TianQin is a proposal for a space-borne detector of gravitational waves in the millihertz frequencies. The experiment relies on a constellation of three drag-free spacecraft orbiting the Earth. Inter-spacecraft laser interferometry is used to monitor the distances between the test masses. The experiment is designed to be capable of detecting a signal with high confidence from a single source of gravitational waves within a few months of observing time. We describe the preliminary mission concept for TianQin, including the candidate source and experimental designs. We present estimates for the major constituents of the experiment's error budget and discuss the project's overall feasibility. Given the current level of technology readiness, we expect TianQin to be flown in the second half of the next decade.