& Tornado Alley
The Rise and Fall of the Qin (Ch'in) Empire
During the Warring States period in China from 480 to 221 BCE
there were six major states vying for
domination. There were several lesser states which were important but not likely to
be important in the contest for domination. Qin was thought to be one of those lesser states.
It was clear that one kingdom would eventually dominate the rest. The kingdom of the Qin
in the west
was not one of the six major states. To the surprise of most, Qin, through political manipulation
and military campaign, conquered all
of its competitors one by one. This is the story of the rise and fall of the Qin Empire starting long before the
Warring States period until its fall some decade and half after the death of its founder.
The names of people and places are given in the pinyin style of transliteration but the Wade=Giles form is given
in parentheses the first time a term is used.
(All dates are BCE)
- 623: Under Duke Mu Qin (Ch'in) emerges as a serious power after conquering 12 neighboring tribal territories.
- 408: Under Duke Jien (Chien) imposes a land tax to be paid in grain.
- 375: Under Duke Xien Qin registers households into five household units called wu.
- 361: During the first year of the reign of Duke Xiao (Hsiao), a man called Shang Yang arrives in the kingdom of Qin.
Shang later became the most importantadvisor of Duke Xiao.
- 359: In a debate in the court of Duke Xiao, Shang Yang impresses the duke sufficiently to be put in charge of reforming
the administration of Qin.
- 356: Shang Yang is given the position of minister in charge of military and political affairs. He undertakes a
set of reforms which include:
- Abolishing the hereditary privileges of the old aristocracy
- Encouraging agriculture and restricting trade
- Establishing laws for military awards
- Organizing households into groups of five or ten and making
all members responsible for the other members' actions
- Eliminating the land-consuming paths and banks marking the
boundaries of farm land
- Creating subdivisions of the kingdom (prefectures)
- Standardizing weights and measures
- 352: Shang Yang is appointed chancellor in addition to being military commander for Qin.
- 338: Duke Xiao dies and Shang Yang is dismembered by his enemies in Qin
- 325: The ruler of Qin, Duke Hui-wen, assumes the title of King of Qin
- 273: Under King Zhao (Chao) the Qin armies, under the command of Pai-qi (Pai Ch'i) defeats the army of
Wei, killing 150,000 Wei soldiers
- 260: The Qin army, under the command of Pai-qi defeats the army of Zhao
- 259: A son is born to Zu-qu, a prince of Qin in exile in Zhao. The son is
named Qeng. He later comes to be known as Qin Shih-huang
- 250: King Zhao dies and is succeeded by King Xiao, but Xiao dies after only three days as king. He is succeeded
by Zu-qu, who assumes the name King Juang xiang (Chuang hsiang). Zu-qu's son Qeng is brought to Qin from Zhao
- 249: Lu Pu-wei becomes the chancellor of Qin.
- 246: Qeng, the son of Zuqu becomes King of Qin.
Qeng initiates the Qeng-guo water project.
- 238: King Qeng takes personal control of the state affairs of Qin. He puts down a
rebellion in Lao Ai.
- 237: Lu Pu-wei is dismissed by King Qeng as chancellor of Qin and ordered to go into exile. Another
advisor, Li Xu, presents an argument to the king against the expulsion of alien advisors.
On the basis of Li Xu's argument King Qeng rescinds his order.
- 236: Qin armies conquer the Xang tang armies and the He-jien (Ho-chien) region of
- 235: Li Pu-wei is again order into exile in Xu and commits suicide rather than complying.
- 234: The king of Han sends Han Fei to Qin to urge Qin attack Zhao. The Qin army
under the command of Huan-yi captures several cities of Zhao and decapitate 100,000 men.
- 233: The Zhao army under the command of Li Mu counter attack the Qin army and
defeat it. Han Fei, who had urged the attack on Zhao, is imprisoned and later forced
to commit suicide.
- 232: The armies of Qin and Zhao again battle and the army of Zhao again defeats
the army of Qin, but with great losses to itself.
- 230: The Qin army conquers Han and renames it.
- 228: The Qin army under a new commander, Wang Jien, defeats the army of Zhao and
captures its king. Prince Jia of Zhao proclaims himself King of Tai.
- 227: Prince Tan of Yen sends Jing Ko to assassinate King Qeng of Qin. He did not succeed
in his attempt.
- 226: The Qin army under the command of Wang Jien defeats the Yen army.
- 225: The Qin army under the command of Wang Ben conquers the state of Wei.
- 224: The Qin army loses a battle with the army of Qu which was commanded by Xiang Yen.
- 223: The Qin army under the command of Wang Jien defeats the Qu army. The Qu commander,
Xiang Yen is killed in the battle. The state of Qu is thus conquered.
- 222: Qin ends the state of Yen. King Jia of Tai is captured by Qin and his state of Zhao
- 221: The Qin army under the command of Wang Ben conquers the state of Qi. This is the last
of the six kingdoms. King Qeng assumes the title of Qin Xi-huang (First Sovereign Emperor). He
abolishes the role of the old aristocracies of the states thus ending the feudalistic structures
in the empire. He orders the destruction of their weapons. He unifies the laws, standardizes weights and measures,
and standardizes cart axle widths.
He also commands the standardization of writing. He demands 120,000 rich and influential
families in the six states to migrate to the capital of Qin, Xian-yeng.
- 220: Qin Xi-huang, the First Emperor, orders the construction of highways radiating out from Xian-yeng.
- 219: Qin Xi-huang goes on a tour of the eastern portion of his empire. He offers
a sacrifice at Shan Tai (Mount T'ai). He seek an elixir from priests that will give
him immortality. He makes Li Si (Li Ssu) chancellor.
- 218: While Qin Xi-huang is still on his tour of the western part of his empire an
assassin sent by Chang Liang attempts to kill him. Qin Xi-huang climbs two mountains,
Shan Chih-fu and Shan Lang-ya and has built monuments at their tops.
- 216: Qin Xi-huang orders his subjects to report the amounts of land that they own.
- 215: Qin Xi-huang travels to Chih-shih to inspect the condition of the northern
border of his empire. The Qin army under the command of Meng Tien drives the Xing-nu
(Huns) out of the land south of the Ordos River.
- 214: Qin Xi-huang orders the migration of thousands of households to the area which is
now the provinces of Guangdong and Gaungxi. He establishes army command units there to
protect and control the area. He also establishes an army command unit in the area that
Meng Tien drove the Xing-nu (Huns) from.
- 213: A debate is held in Qin Xi-huang's court on whether to restore the feudal hierarchy
that was abolished eight year previously. His advisors, Li Si and Zhou Qing-qen, argue
against this proposition.
Li Si advises Qin Xi-huang to burn all books and exterminate the clans of all those
who "use the past to criticize the present." Qin Xi-huang accepts this advice.
- 212: Qin Xi-huang orders the execution of 460 scholars who did not relinquish their
books. Some of these scholars were buried alive. Qin Xi-huang's son, Fu-su, who opposed
the execution of the scholars, is sent into exile to command an army unit of Meng Tien.
Qin Xi-huang orders the construction of a highway to link Qiu-yuan and Xien-yang. The
construction of a palace at O-bang is begun.
- 211: Qin Xi-huang orders the settlement of thirty thousand households in Bei-he and
While on a tour of his empire Qin Xi-huang dies at Xa-qiu. His advisors,
Li Si and Zhao Gao, know that the older son, Fu-su, has his own advisor and will remove
them from power. Before word of Qin Xi-huang's death reaches Fu-su, Li Si and Zhao Gao
forge a message from Qin Xi-huang telling him that he is angry with him and wants Fu-su
and Meng Tien to commit suicide. Fu-su and Meng Tien do commit suicide. Li Si and
Zhao Gao prevail upon the second son of Qin Xi-huang to keep them as advisors.
The First Emperor
- Qin Xi-huang's second son assumes the title of Second Emperor, Qin Erh-xi. Qin Erh-xi
takes tour of the eastern portion of his empire visiting Qieh-xi and Kuai-qi. While
on tour Qin Erh-xi orders the execution of twelve princes, ten princesses and many
high officials. The construction of the O =-bang Palace is resumed.
Army units in what had been the state of Qu revolt against Qin Erh-xi.
- Army units throughout the empire revolt. Zhao Gao has Li Si executed and becomes the
chancellor of the empire.
- Zhao Gao forces Qin Erh-xi to commit suicide. Zhao Gao makes Zu-ying the King of Qin
but abandons the title of Emperor. Zu-ying then has Zhao Gao assassinated and his clan
exterminated. An army of insurrection under the command of Liu Band captures the
Qin capital of Xien-yang and Zu-ying surrenders. The kingdom of Qin ceases to exist.
Source: Li Yu-Ning (ed.), The First Emperor of China, International Arts and
Sciences Press, White Plains, New York, 1975,
For more on the history of China see China.