Sunday, 16 November 2014



One extremely important event in China's history was the unification by the king of Qin State. Although quite short-lived this dynasty implemented landmark reforms which established a model for China which was used for centuries. 

The Zhou had lost the last of their power by 256BC and were no longer influential. 

The states of China before unification

There were Seven states which were key players in the fight for power.  The Shang and Zhou - the most powerful in the northern regions the latter weakening around 500 BC when they fell into a period of chaos and war as each tried to assert its power and during which period they were invaded by nomadic tribes from the north of China understanding the disharmony among the states.

The other key players were the Han, the Chao, the Wei, the Ch'u, the Yen, the Ch'i and the Qin. The main ones being the Ch'i and the Qin. However, it was the Qin that emerged victorious of the warring states and ultimately  it was the king of the Qin who united all the states and become supreme ruler.

Qin was located near the Wei River in the west and between 328 and 308BC, assumed control over the northern and northwestern states gradually bring the other states under the control.
Qin's then philosophy of Legalism was in favour of a centrally governed state.

Unification of The Warring states began 221BC, not as historian’s originally believed at 256BC.  The most powerful state in China from 256BC was the Qin Dynasty. 

After the fall of the Zhou in 246BC, power was handed to Ying Zheng who was a 13 year old boy.

Advisers counselled Ying Zheng, one of whom was Li Su who was one of the founders of Legalism and who assisted in the unification of the states. Ying Zheng’s advisers advised him to unite the states in 232BC.  Because many of the states were weak they could not fight the military of Qin’s military.  Qin’s military was quite a power therefore the northern states were easily overthrown by the might of Qin’s military.


By 221BC Ying Zheng had conquered the northern states proclaiming himself as the First Emperor naming himself Shi

Huangdi.  Aided by his advisers Shi Hungdi began a system of rule and governance which was followed by subsequent Chinese dynasties.  This system placed the heads of state at the centre with other administrative levels branching into the newly created provinces.

Qin’s reforms included better roads and agriculture and introduced one currency as well as a consolidating their current systems of law and writing.  The laws were strict with regard governing and anyone found to be corrupt was executed.  A bureaucratic system was endorsed from the previous feudal system with a strict hierarchy making land available to peasants which had been taken from feudal nobles.

Legalism had been already been put in place prior to the unification.  The principles on which the Qin ran and unified their kingdom were based on their belief that people were base and selfish and therefore needed to be strictly controlled and disciplined.

Shi Huangdi abolished local customs aiming to minimise the various languages so a central system could be adopted and understood by all Qin’s citizens.  Shi Huangdi was a brutal and cruel ruler.  Standards weights and measures were introduced in the Qin to assist centralise and unite the states.  

The First Emperor ordered the burning of all books and private libraries which included teachings not in line with his government including those of Confucius. He did this to destroy any thought from his people to establish their own ideas which may have led to rebellion.  Those who tried to protect their libraries were executed.  This action by Shi Huangdi was a devastating loss to Chinese culture as most of the early teachings, records and philosophies were destroyed.

The Qin then sought to take control of the territories in the southern regions after putting these reforms into place. Shi Huangdi had a great many enemies with nomadic tribes being a threat in the north.  

It is believed thousands of ruling families had been overthrown by the Qin and who opposed Shi Huangdi’s rule and were furious that he had taken so much of their land and handing it to his nobles.


In 210BC after the First Emporer died, his son assumed the Qin Dynasty thrown.

After Shi Huangdi’s death a rebellion took place.  Due to the Qin’s oppressive rule many citizens were unhappy with the legalist governance and the prince of the Han overthrew Shi Huangdi’s son in battle to establish the Han dynasty.

Within 4 years of the First Emperor’s death, the Qin Dynasty had fallen and although short lived it was an extremely significant period during China’s history.

The period of the Qin Dynasty pronounced “CHIN” left a lasting legacy, and although short-lived the legacy of the Qin Dynasty, was that of the modern day country of China, as it was from Qin that China has taken the name.  In 1976 some workers digging for a well unearthed one of the greatest discoveries of modern times, by unearthing a clay soldier - another legacy of the Qin Dynasty and The First Emperor - Shi Huangdi, that being The Terra-Cotta Army.  More of this in my post title the Terra-cotta army.

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