histories generally mark the Qin dynasty as a major revolution
in Chinese political thought
, since King Zheng, its first and only true ruler, dismantled the heirarchies of the older Zhou Dynasty
that had ultimately lead to the breakup of political power.
The advisor to the King, Li Ssu, was the major thinker in the Legalist school of thought and governance, and aided in forming the brutal policies of this period.
One of the most far reaching changes in Chinese history occured here: standardisation. The Qin Dynasty created a uniform criminal code of law
s, and subjected everyone, noble and common alike, to it. As part of the Legalist philosophy, coinage
, axle length
s and measure
s, and most notably, writing
, were brought in line with Qin standards, usually through abolishing all others.
An interesting side-effect of this is that the Dynasty had problems maintaining dirt roads due to the standardisation of axle lengths, which lead to all carts treading the same ruts.
The Qin Dynasty also treated philosophy and intellectual thought very harshly. The reason why not many peices of writing survive before this period is that the Emperor ordered the burning of books, and a prohibition on writing new ones, with the exception of the state history, and other common records. Scholars who did so were usually beheaded. Many intellectuals were sent to labour on the Great Wall of China, which the Emperor had decided to complete.
Those who died on such assignments had their remains buried in the wall.
Other acheivements of construction include the largely forgotten Grand Canal system of China, which facilitated the transportation of agricultural produce throughout China, highways, and further improvements to the embankments of the Yangtze river.
When the Emperor dismantled the hereditary system, he put in place a network of 36 commanderies, which ruled over district
s, headed by appointees who held their position through merit, usually displayed in the army
The Qin established the largest domain so far, expanding the borders of what was known as China down into Hanoi, in Vietnam (Yueh nan, the Chinese name for Vietnam, means southern Yueh, a historical name for the Guangdong/Canton region), and across into Inner Mongolia.
The Qin Dynasty rapidly disintegrated after the death of Zheng, and bickering regional warlords sprang up, leading to the quick death of the first Legalist State.