The Qin dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 206 BCE. The dynasty was formed after the conquest of the six other states by the state of Qin, and its founding emperor was known as Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of Qin – a title that would continue to be used by Chinese rulers for the next two millennia.
The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Gansu and Shaanxi. The strength of Qin had increased through the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the fourth-century BCE, during the Warring States period. In the third-century BCE Qin, in a series of swift conquests, first ended the powerless Zhou dynasty and eventually conquered the remaining six states to gain control over the whole of China.
One of the first projects of the new emperor was the construction of his own tomb – protected by the famous army of terracotta warriors.
Despite its military strength the Qin dynasty did not last long. When the first emperor died in 210 BCE the new empire quickly became unstable and collapsed into rebellion within four years.
The weakened empire soon fell to a Chu lieutenant, who went on to found the Han dynasty. The Han dynasty survived for four hundred years until China was divided into three spheres of influence following the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 CE, initiating an age of conflict between three states: Cao Wei, Eastern Wu, and Shu Han.