Qin Dynasty — The Epoch of Great Unification
Main Hall of Imperial Palace (Xianyang Palace) of Qin, based on Architectural Historian Yang Hongxun's Restored Model.
What Is Qin Dynasty?
Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC) was the first centralized empire in the ancient history of China, which had a unified language, currency, and measurement, after having defeated the other six kingdoms of the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC).
Qin's political system set a foundation for Chinese feudal empires in the next 2000 years and was the starting point of "Great Unity" in Chinese culture.
In 14 years of the Qin Empire, three emperors ruled the empire.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Certificate (Hu Fu) to Deploy Forces Garrisoned in Yangling — National Museum of China
Facts About the Qin Dynasty
The State Qin became powerful and obtained advantages over other kingdoms after the Reform of Shang Yang (about 395 BC — 338 BC).
According to Shang Yang’s reform, commoners of Qin could get noble titles because of their military achievement, mainly based on how many heads of the enemies one had cut out.
Terracotta Warriors and Horses of the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, Photo by Zhao Zhen.
Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor in the history of China; he never nominated a queen or a crown prince.
Qin Dynasty was the first unified empire with centralized power in Chinese history that applied the System of Prefectures and Counties instead of the previous System of Enfeoffment.
Measurement, currency, and language were unified in this era.
Unearthed Unified Scale Hammer of Qin — National Museum of China
The administrative policies of Qin suppressed the commerce industry; therefore, most merchants returned to being peasants.
Legalism was the dominant official ideology of Qin.
Unearthed Bamboo Slips Recording the Laws of Qin — Hubei Museum
The first large-scale peasant uprising in Chinese history happened in the late Qin.
Unearthed Terracotta Warriors of Qin — Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum
Brief History of the Rise and Fall of the Qin Dynasty
Conquests of Other Six States and Establishing of Qin
Qin Shi Huang, also respected as Qin Shihuangdi, one of the most extraordinary emperors in Chinese history, established the first unified feudal imperial regime Qin after the remarkable general Wang Jian and his son had conquested the other six kingdoms of the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC).
Under Qin's governance, the measurement, currency, and language were unified, and standardized royal roads were constructed within the country.
Qin Shi Huang also commanded the construction of the Great Wall to defend the Xiongnu in the North and the Terracotta Warriors to guard his mausoleum underground.
Bronze Chariot and Horses — Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Cruel Fights Over the Throne and Large-Scale Rebellions
After Qin Shi Huang passed away in the year 210 BC, his 18th son Huhai snatched the throne through conspiracy, assassinated all his other siblings, and became the second emperor of Qin.
The following year, because of heavy taxes, levies, harsh laws, and the next emperor's incapability, a big peasant rebellion happened, followed by rebel forces of nobles of the former six kingdoms.
The whole nation fell into chaotic wars again.
Unearthed Sword and Armor of Qin — Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum
End of the Qin Empire
Those uprising armies together defeated the main force of the Qin Empire.
Soon, the second emperor of Qin was forced to suicide.
The third emperor of Qin, Ziying, wore to the throne for less than two months, then surrendered to King Liu Bang when his army was approaching and was assassinated by King Xiang Yu about a month later.
This was the official ending of the Qin Empire.
Then, those uprising armies kept fighting against each other until Liu Bang defeated other forces and established another unified empire, the Han Dynasty.
Jade Goblet of Qin — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Political Structure and Social Systems of the Qin Dynasty
Around 25 million to 30 million
Political System: Three Councillors and Nine Ministers System
The emperor had the supreme power; officials in charge of the military, administration, and supervision (Three Councillors) directly answered to the emperor.
The other nine departments (Nine Ministers) that managed finance, judiciary, ceremony, security, etc., were independent of each other and only listened to the emperor.
Independent vassal states were replaced by 48 counties under direct control by the central government by assigning, monitoring, and assessing governors of each county.
Official Selection System:
Emperor assignment, recommendation, and regular assessment.
Specific amounts of farmland products; capitation tax; military or labor services.
Currency of Qin (Qin Ban Liang) —Shanghai Museum
Everyone in the kingdom was obliged to fight in their army and protect their family.
More rewards were given to soldiers with military achievements, such as noble titles, money, exemption from duty, etc.
Private Ownership of Land, where civilians can own, cultivate, and sell their farmland while paying taxes to their country.
Eaves Tile of Qin — Shaanxi Academy of Archeology (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Scientific Achievements and Artifacts of the Qin Dynasty
Construction of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System (by Li Ping): As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dujiangyan is one of the most outstanding scientific irrigation systems in Chinese history, which is still in use today.
It changed Chengdu from a place that frequently suffered from massive floods and severe drought to a cultivable, productive, and fertile region.
The Dujiangyan Irrigation System in Sichuan Province that is Still Functioning
Construction of the Great Wall and Terra Cotta Warriors.
Application of Greenhouse Cultivation.
Multiplication Table on Bamboo Slips of Qin — National Museum of China
Inlayed Silver Carriage Piece of Qin — British Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)