Qin Dynasty Music

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Development of Chinese music during Qin Dynasty.

General information

Author Wiki Users
English title Qin Dynasty Music
Chinese title 秦朝音乐
Pinyin title Qín cháo yīnyuè
Publication Music-China.org
Date of publication
Original URL The original article was posted on http://www.music-china.org/w/Qin_Dynasty_Music

Entities mentioned

In this article, especially the following entities (bands, artists, cities, articles, etc.) are being called out:


Keywords & Genre

The following keywords / genres apply for this article:

History, Traditional

Geographical span of this epoch

Qin empire 210 BCE.png


The Qin Dynasty lasted from 221 BC to 226 BC.

Previously a minor state in the northwest, Qin had seized the territories of small states on its south and west borders by the mid-third century B.C., pursuing a harsh policy aimed at the consolidation and maintenance of power. Soon thereafter, Ying Zheng (259—210 B.C.), who would reunite China, came to the Qin throne as a boy of nine. He captured the remaining six of the "warring states," expanding his rule eastward and as far south as the Yangzi River, and proclaimed himself First Emperor of the Qin, or Qin Shihuangdi. Qin, pronounced chin, is the source of the Western name China.[1]

Throughout his rule, Qin Shihuangdi continued to extend the empire, eventually reaching as far south as Vietnam. His vast empire was divided into commanderies and prefectures administered jointly by civil and military officials under the direction of a huge central bureaucracy. This administrative structure served as a model for government in China until the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911. Qin Shihuangdi also standardized the Chinese script, currency, and system of measurements, and expanded the network of roads and canals. He is credited with building the Great Wall of China by uniting several preexisting defensive walls on the northern frontier; and reviled for a state-sponsored burning of Confucian works and other classics in 213 B.C.[1]

Excavations begun in 1974 brought to light over 6,000 lifesize terracotta figures from the vast army guarding the tomb of Qin Shihuangdi, one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries in Mainland China. Although his tomb chamber has not yet been unearthed, historical records describe it as a microcosm of his realm, with constellations painted on the ceiling and running rivers made of mercury.[1] Among the excavations there had been also a number of terracotta statues of musicians.

Development of Chinese Music

A later 3rd century texts from the Jin Dynasty suggest that pipa existed in China as early as the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BCE).[2] Furthermore, an instrument called xiantao (弦鼗), made by stretching strings over a small drum with handle, was said to have been played by labourers who constructed the Great Wall of China during the late Qin Dynasty.[2]

Impressions of musical life in Qin Dynasty

Further information

General information about the Qin Dynasty



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Department of Asian Art. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000 (October 2000). "Qin Dynasty (221–206 B.C.)". Retrieved on 2013-03-31.
  2. 2.0 2.1 《琵琶錄》 Records of Pipa by Duan Anjie (段安節)] citing Du Zhi of Jin Dynasty. Original text: 樂錄雲,琵琶本出於弦鼗。而杜摯以為秦之末世,苦於長城之役。百姓弦鼗而鼓之 Translation: According to Yuelu, pipa originated from xiantao. Du Zhi thought that towards the end of Qin Dynasty, people who suffered as forced labourers on the Great Wall, played it using strings on a drum with handle. (Note that for the word xiantao, xian means string, tao means pellet drum, one common form of this drum is a flat round drum with a handle, a form that has some resemblance to Ruan.)