King Zhuangxiang of Qin ruled for only three years. He was succeeded by his son Zheng, who unlike the two elderly kings that preceded him was only 13 years old at his coronation. As an adult Zheng would turn out to be a brilliant commander who, in the span of just nine years, unified China.
The Qin state launched a series of military campaigns in the late 3rd century BC against the other six major states — Han, Zhao, Yan, Wei, Chu and Qi – and the territories conquered by Qin served as the foundation of the Qin dynasty.
Conquest of Han
In 230 BC, Qin conquered Han. Han, the weakest of the Seven Warring States, was adjacent to the much stronger Qin, and had suffered continuous assaults by Qin in earlier years of the Warring States period. This went on until Emperor Qin Shi Huang sent general Wang Jian to attack Zhao. King An of Han, frightened by the thought that Han would be the next target of the Qin state, immediately sent diplomats to surrender the entire kingdom without a fight, saving the Han populace from the terrible potential consequences of an unsuccessful resistance.
Conquest of Wei
In 225 BC, Qin conquered Wei. The Qin army led a direct invasion into Wei by besieging its capital Daliang but soon realized that the city walls were too tough to break into. They devised a new strategy in which they utilized the power of a local river that was linked to the Yellow River. The river was used to flood the city’s walls, causing massive devastation to the city. Upon realizing the situation, King Jia of Wei hurriedly came out of the capital and surrendered it to the Qin army in order to avoid further bloodshed of his people.
Conquest of Chu
In 223 BC, Qin conquered Chu. The first invasion was however an utter disaster when 200,000 Qin troops, led by the general, Li Xin, were defeated by 500,000 Chu troops in the unfamiliar territory of Huaiyang, modern-day northern Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. Xiang Yan, the Chu commander, had lured Qin by allowing a few initial victories, but then counterattacked and burnt two large Qin camps.
In 222 BC, Wang Jian was recalled to lead a second military invasion with 600,000 men against the Chu state. High in morale after their victory in the previous year, the Chu forces were content to sit back and defend against what they expected to be a siege of Chu. However, Wang Jian decided to weaken Chu’s resolve and tricked the Chu army by appearing to be idle in his fortifications whilst secretly training his troops to fight in Chu territory. After a year, the Chu defenders decided to disband due to apparent lack of action from the Qin. Wang Jian invaded at that point, with full force, and overran Huaiyang and the remaining Chu forces. Chu lost the initiative and could only sustain local guerrilla-style resistance until it too was fully conquered with the destruction of Shouchun and the death of its last leader, Lord Changping, in 223 BC. At their peak, the combined armies of Chu and Qin are estimated to have ranged from hundreds of thousands to a million soldiers, more than those involved in the campaign of Changping between Qin and Zhao 35 years earlier.
Conquest of Zhao and Yan
In 222 BC, Qin conquered Zhao and Yan. After the conquest of Zhao, the Qin army turned its attention towards Yan. Realizing the danger and gravity of this situation, Crown Prince Dan of Yan had sent Jing Ke to assassinate King Zheng of Qin, but this failure only helped to fuel the rage and determination of the Qin king, and he increased the number of troops to conquer the Yan state.
Conquest of Qi
In 221 BC, Qin conquered Qi. Qi was the final unconquered warring state. It had not previously contributed or helped other states when Qin was conquering them. As soon as Qin’s intention to invade it became clear, Qi swiftly surrendered all its cities, completing the unification of China and ushering in the Qin dynasty. The last Qi king lived out his days in exile in Gong and was not given a posthumous name after death, therefore he is known to posterity by his personal name Jian.
The Qin king Zheng declared himself Qin Shi Huangdi, “The first Sovereign Emperor of Qin”.
In the rule of the Qin state, the union was based solely on military power. The feudal holdings were abolished, and noble families were forced to live in the capital of China, Xianyang in order to be supervised. A national road as well as greater use of canals was used in order for deployment and supply of the army to be done with ease and speed. The peasants were given a wider range of rights in regards of land, although they were subject to taxation, creating a large amount of revenue to the state.
By staff editor