The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, came to power during the Warring States Period. After Duke Xiang asked Shang Yang to carry out his political reforms, the Qin (pronounced Chin) state grew so powerful that it was able to overthrow the other 6 strong warring states. The Qin reforms created “the first centralized, unified, multi-ethnic feudal state in Chinese history—the Qin Dynasty” (Warrior Tours). One of the first steps in centralization and unification was to make sure the Emperor’s power was supreme. To do this, he needed to end the traditionally separate, local divisions in Chinese society that were governed by feudal lords. By dividing China into thirty-six prefectures and appointing his own governors to control each, he was able to reduce the power of the nobility and place all power in his own hands. Thus, a Qin reform that resulted in greater social organization was the division of China into 36 prefectures.
Although this reform brought a more peaceful life to the Chinese people, Qin Shi Huang was a tyrannical ruler who required endless military service, forced hard labor onto those who didn’t contribute enough to the state, imposed high taxes, and used harsh punishments to eliminate people he thought were against him. The cruel rulership, known as Legalism, under the Qin Dynasty prompted peasant revolts that led to its downfall after only 16 years.