In the Chinese history, the Qin Dynasty was the first power-centralized kingdom that applied the single system of ruling. The kingdom existed from 221 BC to 207 BC. Despite the fact that the dynasty lasted only for 15 years, it was the most significant one as compared to others. Moreover, the Qin Dynasty exerted great influence and held critical role on the dynasties that followed it in the Chinese history. The people's uprising finally succeeded the ruling of the regime comprised of only two emperors before it. The two emperors were Qin Shi Huang and his son Hu Hai. The dynasty, from which the name China came, instituted the approximate boundaries and central administrative system that all succeeding Chinese dynasties were to apply for the next two millennia. The paper is going to focus on the details about the Qin Dynasty. It will discuss how the regime developed, its achievements as well as how it came to collapse.
Qin was among the leading states in the periods of war. The origins of Qin go back to the early stages of the Eastern Zhou period, to 771 BC. During that time, one of the worst catastrophes in the history of China had just occurred since the coalition of barbarian invaders and Chinese rebels had sacked the capital of the Western Zhou Dynasty. In the process, a loyal lord of the Zhou chased the barbarians back beyond the boundaries. As a show of gratitude, the new king of Zhou gave him lands around the old capital as a fief. The king also promised him and his successors any other land that they would be able to grab from the barbarians.
At this time, the barbarian tribes heavily inhabited the region, and the king and his successors had to fight to maintain their land. Nevertheless, little by little, they were able to drive the barbarians away. Consequently, the fief eventually grew to take its place among the many territories of what would be later Zhou China. Thus, the state of Qin came into existence. Similar to any other country bordering it, the states of Eastern China regarded the Qin state as semi-barbarian. Irrespective of the fact that the rulers and people of Qin lacked culture and refinement, they were hardened soldiers, which was of great significance to them afterward. The conquering of the barbarian tribes by the Qin state continued for the longest time. However, in the mid-4th century BC, it started to engage in wars with other states of China.
The success of Qin over other states continued, especially when a powerful man known as Shang Yang became Principal Minister back in the 350s BC. Yang was a devotee of the Legalist school of thought. As a result, he devoted himself to strengthening the state of Qin through as sequence of sweeping reforms that focused the state’s institutions into military ends. He established a single code of laws and an efficient bureaucracy, functioning according to harsh rules and regulations. Yang also initiated several economic activities to multiply the wealth of the state, particularly by large-scale irrigation projects that significantly expanded agricultural production.
After that, the increased strength, given to the state of Qin by these reforms, was apparent. The armies of Qin conquered vast areas of neighboring states to north and south. Consequently, the state’s strength grew even further. For instance, in its newly acquired southern territories, the government of Qin implemented the biggest irrigation project never undertaken before.
In a clear statement of intent, Qin destroyed the last weak remains of the Zhou ruling house in 256 BC. In 10 years, a new king, Yeng Zheng, came to power. He surrounded himself with accomplished chief ministers, Lu Buwei and Li Si. Just like Shan Yang, the two were supporters of the Legalist school of thought, and they applied his earlier reforms of strict rules where people served the state with no question. They appointed men to serve the country based on merit instead of by noble birth to high positions within the military and administration. Further, they strengthened the economy of the country and expanded the army. They established a strategy of “divide and rule” contrary to other states and then launched a conquest war when they deemed the time was ripe.
In the Qin conquests, the state utilized diplomacy and trickery as its main strategies. The techniques were as effective as their military might. Moreover, the government of Qin used famine and the great earthquake, which the Zhou people had suffered from, to its advantage to attack it. Furthermore, to show its continued triumph, the Qin state turned the Zhao generals against their king, which sternly compromised their defenses. The state of Qin continued utilizing this strategy to conquer other countries until there was no opposition left. After Qin had completed the unification of China, the king of the state took the title of Qin Shi Huang commonly known as August Emperor of Qin. Historically, he is regarded as the first emperor of China. After the great victory over the other states, the Qin state put up a program to mold other countries into its different practices and traditions, thereby becoming one nation.
During the period of war, the leading states had been partitioned into provinces and prefectures under the administrators appointed by the rulers of the state. With the Qin state rising to power, it expanded this system uniformly across the entire country to establish a strong centralized administration. Thus, various local legal systems of the states were uprooted, and the legal code of Qin was imposed across the empire. The leading representatives of the individual states were coerced to quit the ancestral lands and transfer to the capital to be under the supervision of the emperor and his ministers. The aim was to prevent them from engaging in revolts in their home states
The Qin Dynasty abolished the idea of communities and either dispersed them into densely populated areas or dispatched them to strengthen the armies and expand agricultural production on the borders. Maximizing agriculture was the main aim for the Qin Empire; they gave it more support at the expense of trade. Nevertheless, the homogeneity that the state had enforced across the dynasty evidently made long-distance trade easier. Regional scripts were suppressed, and a standard system of writing referred to as small seal script was implemented throughout the state. Likewise, the same standardization was applied to weights and measures, the estimate of currency, and wheeled vehicles. Additionally, the dynasty constructed new roads, beginning from the state’s capital, connecting the provinces with the center, and new tunnels enabling the transport of goods around the dynasty.
The Qin regime had a dynamic way of dealing with external threats. Previously, walls were built by the various states bordering the northern steppes. These walls were for the defense from nomads and other countries. The Qin Empire enhanced these walls into a continuous defensive system, expanding it for over a thousand miles. Maybe, the most famous achievement of the Qin’s Dynasty entailed the creation of a tomb for the Emperor’s burial and the terracotta army that was to protect him in his afterlife. This achievement now remains one of the largest tourist attractions in China.
According to, Qin Shi Huang the emperor of the Qin state, always feared for his life. As a result, he was able to survive several assassination attempts. He considerably became infatuated with immortality and engaged many alchemists and sorcerers into the solution of this problem. Ironically, he died of poisoning in 210 BCE after he had consumed an immortality potion. The brutal strategies and brutal acts of the rulers caused resistance among the people of the state, especially the restrained farmers and peasants whose labors constructed the Empire.
After the death of the First Emperor, a civil war began in China, and it was intensified by floods and droughts. However, the Qin Dynasty collapsed entirely in 207 BCE after the assassination of Qin Shi Huang’s son. The civil war continued until 202 BC when an official from Gaozu became general and brought China together under the Han Dynasty.
The Qin Dynasty was only two emperors - a father and a son, ruled the empire that reigned for a short while and that. The dynasty came into power by succeeding the former rulers through the amassing of lands and driving out the rivals from these lands. The Qin state had several achievements, including unification of the states into a centralized dynasty under one emperor. Moreover, the Qin Empire brought standardization to the state, including the introduction of a uniform language as well as building roads that connected the provinces with the capital.
The Emperor of Qin employed a totalitarian system of government where everyone followed him without question. However, the dynasty ended after reigning for 15 years, following the death of the first emperor and the assassination of his son who had succeeded him.