Human Legacy Course/China's Qin Dynasty

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Human Legacy Course I
China's Qin Dynasty
LECTURER: -Atcovi (Talk - Contribs) 13:02, 10 November 2016 (UTC)

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Hello, and welcome to the Qin Dynasty lesson. This lesson will be on China's most significant dynasty, the Qin Dynasty. The Qin Dynasty shaped Chinese history and culture. Thanks to the Qin Dynasty, we have some amazing things in China, such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army.

What is the Qin Dynasty? And what was so important about it? is an easy question to answer once you are done with this lesson. Follow along, as we go in depth to what the Qin Dynasty is and its significance. Once we have gone through the Qin Dynasty, you will know what the Qin Dynasty is and its significance, and, to review more about the Qin Dynasty, answer some questions down at the bottom.

Thanks, and have fun. Please leave any questions/comments/concerns on the talk page!

Qin Dynasty

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What is the Qin dynasty?

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Qin empire in 210 BCE

The Qin Dynasty (Ch-in diy-nast-y) is the fourth dynasty in Ancient Chinese history. The Qin Dynasty is the first multi-national, power-centralized dynasty in all of Ancient China after Qin Shi Haung Di (the dynasty's first emperor), in/around 221BC, defeated the last states (to take control of China) in what is known as the "Warring States Period" (Warring States Period: 476 BC - 221 BC), where, in the Zhou Dynasty, independent leaders ruled their own states in Ancient China... which led to war and conflict) and, therefore, conquered the Zhou Dynasty. This is when the Qin Dynasty began.

All of Ancient China were unified under emperor Qin Shi Haung Di (Chinese: 秦始皇), who took the title, "First Emperor". He invented the word, "emperor", as a replacement for "king"... which was used by Chinese rulers for the next two millenniums.

Even though the Qin Dynasty lasted for a diminutive amount of time (221-206BCE), the Qin Dynasty played a crucial role in Chinese History. How? Before outlining how... we need to understand the background first!

Who was the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty?

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A painting of Qin Shi Huangdi by an unknown artist

Emperor Qin Shi Haung Di (Shihaungdi) (18 February 259 BC – 10 September 210 BC) was born to King Zhuangxiang of Qin (281–247 BC), personal names being Yiren and Zichu, who later became the king of the Qin state in the Warring States Period (Zhou dynasty), but (during the time of Qin's birth) was a minor prince who was a hostage in the Zhao state.

Qin's mother (Zhoa Ji according to legends) was a former concubine of a rich merchant named Lü Buwei, a politician of the Qin state who soon got King Zhuangxiang to become the heir apparent (through bribes) of the Qin state from his former state as a hostage. He, after rescuing Zhuangxiang from hostage status, was appointed by Zhuangxiang as chancellor.

Meanwhile, back to Qin Shi Haung Di... he was ascended to the throne of the Qin state in 246 BCE at the age of 13 when his father died after just three years in power. The Qin state, already, was the most powerful state in all of the states in China, and would've (due to it's tremendous power over China) easily gotten ridden of the other states to former a whole China itself! The Qin state, enabled by it's strong position in China, became a strong bureaucratic government with a strong, organized military in the upcoming years it remained as a state in the Zhou dynasty.

Qin Shi Haung Di's government was headed by Lü Buwei until Qin Shi Huang Di was considered of mature age in 238. Qin's first act as king was to execute his mother's lover, Lao Ai, who later was (apparently) planning on overthrowing Qin Shi Haung Di, and to get rid of Lü Buwei, who was involved in the affair. Lao Ai, did indeed, attempted to overthrown the government of the Qin State, but he failed and was dismembered by five horses running in different directions. Lü Buwei later was exiled when Qin was of the age of 22. Buwei later committed suicide by drinking poison because of his fear of Qin's government. After Buwei was exiled, Li Si became Qin's new chancellor.

Due to his amazing power over the Qin state, he decided to act on his ambition of unifying China, and he completed that desire in 221 BC, after defeating the other six states remaining in the Warring States Period. There, the Qin Dynasty took it's place over the Zhou Dynasty.

What did he do during his ruling of China?

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The bianliang coin
Great Wall of China, which was made during the Qin Dynasty
A terracotta soldier
A map of Northern China

He expanded the country's ruling by continuing to expand the southern regions of China down to present-day Vietnam. Not only did he expand the land too, but he also reformed politics, economy, and the culture of China. In politics, he made it so there were counties and prefectures DIRECTLY ruled by the government. He also added coinage (the "bianliang" coin as the currency of the Qin Empire) and a tax system, standardized Chinese measurements such as weights and measures, and created roads and canals (such as the Lingqu Canal, that connected the Yangtze River to the Canton area, using the Li River) to connect the counties together to improve trade between them. But most importantly, will have to be the unification of the Chinese script. Before this, there were several ways of writing the Chinese levels, but thanks to his unification, it made it a lot easier for him to control the government and for everyone to understand each other. Present-day Chinese people still use his innovation.

When it comes to what he did to China, he did quite a lot.

The Great Wall of China (Chinese: 万里长城) was a huge wall used to keep invaders (specifically the Xiongnu Tribe who were constantly attacking China) away from Ancient China. Even though it is magnificent, huge, and quite stunning, it is also home to hundreds of dead slaves/servants/laborers who built the wall. He also made the Terracotta Army (Chinese: 兵马俑; literally: "Soldier-and-horse funerary statues"), which were clay-built models of over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses (who were actually part of Qin's army), were made (in 210-209 BCE) to protect the emperor in the afterlife. The army was spotted by a group of local farmers building a well in Xi'an, China, in 1974. The local farmers alerted the government, and a whole exploration started.

Other than what he physically did to China, he wanted to physically change himself. He wanted to become immortal.

Qin Shi Haung Di grew a fear of death the farther you go into his years of living in this world, especially after the assassination attempts. He would take pills and a bunch of other things in order to live forever. Literally anything! He even sent servants to look for magic herbs (for immortality), which were believed to be in the mythical islands off the east coast of China! His best court doctors and alchemists would make a number of different potions, most containing "hydrargyrum" (otherwise famously known as Mercury), which probably quickened his death rather than make him live forever.

Just in case the quest for immortality fails (which it did, no surprise), in 215BCE, he made a humongous tomb for himself, filled with rivers of deadly hydrargyrum, booby traps for thieves/plunderers, and copies of the his palaces.

How did the people live under the Qin dynasty?

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Assassination attempt on Qin Shi Haung Di

Harsh laws ruled the land! Qin Shi Haung Di took control from the nobles to prevent a coup d'etat, he burned "useless books" (books that were not about his regime), and if a scholar refused to give their book for it to be burned, he would be burned alive/or work on the wall.

He also weakened the knowledge (to spread) of scholars and teachers, generally educated people (Censorship is introduced). So people like Kongfuzi would be one of those banished/buried alive during the Qin empire. Qin also killed people who disagreed with him. You would be killed for something little, like suggesting Qin another way to do something he does in his way. Such as if you propose to Qin to not build a wall (GW of China), you'd probably be put to death. He also gave peasants two jobs, to either grow food or harvest silk. If the peasants were lazy/refused to do their work, he would kill them/send them to work on the wall.

Due to his harsh rules and punishments, most people hated him. Several assassination attempts were planned against him, but all of them failed. So if you were living during the ruling of Qin Shi Haung Di, you'd probably watch your mouth quite more than you do nowadays, and you'd hate Qin a lot!

When did Qin Shi Haung Di die and how?

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Small puddle of Mercury, which probably hastened the death of Qin Shihaungdi

Qin Shi Haungdi died while touring Eastern China in 210 BCE. He probably died due to mercury poisoning, because of the immortality treatments.

Who were the other emperors that took over?

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Li Si

The only emperors where both related by blood. Does that give you some hints?

There were only two emperors, the first one was Qin Shi Haung Di, and the second one was his son, Qin Er Shi (Chinese: 秦二世), who's personal name is Huhai (Chinese: 胡亥).

Qin Shi Haung Di died while he was on one of his tours through Eastern China in 210BCE. Normally, someone at this high authority's death would be immediately known by the public, but that was not the case here. Qin Er Shi withheld the news of Shihaungdi's death until two months later, when the entourage of Qin Shihaungdi returned to the capital, Xianyang (capital of Qin empire). The eldest son of Shihaungdi, Fesu, was supposed to be the next emperor, but Qin Er Shi, together with Li Si and Zhoa Goa (politician of Qin dynasty; close aide to Zhuangxiang, Shihaungdi and Qin Er Shi), forged a fake ruling (which was by Qin Shi Haungdi) to Fesu and General Meng Tian (who was the court rival of Li Si and Zhoa Goa, and Fesu's favorite general) to commit suicide. Their plan worked, and both of them committed suicide. After the suicide, Qin Er Shi became emperor of the Qin Dynasty.

How did the dynasty fall?

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Founder and first emperor of the Han Dynasty, Gaozu

Qin Er Shi, Shihaungdi's son, was a terrible ruler who did not have control of his land. He would do several things that eventually led to the downfall of his empire, such as executing his ministers and imperials and arresting messengers who brought him bad news. This led to an uprising among the people, mainly peasants and farmers. The rebellions and uprisings resulted in a Chinese civil war, accompanied by floods and droughts.

After the murder of Qin Er Shi (and Li Si and Zhoa Goa executed), and the chaos of the aftermath of the collapse of the Qin Dynasty in 207BCE (with a leader named Ziying, who was the nephew of Qin Er Shi, attempting to hold onto the throne of the Qin dynasty, but failed and surrendered), an official, named Gaozu (famously known as Emperor Gaozu of Han, (Chinese: 漢高祖)), became a general and reunited China under the Han Dynasty in 202BC.


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Now that you have finished this lesson, please answer these questions. Once you are done, take a picture of the questions with your answers, and post the picture of your questions and answers on the talk page.

  1. When did the Qin Dynasty start?
  2. Who was Lü Buwei?
  3. Who was Loa Ai, and how did he die?
  4. What was the age of Qin Shihaungdi when he ascended to the throne of the Qin dynasty, and why? Was he in full control, why or why not?
  5. What was Qin's first act as king?
  6. What two jobs did Qin give to peasants?
  7. Why was he so obsessed with immortality?
  8. Where, when, and why did he die?
  9. Who was supposed to be the next emperor? Why didn't he become the next emperor?
  10. Who was the leader who attempted to hold power, but failed and surrender? Who did he surrender too?
  11. When did the Han Dynasty start?