source of authority and power.

Overall, the Qin Dynasty and Han Dynasty represent two distinct periods in Chinese history, with different political, philosophical, and cultural characteristics. However, they also share some similarities and both played important roles in shaping China’s development and identity.

qin dynasty vs qing dynasty

The Qin and Qing dynasties were separated by more than 1,500 years and had many differences in terms of culture, society, and governance.

The Qin Dynasty was established in 221 BCE after a series of wars and conquests. It was the first dynasty to unify China under a centralized government, led by the emperor who held absolute power. The Qin Dynasty also implemented a series of reforms, including a standardized legal system, a uniform system of weights and measures, and the construction of many public works projects such as roads, canals, and the Great Wall. However, the Qin Dynasty was short-lived, lasting only 15 years, and was known for its harsh rule and brutal punishments.

On the other hand, the Qing Dynasty was established in 1644 CE, after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. It was the last imperial dynasty of China, ruling for over 260 years until it was overthrown in 1911. The Qing Dynasty was a period of cultural and economic prosperity, and it saw significant expansion of China’s territory through military conquests. The Qing Dynasty also implemented a series of reforms, including the introduction of Western technology and ideas, the creation of a modern educational system, and the abolition of some oppressive laws.

In terms of culture, the Qin Dynasty was known for its strict legalism, which emphasized the need for strong laws and harsh punishments to maintain social order. The Qing Dynasty, on the other hand, was influenced by Confucianism, which emphasized the importance of morality, education, and social hierarchy.

Overall, while both dynasties had significant impacts on China’s history and development, they were very different in terms of their governance, society, and cultural influences.

qin dynasty vs Xiongnu

The Qin Dynasty and the Xiongnu were two distinct entities that existed during different periods in Chinese history. The Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) was a short-lived dynasty that marked the end of the Warring States period and the beginning of imperial China. The Xiongnu, on the other hand, were a nomadic confederation that existed from the 3rd century BCE to the late 1st century CE and were a constant threat to the Han Dynasty.

During the Qin Dynasty, the Xiongnu were not a major power and were primarily located in the northern regions of China. The first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang, was able to defeat the Xiongnu in some early battles, but the conflict was not a major focus of his reign.

It was during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) that the Xiongnu became a significant challenge to the Chinese state. The Han Dynasty was able to repel several Xiongnu invasions and even establish alliances with some Xiongnu factions. However, the relationship between the Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu was often strained, and there were frequent conflicts and negotiations.

In conclusion, while the Qin Dynasty did have some early encounters with the Xiongnu, it was during the Han Dynasty that the Xiongnu became a major concern for the Chinese state.

who helped overthrow the qin dynasty?

The overthrow of the Qin Dynasty was led by Xiang Yu, a prominent military leader and warlord during the late Qin period. Xiang Yu was a descendant of the Chu royal family and had been a key figure in the rebellion against the Qin. He formed a coalition with Liu Bang, another prominent rebel leader, and together they defeated the Qin army in a series of battles. After the fall of the Qin Dynasty, Xiang Yu and Liu Bang fought for control of China, with Liu Bang emerging victorious and establishing the Han Dynasty.

Xiang Yu

what event happened after the qin dynasty collapsed?

After the fall of the Qin Dynasty due to the peasant uprising at the end of the Qin Dynasty, the power struggle between Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, known as the Chu-Han Contention, took place. Also known as the Chu-Han War or the War of Chu and Han, it was a large-scale war fought between the two major factions, Xiang Yu, the Hegemon-King of Western Chu, and Liu Bang, the King of Han, to seize power from 206 BC to 202 BC.

The Chu-Han Contention evolved directly from the peasant uprising at the end of the Qin Dynasty, but its nature was fundamentally different. Despite the victorious overthrow of the old feudal regime in the peasant uprising, Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, the leaders of the peasant uprising, had to resort to the old path of feudal rule and became contenders for feudal power.

Eventually, the Chu-Han Contention ended with the defeat of Xiang Yu and the establishment of the Western Han Dynasty by Liu Bang.

The Chu-Han War lasted more than four years and was unprecedented in terms of the vast battlefield, massive scale, and rich military strategy. It holds an important place in the history of ancient Chinese warfare. The Chu-Han War ultimately achieved the grand unification of the Western Han Dynasty, which has significant historical significance.

what brought an end to the qin dynasty?

There are four reasons for the rapid downfall of the Qin Dynasty:

  1. Firstly, the emergence of peasant uprisings led to the decline of the Qin Dynasty.
  2. Secondly, the rulers’ lavish spending on palace construction and the Great Wall caused resentment among the people, which contributed to the downfall of the Qin Dynasty.
  3. Thirdly, the rulers’ cruel and unfeeling governance caused controversy and unrest throughout the Qin Dynasty.
  4. Finally, internal political chaos accelerated the downfall of the Qin Dynasty, with three factions vying for power: the supporters of Prince Fusu, Li Si, and Zhao Gao.

The Qin Dynasty was the first unified empire in Chinese history. Qin Shihuang declared himself emperor after unifying the six states, marking the beginning of feudal dynasties. However, the Qin Dynasty lasted only a short period of time, with many reasons contributing to its downfall. Firstly, the peasant uprising represented the main reason for the fall of the Qin Dynasty. Secondly, the rulers’ extravagant spending on palace construction and the Great Wall caused a waste of resources, which resulted in a decline of national power and accelerated the downfall. Thirdly, the rulers’ cruelty and lack of compassion resulted in the loss of people’s support. Finally, both internal political struggles and external invasions, such as the peasant uprisings and the constant incursions of the Huns, caused internal fragmentation and hastened the demise of the Qin Dynasty.

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.

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