This volume begins the historical coverage of The Cambridge History of China with the establishment of the Ch'in empire in 221 BC and ends with the abdication of the last Han emperor in AD 220. Spanning four centuries, this period witnessed major evolutionary changes in almost every aspect of China's development, being particularly notable for the emergence and growth of a centralized administration and imperial government. Owing to their pioneer achievements and the heritage that they left for later empires, these dynasties have rightly been regarded as a formative influence throughout Chinese history. Important archaeological discoveries of recent years have made a new approach possible for many aspects of the period. Leading historians from Asia, Europe, and America have contributed chapters that convey a realistic impression of significant political, economic, intellectual, religious, and social developments, and of the contacts that the Chinese made with other peoples at this time. Like the other volumes in the series, volume 1 summarizes the information given in primary sources in the light of the most recent critical scholarship.
As the book is intended for the general reader as well as the specialist, technical details are given in both Chinese terms and English equivalents. References lead to primary sources and their translations and to secondary writings in European languages as well as Chinese and Japanese.