Fall of Qin and Chu-Han contention
Collapse of Qin
Zhou dynasty (c. 1050–256 BCE) had established the
State of Qin in
Western China as an outpost to
breed horses and act as a defensive buffer against
nomadic armies of the
 After conquering
six Warring States (i.e.
Qi) by 221 BCE,
 the King of Qin,
unified China under one empire divided into 36 centrally-controlled
 With control over much of
China proper, he affirmed his enhanced prestige by taking the unprecedented title
huangdi (皇帝), or 'emperor', known thereafter as Qin Shi Huang (i.e. the first emperor of Qin).
 Han-era historians would accuse his regime of employing ruthless methods to preserve his rule.
Qin Shi Huang died of natural causes in 210 BCE.
 In 209 BCE the
Chen Sheng and
Wu Guang, leading 900 conscripts through the rain, failed to meet an arrival deadline; the
Standard Histories claim that the Qin punishment for this delay would have been
 To avoid this, Chen and Wu started a rebellion against Qin, known as the
Dazexiang Uprising, but they were thwarted by the Qin general
Zhang Han in 208 BCE; both Wu and Chen were subsequently assassinated by their own soldiers.
 Yet by this point others had rebelled, among them
Xiang Yu (d. 202 BCE) and his uncle
Xiang Liang (項梁/项梁), men from a leading family of the
 They were joined by
Liu Bang, a man of peasant origin and supervisor of convicts in
Mi Xin, grandson of
King Huai I of Chu, was declared King Huai II of Chu at his powerbase of Pengcheng (modern
Xuzhou) with the support of the Xiangs, while other kingdoms soon formed in opposition to Qin.
 Despite this, in 208 BCE Xiang Liang was killed in a battle with Zhang Han,
 who subsequently attacked Zhao Xie the King of Zhao at his capital of
Handan, forcing him to flee to
Julu, which Zhang
put under siege. However, the new kingdoms of Chu, Yan, and Qi came to Zhao's aid; Xiang Yu defeated Zhang at Julu and in 207 BCE forced Zhang to surrender.
While Xiang was occupied at Julu, King Huai II sent Liu Bang to capture the Qin heartland of
Guanzhong with an agreement that the first officer to capture this region would become its king.
 In late 207 BCE, the Qin ruler
Ziying, who had claimed the reduced title of King of Qin, had his chief eunuch
Zhao Gao killed after Zhao had orchestrated the deaths of Chancellor
Li Si in 208 BCE and the second Qin emperor
Qin Er Shi in 207 BCE.
 Liu Bang gained Ziying's submission and secured the Qin capital of
 persuaded by his chief advisor
Zhang Liang (d. 189 BCE) not to let his soldiers loot the city, he instead sealed up its treasury.
Contention with Chu
A Western Han bronze
with cast and incised decoration, from
province, 1st century BCE
The Standard Histories allege that when Xiang Yu arrived at Xianyang two months later in early 206 BCE, he looted it, burned it to the ground, and had Ziying executed.
 In that year, Xiang Yu offered King Huai II the title of
Emperor Yi of Chu and sent him to a remote frontier where he was assassinated; Xiang Yu then assumed the title Hegemon-King of Western Chu (西楚霸王) and became the leader of a confederacy of
 At the
Feast at Hong Gate, Xiang Yu considered having Liu Bang assassinated, but Liu, realizing that Xiang was considering killing him, escaped during the middle of the feast.
 In a slight towards Liu Bang, Xiang Yu
carved Guanzhong into three kingdoms with former Qin general Zhang Han and two of his subordinates as kings; Liu Bang was granted the frontier Kingdom of Han in
Hanzhong, where he would pose less of a political challenge to Xiang Yu.
In the summer of 206 BCE, Liu Bang heard of Emperor Yi's fate and decided to rally some of the new kingdoms to oppose Xiang Yu, leading to a four-year war known as the
 Liu initially made a direct assault against Pengcheng and captured it while Xiang was battling another king who resisted him—Tian Guang (田廣) the King of Qi—but his forces collapsed upon Xiang's return to Pengcheng; he was saved by a storm which delayed the arrival of Chu's troops, although his father
Liu Zhijia (劉執嘉) and wife
Lü Zhi were captured by Chu forces.
 Liu barely escaped another defeat at
Xingyang, but Xiang Yu was unable to pursue him because Liu Bang induced
Ying Bu (英布), the King of Huainan, to rebel against Xiang.
 After Liu Bang occupied
Chenggao along with a large Qin grain storage, Xiang threatened to kill Liu's father if he did not surrender, but Liu did not give in to Xiang's threats.
With Chenggao and his food supplies lost, and with Liu Bang's general
Han Xin (d. 196 BCE) having conquered Zhao and Qin to Chu's north,
 in 203 BCE Xiang Yu offered to release Liu Bang's relatives from captivity and split China into political halves: the west would belong to Han and the east to Chu.
 Although Liu accepted the truce, it was short-lived, and in 202 BCE
at Gaixia in modern
Anhui, the Han forces forced Xiang Yu to flee from his fortified camp in the early morning with only 800 cavalry, pursued by 5,000 Han cavalry.
 After several bouts of fighting, Xiang Yu became surrounded at the banks of the
Yangzi River, where he committed suicide.
 Liu Bang took the title of emperor, and is known to posterity as
Emperor Gaozu of Han (r. 202–195 BCE).