Qin Shi Huang and His Empire
-- First Emperor of China
Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of Qin, was the first sovereign who adopted the title of emperor in Chinese history. With a pioneer's boldness of vision, he accomplished magnificent feats during his lifetime.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 BC - 210 BC) Calling himself the First Emperor after China's unification, Qin Shi Huang is a pivotal figure in Chinese history, ushering nearly two millennia of imperial rule. After unifying China, he and his chief advisor Li Si passed a series of major economic and political reforms. He undertook gigantic projects, including the first version of the Great Wall of China, the now famous city-sized mausoleum guarded by a life-sized Terracotta Army, and a massive national road system, all at the expense of numerous lives. To ensure stability, Qin Shi Huang outlawed and burned many books and buried some scholars alive.
How did he come to the throne?
Emperor Qin Shi Huang, born as Ying Zheng in 259 BC, was the son of the king of the Qin State. At the age of thirteen, he succeeded his father's regality. Ying Zheng was very aggressive and ambitious at an early age. He assumed full power at 22 by ridding himself of his premier, Lu Buwei, who acted as regent while he was a minor. He wanted to unify and subjugate all the states like Han, Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan and Qi by the powerful political, economic and military strength of the Qin State. Ying Zheng realized his ambition and built the first feudal and centralized empire in Chinese history in 221 BC. This was what we called - the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC). Ying Zheng was the first emperor of a united China, so he proclaimed himself Qin Shi Huang.
"Qin Shi Huang"
When Ying Zheng unified China, he considered his achievement surpassing the legendary "San Huang (three emperors)" and "Wu Di (five sovereigns)". He created a new title for himself: "Huangdi" together with "Shi (means the first)", hence get the name "Qin Shi Huang" or "Qin Shi Huangdi", which means he was the first emperor of China. He hoped his descendants would follow in his steps to rule China for eternity.
♦ Early Reign of Qin Shi Huang
The young king was only 13 years old when he took the throne, so his prime minister (and probable real father) Lu Buwei acted as regent for the first eight years.
This was a difficult time for any ruler in China, with seven warring states vying for control of the land. The leaders of the Qi, Yan, Zhao, Han, Wei, Chu and Qin states were former dukes under the Zhou Dynasty, but had each proclaimed themselves king as the Zhou fell apart.
In this unstable environment, warfare flourished, as did books like Sun Tzu's Art of War.
Lu Buwei had another problem, as well; he feared that the king would discover his true identity.
♦ First unification of China
In 230 BC, King Zheng unleashed the final campaigns of the Warring States Period, setting out to conquer the remaining independent kingdoms, one by one.
The first state to fall was Han (韓; sometimes called Hann to distinguish it from the Han 漢 of Han dynasty), in 230 BC. Then Qin took advantage of a natural disaster, the 229 BC Zhao state earthquake, to invade and conquer Zhao where Qin Shi Huang had been born. He now avenged his poor treatment as a child hostage there, seeking out and killing his enemies.
Qin armies conquered the state of Zhao in 228 BC, the northern country of Yan in 226 BC, the small state of Wei in 225 BC, and the largest state and greatest challenge, Chu, in 223 BC.
In 222 BC, the last remnants of Yan and the royal family were captured in Liaodong in the northeast. The only independent country left was now state of Qi, in the far east, what is now the Shandong peninsula. Terrified, the young king of Qi sent 300,000 people to defend his western borders. In 221 BC, the Qin armies invaded from the north, captured the king, and annexed Qi.
For the first time, all of China was unified under one powerful ruler. In that same year, King Zheng proclaimed himself the "First Emperor" (始皇帝), no longer a king in the old sense and now far surpassing the achievements of the old Zhou Dynasty rulers.
In the South, military expansion continued during his reign, with various regions being annexed to what is now Guangdong province and part of today's Vietnam.
♦ Death of Qin Shi Huang
In 211 BC a large meteor is said to have fallen in Dongjun (東郡) in the lower reaches of the Yellow River. On it, an unknown person inscribed the words "The First Emperor will die and his land will be divided." When the emperor heard of this, he sent an imperial secretary to investigate this prophecy. No one would confess to the deed, so all the people living nearby were put to death. The stone was then burned and pulverized.
The emperor died during one of his tours of Eastern China, on September 10, 210 BC (Julian Calendar) at the palace in Shaqiu prefecture (沙丘平台), about two months away by road from the capital Xianyang. Reportedly, he died due to ingesting mercury pills, made by his court scientists and doctors. Ironically, these pills were meant to make Qin Shi Huang immortal.
After the emperor's death Prime Minister Li Si, who accompanied him, became extremely worried that the news of his death could trigger a general uprising in the empire. It would take two months for the government to reach the capital, and it would not be possible to stop the uprising. Li Si decided to hide the death of the emperor, and return to Xianyang. Most of the imperial entourage accompanying the emperor was left ignorant of the emperor's death; only a younger son, Ying Huhai, who was traveling with his father, the eunuch Zhao Gao, Li Si, and five or six favorite eunuchs knew of the death. Li Si also ordered that two carts containing rotten fish be carried immediately before and after the wagon of the emperor. The idea behind this was to prevent people from noticing the foul smell emanating from the wagon of the emperor, where his body was starting to decompose severely as it was summertime. They also pulled down the shade so no one could see his face, changed his clothes daily, brought food and when he had to have important conversations they would act as if he wanted to send them a message.
Achievements and Defects
In order to consolidate the nascent empire, Qin Shi Huang reformed politics, economy and culture. In politics, he abolished the hereditary vassal enfeoffment system and established prefectures and counties, ruled directly by the emperor. Based on the original rules of the Qin State, the emperor adopted some regulations of other rival states to form a workable law of the Qin Dynasty. In economy, he claimed that both the agriculture and commerce were very important. People should have them developed together. Besides, tax system began to function and coinage and metrology were all standardized. In culture, the emperor unified the Chinese characters in writing, which promoted the development of the Chinese culture. However, he also suppressed scholars who were not to his liking. Consequently, many scholars involved were killed in Xian Yang.
The symbol of the Chinese ancient civilization, the Great Wall bears witness to Qin Shihuang's centralism. He ordered conscript laborers to link together the defensive works against marauding nomads already built by the former states. That was the forerunner of the modern Great Wall. Another world-famous achievement is the Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xian, which was discovered nearby the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Both are the wonders of China. But during their construction, countless conscripts lost their lives. It's really wasting manpower and resources.
Decline of the First Emperor
Qin Shi Huang longed for longevity, so he sent his ministers to go on quests seeking for an elixir of immortality. However, death claimed him before he could find success on that matter. The emperor departed from the world of the living in 210 BC while traveling. The Peasant Uprising led by Chen Sheng and Wu Guang broke out soon after Hu Hai, the second generation, got onto the throne. Accordingly, the Qin Dynasty came to an abrupt end in 206 BC. Qin Shi Huang is truly an epoch-making historic emperor in China's history.
Mystery of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum revealed
Archeologists have unraveled the mysterious plan of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, the 2,200-year-oldstructure which is famous as the home of 7,000 terracotta horses and warriors.
Located in Xi'an in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the QinShi Huang Mausoleum is the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) and also of China.
Covering 2.13 square kilometers, the four-layered mausoleum, like a well-structured city, includes an underground palace, which is the center of the mausoleum, an inner city, outer city and grounds.
"The revelation of the structure is the greatest achievement in the study of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum in the past 40 years," said Yuan Zhongyi, an expert on the mausoleum and honorary curator of the Museum of Qin Terracotta Horses and Warriors.
Since they began to explore the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum 40 years ago, archeologists have discovered constructions over hundreds of square kilometers and more than 600 tombs of those buried alive with the emperor. However, the overall plan of the cemetery remained a mystery.
The cemetery, facing east, is a rectangle with falling 85 meters from the south to the north. The ramparts of the inner city and outer city are altogether 12 kilometers long, similar to that of Xi'an during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).
The underground palace, the central city, lies under the grave mound in the south of the inner city. It symbolizes Qin Shi Huang's real palace when he was alive, occupying two thirds of the southern part of the inner city.
The grave mound is the Qin Shi Huang Tomb tourists can see.
The inner city has the most buildings and buried relics such as the coffin chamber, flags and weapons for guards of honor and stores. Subordinate buildings and tombs for buried concubines of the monarch were also in the inner city.
In the area between the inner and outer cities, archeologists have found a chamber for stables, 31 chambers for birds and rare animals, 48 tombs for imperial concubines who were buried alive with the emperor and three sites of homes of officials in charge of gardens and temples.
Some secondary establishments such as a large pit for stone loricae and terracotta figures were also found in this zone.
Outside the outer city, along with the well-known terracotta horses and warriors, archeologists found 98 chambers for small stables and many tombs for those buried with Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
The gates of the inner and outer cities in both the west and the east were built in the form of courtyards. The city wall in the mausoleum has cloisters on both sides with turrets at the four corners.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first in China to construct a mausoleum city and to build coffin chambers and subordinate palaces in the mausoleum. The first emperor also started the ritual of building chambers for those buried alive with the owner of the tomb on a large scale. Another unusual discovery is that the mausoleum does not have a tomb of the empress