Duration: 221~206 BC
Qin Dynasty is the first dynasty that reigned over the core parts of the Han Chinese homeland. After conquering all the other powers of the Warring States Period, King Ying Zheng （嬴政）of the State of Qin upgraded his kingdom into an empire, and proclaimed himself Emperor Shi Huang Di 始皇帝, meaning the Founding and First Emperor. The throne was expected to pass down to endless generations of descendants of the Qin house.
Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇, the first emperor of Imperial China, who unified China in 221 BC.
Yet ironically, the Qin Dynasty, with a duration of merely 15 years, is the most short-lived one in Imperial China (also known as Dynastic China, the period from Qin Dynasty to the end of Qing Dynasty). The governance philosophy was a tightly centralized legalist government which imposed extremely strict legal code, tight control and extra-heavy taxation on the people while brutally silencing political opposition. Gigantic, costly projects (like the construction of the Great Wall and a nationwide highway network) were carried out at the cost of harsh taxation and conscript labor. Peasant uprisings soon erupted across the country, and toppled the Qin throne, giving birth to the Han Dynasty.
Territory of Qin Empire, 221 BC
Great Wall, one of the legacies of Qin Dynasty
Peasant uprisings led by Chen Sheng and Wu Guang, and later by Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, toppled the despotic rule of Qin Dynasty.
Despite much notoriety, the Qin Dynasty had outstanding contribution to the course of Chinese history. A most conspicuous legacy is the Great Wall, which it had built to defend the empire against the Huns in the north. It unified the core parts of China, and replaced the former feudal system with a unitary national government, which is an epoch-making change in China's political history. Furthermore, it also unified the legal code, written language system, measurement and currency of China. For example, the lengths of cart axles and the handwriting style in different regions within the empire were to be made uniform to facilitate trade and communication throughout the empire.
Terra Cotta Warriors, at the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang
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