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Learn About Qin Dynasty China


The long-lasting Chinese empire was created by Emperor Qin (pronounced in English as "chin"). He unified China, imposed a system of weights and measures, roads, currency, and more. The dynasty known for him only lasted a short time following his death, but the empire endured for two millennia.

1. Qin Dynasty

We assume the European name China comes from the name Qin. This is the name of a state of ancient China from before the Qin dynasty. It is also the name of that same first imperial dynasty. The Qin Dynasty of the third century B.C. dynasty put an end to the warring states (sometimes called contending states) period and unified a chunk of China.

Note that on the accompanying map, in the enlarged version there are dotted red lines representing various periods in Chinese history, including one from 250 B.C. which is before Emperor Ch'in united the warring or contending states, a time when the future emperor was still young and hadn't yet been made king of the state of Qin.

2. Emperor Ch'in

Emperor Qin Shi Huang
PD Courtesy of Wikipedia
Emperor Ch'in (or Qin) is the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. He is also called Qin Shi Huang (Qin Shihuangdi) or, more simply, "the first emperor." Emperor Ch'in ordered the construction of an amazing, life-size or larger, terracotta army for his mausoleum. He also saw to numerous civil reforms, and was responsible for deeds harder to put a positive spin on, but which, nonetheless, appealed to the Chinese Communist Chairman Mao, under whose leadership archaeological work on the terracotta army commenced.

3. Chinese Accomplishments and Inventions by Era

The Qin dynasty's accomplishments included a version of the compass.

4. Qin Dynasty Armor

Terracotta Army in the mausoleum of the first Qin emperor.
Public Domain, Courtesy of Wikipedia.
One of the benefits of unearthing a gigantic terracotta army (built by the first emperor for use in the afterlife) is that one gets to look at models of the armor of the ancient warriors.

5. The Script Writing of Ancient China

Oracle Bone
CC Denn on Flickr.com
Chinese writing went through many phases. Bureaucrats -- important for astrology and predictions as well as record-keeping -- of the Qin Dynasty used Lishu, a script still sometimes used. An earlier use was for oracles, as in the oracle bones.

6. Sima Qian's 'Shi Ji'

Shi Ji, by Sima Qian - First Page of Chinese Manuscript
PD Courtesy of Wikipedia
Sima Qian was court scribe during the Han Dynasty. As a side project, begun with his father, he wrote a history of the known (to the Chinese) world up to his time. It is called the Shi Ji. By telling the history of China from its mythological beginnings to the Han Dynasty, it covers the Qin Dynasty.

7. Demographics of Ancient China

China is large now, but this nothing new. It was large back in Qin times. It makes you wonder if the relative lack of armor on the models of ancient warriors found in Qin's tomb was related to the first emperor's lack of concern for human life.

See: Maps of China.

8. When Did Confucianism Begin?

Confucius Presenting the Young Gautama Buddha to Laozi.
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
By the time of the Qin, Confucianism had started, but was suffering a decline due to persecution during this era.

See: Religion in Ancient China.

9. Qin Dynasty Pot

Qin Dynasty Pot
CC AndrewEick at Flickr.com
Chinese art is beautiful, often whimsical and functional. This pot seems to have a little face at the tip of the spout.

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