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Debating the Route of the Qin Direct Road (Zhidao): Text and Excavation

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image of Frontiers of History in China

The most famous road built during the Qin dynasty was the Zhidao, literally, the Direct Road. The Direct Road connected Ganquan, near the capital, with the northwest corner of the empire, and historians have discussed it since ancient times. Yet the earliest sources do not give any information about the Direct Road’s specific route, leaving this question open to debate. In recent decades, there has been a controversy among historical geographers and archaeologists about the path the Zhidao took, and numerous articles have been published proposing variations of two main possibilities. This article gathers relevant historical materials, reviews the scholarship on both sides of the debate, and discusses the difficulties that emerge when scholars seek to integrate history and archaeology.


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