An analysis of the geographical environment of Qin’s rich and powerful state and its vassals

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2221 years ago, that is, in 221 B.C., an earth shaking event took place on the land of China, that is, King Qin Zheng inherited the achievements of his father and ancestor, and in only 10 years, he successively destroyed the six states in Kanto, including Han, Wei, Chu, Zhao, Yan and Qi, established an unprecedented unified empire, renamed its name, and called itself the “first emperor”, implemented the county system in the vast ruling areas, and implemented the unified writing The policy of train tracks and weights and measures established the autocratic centralized ruling system. This has created a new stage of development in China’s history. Since the early Western Han Dynasty, many historians have criticized Qinshihuang as a “tyrant” for more than 2000 years. For example, Jiayi, who was Emperor Wen of the Western Han Dynasty, once denounced Qinshihuang in his famous article on crossing the Qin Dynasty as “starting with tyranny”; However, when talking about his act of unifying the world, he used words with obvious praise, such as “continue the rest of the sixth generation, stimulate the long strategy and control the universe”. Li Zhi, a thinker in the late Ming Dynasty, even praised Qinshihuang as “one emperor through the ages”. Historians in the feudal era generally affirmed his contribution. Contemporary historians have made a more profound and comprehensive positive evaluation from the perspective of historical science. It seems that ancient and modern historians believe that Qinshihuang wiped out the heroes, unified China, conformed to the historical trend, promoted social development, and made great achievements in history. Of course, ancient and modern historians have also made judgments on why Qin could rise above the six kingdoms and complete the great cause of reunification, but most of them have analyzed it from the political, military and other aspects. The popular view is that Qin’s political reform is relatively complete. Although Shang Yang died, his method was not defeated, and Qin’s military power is strong and sharp. The so-called “Qi’s technical attack cannot meet the soldiers of Wei, and the soldiers of Wei cannot meet the sharp soldiers of Qin” [1] and so on, this is not the only one. The role of geographical environment in the process of unification at the end of the Warring States period was rarely discussed; Even if it is involved, it is very brief [2]. In fact, the geographical environment is the basic condition for the survival and development of human society, and it is also the stage for the above performance of historical drama. All human activities, political, military, economic and cultural, at all times and in all over the world, are rooted in a certain geographical environment and are affected and restricted accordingly. Of course, we should avoid falling into the quagmire of “geographical environment determinism”, but we should not go to the other extreme and adopt a nihilistic attitude towards the impact of geographical environment on the development of human society; But should use the dialectical materialism theory, the method, carries on the thorough truthful elaboration. This article is intended to make a further analysis on this issue on the basis of previous work, and just for the experts; At the same time, it is also hoped that more scholars will devote themselves to the research in this field, so as to promote the new development of the research on the basic theoretical issues related to the “man earth relationship”. Return to directory


To discuss the role of the geographical conditions of the Qin State in the great cause of reunification, we must first have a clear understanding of the territory of the Qin state. The state of Qin was originally a small western country located in the present Longxi area. Its initial capital was xigouqiu, that is, the southwest Li county of Tianshui City, Gansu Province. Later, with the expansion of national strength, it gradually moved eastward. At the end of the Western Zhou Dynasty, Duke Xiang of Qin escorted King Ping of Zhou to move eastward to Luoyi for meritorious service. He was granted the title of vassal and moved his capital to Luoyi, which is now the southeast of Longxian County, Shaanxi Province. His forces entered the central and western parts of the pass. In the second year of Qin Xiangong’s reign (383 BC), he moved his capital to Liyang in the middle of Guanzhong. When his son Xiaogong succeeded to the throne, he used Shang Yang, the guardian, to carry out the reform. His national strength became stronger, and he became one of the seven heroes of the Warring States period. In the 12th year of emperor Xiaogong’s reign (350 BC), he moved his capital to Xianyang [3]. From then on, he began to compete with the six Oriental countries and finally established the Qin Empire. During this period, Yiqu was attacked in the north, Shu, Ba, Wan and Ying were destroyed in the south, and the old lands of Zhou outside Hedong, Taiyuan, Shangdang and Hangu pass were captured in the East. By the time King Qin ascended the throne in 246 B.C., the territory of the state of Qin had reached the Great Wall built by King Zhaoxiang of Qin in the North (from Lintao, Gansu today, through Wuqi, Jingbian, Shenmu and other counties in Northern Shaanxi, to the twelve cities of Zhungeer banner in Inner Mongolia), baoba and Shu in the south, and Hangu pass in the East. That is to say, it occupies most of the two geographical units of the Loess Plateau and Sichuan Basin and part of its eastern margin. It should be said that this territory has a vast territory, a dangerous situation, a superior geographical environment, rich natural resources, and is suitable for farming, forestry and animal husbandry, which provides a good material guarantee for the great cause of the reunification of the Qin state. Return to directory


Sima Qian and Ban Gu, two famous historians in the Han Dynasty, respectively made a consistent conclusion about the superiority of the territory occupied by Qin before reunification over the other six countries. Sima Qian wrote in the historical records: biographies of goods colonization: “so the land in Guanzhong is one third of the world, and the number of people is no more than three; however, the amount of wealth is no more than six.”. Ban Gu also wrote in the annals of Geography in the book of Han Dynasty: “therefore, there is one third of the world in Qin, and there are only three people, but the number of people is six.”. In comparison, Sima Qian’s “Guanzhong land” is obviously wrong, while Ban Gu’s “Qin land” is in line with reality. From the perspective of writing, Sima Qian mentioned Guanzhong first, then Bashu, and then Tianshui, Longxi, Beidi, and Shangjun before making a general evaluation of the “land in Guanzhong”. In fact, Sima Qian had covered the “land of Qin”, so it was just a clerical error. The conclusions of the two great historians are actually the same. As mentioned above, the unanimous conclusion made by the two authoritative works of historical records and the book of Han fully shows that the state of Qin has occupied a significant economic advantage over the six Eastern countries, which obviously plays an important role in the final unification of Qinshihuang. The ancients had long recognized the principle that “food and grass should be the first before troops and horses are moved”. Without strong economic strength as a backing, it is certainly impossible to carry out a long-term campaign and finally win the victory over the six countries. The reason why Qin could achieve such a strong economic strength was not only the success of Shang Yang’s reform and various measures to develop production, but also the superiority of Qin’s natural environment. These advantages are reflected in the following aspects:

1. Guanzhong Plain and Chengdu Plain are fertile and fertile. The “Tianfu” in the north and South have laid a solid foundation for the economic prosperity of Qin.

Guanzhong Plain and Chengdu plain have flat terrain, abundant water and fertile land, which are suitable for farming. Therefore, they were praised as “Tianfu” by strategists in the Warring States period [4]. Especially after the construction of the Dujiangyan irrigation project and the zhengguoqu irrigation project, agricultural production has made greater progress. As for Dujiangyan, as stated in the historical records of rivers and canals, “in Shu, Shu guards the ice chisels and leaves the pestles to prevent the harm of foam water, and passes through the two rivers of Chengdu. This canal can be used for boating, and the rest can be used for irrigation, which is beneficial to the people. As for the past, it often diverts water to benefit the canals used for irrigation of fields, which is trillions, but not enough.”. As for Zhengguo canal, it was said above that “the canal filled with water, irrigated more than 40000 hectares of land with brine, and collected an acre of land for one hour. Therefore, Guanzhong was a fertile land without a bad year, and the Qin Dynasty became rich and powerful, and died as a vassal”. The role of the zhengguoqu canal after its completion is directly linked to the great cause of “merging the vassal states”, which shows the high evaluation of the project; However, these two agricultural areas played an important role in the unification of Qin, but it is also an indisputable fact.

2. Tianshui, Longxi, Beidi and Shangjun are located in the Loess Plateau and Qiongshan and Jianshan mountains in the west of Sichuan Basin. The vast mountains and abundant water and grass provide unique conditions for the development of animal husbandry.

When Feizi, the ancestor of the royal family of the Qin state, lived in the West dog hill, he was valued by the filial king of the Western Zhou Dynasty for “being good at horses and livestock, and being good at rest”. Later, he was ordered to be in charge of raising horses between the West and the east of the pass and between the Wei River and the Wei River, and made “horses have great rest” [5]. It can be seen that the king of Qin was good at animal husbandry and attached great importance to animal husbandry. At the time of the first emperor of Qin Dynasty, Wushi Luo, the big livestock owner of Wushi county (in the south of Guyuan County in Ningxia today), raised many horses and cattle in terms of valleys. Therefore, he was given special preferential treatment and was granted a position [6]. Within the territory of the state of Qin, there is a vast and fertile grassland suitable for animal husbandry. With the attention and rewards of the Qin royal family, the animal husbandry of the state of Qin is more developed than that of the six countries. In this way, the Qin army will be able to continuously provide animal power for vehicle warfare and horse warfare, greatly enhancing the army’s mobility and attack power. This should also be an important reason why the state of Qin was invincible and could defeat the enemy in the war of reunification.

3. the mountains and hills of Qin are densely forested and rich in products.

In addition to plains and plateaus, the area of mountains and hills in the state of Qin is also very large. For example, the mountains and hills around the Qinling Mountains, Bashan mountains, Longshan mountains and Sichuan Basin are not high in altitude. They are also located in the warm temperate and subtropical climate zone, so they are densely forested and rich in animal, plant and mineral resources. For example, Guanzhong was praised as “the beauty of mountains, forests, rivers and valleys, and the benefits of natural materials”; The north slope of the Qinling Mountains is described as “a household, a forest of duzhu, and a Tanzhe mountain in the South” [7]; The Longshan mountain in Tianshui and West Gansu is known as “the mountain is rich in trees, and the people live on the board” [8]; In Bashu, Guanghan and other places, there is also a “mountain forest of bamboo, wood, vegetables and fruits” [9], rich in rice, ginger, bamboo and wood [10].

There are also many mineral resources in the mountains and hills of Qin, such as jade, dansha, copper, iron, etc. The jade of Lantian and the dansha of Fuling were very famous at that time. The book of Han geography records once recorded that there were iron officials in Zheng, Yong, Xiayang, Longxi, Qi, Mianyang, Linqiong and other places. They were all within the territory of the state of Qin, and there must be smelting resources and conditions nearby.

The mountains and hills within the territory of the state of Qin are rich in forest and mineral resources, which not only provide residents with more ways to raise themselves, but also provide favorable conditions for smelting weapons and manufacturing war equipment. This will undoubtedly be of great help to the late Qin Dynasty in the war of reunification.

Although some of the six Eastern countries also have the above-mentioned advantages in terms of natural environment, they are not as good and complete as the state of Qin. With such a superior natural environment and rich natural resources, coupled with the success of Qin’s political reform, the Qin people managed well and effectively. Qin’s economic strength should be superior to the six Oriental countries, which also provided Qin with sufficient conditions to unify the world. Return to directory


All the points discussed in the previous section belong to the category of micro geographical environment characteristics. Historical facts show that the advantages of Qin are obvious; If we look at the situation of the macro geographical environment, the advantage of Qin is also superior to the six Oriental countries.

First of all, it starts from the general trend of geomorphology in China. China is located in the east of Asia, with the Qinghai Tibet Plateau, the roof of the world, in the West and the Pacific Ocean in the East. The landform consists of three steps: the Qinghai Tibet Plateau is the first step; The second step is from the eastern edge of the Qinghai Tibet Plateau to the Daxing’an Mountains, Taihang Mountains, Wushan mountains and Xuefeng mountains, including the Inner Mongolia Plateau, the Loess Plateau, Sichuan Basin, Yunnan Guizhou Plateau and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; From the second step to the east to the seashore, it is the third step, which is mainly composed of broad plains and low hills. The North China Plain, the plains in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the hills in the south of the Yangtze River belong to this step. Among the seven heroes of the Warring States period, the six kingdoms of Han, Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan and Qi are all on the third step, but the territory of Qin is on the second step. This geographical distribution of the landscape situation makes the six Eastern countries look up to Qin, and Qin looks down at the six Eastern countries. In addition, the eastern border of the Qin state was separated by rivers and canyons or controlled by high mountains, which made it easier to defend but harder to attack. Therefore, looking at the war history of the Warring States period, we can see that the armies of the six Eastern countries rarely invaded the territory of the state of Qin, and the multinational coalition forces organized several times only returned before reaching Hangu pass; On the contrary, Qin’s army frequently moved eastward and southward, attacking South Korea, Zhao, Wei, Chu, and even as far away as Qi and Yan, and won many victories. Finally, with its strong economic strength and sharp military front, it took only 10 years to destroy South Korea in the 17th year of the reign of King Qin (230 BC). After a lapse of 4 years, it destroyed Chu in the 12th year of the reign of King Qin (225 BC), destroyed Zhao and Yan in the following year, and destroyed Qi in the 16th year of the reign of King Qin (221 BC) to unify the country. Its momentum is like destroying the withered and withered, and the wind passes through the grass. It is based on this historical fact that in the early years of the Western Han Dynasty, it was proposed to establish the capital, Lou Jing said solemnly to Liu Bang, “Qin is surrounded by mountains and rivers. The four fortresses are solid. There is a need to die. Millions of people can have it. Because of Qin, the capital is very beautiful and the land is rich. This is the so-called Tianfu. Your majesty entered the customs and the capital is here. Although Shandong is in chaos, Qin’s former land can be all there. My husband fought against people, but he didn’t give up his arrogance. He couldn’t win all of them. Now his majesty has entered the customs and is the capital of Qin. Because of Qin, this also gives rise to the world’s arrogance and defeat.” [11]? After consulting Zhang Liang and obtaining a positive reply, Liu Bang made a decisive decision and set sail today to Guanzhong, the western capital. Later historical facts showed that it was the choice to establish the capital in Chang’an, Guanzhong, that enabled the Western Han Dynasty to carry out many rebellions by the princes in the East, but the attack of the Huns in the north, the water transport in the East, and the Silk Road in the west, which not only consolidated the political power, but also the economic and cultural prosperity, which made the feudal society in China’s history develop to a peak period. Guzuyu wrote in the summary of reading history and local public opinion in the early Qing Dynasty: “Shaanxi is the one who controls the destiny of the world according to the upper reaches of the world. Therefore, although it is small, it will be big, although it is weak, it will be strong, although it can not be the world’s hero, it will also be soaked and determined to cause great disasters in the world.” His remarks are insightful.

Secondly, it discusses the relationship between the two regions within the territory of Qin state. The main body of Qin’s territory should be Guanzhong and the adjacent Loess Plateau. No matter from the perspective of political division or natural geographical characteristics, it is a self-contained geographical unit. However, this geographical unit is not enough to truly form the advantage of the macro geographical situation. The Sichuan Basin, which belongs to the second step of China’s geomorphic structure, is often a necessary supplement. The two serve as barriers and auxiliary wings to each other, and will form a greater power to control the world and a very stable political and geographical structure. The reason why Qin could swallow the six countries smoothly was actually due to this. Sima Cuo, a strategist with unique insight in the state of Qin, clearly stated in the imperial court in the ninth year of the reign of emperor Huiwen of Qin (316 BC): “if you get Shu, you will get Chu. If Chu dies, the world will go together” [12]. King Huiwen of Qin also recognized this and adopted his suggestions. He immediately sent Sima CuO to lead troops to destroy Shu and then Pakistan, thus forming a “land of Qin” of great strategic significance, that is, a regional consortium covering the central Shaanxi plain, Chengdu Plain, the Loess Plateau and Sichuan Basin. In this way, not only did the Qin state have no problems and worries, but also a complete and powerful pressure line pointing to the eastern plain area could be formed in the center of China. Because of this, strategists such as Su Qin and Zhang Liang in the Warring States period and the early Western Han Dynasty all mentioned “Bashu in the South”, “Dai MA in the north” and “the Rao of Bashu in the South and the benefits of Hu Yuan in the north” when discussing the geographical situation in Guanzhong. It shows that these regions are inseparable in political geography, that is, geopolitics; Cooperation is mutually beneficial, while Division is harmful. The match between the two regions not only proved its practical role in the process of the Qin State’s annihilation of the six countries, but also proved repeatedly in several key historical development processes in China. The most typical examples are the early Western Jin Dynasty and the early Sui Dynasty, whose territory is roughly equivalent to that of Qin. The Western Jin Dynasty and the Sui Dynasty also relied on this macro geographical situation. They sent infantry and cavalry from the north and boat divisions from the Sichuan basin to attack the Sunwu and Chen dynasties in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. They all won victories one after another. With regard to the unexpected military success of the Western Jin army’s expedition against Sunwu, the Tang Dynasty poet LiuYuxi once said in his poem “nostalgia of Xisai mountain”: “when the ships of the Western Jin Dynasty went down to Yizhou, the king’s spirit of Jinling was depressed. Thousands of iron locks sank at the bottom of the river, and flags fell and stones came out”. The process of the unification of the Western Jin, Sui and Qin Dynasties is so similar. It seems to be a coincidence, but in fact it has its inevitable law, which is also related to the superior macro geographical situation of their territory. The strategic decision of marquis Zhuge Wu to invade the Central Plains in the north and take Guanlong first, and the military process of the Mongol and Yuan Dynasties to subdue Tubo, destroy Dali, attack Sichuan, defeat the Southern Song Dynasty, and unify the country have also proved this point again.

Of course, the emphasis on whether the macro geographical situation is favorable should not go to extremes. The ancients also had a profound understanding of this. When Jia Yi, the literary emperor of the Western Han Dynasty, mentioned in his “on crossing the Qin Dynasty” that he was able to overthrow the rule of the strong Qin Dynasty by leading the exiled garrison, he said that “if one man is in trouble and seven temples are in danger, he is dead and his hands are dead, and the world laughs at him. What is the difference between the attack and defense without benevolence and righteousness?”. Modern scholars have clearly declared that the geographical environment, regardless of the micro geographical characteristics or the macro geographical situation, is not the only determinant of the victory or defeat of the war and the success or failure of the cause. Therefore, a comprehensive and dialectical view should be adopted in the study of similar problems before a truly scientific conclusion can be drawn. Return to directory


What is very interesting is that the territory of the Qin state we are discussing here is in the western region of China defined according to the degree of economic and social development, that is, the relatively backward regions in the East and central China. Then a thought-provoking question arises here. Why was this region with a bad ecological environment and relatively backward economic development superior and advanced in the historical period? What was the reason and how did it gradually become backward? These are, of course, major issues worthy of in-depth study by experts and scholars in the fields of archaeology, historical geography, economic history and social history. The results of the research are not only of great academic significance, but also of great practical significance to the grand cause of the western development being vigorously promoted in China. Its academic significance is multifaceted, and its practical significance is also multifaceted. From the perspective of cognition, it can promote people to further enhance their understanding of the necessity and importance of the current national implementation of the western development strategy, and recognize that the western development plays a role not only in promoting the comprehensive and sustainable development of China’s economy and society, but also in maintaining China’s political stability. From the perspective of operation, the research results can help people gain historical enlightenment and wisdom on economic development and environmental protection and governance, and help people formulate more scientific and reasonable strategies, plans and measures that conform to the historical development direction. Therefore, the research work in this area is essential. Just now, when I talked about the research work in this field, I mentioned that archaeologists also have great responsibilities, which is not groundless. Take all of you here for example. You are all archaeologists of the Qin and Han Dynasties. In particular, you have made universally recognized achievements in the archaeological excavation and research of the Qin Terra Cotta Warriors. Through a large number of empirical studies, it not only enriched people’s understanding of the material culture and social conditions of the Qin State and the Qin Dynasty, but also deepened their understanding of the geographical characteristics of the Qin land and its role in the economic and social development of the Qin State and the Qin Dynasty. These research works and their achievements are directly related to the historical geography of the Qin State and the Qin Dynasty, and to the research tasks undertaken by the northwest historical environment and economic and social development research center of Shaanxi Normal University. For example, the article “the settlement of the No. 1 pit of the terracotta warriors and the climate distribution in Guanzhong during the Qin Dynasty” written by researcher zhangzhongli [13] provides the most direct and detailed evidence for understanding the climate in Guanzhong during the Qin Dynasty. Therefore, I sincerely hope that archaeologists and historical geographers can further strengthen cooperation and launch innovative achievements on the joint of the two disciplines. Return to directory


[1] Xunzi: discussing the army. [2] Fan Wenlan discussed the role of geographical environment in Section 4 of Chapter 5 of the first part of the compendium of general history of China (Revised Edition, people’s publishing house, 3rd Edition, 1955), “the reasons for the unification of Qin Dynasty”, but it is very brief. [3] For the specific process of the capital migration of the Qin state, please refer to xuweimin’s study of the capital city of Qin, Shaanxi people’s education press, december1999. [4] “Warring States policies · Qin policies I” and “Huayang records · Shu records”. [5] “Historical records” volume V “Qin Benji”. [6] [10] volume 129 of historical records: biographies of goods colonization. [7] [8][9] Volume 28 of Hanshu, Part 2 of geographical records. [11] “Historical records” volume 99 “biographies of Liu Jing, uncle sun Tong”. [12] Annals of Huayang · annals of Shu. [13] Published by Northwest University Press in january1996.

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