During Shi Huang Di’s reign, the Qin Empire (227 – 207 BC) firstly united seven warring states and formed a control-governed territory which deeply influenced the latter history. After his less able successors were defeated, the things he had achieved allowed a period of united progress under the Han dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD.
During Han period, Chinese settled far to the south, about the Xi river and in Indo-China. The northern Chinese and their descendants are still referred to as ‘Han Chinese’. Their influence also extended westward, with trade routes north of the Tibetan plateau, through Afghanistan and Persia, to the Mediterranean and ancient Rome. Merchant linked with merchant along this ‘Silk Route’, as camels, mules, horses, and yaks carried silk to the west and brought back precious stones and metals.
In China there was a revival of education. The brush pen began to be used, not only on bamboo and wood, but on silk, and latter on paper. Government officials were appointed by means of examinations. There were many science and technology advances. The magnetic compass was developed, a grid system used for mapping, and a seismograph constructed to locate earthquakes. Many large canals were linked together for irrigation and navigation, and rudders and paddle wheels were used on the boats. There was deep drilling for brine and natural gas. Medicine was studied, and treatment included acupuncture.
In this period, agriculture benefited from the large-scale irrigation works and dyke building, from the intensive application of fertilizers, the adoption of wheelbarrows and seed-drills, the use of animal and water-power for milling. But, even so, conditions of life varied with a person’s position in society. Although the state expanded and prospered and large land-owners became rich, the poor peasant farmers were burdened by high taxation and were called-up to serve in the Han armies, which controlled the new territories.
Also, under the Han dynasty, men had travelled to India to collect holy Buddhist writings. When the Han dynasty broke into three separate kingdoms, Buddhism was officially recognized in the north, which was controlled by Tartars from central Asia, and was followed by large numbers of people. Despite these divisions, the Chinese ways of life continued, and now monasteries, temples and pagodas first formed part of the landscape. These became even more numerous under the Tang dynasty which followed, and which once more united China. The code of Confucius and the control of everyday life by scholar-officials remained; yet both Buddhism and Daoism were accepted, and borrowed ideas and practices from each other.