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January 24, 2024

Han & Qin Chinese History

Han & Qin Chinese History


Qin Shi was an emperor during the Qin regime. The period features advanced technology in military weapons and education. The dynasty came to eminence after conquering adversary states such as the Zhou regime. On the other hand, Emperor Gaozu established the Han regime. He adopted a majority of Qin’s dynasty policies and customs.  Han Wudi revolutionized the dynasty before it collapsed under Xian’s leadership. This paper discusses the Han and Qin periods of Chinese history.

The Qin Regime

Unification of Ancient China by Qin Shi Huangdi

Key events during his tenure led to the unification of China. It can be argued that the Great Wall of China offered protection to people living in China from the northern invasion, especially the Mongols. Its construction united them for an ordinary course. Also, the construction of the Lingqu canal connected Canton Area to the Yangtze River basin through river Li offering excellent mobility (Jichun && Xiaocong, 2018). Notably, appointments were made on merit rather than hereditary. Such a state of affairs offered many people opportunities for employment.

Han & Qin Chinese History

Ideally, Qin established new ways of doing things that would act as the norm across the dynasty. Such innovations and ideas involved the standardization of coins, weights, and measures.  The only legalized coin for trade purposes was bronze in nature, rounded and with a hole in the center in the shape of a square. Additionally, writing and modes of transport were also standardized. Standardization of writing enabled bureaucrats across the regime to read documented communications (Sanft, 2014). It also enabled the leadership to overcome cultural barriers between different provinces hence uniting China. The preferred mode of transport was chariots with axle widths. Such standardization efforts resulted in a standard way of doing this that united ancient China.

Han & Qin Chinese History

Government structure

Qin highly relied on bureaucracy in his administration. There was a great chain of command with the hierarchy of officials, both military and civil, all serving the first emperor. The division of China into larger provinces was witnessed, with each province being assigned top military officials rather than members of the royal family (Sanft, 2018). The establishment of a police force within his government led to the seizure of all personal weapons that were formerly owned by members of the warring communities. New laws and policies were implemented that led to the end of Feudalism. Qin significantly invested in the military; they advanced weaponry from bronze swords to sharp iron swords. Such a move resulted in the government having much power and control.

He structured centralized political sovereignty by gaining control over peasants who formed the most significant part of the workforce. The rich were relocated to the capital to get the support of the high social class. Notably, he removed power from the noble class to deal with the disloyal nobility of the Zhou was a move to galvanize his authority. He also developed a postal system as well as conducting a census of the people. Standardization of currency was seen as a means of exerting control over the dynasty. During his tenure, irrigation systems and highways were built (Jichun && Xiaocong, 2018). The Great Wall of China, for example, helped protect the people of China from the northern invasion, especially the Mongols.

Han & Qin Chinese History

Legalist Philosophical System

          Legalism was the legitimate philosophy resulting in other philosophies being suppressed, such as Confucianism, Daoism, and Mohism. Legalism proclaimed that a stable state was a necessity to diminish human self-interest. He was responsible for the burning of philosophical texts and history books except those of Qin State. More than four hundred and sixty Confucian scholars were buried alive. Such events ended many schools of thought. Under the help of Li Si, the Prime Minister, the writing system was standardized into consistent shape and size across the country. Efforts mentioned earlier would unify Chinese culture for ages. Legalism greatly denounced the Feudalism and called for harsh retribution for disobedience of the first emperor.


Standardization was mainly for coins, weights, and measures, writing as well as modes of transport. The only legalized coin for trade purposes was bronze in nature, rounded and with a hole in the center in the shape of a square. Standardization of writing enabled bureaucrats across the regime to read documented communications (Sanft, 2014). It was institutionalized by Prime Minister Li Si. It also enabled the leadership to overcome cultural barriers between different provinces hence uniting China.

The written language during the Qin dynasty was logographic.   The preferred mode of transport was chariots with axle widths. Additionally, the commissioning of the legalist philosophical system standardized operations that relied on the feudal system.  Such standardization efforts resulted in a standard way of doing things that united ancient China.

Han & Qin Chinese History

Theoretical Reasons for the dynasty to last 15 years 

One of the key reasons as to why the regime did not last for long can be attributed to the overreliance on brutal methods of maintaining power. Such brutal techniques influenced defiance from the people, especially the conscripted field workforce that consisted of farmers and peasants.

One theory explains that Qin was overly suspicious of his death, and as such, he survived many death attempts. According to Huang (2017), his death was as a result of his obsession with immortality, where he died of poisoning from the immortality concoction made by his alchemists and sorcerers. The Qin Regime lasted for 15 years between 221BCE to 206 BCE.

Chaos and the Rise of Common Man Rebel Liu Bang (256 – 195 BC)

Qin died on a trip to the eastern regions of his territory as reported where he had gone to obtain a panacea from magicians in Tao. He was escorted by Zhao Gao, the Chief Eunuch, and Li Si, the Prime Minister (Lin, Peach && Fang, 2019). Zhao Gao and Li Si concealed information regarding death until their return, where they changed the will to put Huhai, son of Qin, on the throne as he could be easily manipulated. Huhai was then renamed Qin Er Shi, he executed several princes and ministers as well as arresting messengers who brought bad news.

He was extravagant as he commissioned several building projects, increased taxes, and enlarged the army. It led to chaos, which resulted in officials being attacked uprising of revolt armies, several people declaring themselves kings of the territories they seized. Li Si and Zhao Gao fell out, which led to the beheading of Li Si. Zhao subsequently compelled Qin Er Shi to execute suicide for his failings in leadership. Such turn of events led to Ziying, nephew to Qin Er Shi, to assume power. Ziying prosecuted Zhao Gao. However, he was unable to calm the unrest that had rapidly developed, with several state officials proclaiming to be kings of various regions they were assigned.

Han & Qin Chinese History

   Ziying, therefore, announced himself the overall king above the other kings. Due to his incompetence, a famous revolt broke out in 209 BCE. The rise of Liu Bang, the rebel, took place during the revolt where Ziying was defeated by Chu rebels and surrendered in 207 BCE under the leadership of Liu Bang.  Xiang Yu was the group leader of the Chu Rebels, and as such, he executed Ziying and later destroyed the Qin capital.

The Han Regime

Liu Bangs founding of the great Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 AD)

After the execution of Ziying, Liu Bang was given the region of Han River Valley to administer.  He waged war against local kings, successfully defeating all the surrounding kings (Lin, Peach && Fang, 2019). It was then that he betrayed Xiang Yu and decided to revolt for three years. Xiang Yu committed suicide in 202 BCE and asserted himself Emperor Gaozu of the established Han regime. He adopted a majority of Qin’s dynasty policies and customs.

Philosophy and Strategies used by the Han Dynasty in its Initial phase (Western Han)

Philosophically, the Han Empire practiced many of the Qin policies. Legalist and the provincial rule was practiced but in a more flexible approach that integrated Confucianism and Daoism in making state policies and decisions.  Strategically, Emperor Gaozu first developed civil service. He identified educated individuals whom he consulted on developing and administration of the empire. Consequently, he institutionalized books, schools, and examinations to form a meritocratic tool upon which the hiring of government officials would be established. He also established the imperial capital at the city of Chang’an. Its strategic location was favored because all major roads converged there.

Han & Qin Chinese History

Compilation of the Huai Nanzi

It comprises of ancient Chinese script composed of scholarly articles of a series of debates held at Liu An’s court. The essays integrate concepts of Daoism, Confucianism, and Legalism aimed at finding the required qualifications for the order both socially and politically. The text summarizes that social order requires a perfect ruler. The texts act as a handbook for reference by future leadership.

How Han Wudi Transformed China

Han Wudi revolutionized ancient China in two fronts, both through economic industrialization and military feats. Firstly, he established government industries specializing in salt, wine and iron, transportation, and service delivery (Lin, Peach && Fang, 2019). Secondly, he institutionalized income tax and forth with its government control. The establishment of farming reforms that led to widespread agricultural practice was part of the reforms.

Han Wudi made changes in the education system by creating a civil service examination as well as establishing an Imperial University. Additionally, he established the Silk Road on his diplomatic missions to Central Asia and the Mediterranean regions that led to the expansion of trade routes economically improving the Han Dynasty (Lin, Peach && Fang, 2019). Some of his military feats are evidence by the doubling of the size of the empire conquering Korea, parts of Turkistan, Manchuria, northern Vietnam as well as Inner Mongolia. Such expansion resulted in improved trade contacts and expansion of the Silk Road.

Han & Qin Chinese History

Accomplishments of Han Wudi in Making Confucianism State Philosophy

            Emperor Wu much experimented with socialism, resulting in the reassembling and transcription of Confucian doctrines. The aggregation of ethical Confucian ideas resulted in it becoming a single official philosophy. New ideas were developed that enabled that comfortably allowed individuals to accept social responsibility and position and justified their view of state power. On the other hand, the ideals put on pressure to the state to act impartially towards the citizens. The state relied on the proceeds of agricultural activities and land taxes, which encouraged individuals to work hard.

Personal life and Dark Side of Han Wudi

Emperor Wu, also known as Han Wudi, was known for his pride that made him such a successful and feared warlord. He boasted in his successful military and economic feats and never took accepted failure in his endeavors (De Crespigny, 2017). He had a great passion for horses, preferably from the Fergana region.

The mystic was that they were blood sweating due to skin infection caused by parasites. Han Wudi considered the bleeding of the horses as a sign of grace from heaven. He was viewed as harsh, cruel, and demanding by the army captains from his executive orders. Like Qin Shi, he was lured by the pleasure of immortality. His final years were full of regret and withdrawal due to the death of his son and that of his wife, which he played a part.

Han & Qin Chinese History

Role of Daoism in Mortally Weakening the Dynasty during the Yellow Turbans Rebellion

The Yellow Turbans Rebellion took place during the Eastern Han period of the dynasty under the stewardship of Emperor Ling.  The religious movement of Daoism created an impression that the government had lost its power (Wicky, 2018). The revolution was led by Zhang Jue, a Daoist religious leader. In his teachings, he spread the vision he had seen that a new dynasty referred to as the yellow haven was going to rule for six decades (De Crespigny, 2017). Due to his fame for healing the sick, the vision gained much faith among the followers coupled with the exploitation of peasants from the yellow river region.  It was a source of inspiration for the rebellion.

The Decline of the Han Regime

The Han Regime ended shortly after the Yellow Turbans Rebellion. It occurred during the regime of the last emperor, Xian. Government institutions were destroyed, resulting in regional regimes headed by warlords (Wicky, 2018). Cao Cao made the last efforts to reunite the Han Dynasty is one of the warlords. He was able to reunite the empire under Xian’s leadership but was defeated by war between his troops and allegiance of the other two regimes at the Battle of Red Cliffs. Cao Cao had kidnapped Xian the young emperor forcing him to abdicate the throne to his son. However, it was too late as the dynasty had split into three kingdoms.

Han & Qin Chinese History


Both Qin and Han dynasties have similarities in that they helped unify china through policies and philosophies. The significant difference is that the Qin regime relied on legalism while the Han regime implemented Confucianism. Both dynasties relied on agriculture for economic purposes. However, the Han regime diversified in trade and industrialization. In my opinion, the Han Regime was better than the Qin regime.


(APA referencing style)

Sanft, C. (2014). Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China: Publicizing the Qin Dynasty. SUNY Press.

Huang, J. (2017). Research on the Causes of the Destruction of the Qin Dynasty. In 2017 3rd International Conference on Economics, Social Science, Arts, Education, and Management Engineering (ESSAEME 2017). Atlantis Press.

De Crespigny, R. (2017). Portents of Protest in the Later Han Dynasty: the memorials of Hsiang K’ai to Emperor Huan. Faculty of Asian Studies in association with Australian National University Press.

Sanft, C. (2018). The Qin Dynasty. In Routledge handbook of early Chinese history (pp. 146-159). Routledge.

Lin, C., Peach, T., & Fang, W. (Eds.). (2019). The Political Economy of the Han Dynasty and Its Legacy. Routledge.

Jichun, Y., & Xiaocong, Z. (2018). On Economic Development of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce in the Early Qin Dynasty. Agricultural Archaeology, (1), 7.

Wicky, W. K. (2018). The Collapse of China’s Later Han Dynasty, 25-220 CE: The Northwest Borderlands and the Edge of Empire. Routledge.