Home: China Facts: China History
Font Size:    

Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC)

 Terra Cotta Warriors, XianOriginally, the Qin people were an ancient tribe in western China. During the rule of King Xiao of the Zhou Dynasty (11 century BC - 221 BC), Feizi, chief of the Qin tribe, raised horses for the king who then gave Feizi the surname of Ying. Later, Duke Zhuang, another chief of the Qin tribe, received orders from King Xuan to fight against the Quanrong who were badly defeated during the war. Thereafter, the Qin tribe gradually grew more powerful. In the later times of the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC - 771 BC), Duke Xiang of the Qin tribe was conferred as a vassal along with the land of Qixi (Baoji City, Shaanxi Province today) by King Ping, because he had made contributions to escort King Ping to move east. In the Spring and Autumn Periods, Duke De of the Qin State moved the capital to Yong (Fengxiang County, Shaanxi Province today). In the Warring States Periods, Duke Xiao appointed Shang Yang to carry out a series of political reforms to strengthen the state, which laid a solid foundation for the feudal economy and politics of the Qin State. Since then, the Qin State gradually became stronger and stronger. In the end, Qin destroyed the other six strong states - Han, Zhao, Wei, Yan, Chu and Qi, unified China, and established the first centralized, unified, multi-ethnic feudal state in Chinese history - the Qin Dynasty.


In 221 BC, King Zheng of the Qin State renamed himself as emperor, and made Xianyang City of Shaanxi Province as the capital. He announced that he was the first emperor of China, and the later generations should inherit the respectful title from him. That is, they should name themselves the second Qin Emperor, the third Qin Emperor and so on. At the same time, he stipulated that the emperor should name himself 'Zhen', and he made a set of court rituals and a records management system to strengthen the emperor's dignity and to control the conduct and power of the ministers. In addition, the first Qin Emperor adopted a series of measures in politics, economy and culture to consolidate his sovereign and to let his family's rule over China last forever.


In politics, Qin Shi Huang centralized all the political, economical and military power in his hands to make sure that his power was supreme. In the central government, he set up the Prime Minister, Yushi Dafu (Supreme Censor) and Taiwei (Commander in Chief). In the local government, he carried out the system of prefectures and counties whereby the country was divided into 36 prefectures, under which counties were established. By doing so, Qin Shi Huang grasped nearly all the power of the country in his own hands.


Economically, the first Qin Emperor standardized the length, measures and weights, and unified the currency, which promoted the economical communications between different ethnic groups, and conveniently provided opportunities for socio-economic development.


Culturally, he unified the characters by making the mini-seal scripts as the official ones, which promoted cultural communications. However, in order to reinforce control over the people's ideas, he ordered the burning of all historical books, literary works and poems collected by the Chinese people, only leaving medical books, books of auguring, crops books, and the books about the Qin State. Furthermore, Qin Shi Huang buried 460 men of letters alive, because some shamans and scholars had secret discussions about his absolutism, covetousness of power, and excessive punishment. That is the well-known event – 'Burn the books and bury the scholars alive'.


In addition, to further strengthen and glorify the emperor's power, Qin Shi Huang formulated a set of complicated rituals for libations and worship. He also requisitioned thousands of common people to construct many palaces around Xianyang for him, among which the Epang Palace was the most luxurious. At the same time, Qin Shi Huang believed that when a person died, his spirit would go to the heaven and still exist. So he had constructed his tomb on the Li Mountain when he was still alive in the hope that he could continue his sovereign after the death. In the tomb, it was built with heaven and earth and with mercury as the rivers and seas. What's more, not far from the tomb, he constructed his huge underground army, which is the noted eighth wonder of the world - Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses.


The unification of the Qin State ended the long-term separations and local divisions in China and it made Chinese people live a peaceful and steady life to some extent. However, Qin's tyranny, heavy hard labor, endless military service and taxes, and rude punishments brought people great disasters and suffering. Especially in the rule of the Second Qin Emperor, people's lives were filled with untold suffering. Finally, Chen Sheng and Wu Guang launched a peasant uprising, which brought about the downfall of the Qin Dynasty, although they failed in the end.


Following them, Xiang Yu and Liu Bang's uprising finally overthrew the tyranny of the Qin Dynasty.

I want to say
  • ReplyTaylah
    6/10/2014 1:10:00 AM

    What was the Qin Dynasty known for?If u could answer this.....thankyou sooooo much!

    • Lilian :6/10/2014 2:20:00 AM

      It was famous for its construction of China Great Wall, the terra cotta army (the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang) and it unification of China.

    • Eth :12/15/2015 7:22:00 PM

      The great wall of china was built over many dynasties, it just happened that they built a large portion of it. The Qin were known for their harsh legalist philosophy and Qin Shihuangdi's burning of the books and burying of scholars.

    • sara :2/13/2017 5:47:00 PM

      mostly for being the first emperor, building the great wall of china and bringing china under one rule

  • ReplyRebbeca
    11/7/2016 5:49:00 PM

    how did it get destroyed? i am so confused

  • ReplyMaya
    6/13/2016 6:47:00 AM

    I am doing this project and I need help on this question.What did different groups think about achievements of QIN dynasty?

  • Replytaylah
    6/6/2014 1:20:00 AM

    Hi, I'm doing this project on the Qin Dynasty, could you name various structures that were built during the Qin Dynasty?This website has all the answers I'm looking for! It's a great website! Thanx soooooooo much!

    • Liana :6/6/2014 9:18:00 PM

      As for the buildings/architecture made during that time, the well preserved ones are Terracotta Warriors and Horse, Great Wall of China, Xianyang Palace and Epang Palace in Xian (the current one is its relic site.)

    • jose :2/25/2016 6:05:00 PM

      they invented chodes

    • Carys :4/4/2016 10:35:00 PM

      If you could tell be what plants the Qin Dynasty grew(the agriculture), that would be soooooooo helpful and thank you!

  • ReplySomeone
    8/14/2014 6:52:00 PM

    Hi I was just asking what did Qin shi huang believe In

    • hillary :8/17/2014 3:40:00 AM

      He believed in legalism.

    • zee bae :4/17/2015 9:45:00 AM

      lol i dont care

    • Pigs :6/18/2015 3:04:00 AM

      Order

    • Cora :10/15/2015 12:41:00 PM

      Qin shi Huangdi believed legalism which is a belief that thought harsh punishments were good.

  • ReplyKayLynn
    9/24/2014 12:58:00 PM

    - What were the main crops that Qin dynasty farmed?- Did they have stable food supply? Did it lead to specialization? Which products did they begin to produce?- Which natural resources (metal)did they have access to? ANY HELP EXUDED TO THESE QUESTIONS WOULD BE VERY HELPFUL. THANK YOU! :-)

    • jjustyn :11/17/2014 3:20:00 PM

      their greatest export which made them extremely wealthy were silks, yes they had a lot of access to metals like iron and made steel.

  • ReplyBri
    9/18/2014 7:19:00 PM

    Does anyone know of any social classes that participated in the government during the qin dynasty? I'm working on a project but i'm having a hard time trying to find this specific piece of information. Any help would be awesome.

    • Ruby :9/24/2014 5:52:00 AM

      The government is formed by the nobility and civil officals (people who have knowledge).

  • ReplyKirito
    8/7/2014 11:08:00 PM

    Hi I was just wondering about some of the perspectives on Emperor Qin. What did people think of him? (at the time) and What do people think of him in modern days.

    • Vivian :8/11/2014 4:50:00 AM

      During his throne, people thought he was a tyrant, due to the heavy tax and cruel punishiment on prisoners. Nowadays, people hold an attitudet of neutrality. He had good points, such as central China unification, measurement, weight and characters standardization and joining Great Wall, but he also did wrong things, such as burning some useful books and burying scholars (Fen Shu Keng Ru) and the bad sides above.

  • ReplyTaylah
    6/7/2014 11:04:00 PM

    Hi, my name is Taylah.Could you please give me information on people who actually went to war during the Qin Dynasty?Who were the soldiers in the Qin Dynasty?Thankyou so much if you could answer this!

    • Susan :6/10/2014 2:28:00 AM

      Qin had their own army, which were formed by young people. At that time, man over 17 years old needed to serve in the army for some time. They are the soldiers during the wars. If soldiers are not enough in the wars, local farmers as well as other residence would be forced to be in the war.

  • ReplyTay-Rae
    6/3/2014 1:28:00 AM

    What inventions and technology did the Qin dynasty have?

    • Cindy :6/4/2014 9:47:00 PM

      There were few items invented in Qin Dynasty. It is heard that the China writing brush was invented during that time.

    • Tay-Rae :6/6/2014 1:25:00 AM

      Hi, would you be able to list down some websites that have pictures or sketches of the Chinese writing brush back in the Qin dynasty?

    • Diana :6/6/2014 9:09:00 PM

      I happen to find this website, on which you may see the Chinese writing brush:http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/arts/chinese-calligraphy.htm

    • Tay-Rae :6/7/2014 10:19:00 PM

      Thankyou so much!