The Qin Dynasty
Editor’s Note: I found this paper from college on my flash drive. I have no clue why it’s a little less than 660 words. Perhaps it was supposed to be a one page summary of the Qin Dynasty? I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here. I also break the cardinal sin of starting a paper with “this paper.” Disgusting. Also, I just realized how weird the phrase “writing a paper” is.
This paper will deal with an important subject in not only ancient China, but all of ancient history. That subject is the Qin (pronounced “chin”) Dynasty (221 BCE-207 BCE). Although the Qin Dynasty was only around for fourteen years, they played a pivotal role in shaping China and could be considered one of, if not the most, influential dynasties in Chinese history. In fact, the name of China derived from the phonetic pronunciation of Qin. This dynasty also increased trade, improved agriculture and ruled with great military strength. But first, an important question must be asked. Who are the Qin and why are they so important?
The Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BCE) was the first dynasty to unite China under a single government. This dynasty’s expansion caused them to be spread too thin and required many territories to be ruled by men with governorships. These men, however, decide that they would rule each of these territories as a “king,” while still acting under the guise that they still served a king.
Eventually, The Zhou’s power deteriorated. This caused ancient China to split up into a great period of fragmentation. This fragmentation led to several hundred states being formed in a period known as The Warring States period. This period led to a long period of warfare in China. It also led to a long period of social and economic instability in the country.
Qin Shihuang, China’s first emperor came into power around 221 BCE. He led the Qin to several important victories in battle. One of these conquests was over the remaining members of the Zhou Dynasty (they were known as the Chu at this point).Under this emperor, the Qin took a very serious approach to re-establishing social and political order back to China.
Socially, the re-established order by introducing very strict laws that brought harsh consequences should they be broken. This system is referred to as legalism. Under legalism, these laws were strict because although all people were equal under the law, the Qin believed that all humans are essentially bad in nature. These laws and punishments were made strict and severe to try and corral that inherently bad nature in humans.
Politically, the Qin Dynasty was very forceful and “heavy-handed” in their attempts to establish their dominance. The Qin used a system of standardization to force the other states to have to follow suit. They standardized axle sizes for transport. The Qin also standardized coinage in China by getting all of the other states to use their round coins. The Qin’s military used the newest technology, transport and strategy to great advantage. They even created the Great Wall of China to protect the empire from foes.
The Qin also burned many books and buried many scholars alive in order to erase the previous dynasties in order show their true power and effectiveness, and to “reprogram” the way the people of China thought but it only led to the people having disdain for the dynasty.
Although a powerful dynasty, the Qin Dynasty lasted a mere fourteen years. Qin Shihuang died in 210 BC. Shihuang’s son became emperor after two of Shihuang’s advisor placed him there. This was an attempt to keep control of the dynasty, but this only caused in-fighting between the two advisors. Eventually, this led to the deaths of both men AND Shihuang’s son. The people revolted and the empire came under the control of a powerful Chu leader, allowing him to create the Han Dynasty.
The question of whom the Qin were and why they were so important has been answered. The Qin Dynasty was the dynasty that ended the Warring States period with swift and effective standardization and regulation practices and military strategy. Despite ending such a volatile period of Chinese history, the Qin were not without their share of conflict, as the strict nature that helped them restore order led to a very quick demise.