An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

The Regional State of Qin 秦

Nov 1, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald
This regional state of the Zhou period was the precursor of the imperial Qin Dynasty.

Qin 秦 was a regional state of the Zhou period 周 (11th. cent.-221 BC). As a relatively backward state located far in the west, Qin was incorporated into the system of regional states of the Zhou dynasty at a relatively late point of time, yet a series of competent advisors helped Qin to become the strongest of the "Warring States" 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE) in the late Zhou period. In 221 BCE, after submitting all other states, the king of Qin adopted the title of emperor of Qin 秦 (221-206 BCE).

The territory of Qin was located in the southern parts of the modern province of Shaanxi and then extended into Sichuan, the Yangtze River valley, and then the north China plain.

Map 1. The regional state of Qin 秦 (11th cent. - 221 BCE)
Map according to Tan Qixiang 谭其骧 (1987), Zhongguo lishi ditu ji 中国历史地图集. Qin was located in the western parts of what is today the province of Shaanxi. During the Warring States period it erected defensive walls in the northwest to protect the territory against raids of nomad tribes. These were the presursors of the Great Wall. From the 4th century on, Qin expanded into the Sichuan Basin and towards the east. In 221 all other regional states were defeated, and the king of Qin adopted the title of emperor. Click to enlarge.

According to legend, the rulers of Qin were descendants of the mythological Emperor Zhuan Xu 顓頊. A girl of his family named Nü You (Nü Xiu) 女脩 once devoured an egg dropped by a swallow. The girl became pregnant and gave birth to Da Ye 大業. Da Ye married a daughter of Emperor Shao Dian 少典 called Nü Hua 女華. She gave birth to Da Fei 大費, who supported Yu the Great 大禹, founder of the Xia dynasty 夏 (21th - 17th cent. BCE), in his hydrological projects. As a reward, Da Fei was by Emperor Shun 舜 presented a black banner. He also tamed horses, sheep and cattle, was bestowed the official title of boyi 柏翳 (see Bo Yi 伯翳) and allowed to bear the family name Ying 嬴.

Da Fei had two sons, one was called Da Lian 大廉, the other Ruo Mu 若木. They founded two branches of the family, the latter ruling over the old territory of Da Fei. A great-grandson of his was Fei Chang 費昌, who lived at the very end of the Xia period and became a subject of the newly founded Shang dynasty 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE). The members of the other family branch lived farther to the west among the wild nomad tribes of the Rong 戎 and Di 狄. They, too, served the Shang dynasty in high offices, as mythology says. At the very end of the Shang dynasty, two brothers served the evil ruler King Zhou 紂, namely Fei Lian 蜚廉 and Wu Lai 惡來. The latter was killed when the Viscount of the West, Ji Fa 姬發 (King Wu of Zhou 周武王), conquered the Shang kingdom and founded the Zhou dynasty, and was by his brother buried with great honours on Mt. Huotai 霍太山.

Fei Lian's descendants nevertheless became loyal subjects to the Zhou dynasty. King Mu of Zhou 周穆王 (10th cent. BCE) once toured the western parts of his kingdom and was very pleased by the collection of chariots presented to him by Zao Fu 造父, ruler of Qin. Zao Fu also participated as the king's charioteer in the campaign against the rebellion of the native king Yan of the Xu tribes 徐偃王 in the east, and was rewarded with the territory of the regional state of Zhao 趙. A branch of the family was therefore later given the family name Zhao. Feizi 非子, another descendant of Fei Lian, was very famous for his successes in cattle breeding, and was therefore by King Xiao of Zhou 周孝王 (r. 910-895) entrusted with the task to supervise the royal herds on the pastures between the rivers Qian 汧 and Wei 渭. In order to strengthen ties between his family and the Zhou dynasty, Feizi was made regional ruler of the territory of Qin. This position also posed upon him the duty to serve as a shield against the wild nomad tribes in the west.

King Xuan 周宣王 (r. 828-782 BCE) bestowed upon Qin Zhong 秦仲 (his personal name is not known, r. 845-822) the title of grand master (dafu 大夫). During his time the western tribes had conquered the town of Quanqiu 犬丘, where another branch of the family, descending from Da Luo 大駱, lived. Qin Zhong died in a battle against the Rong tribes. He was succeeded by Duke Zhuang 秦莊公 (r. 821-778, the title of duke was given posthumously). His oldest son campaigned against the Rong in order to take revenge for the death of his father, while his younger brother succeeded to the throne. He is known as Duke Xiang 秦襄公 (r. 777-766).

During Duke Xiang's rule, the sovereign of the venerated Zhou dynasty, King You 周幽王 (r. 782-771), neglected governmental affairs and had his queen and heir replaced with his concubine Bao Si 褒姒 and her son. The king also behaved arrogant towards the regional rulers (zhuhou 諸侯) so that these refused to further obey him. The marquis of Shen 申 even joined with the western tribes of the Quanrong 犬戎 and challenged the king of Zhou in the battle of Mt. Lishan 酈山. The ruler of Qin was the only regional ruler who took serious his duty to serve King You's family. He expelled the western tribes and escorted the court of the Zhou dynasty to the safer secondary capital Chengzhou 成周 (Luoyi 雒邑, modern Luoyang 洛陽, Henan) in the east. The western capital Feng 豐 (near Xianyang 咸陽, Shaanxi) was given up.

This incident, happening in 770 BCE, is the watershed between the Western Zhou 西周 (11th cent.-770 BCE) and the Eastern Zhou 東周 (770-221 BCE) period. King Ping of Zhou 周平王 (r. 770-720 BCE), the new ruler of the Zhou dynasty, greatly rewarded the ruler of Qin and bestowed upon him the honours of a genuine regional ruler. The rulers of Qin were from then on called duke (gong 公). They began occupying the territory formerly owned by the Zhou dynasty (Qi 岐, near modern Qishan 岐山, Shaanxi) and defeated the various nomad tribes of the Western Rong.

The Fight with Jin for Hegemony

Duke Xiang was succeeded by Duke Wen 秦文公 (r. 765-716). He began organizing a state like those of the other regional rulers, chose a place for a capital, Yong 雍 (near modern Fengxiang 鳳翔, Shaanxi) and promulgated a harsh penal law, in which it was regulated that hardened criminals were to be punished with the extinction of three generations (sanzu zhi zui 三族之罪). Duke Wen was succeeded by his grandson, who is known as Duke Ning 秦寧公 (r. 715-704). Duke Ning transferred the capital to Pingyang 平陽 and conquered the land of the native king of Bo 亳. Duke Ning's immediate successor was his younger son Chuzi 出子 (r. 703-698) who had been enthroned by the senior ministers Prince Fuji 弗忌, Wei Lei 威壘 and San Fu 三父. Yet in the sixth year of his reign Chuzi was killed by San Fu and replaced by the original heir apparent, Duke Wu 秦武公 (r. 697-678).

Duke Wu conquered a lot of small towns and states located east to Qin. For the funeral of Duke Wu, 66 persons were buried alive. The chronicles note that this was the first time that human sacrifices were made in the state of Qin. Duke Wu's son was only made Prince of Pingyang 平陽, and his father was succeeded by the prince's uncle, Duke De 秦德公 (r. 677-676). Duke De transferred his seat of government to Yong 雍. He was succeeded by his son, Duke Xuan 秦宣公 (r. 675-664), who won battle over the armies of Jin 晉.

Duke Cheng 秦成公 (r. 663-660), brother of Duke Xuan, was for his own part succeeded by the youngest brother, Duke Mu 秦穆公 (r. 659-621, also written 秦繆公). He was married with a princess of Jin. Duke Mu bribed the king of Chu 楚 to send him Baili Xi 百里奚, a competent noble from the statelet of Yu 虞 that had been conquered by Jin. Duke Mu treated the old man with greatest honours, made him his advisor and bestowed upon him the title of grand master "of the five sheepskins" (wugu dafu 五羖大夫). Duke Mu also invited Jian Shu 蹇叔 who had already several times saved the life of Baili Xi. The duke attacked the state of Jin just when consort Li 驪 disturbed the order of succession among the princes.

Prince Chong'er 重耳 and Prince Yiwu 夷吾 from Jin fled to the wild Di tribes 翟. When the time was ripe for them to return, Prince Yiwu asked Duke Mu of Qin for support because there were quite a few nobles in Jin that would resist the enthronement of Prince Yiwu, who was actually younger than his brother Chong'er. Prince Yiwu promised to Duke Mu of Qin to present him with eight towns of the region of Hexi 河西, yet when he was enthroned as duke of Jin (Duke Hui 晉惠公, r. 651-637), he refused to give up these towns. Pei Zheng 邳鄭, who had been entrusted with the defence of Hexi, was aware that Duke Hui of Jin was a cruel person and secretly negotiated with Duke Mu of Qin. Pei Zheng suggested inviting the powerful lords Lü Sheng 呂甥 and Xi Rui 郤芮 to Qin and also to host Prince Chong'er, who was dwelling in exile in Chu 楚. Yet the two lords suspected Pei Zheng of a plot against themselves and killed him.

Although Pei Zheng's son Pei Bao 邳豹 fled to the court of Qin and urged the duke to take action against the tyrant of Jin, Duke Mu refused. He only took action after a long draught that had affected both countries. Jin asked for grain, and while Pei Bao suggested refusing to send relief, Baili Xi and Gongsun Zhi 公孫支 argued that the people was not guilty for its ruler's crimes. A year later, Qin was affected by draught and hunger and asked Jin to send relief, yet Duke Hui of Jin adopted the suggestion of Guo Ye (sic) 虢射 to use this chance for an attack on Qin. The Duke of Qin's army fought bravely, yet the sovereign was nearly captured by the troops of Jin. Some of the Qin troops served in the army as a kind of penalty. They fought so bravely for their lord that Duke Hui of Jin was finally captured by Qin.

Duke Mu of Qin announced to kill the evil-doer from Jin in a sacrifice to Heaven, yet the King of Zhou prohibited this human sacrifice because the kings of Zhou and the dukes of Jin shared the common family name, Ji 姬. Duke Mu's wife was, moreover, the older sister of Duke Hui. The duke of Qin therefore decided to force Duke Hui of Jin to swear eternal peace, and the territory of Hexi was rendered to Qin, as formerly promised. Duke Hui's son Prince Yu 圉 was also to be send to the court of Qin as a hostage and was married to a princess of Qin. Prince Yu soon fled because Qin had conquered the town of Liang 梁, where his grand-mother came from. Another reason for his flight was that his father was dying and Prince Yu had to secure his succession to the throne of Jin.

Duke Mu thereupon finally invited Prince Chong'er and gave him the princess formerly married to his nephew, Prince Yu. He negotiated with the most influential nobles of Jin and announced that he would make sure the enthronement of Prince Chong'er, who was very popular in Jin. Prince Yu (Duke Huai 晉懷公, r. 637) was killed, and Prince Chong'er became duke of Jin (Duke Wen 晉文公, r. 637-628). Duke Mu of Qin supported Duke Wen of Qin wherever he could and so contributed to his rise to hegemonial lord (ba 霸). They defended King Xiang of Zhou 周襄王 (r. 652-619) against his usurpatorious brother Prince Dai 帶, yet when both countries besieged the state of Zheng 鄭, an envoy said that this campaign would only profit Jin, and not Qin.

Qin withdrew, but a few years later Duke Mu decided to attack Zheng again, although Baili Xi and Jian Shu warned their lord. The army of Qin was commanded by Meng Mingshi 孟明視, Xiqi Shu 西乞術 and Bai Yibing 白乙丙. They marched towards the east and destroyed the small state of Huo 滑, which actually belonged to the territory of Jin. Duke Xiang of Jin 晉襄公 (r. 628-621), enraged, attacked the army of Qin from the rear and defeated it at the Yao Pass 殽山 in 627. Three generals were captured, yet the duke of Jin sent them home when he was informed that Duke Mu of Qin would boil them to death in order to punish them. Duke Mu repented that he had not accepted the warning of his counsellors and pardoned his generals, much to the anger of Jin.

Duke Mu was also visited by an envoy of the wild Rong tribes called You Yu 由余, whose ancestors actually came from Jin. He argued that the chaos in the states of the Middle Kingdom was a consequence of the strict, but meaningless performance of rituals and etiquette. The Yellow Emperor 黃帝 had once ruled only with the help of his virtuous personal conduct, and not with the help of regulations and laws. Aura and personal strength was also the method of the ruler of the Rong tribes. Inner scribe (neishi 內史) Liao 廖 suggested to Duke Mu to lure You Yu and his ruler with the conveniences and pleasures of court life. You Yu refused to go back and was used by Qin as a spy informing them about the military and political situation among the Rong tribes.

In 624, the shame of the battle of the Yao Pass was avenged and the army of Jin defeated. The Duke visited the battlefield and openly asked the souls of his dead troops for pardon. A year later he attacked the Rong tribes and conquered large areas in the west. He was even congratulated by the Duke of Shao 召公, royal Counsellor-to-the-left, who spoke on behalf of the King. When Duke Mu died he was accompanied with 177 persons who were buried with him. He was succeeded by his son Prince Ying 罃, who is posthumously known as Duke Kang 秦康公 (r. 621-609).

The Period of Weakness

At the beginning of Duke Kang's reign Duke Xiang of Jin died and a succession crisis broke out between Zhao Dun 趙盾 (Zhao Xuanzi 趙宣子) who wanted to enthrone Prince Yong 雍 and Prince Le 樂. Yet Prince Yigao 夷皋 was the victor (Duke Ling 晉靈公, r. 621-607) and immediately attacked Qin that had supported Prince Yong. In the following years the two states attacked each other and mutally occupied border towns of the enemy. In the battle of Hequ 河曲 Qin heavily defeated Jin. Duke Kang was succeeded by his son Prince He 和, who is known as Duke Gong 秦共公 (r. 609-604), and then by the latter's son Prince Rong 榮, who is known as Duke Huan 秦桓公 (r. 604-577). Although the army of Qin was defeated under his rule, he allied with Duke Li of Jin 晉厲公 (r. 581-573) to resist the growing power of the state of Chu in the south, only to break the alliance (meng 盟) shortly later with the help of the Rong tribes. The duke of Jin was able to forge an alliance against Qin, whose army was heavily defeated in 578.

Duke Huan of Qin was succeeded by Duke Jing 秦景公 (r. 577-537). During his reign Qin continued to be the target of the joint armies of the regional rulers under the leadership of Duke Dao of Jin 晉悼公 (r. 573-558). Prince Houzi 后子, brother of Duke Jing, who was famous for the fortune he had amassed, feared for his life and left Qin. He only returned when Duke Jing died and was succeeded by Duke Ai 秦哀公 (r. 537-501). In 527, the king of Chu asked for a princess of Qin as a wife for his heir apparent, yet King Ping of Chu 楚平王 (r. 520-516) fell in love with the girl and took her in his own harem. The state of Jin was plagued by internal quarrels in which the six ministers-commander (liu qing 六卿) gradually destroyed the house of Jin. At the same time, Chu was preoccupied with the military expansion of the state of Wu 吳 in the southwest. Qin therefore experienced several decades of peace.

When Duke Ai died, he was succeeded by his grandson Duke Hui 秦惠公 (I, r. 501-491). Duke Hui's father, posthumously called Duke Yi 秦夷公 (although he never ruled as a duke), had died earlier. Duke Li 秦厲公 (r. 477-443) was offered tributes from the non-Chinese state of Shu 蜀 in the south. He also fortified the banks of the Yellow River to prevent inundations. In 456, he introduced the administrative unit of commandery (jun 郡) in Pinyang 頻陽. In 444, Duke Li conquered Yiqu 義渠 in the west and captured the native king of the region. He was succeeded by Duke Zao 秦躁公 (r. 443-429), then Zao's brother Duke Huai and then the latter's grandson Duke Ling 秦靈公 (r. 425-415). Duke Jian 秦簡公 (r. 415-400) was the first ruler who allowed the members of the lower nobility to gird themselves with a sword. His successor, Duke Hui 秦惠公 (II, r. 400-387) undertook a military campaign against the state of Chu and conquered the town of Nanzheng 南鄭.

He was succeeded by Chuzi 出子 (also called Duke Chu of Qin 秦出公, r. 387-385) who was killed by a prince. His corpse and that of his mother were thrown into a well, and he was replaced by Prince Shixi 師隰, who is known as Duke Xian 秦獻公 (r. 385-362). The succession in the state of Qin had been very unstable in the past decades, which caused the three successor states of Jin, namely Han 韓, Wei 魏, and Zhao 趙, to dominate the political stage of that age. Duke Xian therefore fortified many towns and transferred his seat to Liyang 櫟陽 (near modern Lintong 臨潼, Shaanxi). The chronicles of Qin record a lot of marvelous events (peach blossoms in winter, golden rain in Liyang) that were believed to announce the coming of a hegemonial ruler from the house of Qin. Duke Xian gave the primate of politics to the military, organised all registerered households in mutually responsible groups of five, and had markets and guilds strictly controlled. The first fruit of these early reforms were to be seen in 364, when Duke Xian defeated the army of Jin at Shimen 石門 and executed 60,000 Jin troops. This is the first recorded military excess of the state of Qin.

Legalist Reforms under Duke Xiao

Duke Xian was succeeded by his son Prince Quliang 渠梁 who was only twenty years old at that time and is known as Duke Xiao 秦孝公 (r. 362-338). When he acceded to the throne China was controlled by six large states, namely Qi 齊, Chu, Wei, Yan 燕, Han and Zhao. Wei already began to build fortified walls at the border to Qin. Qin was in the eyes of the regional states seen as a semi-barbarian state in the far west with which no alliances could be created. In the past few generations, Qin had also been a very weak state that had no political importance for the states in the Central Plain of China.

Duke Xiao therefore began systematically to transform Qin into a strong and civilized state. He exerted a government of benevolence to the poor and the suffering and build up a strong army. His intention was to revive the ancient glory of Qin as during the era of Duke Mu. One of his most important ministers was Shang Yang 商鞅 (actually called Wei Yang 衛鞅 or Gongsun Yang 公孫鞅), a prince of Wei 衛, who persuaded the Duke that it was important to create a written penal law in order to bring peace to his country. Agriculture was to be promoted to nourish the state and the army, officials and troops were to be rewarded and to be punished according to their merits or misdoings.

These reforms helped the government of Qin to exploit all available economic and human resources. Shang Yang had also opponents at the court of Qin, like Gan Long 甘龍 or Du Zhi 杜摯 who voted against Shang Yang's new law (xinfa 新法). The successes of the reform were to be seen in the victory over the armies of Wei at Yuanli 元里. In 350, the capital of Qin was transferred to Xianyang 咸陽 (modern Xianyang, Shaanxi). The whole dukedom was restructured and administered in districts (xian 縣) headed by district magistrates (ling 令) instead of by grand masters, as in earlier times. This form of local administration remained valid until the end of the empire in 1912. All fields were also newly registered according to a new surveying system (qianmo 阡陌) that made taxation easier. In 343, the king of Zhou bestowed on Duke Xiao the title of hegemonial lord. The regional rulers assembled at Fengze 逢澤 to congratulate the Duke. In 340 and in 338, Shang Yang defeated the army of Wei anew and was for all his merits and successes granted the title of Lord Shang 商君. His legalist political thoughts are assembled in the book Shangjunshu 商君書, which has survived in a fragmentary state.

The princes and nobles of Qin hated Shang Yang for his reforms that did not make a difference between commoners and noblemen. As soon as Prince Si 駟 succeeded to the throne he had Shang Yang executed by being torn into pieces. Prince Si is posthumously known as King Huiwen 秦惠文王 (r. 338-311). In 325, the dukes of Qi, Wei and Han adopted the title of king.

In 331, Prince Ang 卬 defeated the army of Wei and executed 80,000 prisoners of war, among them general Long Jia 龍賈. Three years later the coalition advisor Zhang Yi 張儀 arrived in Qin and was made Counsellor-in-chief. The king of Wei, threatened by the military power of Qin, ceded several districts to the stronger enemy. In 324, the duke of Qin proclaimed a new reign-period (geng yuannian 更元年, the first year of the new reign), which later became common as a regular procedure of all imperial dynasties (see calendar). Three years later Zhang Yi left and became counsellor in Wei, but he returned in 317.

In 318, the regional states of Han, Zhao, Wei, Yan and Qi, as well as auxiliary troops of the Xiongnu 匈奴 steppe federation, attacked Qin. Chuli Ji 樗里疾 commanded the troops of Qin, defeated the joint army, captured general Shen Cha 申差 and executed 82,000 war prisoners. In 316, Sima Cuo 司馬錯 conquered the state of Shu in the Sichuan Basin. Its territory was incorporated into the state of Qin and was governed by Prince Tong 通. Chuli Ji anew massacred the army of Han in 314. In 312, Wei Zhang 魏章 massacred the army of Chu after the battle of Danyang 丹陽. The territory of Hanzhong 漢中 was occupied and made part of the kingdom of Qin as a commandery. This area opened to Qin the way to the middle Yangtze region.

When King Huiwen died the regional rulers of Han, Wei, Zhao, Qi and Chu paid homage to his successor, Prince Dang 蕩, who is known as King Wu 秦武王 (r. 311-307). King Wu created the office of Counsellor-in-chief (chengxiang 丞相). He urged Gan Mao 甘茂 to fight open the way to the region of Sanchuan 三川, where the capital of the Zhou dynasty was located. In Yiyang 宜陽, Gan Mao massacred 60,000 troops of Han. King Wu died when he contested with Meng Yue 孟說 in lifting bronze tripods. The King, who was slain by the huge vessel, had no son.

Military Success and the Creation of the Empire

King Wu was succeeded by a younger brother, Prince Ji 稷, who is known as King Zhaoxiang 秦昭襄王 (r. 307-251). His mother was a princess from Chu and was granted the title Queen Dowager Xuan 宣太后. Young Prince Ji dwelled in Yan as a hostage and had to return to Qin to take over the throne.

At the beginning of King Zhaoxiang's reign, Prince Zhuang 壯 tried to usurp the throne, but he was executed, together with his supporters and the Queen Dowager of King Huiwen. In his third reign year (304) the king was capped and became an adult. His long reign experienced an endless series of military campaigns during which one after the other regional states was destroyed and conquered. The king was supported in his military enterprises both by ruthless and competent generals as well as members of his own family that dedicated their fate to the dynasty. Prince Huan 奐 for instance defeated the army of Chu, and a few years later a joint army of Qin, Qi, Wei and Han crushed the troops of the king of Chu. In 298, Lord Mengchang 孟嘗君 from Qi came to Qin and was made Counsellor. A year later King Huai of Chu 楚懷王 (r. 329-298) was lured into a trap, met King Zhaoxiang of Qin and was taken prisoner. For this affront the regional rulers jointly campaigned against Qin, but they returned before meeting to battle. King Huai of Chu died soon and his corpse was sent home for burial.

Wei Ran 魏冉, holding the title of Marquis Rang 穰侯, became counsellor of Qin. General Bai Qi 白起 commanded the campaign against Zhao and Wei in 293 and, after the battle of Yique 伊闕, had 24,000 war prisoners massacred. Qin occupied more and more territory towards the east. Even the King of East Zhou 東周, actually the sovereign over all regional rulers, paid a visit to the king of Qin. In 288, King Zhaoxiang adopted the title of Emperor of the West 西帝, while the king of Qi called himself Emperor of the East 東帝, but both dropped these titles shortly after.

In 287, the famous coalition advisors Su Qin 蘇秦 and Li Dui 李兌 created an alliance between the states of Zhao, Qi, Chu, Wei and Han whose joint army planned to attack Qin, yet the alliance dissolved at Chenggao 成皋. The small state of Song 宋 was annihilated. General Meng Wu 蒙武 even advanced so far to the east that he attacked the state of Qi. In 284, a joint army of Qin, Yan, Wei, Zhao and Han crushed the troops of Qi on the banks of River Ji 濟. The armies of Qin advanced toward the south, towards the east, and towards the west, where the commandery of Longxi 隴西 was founded.

In 278, Bai Qi conquered the capital of Chu, Ying 郢, where the commandery of Nanjun 南郡 was founded. In 283, Marquis Rang conquered the capital of Wei, Daliang 大梁, and massacred 40,000 prisoners of war. Probably the largest massacre happened after Bai Qi, in the meantime given the title of Lord of Wu'an 武安君, had defeated the army of Zhao in Changping 長平 in 260. A year later the capital of Zhao, Handan 邯鄲, was conquered. A relief army from Wei and Chu drowned in the Yellow River. In 256, the Lord of West Zhou 西周 was humilitated after a last attempt to resist the military machine of Qin, and gave up his territory and the state treasury of the venerable Zhou dynasty. The Lord of East Zhou, last descendant of the Zhou dynasty, was captured in 249.

At the end of his reign King Zhaoxiang had all the regional states forced into subordination. His son Prince Zhu 柱 was enthroned as king and bestowed upon his mother the posthumous title of Queen Dowager Tang 唐太后. He is posthumously known as King Xiaowen 秦孝文王 (r. 251-250). In the new year he proclaimed an amnesty to all criminals, yet he died only three days after the interment of his father. Prince Chu 楚, his son, became the new king. He is known as King Zhuangxiang 秦莊襄王 (r. 250-247). The Lord of East Zhou and the regional rulers planned to attack Qin in this precarious situation. Counsellor-in-chief Lü Buwei 呂不韋 was sent out to punish the Lord of East Zhou. His territory was seized and he was only left a tract of land where he could perform the dynastic sacrifices. General Meng Ao 蒙驁 attacked Han and forced the king of Han to cede the territories of Chenggao 成皋 and Gong 鞏, where the commandery of Sanchuan was founded.

A year later, Meng Ao attacked Zhao, and then Wei, and seized territories of both states. General Wang He 王齕 conquered Taiyuan 太原 in the state of Zhao and transformed it into a commandery. Yet Meng Ao also suffered defeat by an army commanded by Prince Wuji 無忌 of Wei (better known as Lord Xinling 信陵君) and was forced to retreat. King Zhuangxiang died unexpected in summer 247.

His son and successor, Prince Zheng 政, was still very young but was supported by competent advisors. His reign began with a joint attack of five states that were brought together by Lord Xinling from Wei. Qin was defeated. In 241, general Pang Juan 龐涓 from Zhao led another attack by Zhao, Chu, Wei, Yan and Han against the state of Qin. But these two victories were not able to diminish the military strength of Qin. In 230, Qin occupied the state of Han. In 228, the king of Zhao was captured. His son founded the kingdom of Dai 代 that only survived for a short time.

In 226, the capital of Yan in the northeast was conquered, in 225 Wei, the last large state of the Yellow River Plain. Chu was conquered in 223, a year later the rest of Yan, and the state of Dai. In 221, Qi on the Shandong peninsula was occupied, which had been the last regional state of the ancient Zhou empire. The king of Qin proclaimed himself First Emperor of Qin 秦始皇 (r. 246-210) and founded the imperial Qin dynasty 秦 (221-206 BCE) that was planned to rule for ten thousand generations but was ended by a large-scale rebellion in 206 BCE.

The name of the state of Qin and the Qin Dynasty was used by several Non-Chinese state foundations of the Non-Chinese Sixteen Kingdoms (Shiliuguo 十六國), and for princedoms of numerous other dynasties.

Table 1. Rulers of the regional state of Qin 秦
Capitals: Xiquanqiu 西犬丘 (Xichui 西垂; near modern Tianshui 天水, Gansu), Pingyang 平陽 (near modern Baoji 寶雞, Shaanxi), Yong 雍 (modern Fengxiang 鳳翔, Shaanxi), Jingyang 涇陽 (modern Jingyang, Shaanxi), Liyang 櫟陽 (near modern Gaoling 高陵, Shaanxi), Xianyang 咸陽 (modern Xianyang, Shaanxi)
dynastic title personal name time
Da Ye 大業, son of Nü Xiu 女脩
Da Fei 大費
Ruo Mu 若木
Fei Chang 費昌, descendant of Ruo Mu
Zhong Jue 中潏 or Zhong Hua 仲滑
Fei Lian 蜚廉 or 飛廉
Wu Lai of Qin 秦惡來
Nü Fang of Qin 秦女防
Pang Hao of Qin 秦旁皋
Da Ji of Qin 秦大几
Da Luo of Qin 秦大駱
Feizi of Qin 秦非子, is invested as regional ruler of Qin 秦
The Marquis of Qin 秦侯
Gong, Earl of Qin 秦公伯
The Elder of Qin 秦仲 845-822
Duke Zhuang of Qin
(Qin Zhuanggong 秦莊公)
Duke Xiang of Qin
(Qin Xiangong 秦襄公)
Duke Wen of Qin
(Qin Wengong 秦文公)
Duke Ning of Qin
(Qin Ninggong 秦寧公)
Qin Chuzi 秦出子 704-698
Duke Wu of Qin
(Qin Wugong 秦武公)
Duke De of Qin
(Qin Degong 秦德公)
Duke Xuan of Qin
(Qin Xuangong 秦宣公)
Duke Cheng of Qin
(Qin Chenggong 秦成公)
Duke Mu of Qin
(Qin Mugong 秦穆公)
Ying Renhao 嬴任好 660-621
Duke Kang of Qin
(Qin Kanggong 秦康公)
Ying Ying 嬴罃 621-609
Duke Gong of Qin
(Qin Gonggong 秦共公)
Ying He 嬴和 609-604
Duke Huan of Qin
(Qin Huangong 秦桓公)
Ying Rong 嬴榮 604-577
Duke Jing of Qin
(Qin Jinggong 秦景公)
Ying Hou 嬴后 577-537
Duke Ai of Qin
(Qin Aigong 秦哀公)
Duke Hui of Qin (I)
(Qin Huigong 秦惠公)
Duke Dao of Qin
(Qin Daogong 秦悼公)
Duke Li of Qin
(Qin Ligong 秦厲公)
Ying Gong 嬴公 477-443
Duke Zao of Qin
(Qin Zaogong 秦躁公)
Duke Huai of Qin
(Qin Huaigong 秦懷公)
Duke Ling of Qin
(Qin Linggong 秦靈公)
Duke Jian of Qin
(Qin Jiangong 秦簡公)
Ying Dao 嬴悼 415-400
Duke Hui of Qin (II)
(Qin Huigong 秦惠公)
Duke Chu of Qin
(Qin Chugong 秦出公)
Duke Xian of Qin
(Qin Xiangong 秦獻公)
Ying Shixi 嬴師隰 385-362
Duke Xiao of Qin
(Qin Xiaogong 秦孝公)
Ying Quliang 嬴渠梁 362-338
King Huiwen of Qin
(Qin Huiwenwang 秦惠文王)
Ying Si 嬴駟 338-311
King Wu of Qin
(Qin Wuwang 秦武王)
Ying Dang 嬴蕩 311-307
King Zhaoxiang of Qin
(Qin Zhaoxiangwang 秦昭襄王)
Ying Ji 嬴稷 307-251
King Xiaowen of Qin
(Qin Xiaowenwang 秦孝文王)
Ying Zhu 嬴柱 251
King Zhuangxiang of Qin
(Qin Zhuangxiangwang 秦莊襄王)
Ying Chu 嬴楚 251-247
Zheng, King of Qin 秦王政
First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shihuangdi 秦始皇帝), emperor in 221 BCE
Ying Zheng 嬴政 246-210
221 Qin conquers all regional states and founds the Qin Dynasty.
Shiji 史記, 5, Qi shijia 秦世家.
Li Ling 李零 (1992). "Qin 秦", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 783.