Duke Xian of Qin (Shixi)

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Duke Xian of Qin (Template:Zh, 424–362 BC) was from 384 to 362 BC the 29th ruler of the Zhou Dynasty state of Qin that eventually united China to become the Qin Dynasty. His ancestral name was Ying (), and Duke Xian was his posthumous title. His given name was Shixi (师隰) or Lian (連).[1][2]

Ascension to the throne[edit]

Duke Xian was the nephew of Duke Ling of Qin, the 25th ruler of the state of Qin. However, when Duke Ling died in 415 BC, the throne was passed to Duke Ling's uncle Duke Jian, instead of his son. Duke Jian reigned for 15 years and was succeeded by his son Duke Hui II, who died 13 years later in 387 BC, and was then succeeded by his son Chuzi II. As Chuzi was only a baby, the power was controlled by his mother the duchess. In 385 BC, the second year of Chuzi's reign, the minister Jun Gai (菌改) rebelled against Chuzi. He led his force to escort Duke Xian, who was at the time exiled in the State of Wei, back to Qin, killed Chuzi and his mother, and installed Duke Xian on the throne.[1][2]


By the time Duke Xian finally became the monarch of Qin, thirty years after the death of his father, decades of internal turmoil had greatly weakened the formerly powerful state of Qin. The neighbouring state of Wei, on the other hand, grew stronger and annexed Qin's Hexi territory (west of the Yellow River).[1][2]

Abolition of human sacrifice[edit]

As soon as he ascended the throne, Duke Xian started to make a series of reforms. In 384 BC, the first year of his reign, he abolished the practice of funeral human sacrifice started nearly three centuries before by Duke Wu, the tenth ruler of Qin, who had 66 people buried with him when he died in 678 BC. The fourteenth ruler Duke Mu had 177 people buried with him in 621 BC, including several senior government officials. Afterwards the people of Qin wrote the famous poem Yellow Bird to condemn this barbaric practice, which is compiled in the Confucian classic Shijing,[3] but the practice would still continue for more than two centuries until Duke Xian abolished it.[1][2] Modern historian Ma Feibai considers the significance of Duke Xian's abolition of human sacrifice to Chinese history comparable to that of Abraham Lincoln's abolition of slavery is to American history.[2][4]

Moving the capital[edit]

In 383 BC, the second year of his reign, Duke Xian moved the Qin capital from the long-time capital Yong (in present-day Fengxiang, Shaanxi) several hundred kilometers east to Yueyang (櫟陽, in present-day Yanliang District of Xi'an).[1][4] The move shifted the center of Qin closer to other states such as Wei, Han, and Zhao, facilitated commerce, and weakened the powerful aristocratic clans that were entrenched in the old capital.[4]

Establishing counties[edit]

Duke Xian expanded the practice of establishing counties administered by bureaucrats appointed by the central government. This was a major departure from the then common practice of enfeoffing territory to hereditary aristocrats who ran their fiefs like mini-states. Duke Xian established several counties in Pu, Lantian, Pumingshi, and even in the new capital Yueyang. The reform strengthened the power of the central government, and would be further expanded to the whole state by the famous reformer Shang Yang under Duke Xian's successor Duke Xiao, contributing to Qin's rise and eventual unification of China.[4][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Sima Qian. "秦本纪". Records of the Grand Historian (in Chinese). guoxue.com. Retrieved 1 May 2012. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Han, Zhaoqi (2010). "Annals of Qin". Annotated Shiji (in Chinese). Zhonghua Book Company. pp. 415–420. ISBN 978-7-101-07272-3.
  3. ^ Yellow Bird, Shijing (in Chinese).
  4. ^ a b c d Zhu, Zhongxi (2004). "On Duke Xian of Qin". Long You Wen Bo (陇右文博) (in Chinese). Gansu Provincial Museum (2). Retrieved 3 May 2012.
Template:S-houTemplate:S-reg }} Template:Monarchs of Qin
Preceded by
Chuzi II
Duke of Qin
384–362 BC
Succeeded by
Duke Xiao of Qin