Qin Dynasty and the Shi Huangdi

Qin Dynasty and the Shi Huangdi

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Qin Dynasty and Shi Huangdi

Originally, the Qin were looked upon as semi-barbarian. At this time, they were known for raising horses. After the Zhou dynasty began to crumble, the Qin leaders made sweeping changes that helped them become one of China’s greatest dynasties. The first of these changes were instituted in 360 B.C., by the first of a series of powerful leaders, Lord Shang. Lord Shang ruled with an iron hand. One of the first things he did was confiscated all of the unused land that was held by the aristocratic class. Next, Lord Shang assigned the land to members of the peasant class. Now the peasants were no longer under control of the feudal lords. Instead, they paid their taxes directly to the state. As a result, the Qin became wealthy. At the same time, Lord Shang took control of the wealthy clans that had operated independently of the government. His actions made the central government even stronger. Before long, there was a rise in commercialism that created a new class of workers called merchants. Merchants made enormous sums of taxable money through the trading of goods. Lord Shang believed in terrifying his people into submission. He organized his families into mutual responsibility groups that made each person liable for any crime committed by another member of their group. Under his leadership the Qin became very powerful. However, Lord Shang was universally hated by his people.

Then in 247 B.C., Prince Zheng ascended to the throne at the age of 15. Eventually, when he matured he would launch an offensive that would unite all of China. After achieving his goals, King Zheng chose to change his name to Shi Huangdi which means first emperor. Shortly afterward, he stripped the ruling families of the conquered states of all of their lands and titles and forced them to move just outside his new capital city of Xianyang. In Xianyang they were closely watched by the Qin. Next, he divided his empire into states or commanderies which were now under the control of his officers. At the same time, he combined each states’ armies into one large national army. Shi Huangdi placed the most talented people in government positions, and he required that everything be done in writing.

In addition, Shi Huangdi realized that if he were going to rule his vast empire then there would be a need for standardization. One of the first things he did was create a uniform coin for currency. This benefited both the tax collection process and the merchants who before this time had used a variety of objects as currency. Next, he implemented uniform weights and measures. Violators or people who cheated were punished severely. He also required that all cart axles be the same length. Otherwise the mud roads would have virtually been impassable.

Also, because the empire had become so vast he decreed that one written language be adopted. However, after having many of his scholars renounce his reforms, Shi Huangdi had all of the books in the empire burned except for those that were written about medicine, agriculture, and divination. Before long, Shi Huangdi utilized forced labor, and as a result he became very unpopular. Hundreds of thousands of his people had been forced to devote their entire lives constructing his amazing mausoleum and palaces. At the same time, he used even more forced labor to build canals, giant walls, and over 4,700 miles of roads. When he was buried in an enormous mausoleum, an entire life sized Terra-cotta army was buried with him.