Timeline Description: The Qin dynasty (221 - 206 BCE), while short-lived, established the first great Chinese empire. The Qin, from which the name China is derived, established the approximate boundaries and basic administrative system that all subsequent Chinese dynasties were to follow for the next 2,000 years.
|771 BC||The state of Qin becomes a close ally of the Zhou.(771 BCE)
During the Zhou dynasty, a barbarian invasion drives the Zhou rulers eastwards. The state of Qin guards the western frontier, gradually moving eastward and occupying the original Zhou territory. Qin becomes a close ally of the Zhou.
|770 BC||King Ping of Zhou transfers titles of nobility to the Qin.(c. 770 BCE)
King Ping of Zhou (770-720 BCE) transfers titles of nobility and huge estates to the chief of Qin. This elevation allows Qin to become more ambitious and better fend off attacks from surrounding regions.
|361 BC||Lord Shang Yang introduces Legalism.(361 BCE)
The powerful Qin statesman Lord Shang Yang passes a number of reforms throughout the state. He promotes the strict political philosophy of Legalism and establishes the Qin capital at Xianyang.
|246 BC||King Ying Zheng becomes King of Qin.(c. 246 BCE)
King Ying Zheng, aged 12 or 13, becomes King of Qin. He will ultimately lead Qin to victory in the Warring States period.
|230 BC||Qin controls a major part of China.(230 BCE)
During the Warring States period, Qin gradually gains power through calculated attacks. When the final campaign to unify China begins around 230 BCE, Qin controls one-third of all the land under cultivation in China and one-third of China's total population.
|221 BC||Emperor Shi Huangdi unifies China and begins the Qin dynasty.(221 BCE)
Ying Zheng, King of Qin, emerges victorious from the Warring States period in China and unifies the country. He begins the Qin dynasty and names himself Shi Huangdi, or "first emperor."
|218 BC||Construction on the Great Wall of China begins.(c. 218 BCE)
Hoping to protect the country from invasion, Shi Huangdi orders that the previously-built portions of the Great Wall of China be connected into one long, unbroken structure.
|214 BC||Shi Huangdiexpands southwards.(214 BCE)
After securing territories to the north, Shi Huangdi sends the majority of his army south to conquer southern tribes. He greatly expands the southern territories of the empire.
|214 BC||Construction begins on the Grand Canal.(214 BCE)
During his campaigns to the south, Shi Huangdi commences construction on the Grand Canal, which is used heavily for supplying and reinforcing troops during secondary campaigns.
|213 BC||Shi Huangdi orders book burnings.(c. 213 BCE)
As part of his Legalist political beliefs, Shi Huangdi requires that all books that do not support Legalism be destroyed. He orders these books to be burned, and only texts on farming, medicine, and predictions are saved.
|213 BC||Shi Huangdi becomes increasingly obsessed with death.(c. 213 BCE)
Following several assassination attempts, Shi Huangdi becomes increasingly obsessed with death and the concept of eternal life. Evidence suggests he may have begun searching for an elixir of immortality.
|212 BC||Scholars are executed.(212 BCE)
On the advice of his chief advisor Li Siu, Shi Huangdi orders scholars to be executed on a large scale, since many scholars opposed his book burnings.
|210 BC||Shi Huangdi dies.(210 BCE)
First Emperor Shi Huangdi dies on a journey through China. He is buried with an army of 8,000 terracotta warriors in his palace tomb.
|210 BC||Shi Huangdi's weak second son takes the throne.(210 BCE)
Prime minister Li Siu contrives to place Hu Hai, the weak second son of Shi Huangdi, on the throne. Due to the weakness of Hu Hai, the oppressed people of China grow bolder and soon begin to revolt.
|206 BC||The Qin government collapses.(206 BCE)
Following Shi Huangdi's death, the Qin government can no longer keep China unified. Rebel forces, each claiming the Mandate of Heaven, form across the country. Qin authority is finally overthrown in the capital of Xianyang in 206 BCE, and a series of battles for supreme authority commences.