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The Three Qins (Chinese :三秦; pinyin :Sān Qín) refer to three of the Eighteen Kingdoms, formed from the division of the Qin dynasty after the collapse of the empire in 206 BC. The three kingdoms are located in Guanzhong Plain (in present-day central Shaanxi), the heartland of the Qin Empire.
Originally, according to a promise by King Huai II of Chu, whoever invades Guanzhong first would own the region. Liu Bang was the first anti-Qin rebel to enter the Guanzhong region, capture Xianyang and end the Qin dynasty, and thus earning the right to rule it as his fief, and he also won the hearts of the people by abolishing the harsh Qin laws and forbidding his troops from killing and looting the locals. However, Xiang Yu, the most powerful warlords at the time and a deeply jealous rival of Liu, ignored this promise and forced Liu to relocate to another fief located in present-day Sichuan, which at the time was an underdeveloped desolate region used to exile prisoners. The Guanzhong region was given to three former Qin generals, who surrendered to Xiang Yu after the Battle of Julu. These three kingdoms are collectively known as the Three Qins, because they occupied the heartland of the former Qin state.
The Three Qins are listed as follows:
In the autumn of 206 BC, Liu Bang's newly appointed general Han Xin made a surprise attack on the Kingdom of Yong and defeated Zhang Han. Following that, Sima Xin and Dong Yi surrendered to Liu, and by 205 BC the Three Qins became part of Liu's Kingdom of Han. After Liu's victory in the Chu-Han contention, the Guanzhong region became the crown land of the newly established Han dynasty, with Chang'an being the imperial capital, located merely miles away from the former Qin capital of Xianyang on the opposite side of the Wei River.
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Emperor Gaozu of Han, born Liu Bang (劉邦), was the founder and first emperor of the Han dynasty, reigning from 202 – 195 BC. His temple name was "Taizu" (太祖) while his posthumous name was "Emperor Gao" (高皇帝); "Gaozu of Han", derived from the Records of the Grand Historian, is the common way of referring to this sovereign even though he was not accorded the temple name "Gaozu". Liu Bang was one of the few dynasty founders in Chinese history who was born in a peasant family.
Zhang Liang, courtesy name Zifang, was a strategist and statesman who lived in the early Western Han dynasty. He is also known as one of the "Three Heroes of the early Han dynasty" (漢初三傑), along with Han Xin (韓信) and Xiao He. Zhang Liang contributed greatly to the establishment of the Han dynasty. After his death, he was honoured with the posthumous title "Marquis Wencheng" by Emperor Qianshao.
The Chu–Han Contention was an interregnum period between the Qin dynasty and the Han dynasty in Chinese history. Following the collapse of the Qin dynasty in 206 BC, Xiang Yu split the former Qin Empire into the Eighteen Kingdoms. Civil wars soon broke out in a struggle for supremacy, with two major contending powers emerging, namely the Kingdom of Western Chu led by Xiang Yu, and the Kingdom of Han led by Liu Bang. Several minor kings also warred, but these were largely insignificant compared to the main conflict between Western Chu and Han. The war ended in 202 BC with total victory for Han at the Battle of Gaixia, with Liu Bang soon crowning himself as the first emperor of the Han dynasty.
Xiang Yu, born Xiang Ji, was the Ba Wang (霸王) or Hegemon-King of Western Chu during the Chu–Han Contention period of China. A noble of Xiaxiang, Xiang Yu rebelled against the Qin dynasty and became a prominent warlord. He was granted the title of "Duke of Lu" (魯公) by King Huai II of the restoring Chu state in 208 BC. The following year, he led the Chu forces to victory at the Battle of Julu against the Qin armies led by Zhang Han. After the fall of Qin, Xiang Yu was enthroned as the "Hegemon-King of Western Chu" (西楚霸王) and ruled a vast area of land covering parts of present-day Shanxi, Henan, Hubei, Hunan and Jiangsu, with Pengcheng as his capital. He engaged Liu Bang, the founding emperor of the Han dynasty, in a long struggle for power, known as the Chu–Han Contention, which concluded with his eventual defeat at the Battle of Gaixia. He committed suicide at the bank of the Wu River.
Zhang Han was a military general of the Qin dynasty. When uprisings erupted throughout China during the reign of Qin Er Shi, Zhang Han led the Qin armies and successfully quelled several of these rebel forces. In 207 BC, Zhang Han was defeated by Xiang Yu of Chu at the Battle of Julu, after which he surrendered along with his 200,000 troops. He was conferred the title "King of Yong" (雍王) by Xiang Yu and given part of the lands in Guanzhong as his fief when Xiang split the former Qin Empire into the Eighteen Kingdoms after the fall of the Qin dynasty. Zhang Han's territory was conquered by Liu Bang in 206 BC, and he committed suicide a year later.
Han Xin was a military general who served Liu Bang during the Chu–Han Contention and contributed greatly to the founding of the Han dynasty. Han Xin was named as one of the "Three Heroes of the early Han dynasty", along with Zhang Liang and Xiao He.
Xiao He was a Chinese politician of the early Western Han dynasty. He served Liu Bang, the founder of the Han dynasty, during the insurrection against the Qin dynasty, and fought on Liu's side in the Chu–Han Contention against Liu's rival, Xiang Yu. After the founding of the Han dynasty, Xiao He became the chancellor and held office until his death. For his contributions, he is also known as one of the "Three Heroes of the early Han dynasty" (漢初三傑), along with Han Xin and Zhang Liang.
The historiographical term "Eighteen Kingdoms" refers to the eighteen fengjian states created by military leader Xiang Yu in China in 206 BCE, after the collapse of the Qin dynasty. The details of the feudal division are as follows:
Emperor Yi of Chu, also known as King Huai II of Chu before receiving his de jure emperor title, personal name Xiong Xin, was the ruler of the Chu state in the late Qin dynasty. He was a grandson of King Huai of Chu. In 223 BC, during the Warring States period, the Chu state was conquered by the Qin state, which unified the various Chinese feudal states in a series of wars and established the Qin dynasty in 221 BC. In 209 BC, when rebellions broke out throughout China to overthrow the Qin dynasty, the Chu state was revived as an insurgent state against Qin imperial rule. Xiong Xin was discovered by Xiang Liang, a rebel leader who descended from a famous Chu general, Xiang Yan, and installed on the Chu throne as "King Huai II of Chu". However, Xiong Xin was merely a puppet ruler because power was concentrated in Xiang Liang's hands, and was later passed on to Xiang Liang's nephew, Xiang Yu, after Xiang Liang was killed in battle. In 206 BC, the Qin dynasty was overthrown by the rebels, after which Xiang Yu, who was the de facto leader of all the rebel forces, divided the former Qin Empire into the Eighteen Kingdoms. He promoted King Huai II to a more "honourable" title – Emperor Yi of Chu – and made him the nominal sovereign ruler over all the Eighteen Kingdoms. Xiang Yu then had Emperor Yi relocated to Chen County and secretly ordered Ying Bu to assassinate the emperor during the journey.
The Feast at Swan Goose Gate, also known as the "Banquet at Hongmen", "Hongmen Banquet", "Hongmen Feast" and other similar renditions, was a historical event that took place in 206 BC at Hong Gate outside Xianyang, the capital of the Qin dynasty. Its location in present-day China is roughly at Hongmenbao Village, Xinfeng Town, Lintong District, Xi'an, Shaanxi province. The main parties involved in the banquet were Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, two prominent leaders of insurgent forces who rebelled against the Qin dynasty from 209–206 BC. The event was one of the highlights of the Chu–Han Contention, a power struggle for supremacy over China between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu which concluded with Xiang Yu's defeat and the establishment of the Han dynasty with Liu Bang as its first emperor. The Feast at Hong Gate is often memorialised in Chinese history, fiction and popular culture.
The Battle of Julu was fought in Julu in 207 BC primarily between forces of the Qin dynasty and the insurgent state of Chu. The Qin commander was Zhang Han, while the Chu leader was Xiang Yu. The battle concluded with a decisive victory for the rebels over the larger Qin army. The battle marked the decline of Qin military power as the bulk of Qin's armies were destroyed in this battle.
Xin, King of Hán, also known as Hán Xin and as Hán Wang Xin, was a descendant of the royal family of the state of Hán during the Warring States Period of ancient Chinese history. After the establishment of the Han Dynasty, Emperor Gaozu granted Hán Xin the title "Prince" or "King of Hán" (韓王). In 201 BC, King Xin was suspected of conspiring with the Xiongnu to attack the Han Empire and decided to defect to the Xiongnu. He was killed in action during a battle against the Han army in 196 BC.
Cao Shen or Cao Can, courtesy name Jingbo, was a chancellor of the Western Han dynasty. He participated in the Chu–Han Contention on Liu Bang 's side and contributed greatly to the founding of the Han dynasty.
Zang Tu was a Chinese warlord who lived in the late Qin Dynasty and the early Han Dynasty.
Qin's wars of unification were a series of military campaigns launched in the late 3rd century BC by the Qin state against the other six major Chinese states — Han, Zhao, Yan, Wei, Chu and Qi. During 247–221 BC, Qin emerged as one of the dominant powers of the very strong and powerful Seven Warring States.
Xiang Chan, courtesy name Bo, better known as Xiang Bo, was a noble of the Chu state of the Seven Warring States. He was an uncle of the warlord Xiang Yu, who competed with Liu Bang, the founder of the Han dynasty, for supremacy over China in the Chu–Han Contention.
Sima Ang was a ruler of the Kingdom of Yin (殷國) of the Eighteen Kingdoms during the Chu–Han Contention, an interregnum between the Qin dynasty and the Han dynasty.
Sima Xin was a military general of the Qin dynasty. He surrendered to Xiang Yu after the Battle of Julu in 207 BC. In 206 BC, following the collapse of the Qin dynasty, he was conferred the title of "King of Sai" by Xiang Yu and given part of the lands in Guanzhong as his fief when the latter split the former Qin Empire into the Eighteen Kingdoms.
Dong Yi was a military general of the Qin dynasty. He surrendered to Xiang Yu after the Battle of Julu in 207 BC. In 206 BC, following the collapse of the Qin dynasty, he was conferred the title of "King of Di" (翟王) by Xiang Yu and given part of the lands in Guanzhong as his fief when the latter split the former Qin Empire into the Eighteen Kingdoms.
Ying Bu was a warlord and vassal king who lived in the early Han dynasty. He was a native of Lu County. In his early life under the Qin dynasty, Ying Bu was convicted and sentenced to qing, so he was also called Qing Bu (黥布). He was then sent to Mount Li to perform hard labour by constructing Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum. He later escaped with some men and became the leader of a bandit gang. Ying Bu participated in the insurrection against the Qin dynasty after the Dazexiang Uprising broke out in 209 BC. After the uprising failed, he became part of a rebel force led by Xiang Liang. He assisted Xiang Liang's nephew and successor Xiang Yu in overthrowing the Qin dynasty. After the fall of Qin, he initially fought on Xiang Yu's side in the Chu–Han Contention, a power struggle for supremacy over China between Xiang Yu and Liu Bang. However, later, he defected to Liu Bang's side and helped Liu defeat Xiang Yu and become the emperor. During this period of time, Ying Bu held the title "King of Jiujiang". After Liu Bang established the Han dynasty in 202 BC, he appointed Ying Bu as a vassal king and granted him the title "King of Huainan". In 195 BC, Ying Bu rebelled against the Han dynasty but was defeated and killed.