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About China > History > Dynasties > dycontent
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Qin Dynasty

Portrait of Qin Emperor Shihuang
The Qin came to power in 221BC as one of the western states that existed during the Warring States Period. Its leaders conquered the other warring states and unified China for the first time. A ruler, the First Emperor, or Qin Emperor Shihuang, was named inciting the long emperor tradition in China. The Qin, which was not the most culturally advanced of the Warring States, was the strongest in terms of military. The empire utilized many new technologies in warfare, especially the cavalry. The Qin is most likely where the name China originated.

The Qin made many changes in their efforts to unify China and aid in administrative tasks. First, the Qin implemented a legalist form of government under which the former Qin territory was governed. The area was divided into 36 commanderies which were then subdivided into counties. The commanderies had a civil governor, a military commander and an imperial inspector who had to report to the Emperor in writing. The legalist form of government involved rewards and punishments to maintain order. Also, the state had absolute control over its people and the former nobility lost all of its power. The nobility was also transferred from their homes to the capital. Groups of five to 10 family units were formed which were held responsible for the wrongdoings of any individual within the group.

Terra-Cotta Army
The achievements of the Qin are numerous. They standardized the language and writing of China, which had varied greatly from area to area during the Warring States Period. This was done partially out of the need for a consistent way to communicate across the country; administrators also had to be able to read the writing of the commandery to which they were sent. Also, currency became standardized as a circular copper coin with a square hole in the middle. Measurements and axle lengths were also made uniform because cartwheels made ruts in the road and the ruts had to be the same width, otherwise carts with a different axle length could not travel on them. Many public works projects were also undertaken. The Great Wall was built in the north, to protect against invaders and roads and irrigation canals were also built throughout the country. Also, a huge palace was built for the Qin Emperor Shihuang for which the dynasty is famous: an extensive terra cotta army was found at the emperor's burial site. The army consisted of 6,000 clay soldiers protecting the tomb a possible substitute for the living people who were previously buried with the rulers.

Despite all of these accomplishments, the Qin Emperor was not a popular leader. The public works and taxes were too great a burden for the population. It seemed the emperor could not be satisfied. Also, the nobility disliked him because they were deprived of all of their power and relocated. Finally, the emperor banned all books that advocated forms of government other than the current one. The writings of the great philosophers of the One Hundred Schools period were burned and more than 400 opponents were executed.

The Qin reign came to an end shortly after the First Emperor's death. The Qin Emperor Shihuang only ruled for 37 years; he died suddenly in 210BC. His son took the throne as the Second Emperor, but was quickly overthrown, and the Han dynasty began in 206BC.

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