(DYNASTIC RULE and the CHINESE – continued)
Qin (pronounced chin) was a state in the Wei River Valley, where the Chuanrong had overrun the Zhou king in 771 BCE. It was seen by peoples of the other Chinese states as inferior and semi-barbaric because of the many Tibetan and Turkish people that it had absorbed. Qin retained the martial spirit and vigor of nomadic herdsmen, and Qin was a thoroughfare for trade between Chinese civilization and the tribal lands in Central Asia, a trade that contributed to Qin's wealth.
Before the Warring States Period began (475 BCE) Qin was one of the balancing powers, joining others to hold off domination by any one power. Between 413 and 409, Qin suffered losses in a conflict with neighboring Wei, but it turned itself around through reforms. Qin's ruler had an innovative chief minister, Shang Yang – philosophically a Legalist. He drew from the innovations of others, namely the state of Wei. Shang Yang borrowed Wei's idea of peasant-infantry soldiers and an elite professional standing army rather than an army of aristocrats in chariots. And Shang Yang's army had the horsemen common to tribal herdsmen.
Shang Yang, chief, minister in Qin
Shang Yang moved to intensify the strength of his military and the strength of his Qin through incentives. He created a system of rewards and punishments that were clear to society members. As chief minister he rewarded battlefield heroism. He wrote of war as something people hate, and added that "a fearful people, stimulated by penalties, will become brave, and a brave people, encouraged by rewards, will fight to the death." He claimed that given these incentives, Qin would have no match. note7
Shang Yang applied his incentives to the development of Qin's economy. He convinced the ruler to apply law to all his subjects and to reward people for good service and merit rather than give favor according to kinship. Rather than Confucianism's disdain for commerce, he encouraged trade and work. He encouraged the making of cloth for export. He threatened with slavery any able-bodied man who was not engaged in a useful occupation.
He asked educated and talented persons from other states to move to Qin, and he offered farming people from other states virgin land and promised them exemption from military service. Many came to Qin, increasing Qin's manpower and food production and strengthening its military.
With commoners flooding into the army of Qin, the ruler of Qin was able to align himself more with common people and less with the wants of his warrior-aristocrats and nobles. In one revolutionary sweep the ruler of Qin divided his principality into counties and had these counties administered by appointed officials rather than by nobles. What is today thought of as modern state was in the making.
Shihuangdi (Qin Shi Huang)
Shang Yang introduced a range of administrative techniques: new methods to record available resources. He standardized measures and coinage, kept records of granary storage and initiated an accounting that prevented tax evasion – tax evasion being a threat to the state's growth.
When the ruler of Qin died, Shang Yang was left without protection at court, and jealous persons at court had Shang Yang executed. But his work lived on.
In 314 BCE – twenty-four years after the death of Shang Yang – the kingdom of Qin won a military victory over nomads to its north. In 311, Qin expanded southward onto fertile plane against more nomadic people and defeated a state called Shu, and a Qin general, Zhang Yi, founded a new city, Chengdu.
Other states were also expanding: Yan against so-called barbarians east of the Liao River, and Chu was expanding southward across the Yangzi River. War and conquest reduced the number of states to eleven.
One of the eleven, Wei, had been reduced as a power by its war against Qi (pronounced chi). Qi appeared to be the dominant power, and Qin joined a coalition of four other states against Qi, which the allies of Qin feared more than they did Qin.
Qi was well organized and densely populated relative to most other states. It was high in food production and had grown wealthy also from trade in iron and other metals, and, in 256 BCE, Qi absorbed Lu.
Qin expanded into Zhou family territory, an area around Luoyang containing about 30,000 people and thirty-six villages. A Zhou prince counter-attacked, trying to claim the Zhou throne for himself. Qin's army defeated him, and this brought the great Zhou dynasty, dating from 1045 BCE, to an end, 256 BCE.
In 246 BCE, Yong Zheng, the thirteen-year-old son of the ruler of Qin, succeeded his father. After sixteen years of rule, Zheng embarked upon the conquest of the remaining states that had been a part of Zhou civilization. According to Victoria Tin-bor Hui, the historian Mark Edward Lewis describes Qin, in his words, as having enjoyed "a splendid geographic situation... It was accessible from the East only through the Hangu Pass and from the southeast through the Wu Pass." And, writes Victoria Tin-bor Hui, Ralph D. Sawyer "similarly thinks that Qin occupied a 'virtually unassailable mountainous bastion'." note11
In the wars that led to a unification of what had been Zhou civilization, armies of hundreds of thousands were involved on both sides. Qin was driven by the fear that if it didn't defeat all of the others they would combine and crush it. Qin defeated one state after another: Han in the year 230, Zhao in 228, Wei in 225, the large but more sparsely populated and less tightly knit Chu in 223, Yan in 222 and Qi in 221. Occasionally, to eliminate possible military opposition, Qin's armies slaughtered all enemy males of military age.
The Warring States Period was over. Zheng had become ruler of all that had been Zhou civilization. He went to a sacred mountain, Dai Shan, where, it would be said, he received the Mandate from Heaven to rule the "entire world." He took the name Shihuang-di (di signifying emperor). He was also named Qin Shi Huang.
He then expanded his frontiers southward to Guangzhou and to Guangxi, creating what would thereafter be considered China. And he pushed into Annam, or northern Vietnam – an area the Chinese would hold only temporarily. Shihuangdi had become the first emperor of China.
Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.