Shihuang (also called the First Emperor of China) was the founder of the first
unified empire in the history of China. He established an autocratic state with
centralized power over the feudal society.
Qin Shihuang, named Yingzheng, was
born in Hanan in the late Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256BC). Legend has it that
his father, prince of the Qin State, was held hostage in the State of Zhao until
Lu Buwei, a wealthy merchant secured their release back to the Qin. Finding that
his own wife, who was an exceedingly beautiful woman, was pregnant, Lu Buwei
managed to inspire the prince with great love for her. With apparent reluctance
Lu Buwei granted the prince's request of his wife, for Lu thought in due time
his own offspring would have the acknowledged heir to the throne. When the
prince became King Zhuang Xiang of Qin, he made Lu his prime minister, and for
the next ten years Lu was the ruling force in the state.
When King Zhuang
Xiang died, his son, or, rather, Lu Buwei's son, came to the throne. This boy of
thirteen may be considered the real founder of the Qin Dynasty. His name was
Yingzheng, better known as Qin Shihuang (246-221BC), and took over the reins of
government at twenty-two.
When he grew up,
he discovered that his mother had been guilty of the gravest immoralities with
Lu Bubei, and that Lu revealed that he was his natural father. He at once
banished his mother to a fortress and dismissed Lu Buwei from his office and
sent him home to his estate, with a warning that any indiscretion of Lu Buwei
would be severely punished. At last, being afraid of the king's vengeance Lu
Buwei poisoned himself.
assistance of wise and innovative men, Yingzheng carried out a series of reforms to
develop agriculture and the military. Qin rose rapidly among the warring states at
that period. During his reign, Yingzheng succeeded in putting down
internal rebellions, and, externally, waged wars for unification on the other six
states. It took him only ten years to wipe them out, thus putting an end to the state
of chaos caused by rival principalities. When Qin defeated the other six states
in 221BC, for the first time in history, China became a unified centralized state, Qin. Yingzheng
assumed the title "Shihuangdi" as he considered his achievement surpassed those
of "San Huang" (three previous emperors) and "Wu Di" (five previous emperors),
legendary rulers in remote antiquity. "Shi" which means the first, combined with
"Huangdi", the given names of his predecessors signifies his supremacy over
To organize his
new empire, Qin Shihuang abolished the existing feudal system. He established
prefectures and counties with further townships. These were put under the
control of military and administrative officials who were his direct appointees.
The state was divided into thirty-six prefectures with counties under their
jurisdiction. Besides, roads radiating from Xianyang, the capital, were built
linking the former Yan, Qi, Wu and Chu areas. He also standardized the script used for
writing, the coinage, introducing a circular copper coin with a square hole in
the center. Equally important reforms were the standardization of weights and
measures, and codification of the law. These reforms benefited both the economy
and cultural exchange during the period.
the northern border, the Emperor sent slaves and criminals to build the line of
defense now known as the Great Wall.
criticism of imperial rule, in the 34th year (213BC) of the Qin Dynasty, Emperor
Qin Shihuang decided to burn all the books in the empire and to execute those
scholars and their families who opposed his rule. His command was remarkably
efficient, and all historical records but those of the Qin State were burned. The second year, the emperor arrested
approximately 460 Confucian scholars and buried them alive in Xianyang City, Shaanxi Province.
To reinforce his
rule, Qin Shihuang practiced autocracy, imposing harsh laws and severe
punishments and heavy levies and corves upon his people. Moreover, he levied war
year after year and thus caused untold sufferings to the people.
ruled by terror and spent massive amount of money to build extravagant palaces
and his tomb. After five big travels across the country and the building of the
Great Wall, China was in debt financially and people lived in
terrible conditions. All this strengthened people's hatred towards the emperor
and sped the fall of the Qin.
believed in a medicine that could make him eternal. A group of doctors
prescribed him a medicine that had a small dose of mercury in it. This mercury
poisoned Qin shihuang and was what eventually killed him. He died while away
from his capital on tour in 210BC. His demise sparked uprisings across the
country. The second son Hu Hai of Qin Shihuang took over the throne. Hu Hai was
even of inferior quality than his late father. He neglected his responsibilities
as emperor and allowed the eunuch Zhao Gao to govern the country on his
In 206BC, the
Qin Dynasty of Emperor II, 900 laborers were on a long march to Yuyang. It
seemed impossible for them to get there in time, owing to a long spell of strong
wind and heavy rain, which stopped them at Daxexiang. According to Qin's cruel
rules, they would all be put to death. So Chen Shen and Wu Guang, of the 900
laborers, killed the officers, raised the standard of revolt, and led the first
great peasant uprising in China's history. Very soon they captured the Ji County.
People from every corner of the country came thick and fast to join Chen, as
Emperor II was an unbearable tyrant. Chen won battle after battle, and later
called himself Emperor of Zhang Chu. The Qin dynasty ended in 206BC.
though on the throne for little more than a decade, had a tremendous influence
on the Chinese civilization. He laid the foundation for a unified Chinese
nation, and is called by posterity "An Emperor of Myriads of Ages". A reformer
as well as tyrant, Qin Shihuang, left to posterity his immense and monumental
Qin Mausoleum, a creation of both blood and