Perhaps themost important rulerwas Qin Shi Huangdi. He ruthlessly united numerous warring factions in 221 bce and became the country’s first emperor. He introduced a standard systemof weights andmeasures, linked several segments of walls into the Great Wall, and suppressed any criticismof his rule. It’s likely that the name China came fromhim. Qin is pronounced as “chin.” Despite his accomplishments, though, the dynasty he founded was the shortest-lived in Chinese history. Soon afterward, a series of trade routes began developing in China. These routes became known as the Silk Road after the first major product to be traded along its length. Eventually it reached the West and created a

This medieval manuscript shows travelers moving along the Silk Road, the vital trading route that connected Europe to China and other parts of Asia.

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