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Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the
Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of ever ...

Qin dynasty
, and first emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "
king King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, queen, which title is also given to the queen consort, consort of a king. *In the context of prehistory, antiquity and contempora ...
" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous
Shang The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang
and
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
rulers, he ruled as the First Emperor () of the Qin dynasty from 221 to 210 BCE. His self-invented title "emperor" ( ') would continue to be borne by Chinese rulers for the next two millennia. Historically, he was often portrayed as a tyrannical ruler and strict
Legalist Legalist, Inc. is a Legal financing, litigation finance company based in San Francisco, California that funds commercial lawsuits on behalf of plaintiff attorneys, applying machine learning algorithms to evaluate its potential investments. History ...
, in part from the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
's scathing assessments of him. Since the mid 20th-century, scholars have begun to question this evaluation, inciting considerable discussion on the actual nature of his policies and reforms. Regardless, according to sinologist
Michael Loewe Michael Arthur Nathan Loewe (born 2 November 1922) is a British Sinologist, historian, and writer who has authored dozens of books, articles, and other publications in the fields of Classical Chinese and History of China#Ancient China, ancient ...
"few would contest the view that the achievements of his reign have exercised a paramount influence on the whole of China's subsequent history, marking the start of an epoch that closed in 1911". Born in the Qin state as Ying Zheng () or Zhao Zheng (), his parents were
King Zhuangxiang of Qin King Zhuangxiang of Qin (281–247 BC), personal names Yiren and Zichu, was a ruler of the Qin state during the third century BC in the Warring States period of ancient China.‘‘Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty'' (English translati ...
and
Lady Zhao Zhao Ji (;Ji 姬 was an ancestral name of the Zhou royal family, which later evolved to generally mean "lady" in successive eras. With such a name being the last part of hers, it could also mean that Zhao was a princess of either the Zhou dynasty ...
. The wealthy merchant Lü Buwei assisted him in succeeding his father as the ruler of Qin, after which he became King Zheng of Qin (). When he was 38, the Qin had conquered all of the other
Warring States The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
and unified all of China in 221 BCE, resulting in his ascension as China's first emperor. During his reign, his generals greatly expanded the size of the Chinese state: campaigns south of
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
permanently added the
Yue
Yue
lands of
Hunan Hunan (, ; ) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdi ...

Hunan
and
Guangdong Guangdong (, ), alternately romanized as Canton Province or Kwangtung, is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admin ...

Guangdong
to the Chinese cultural orbit; campaigns in Central Asia conquered the
Ordos Loop The Ordos Plateau, also known as the Ordos Basin or simply the Ordos, is a highland Highlands or uplands are any mountainous region or elevated mountainous plateau. Generally speaking, upland (or uplands) refers to ranges of hills, typically u ...
from the nomad
Xiongnu The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action. Usually created by a treaty A treaty is a formal ...

Xiongnu
, although eventually it would also lead to their confederation under
Modu Chanyu Modun, Maodun, Modu (, c. 234 – c. 174 BCE) was the son of Touman and the founder of the empire of the Xiongnu. He came to power by ordering his men to kill his father in 209 BCE. Modu ruled from 209 BCE to 174 BCE. He was a military leader un ...
. Qin Shi Huang also worked with his
minister Minister may refer to: * Minister (Christianity)Image:LutheranClergy.JPG, upA Lutheran minister wearing a Geneva gown and Bands (neckwear), bands. In many churches, ministers wear distinctive clothing, called vestments, when presiding over service ...
Li Si Li Si (; 280 BCSeptember or October 208 BC) was a Chinese calligrapher, philosopher, and politician of the Qin dynasty. He served as Chancellor (China), Chancellor (or Prime Minister) from 246 to 208 BC under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, the ki ...

Li Si
to enact major economic and political reforms aimed at the standardization of the diverse practices of the earlier
Chinese states Ancient Chinese states () were typified by variously sized city-states and territories that existed in China prior to Qin's wars of unification, its unification by Qin Shi Huang in 221 BCE. In many cases these were vassal states and fiefs establishe ...
. He is traditionally said to have
banned and burned many books and executed scholars
banned and burned many books and executed scholars
. His public works projects included the unification of diverse state walls into a single
Great Wall of China The Great Wall of China () is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian nomads, various nomadic groups from the Eurasian Step ...

Great Wall of China
and a massive new national road system, as well as the city-sized
mausoleum A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people. A monument without the interment is a cenotaph. A mausoleum may be considered a type ...
guarded by the life-sized
Terracotta Army The Terracotta Army is a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of , the first . It is a form of buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife. The figures, dating from approximat ...

Terracotta Army
. He ruled until his death in 210 BCE during his fourth tour of Eastern China.


Origin of name

Modern Chinese sources often give the personal name of Qin Shi Huang as Ying Zheng, with
Ying
Ying
() taken as the surname and Zheng () the given name. In ancient China however the naming convention differed, and Zhao (), the place where he was born and raised, may be used as the
surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name A personal name, or full name, in onomastic Onomastics or onomatology is the study of the etymology, history, and use of proper names. An ''wikt ...
. Unlike modern
Chinese name Chinese personal names are names used by those from Greater China "Greater China" is an informal geographical area that shares commercial and cultural ties with the Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East As ...
s, the
nobles Nobility is a normally ranked immediately below and found in some societies that have a formal . Nobility has often been an that possessed more acknowledged and higher than most other classes in society. The privileges associated wi ...
of
ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese h ...
had two distinct surnames: the
ancestral name In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name that indicates one's family, tribe or community. Practices vary by culture. The family name may be placed at either the start of a person's full name, ...
() comprised a larger group descended from a prominent ancestor, usually said to have lived during the time of the
Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were two groups of Chinese mythology, mythological rulers or deities in ancient northern China. The Three Sovereigns lived before The Five Emperors, who have been assigned dates in a period from circa 3162 B ...
of
Chinese legend Chinese mythology () is mythology Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentar ...
, and the clan name () comprised a smaller group that showed a branch's current
fief A fief (; la, feudum) was the central element of feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the hist ...
or recent title. The ancient practice was to list men's names separately
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
's "Basic Annals of the First Emperor of Qin" introduces him as "given the name Zheng and the surname Zhao"or to combine the clan surname with the personal name: Sima's account of
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
describes the sixteenth year of the reign of King Kaolie as "the time when Zhao Zheng was enthroned as King of Qin". However, since modern Chinese surnames (despite usually descending from clan names) use the same character as the old ''ancestral'' names, it is much more common in modern Chinese sources to see the emperor's personal name written as Ying Zheng, using the ancestral name of the Ying family. The rulers of
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
had styled themselves kings from the time of King Huiwen in 325 BCE. Upon his ascension, Zheng became known as the King of Qin [
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
]. 'Records_of_the_Grand_Historian''.html" ;"title="Records_of_the_Grand_Historian.html" ;"title="'Records of the Grand Historian">'Records of the Grand Historian''">Records_of_the_Grand_Historian.html" ;"title="'Records of the Grand Historian">'Records of the Grand Historian'' §6: Basic Annals of the First Emperor of Qin" Hosted at [Guoxue.com], 2003. Accessed 25 December 2013.
or King Zheng of Qin.
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
. 'Records_of_the_Grand_Historian''.html" ;"title="Records_of_the_Grand_Historian.html" ;"title="'Records of the Grand Historian">'Records of the Grand Historian''">Records_of_the_Grand_Historian.html" ;"title="'Records of the Grand Historian">'Records of the Grand Historian'' §5: Basic Annals of Qin" Hosted at [Guoxue.com], 2003. Accessed 25 December 2013.
This title made him the nominal equal of the rulers of
Shang The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang
and of
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
, the last of whose kings had been deposed by
King Zhaoxiang of Qin King Zhaoxiang of Qin (; 325–251 BC), or King Zhao of Qin (秦昭王), born Ying Ji (, was the king of Qin from 306 BC to 251 BC. He was the son of King Huiwen and younger brother of King Wu. King Zhaoxiang reigned as the King of Qin for 57 ...
in 256 BCE. Following the surrender of Qi in 221 BCE, King Zheng had reunited all of the lands of the former
Kingdom of Zhou The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese (Reconstructions of Old Chinese#Baxter–Sagart (2014), B&S): *''tiw'') was a Dynasties in Chinese history, Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty and preceded the Qin dynasty. The Zhou dynasty lasted lo ...
. Rather than maintain his rank as king, however,Wilkinson, Endymion. ''Chinese History: A Manual''
pp. 108 ff
Harvard University Press (
Cambridge Cambridge ( ) is a university city and the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' ...
), 2000. . Accessed 26 December 2013.
he created a new title of ''huángdì'' (
emperor An emperor (from la, imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as a title roughly equivalent to ''commander'' under the Roma ...
) for himself. This new title combined two titles''huáng'' of the
mythical Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as Narrative, tales, p ...
Three Sovereigns The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were two groups of mythological rulers or deities in ancient northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependen ...
(, ''Sān Huáng'') and the ''dì'' of the legendary Five Emperors (, ''Wŭ Dì'') of Chinese prehistory. The title was intended to appropriate some of the prestige of the
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch, or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://w ...

Yellow Emperor
, whose cult was popular in the later
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
and who was considered to be a founder of the Chinese people. King Zheng chose the new
regnal name A regnal name, or regnant name or reign name, is the name used by monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for life or until abdication, and therefore the ...
of First Emperor (''Shǐ Huángdì'', formerly transcribed as Shih Huang-ti) [
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
]. 'Records of the Grand Historian'']

§5: Basic Annals of Qin" Hosted at hinese Wikisource 2012. Accessed 27 December 2013.
on the understanding that his successors would be successively titled the "Second Emperor", "Third Emperor", and so on through the generations. (In fact, the scheme lasted only as long as his immediate heir, the Second Emperor.) The new title carried religious overtones. For that reason,
Sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's ...
sstarting with
Peter Boodberg Peter Alexis Boodberg (Born Pyotr Alekseyevich Budberg; 8 April 1903 – 29 June 1972) was a Russian-American scholar, linguist, and sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China Chi ...
or Edward Schafersometimes translate it as "thearch" and the First Emperor as the First Thearch. The First Emperor intended that his realm would remain intact through the ages but, following its overthrow and replacement by
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...

Han
after his death, it became customary to prefix his title with Qin. Thus: * , ''Qín'' or Ch‘in, "of Qin" * , ''Shǐ'' or Shih, "first" * , ''Huángdì'' or Huang-ti, "emperor", a new term coined from ** , ''Huáng'' or Huang, literally "shining" or "splendid" and formerly most usually applied "as an epithet of Heaven", a title of the
Three Sovereigns The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were two groups of mythological rulers or deities in ancient northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependen ...
, the of the
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
Creel, Herrlee G. ''The Origins of Statecraft in China'', pp. 495 ff. University of Chicago Press (Chicago), 1970. Op. cit. Chang, Ruth.
Understanding Di and Tian: Deity and Heaven from Shang to Tang Dynasties
, pp. 13–14. ''Sino-Platonic Papers'', No. 108. Sept. 2000. Accessed 27 December 2013.
** , ''Dì'' or Ti, the of the
Shang The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang
, possibly composed of their divine ancestors, and used by the Zhou as a title of the legendary Five Emperors, particularly the
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch, or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://w ...

Yellow Emperor
As early as
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
, it was common to shorten the resulting four-character Qin Shi Huangdi to , [
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
]. 'Records of the Grand Historian'']

§6: Basic Annals of the First Emperor of Qin" Hosted at hinese Wikisource 2012. Accessed 27 December 2013.
variously transcribed as Qin Shihuang or Qin Shi Huang. Following his elevation as emperor, both Zheng's personal name and possibly its homophone became
taboo A taboo is an implicit prohibition on something (usually against an utterance or behavior) based on a cultural sense that it is excessively repulsive or, perhaps, too sacred for ordinary people.''Encyclopædia Britannica Online''.Taboo. Encyclop ...
. The First Emperor also arrogated the first-person Chinese pronoun ( OC*''lrəm'',Baxter, William & al.
Baxter–Sagart Old Chinese Reconstruction
''. 2011. Accessed 26 December 2013.
mod. ''zhèn'') for his exclusive use and in 212 BCE began calling himself The 
Immortal Immortality is the ability to live forever, or eternal life. Immortal or Immortality may also refer to: Film * The Immortals (1995 film), ''The Immortals'' (1995 film), an American crime film * ''Immortality'', an alternate title for the 1998 Bri ...
OC*''Tin-niŋ'', mod. ''Zhēnrén'', lit. "True Man"). Others were to address him as "Your Majesty" mod. ''Bìxià'', lit. "Beneath the
Palace A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence, or the home of a head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to eit ...

Palace
Steps") in person and "Your Highness" () in writing.


Birth and parentage

According to the ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dep ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'', written by
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
during the Han dynasty, the first emperor was the eldest son of the Qin prince Yiren, who later became
King Zhuangxiang of Qin King Zhuangxiang of Qin (281–247 BC), personal names Yiren and Zichu, was a ruler of the Qin state during the third century BC in the Warring States period of ancient China.‘‘Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty'' (English translati ...
. Prince Yiren at that time was residing at the court of Zhao, serving as a hostage to guarantee the
armistice An armistice is a formal agreement Agreement or concord (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates. It is an instance of inflection, and usually involves makin ...

armistice
between the Qin and Zhao states.Wood, Frances. (2008). ''China's First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors'', pp. 2–33. Macmillan Publishing, 2008. . Prince Yiren had fallen in love at first sight with a
concubine Concubinage is an interpersonal The concept of interpersonal relationship involves social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. Interpersonal relationships vary in their degree of intimacy or self-disclo ...
of Lü Buwei, a rich merchant from the
State of Wey Wei (;"Wei"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''. ; Old Chinese: ''*ɢʷat-s''), commonly spelled Wey to distinguish ...
. Lü consented for her to be Yiren's wife, who then became known as
Lady Zhao Zhao Ji (;Ji 姬 was an ancestral name of the Zhou royal family, which later evolved to generally mean "lady" in successive eras. With such a name being the last part of hers, it could also mean that Zhao was a princess of either the Zhou dynasty ...
(Zhao Ji) after the state of Zhao. He was given the name Zhao Zheng, the
name A name is a term used for identification by an external observer. They can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a given context. The entity identified by a name is called its referent A referent ...
Zheng () came from his month of birth ''Zhengyue'', the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar; the clan name of Zhao came from his father's lineage and was unrelated to either his mother's name or the location of his birth. ( Song Zhong says that his birthday, significantly, was on the first day of Zhengyue.) Lü Buwei's machinations later helped Yiren become
King Zhuangxiang of Qin King Zhuangxiang of Qin (281–247 BC), personal names Yiren and Zichu, was a ruler of the Qin state during the third century BC in the Warring States period of ancient China.‘‘Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty'' (English translati ...
Ren Changhong & al. ''Rise and Fall of the Qin Dynasty''. Asiapac Books PTE Ltd., 2000. . in 250 BCE. However, the ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dep ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'' also claimed that the first emperor was not the actual son of Prince Yiren but that of Lü Buwei.Huang, Ray. ''China: A Macro History'' Edition: 2, revised. (1987). M.E. Sharpe publishing. . p. 32. According to this account, when Lü Buwei introduced the dancing girl to the prince, she was Lü Buwei's
concubine Concubinage is an interpersonal The concept of interpersonal relationship involves social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. Interpersonal relationships vary in their degree of intimacy or self-disclo ...
and had already become pregnant by him, and the baby was born after an unusually long period of pregnancy. According to translations of the Annals of Lü Buwei, Zhao Ji gave birth to the future emperor in the city of
Handan Handan is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China ...
in 259 BCE, the first month of the 48th year of
King Zhaoxiang of Qin King Zhaoxiang of Qin (; 325–251 BC), or King Zhao of Qin (秦昭王), born Ying Ji (, was the king of Qin from 306 BC to 251 BC. He was the son of King Huiwen and younger brother of King Wu. King Zhaoxiang reigned as the King of Qin for 57 ...
.Lü, Buwei. Translated by Knoblock, John. Riegel, Jeffrey. ''The Annals of Lü Buwei'': Lü Shi Chun ''Qiu : a Complete Translation and Study''. (2000). Stanford University Press. . The idea that the emperor was an
illegitimate child Legitimacy, in traditional Western common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opi ...
, widely believed throughout Chinese history, contributed to the generally negative view of the First Emperor. However, a number of modern scholars have doubted this account of his birth. Sinologist Derk Bodde wrote: "There is good reason for believing that the sentence describing this unusual pregnancy is an interpolation added to the '''' by an unknown person in order to slander the First Emperor and indicate his political as well as natal illegitimacy". John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel, in their translation of Lü Buwei's ''
Spring and Autumn Annals The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or ''Chunqiu'' is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated ...
'', call the story "patently false, meant both to libel Lü and to cast aspersions on the First Emperor". Claiming Lü Buwei—a merchant—as the First Emperor's biological father was meant to be especially disparaging, since later Confucian society regarded merchants as the lowest of all social classes.


As the King of Qin


Regency

In 246 BCE, when King Zhuangxiang died after a short reign of just three years, he was succeeded on the throne by his 13-year-old son.Donn, Lin. Donn, Don. ''Ancient China''. (2003). Social Studies School Service. Social Studies. . p. 49. At the time, Zhao Zheng was still young, so Lü Buwei acted as the regent prime minister of the State of Qin, which was still waging war against the other six states. Nine years later, in 235 BCE, Zhao Zheng assumed full power after Lü Buwei was banished for his involvement in a scandal with
Queen Dowager Zhao Zhao Ji (;Ji 姬 was an Chinese surname#Xing, ancestral name of the Zhou dynasty, Zhou royal family, which later evolved to generally mean "lady" in successive eras. With such a name being the last part of hers, it could also mean that Zhao was a pr ...
.
Zhao Chengjiao Chengjiao (成蟜, 256 BC – 239 BC), titled Lord of Chang'an (長安君 Chǎng'ān Jūn), (Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, i ...
, the Lord Chang'an (),司馬遷《史記·卷043·趙世家》:(赵悼襄王)六年,封长安君以饶。 was Zhao Zheng's legitimate half-brother, by the same father but from a different mother. After Zhao Zheng inherited the throne, Chengjiao rebelled at
Tunliu Tunliu () is a district of the city of Changzhi, Shanxi province, China. Lord Chang'an, Zhao Chengjiao, Chengjiao, brother of Qin Shi Huang died here. Referenceswww.xzqh.org
County-level divisions of Shanxi Changzhi {{Shanxi-geo-stub ...
and surrendered to the state of Zhao. Chengjiao's remaining retainers and families were executed by Zhao Zheng.


Lao Ai's attempted coup

As King Zheng grew older, Lü Buwei became fearful that the boy king would discover his liaison with his mother
Lady Zhao Zhao Ji (;Ji 姬 was an ancestral name of the Zhou royal family, which later evolved to generally mean "lady" in successive eras. With such a name being the last part of hers, it could also mean that Zhao was a princess of either the Zhou dynasty ...
. He decided to distance himself and look for a replacement for the queen dowager. He found a man named
Lao Ai Lao Ai (; died 238 BCE) was an imposter An impostor (also spelled imposter) is a person who pretends to be somebody else, often through means of disguise. Their objective is usually to try to gain financial or social advantages through social e ...
.Mah, Adeline Yen. (2003). ''A Thousand Pieces of Gold: Growing Up Through China's Proverbs''. Published by HarperCollins. . pp. 32–34. According to ''The Record of Grand Historian'', Lao Ai was disguised as a
eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man A man is an adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot ...

eunuch
by plucking his beard. Later Lao Ai and queen Zhao Ji got along so well they secretly had two sons together. Lao Ai then became ennobled as
Marquis A marquess (; french: marquis ), es, marqués, pt, marquês. is a nobleman Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), arist ...

Marquis
Lào Ǎi, and was showered with riches. Lao Ai's plot was supposed to replace King Zheng with one of the hidden sons. But during a dinner party drunken Lào Ǎi was heard bragging about being the young king's step father. In 238 BCE the king was travelling to the former capital, Yong (). Lao Ai seized the queen mother's
seal Seal may refer to any of the following: Common uses * Pinniped Pinnipeds (pronounced ), commonly known as seals, are a widely range (biology), distributed and diverse clade of carnivorous, fin-footed, List of semiaquatic tetrapods, semiaqu ...
and mobilized an army in an attempt to start a coup and rebel. When King Zheng discovered this fact, he ordered Lü Buwei to let Lord Changping and Lord Changwen attack Lao Ai. Although the royal army killed hundreds of rebels at the capital, Lao Ai succeeded in fleeing from this battle. A price of 1 million
copper coins A coin is a small, flat, (usually, depending on the country or value) round piece of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fr ...
was placed on Lao Ai's head if he was taken alive or half a million if dead. Lao Ai's supporters were captured and ; then Lao Ai was tied up and torn to five pieces by horse carriages, while his entire family was executed to the third degree. The two hidden sons were also killed, while mother Zhao Ji was placed under house arrest until her death many years later. Lü Buwei drank a cup of poison wine and committed suicide in 235 BCE. Ying Zheng then assumed full power as the King of the Qin state. Replacing Lü Buwei,
Li Si Li Si (; 280 BCSeptember or October 208 BC) was a Chinese calligrapher, philosopher, and politician of the Qin dynasty. He served as Chancellor (China), Chancellor (or Prime Minister) from 246 to 208 BC under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, the ki ...

Li Si
became the new
chancellor Chancellor ( la, links=no, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the ''cancellarii Cancelli are lattice-work, placed before a window, a door-way, the tribunal o ...
.


First assassination attempt

King Zheng and his troops continued to take over different states. The
state of Yan Yan (; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle ...
was small, weak and frequently harassed by soldiers. It was no match for the Qin state. So Crown Prince Dan of Yan plotted an assassination attempt to get rid of King Zheng, begging
Jing Ke Jing Ke (died 227 BC) was a retainer of Crown Prince Dan Crown Prince Dan () was a crown prince of the State of Yan during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was also called Yan Dan (). He lived in the State of Qin as a hostage, but ...
to go on the mission in 227 BCE.
Jing Ke Jing Ke (died 227 BC) was a retainer of Crown Prince Dan Crown Prince Dan () was a crown prince of the State of Yan during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was also called Yan Dan (). He lived in the State of Qin as a hostage, but ...
was accompanied by
Qin Wuyang Qin Wuyang (秦舞陽) was a young man who followed Jing Ke Jing Ke (died 227 BC) was a retainer of Crown Prince Dan Crown Prince Dan () was a crown prince of the State of Yan during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was also calle ...
in the plot. Each was supposed to present a gift to King Zheng: a map of Dukang and the severed head of
Fan Wuji Huan Yi was a general of the state of Qin in the late Warring States period (5th cent.-221 BCE). General Pang Nuan of Zhao occupied several towns of the state of Yan in 236 BCE, whereupon Yan asked the state of Qin for help. Huan Yi, Yang Duan, a ...
. Qin Wuyang first tried to present the map case gift, but trembled in fear and moved no further towards the king. Jing Ke continued to advance toward the king, while explaining that his partner "has never set eyes on the
Son of Heaven Son of Heaven, or ''Tianzi'' (), was the sacred monarchical title of the Chinese sovereign. It originated with the ancient Zhou dynasty and was founded on the political and spiritual doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven. Since the Qin dynasty, th ...
", which is why he is trembling. Jing Ke had to present both gifts by himself. While unrolling the map, a
dagger A dagger is a knife A knife (plural knives; from Old Norse 'knife, dirk') is a tool or weapon with a cutting edge or blade, often attached to a handle or hilt. One of the earliest tools used by humanity, knives appeared at least Stone Ag ...

dagger
was revealed. The king drew back, stood on his feet, but struggled to draw the sword to defend himself. At the time, other palace officials were not allowed to carry weapons. Jing Ke pursued the king, attempting to stab him, but missed. King Zheng drew out his sword and cut Jing Ke's thigh. Jing Ke then threw the dagger, but missed again. Suffering eight wounds from the king's sword, Jing Ke realized his attempt had failed and knew that both of them would be killed afterwards. The Yan state was conquered by the Qin state five years later.


Second assassination attempt

Gao Jianli was a close friend of
Jing Ke Jing Ke (died 227 BC) was a retainer of Crown Prince Dan Crown Prince Dan () was a crown prince of the State of Yan during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was also called Yan Dan (). He lived in the State of Qin as a hostage, but ...
, who wanted to avenge his death. As a famous
lute A lute ( or ) is any plucked string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when a performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner. Musicia ...

lute
player, one day he was summoned by King Zheng to play the instrument. Someone in the palace who had known him in the past exclaimed, "This is Gao Jianli".Wu, Hung. ''The Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art''. Stanford University Press, 1989. . p. 326. Unable to bring himself to kill such a skilled musician, the emperor ordered his eyes put out. But the king allowed Gao Jianli to play in his presence. He praised the playing and even allowed Gao Jianli to get closer. As part of the plot, the lute was fastened with a heavy piece of
lead Lead is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements ...

lead
. He raised the lute and struck at the king. He missed, and his assassination attempt failed. Gao Jianli was later executed.


Unification of China

In 230 BCE, King Zheng unleashed the final campaigns of the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
, setting out to conquer the remaining independent kingdoms, one by one. The first state to fall was Hán (韓; sometimes called Hann to distinguish it from the Hàn 漢 of
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
), in 230 BCE. Then Qin took advantage of
natural disaster A natural disaster is a major adverse event An adverse event (AE) is any untoward medical occurrence in a patient or clinical investigation subject administered a pharmaceutical product and which does not necessarily have a causal relations ...
s in 229 BCE to invade and conquer Zhào, where Qin Shi Huang had been born.Haw, Stephen G. (2007). ''Beijing a Concise History''. Routledge. . pp. 22–23. 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 BCE, the northern country of
Yan Yan may refer to: Chinese states * Yan (state) Yan (; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, official ...
in 226 BCE, the small state of Wei in 225 BCE, and the largest state and greatest challenge,
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
, in 223 BCE. In 222 BCE, the last remnants of Yan and the royal family were captured in
Liaodong The Liaodong Peninsula (also Liaotung Peninsula, ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which it extends ...
in the northeast. The only independent country left was now
state of Qi Qi was a state of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and ...
, in the far east, what is now the
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
peninsula. Terrified, the young king of Qi sent 200,000 people to defend his western borders. In 221 BCE, the Qin armies invaded from the north, captured the king, and annexed Qi. Some of the strategies Qin used to unify China were to standardize the trade and communication, currency and language. For the first time, all Chinese lands were unified under one powerful ruler. In that same year, King Zheng proclaimed himself the "First Emperor" (始皇帝, ''Shǐ Huángdì''), no longer a king in the old sense and now far surpassing the achievements of the old Zhou Dynasty rulers. The emperor ordered the
Heshibi Mr. He's jade or ''Heshibi'' was a sacred '' bi'', a type of ceremonial jade Jade is a mineral, much used in some cultures as jewellery and for ornaments, mostly known for its green varieties, though it appears naturally in other colors as w ...
to be made into the Imperial Seal, known as the "Heirloom Seal of the Realm". The words, "Having received the Mandate from Heaven, may (the emperor) lead a long and prosperous life." () were written by Prime Minister
Li Si Li Si (; 280 BCSeptember or October 208 BC) was a Chinese calligrapher, philosopher, and politician of the Qin dynasty. He served as Chancellor (China), Chancellor (or Prime Minister) from 246 to 208 BC under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, the ki ...

Li Si
, and carved onto the seal by Sun Shou. The Seal was later passed from emperor to emperor for generations to come. In the South, military expansion in the form of campaigns against the Yue tribes continued during his reign, with various regions being annexed to what is now
Guangdong Guangdong (, ), alternately romanized as Canton Province or Kwangtung, is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admin ...

Guangdong
province and part of today's
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...

Vietnam
.


As the Emperor of Qin


Administrative reforms

In an attempt to avoid a recurrence of the political chaos of the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
, Qin Shi Huang and his prime minister
Li Si Li Si (; 280 BCSeptember or October 208 BC) was a Chinese calligrapher, philosopher, and politician of the Qin dynasty. He served as Chancellor (China), Chancellor (or Prime Minister) from 246 to 208 BC under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, the ki ...

Li Si
completely abolished
feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the disc ...
. The empire was then divided into 36 commanderies (郡, ''Jùn''), later more than 40 commanderies. The whole of China was thus divided into administrative units: first commanderies, then
counties A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposes Chambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French ...

counties
(縣, ''Xiàn''),
townships A township is a kind of human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings g ...
(鄉, ''Xiāng'') and hundred-family units (里, ''Li'', which roughly corresponds to the modern-day
subdistrictsA subdistrict or sub-district is an administrative division that is generally smaller than a district. Equivalents * Administrative posts of East Timor, formerly Portuguese-language * Kelurahan, in Indonesia * Mukim, a township in Brunei, Indone ...
and
communities A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, wor ...
). This system was different from the previous dynasties, which had loose alliances and federations.Veeck, Gregory. Pannell, Clifton W. (2007). ''China's Geography: Globalization and the Dynamics of Political, Economic, and Social Change''. Rowman & Littlefield publishing. . pp. 57–58. People could no longer be identified by their native region or former feudal state, as when a person from
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
was called "Chu person" (楚人, ''Chu rén''). Appointments were subsequently based on merit instead of hereditary rights.


Economic reforms

Qin Shi Huang and
Li Si Li Si (; 280 BCSeptember or October 208 BC) was a Chinese calligrapher, philosopher, and politician of the Qin dynasty. He served as Chancellor (China), Chancellor (or Prime Minister) from 246 to 208 BC under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, the ki ...

Li Si
unified China economically by standardizing the Chinese units of measurements such as weights and Units of measurement, measures, the currency, and the length of the axles of carts to facilitate transport on the road system. The emperor also developed an extensive network of roads and canals connecting the provinces to improve trade between them. The currencies of the different states were also standardized to the Banliang, Ban liang coin (半兩, ''Bàn Liǎng''). Perhaps most importantly, the Chinese character, Chinese script was unified. Under Li Si, the seal script of the state of Qin was standardized through removal of variant forms within the Qin script itself. This newly standardized script was then made official throughout all the conquered regions, thus doing away with all the regional scripts to form one language, one communication system for all of China.


Philosophy

While the previous Warring States era was one of constant warfare, it was also considered the golden age of free thought.Goldman, Merle. (1981). ''China's Intellectuals: Advise and Dissent''. Harvard University Press. . p. 85. Qin Shi Huang eliminated the Hundred Schools of Thought which included Confucianism and other philosophies. After the unification of China, with all other schools of thought banned, Legalism (Chinese philosophy), legalism became the endorsed ideology of the Qin dynasty. Beginning in 213 BCE, at the instigation of Li Si and to avoid scholars' comparisons of his reign with the past, Qin Shi Huang ordered most existing To burn the classics and to bury the scholars, books to be burned with the exception of those on astrology, agriculture, medicine, divination, and the history of the Qin (state), State of Qin.Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee. Ames, Roger T. (2006). ''Confucianism and Women: A Philosophical Interpretation''. SUNY Press. . p. 25. This would also serve the purpose of furthering the ongoing reformation of the writing system by removing examples of obsolete scripts. Owning the ''Classic of Poetry, Book of Songs'' or the ''Classic of History'' was to be punished especially severely. According to the later ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dep ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'', the following year Qin Shi Huang had some 460 scholars buried alive for owning the forbidden books. The emperor's oldest son Fusu criticised him for this act. Recent research suggests that the "burying of the Confucian scholars alive" is a Confucian martyrs' legend; rather, the emperor ordered the killing (坑 ''kēng'') of a group of alchemists after having found that they had fooled him. In Han times, the Confucian scholars, who had served the Qin loyally, used that incident to distance themselves from the failed dynasty. Kong Anguo (孔安國 c. 165 – c. 74 BCE), a descendant of Confucius, turned the alchemists (方士 ''fāngshì'') into Confucianists (儒 ''rú'') and entwined the martyrs' legend with the strange story of the rediscovery of the lost Confucian books behind a demolished wall in the house of his ancestors. The emperor's own library still had copies of the forbidden books but most of these were destroyed later when Xiang Yu burned the palaces of Xianyang in 206 BCE. Qin Shi Huang also followed the theory of the Wuxing (Chinese philosophy), five elements, earth, wood, metal, fire and water. () Zhao Zheng's birth element is Chinese astrology, water, which is connected with the colour black. It was also believed that the royal house of the previous dynasty Zhou Dynasty, Zhou had ruled by the power of fire, which was the colour red. The new Qin dynasty must be ruled by the next element on the list, which is water, represented by the colour black. Black became the colour for garments, flags, pennants. Other associations include north as the cardinal direction, winter season and the number six. Tallies and official hats were long, carriages wide, one Chinese units of measurement, pace () was .


Third assassination attempt

In 230 BCE, the state of Qin had defeated the state of Han (state), Han. A Han aristocrat named Zhang Liang (Western Han), Zhang Liang swore revenge on the Qin emperor. He sold all his valuables and in 218 BCE, he hitman, hired a Strongman (strength athlete), strongman assassin and built him a heavy metal cone weighing 120 Catty, jin (roughly 160 lb or 97 kg). The two men hid among the bushes along the emperor's route over a mountain. At a signal, the muscular assassin hurled the cone at the first carriage and shattered it. However, the emperor was actually in the second carriage, as he was travelling with two identical carriages for this very reason. Thus the attempt failed.Wintle, Justin Wintle. (2002). ''China''. Rough Guides Publishing. . pp. 61, 71. Both men were able to escape in spite of a huge manhunt.


Public works


Great Wall

The Qin fought nomadic tribes to the north and north-west. The
Xiongnu The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action. Usually created by a treaty A treaty is a formal ...

Xiongnu
tribes were not defeated and subdued, thus the campaign was tiring and unsuccessful, and to prevent the Xiongnu from encroaching on the northern frontier any longer, the emperor ordered the construction of an immense defensive wall.Li, Xiaobing. (2007). ''A History of the Modern Chinese Army''. University Press of Kentucky, 2007.. p. 16 This wall, for whose construction hundreds of thousands of men were mobilized, and an unknown number died, is a precursor to the current
Great Wall of China The Great Wall of China () is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian nomads, various nomadic groups from the Eurasian Step ...

Great Wall of China
. It connected numerous state walls which had been built during the previous four centuries, a network of small walls linking river defences to impassable cliffs. Intending to impose centralized rule and prevent the resurgence of feudal lords, Ying Zheng ordered the destruction of the sections of the walls that divided his empire among the former states. To position the empire against the
Xiongnu The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action. Usually created by a treaty A treaty is a formal ...

Xiongnu
people from the north, however, he ordered the building of new walls to connect the remaining fortifications along the empire's northern frontier. "Build and move on" was a central guiding principle in constructing the wall, implying that the Chinese were not erecting a permanently fixed border. Transporting the large quantity of materials required for construction was difficult, so builders always tried to use local resources. Stones from the mountains were used over mountain ranges, while rammed earth was used for construction in the plains. There are no surviving historical records indicating the exact length and course of the Qin walls. Most of the ancient walls have eroded away over the centuries, and very few sections remain today. The human cost of the construction is unknown, but it has been estimated by some authors that hundreds of thousands, if not up to a million, workers died building the Qin wall.


Lingqu Canal

A famous South China quotation was "In the North there is the Great wall, in the South there is the Lingqu canal" (). In 214 BCE the Emperor began the project of a major canal to transport supplies to the army.Mayhew, Bradley. Miller, Korina. English, Alex. ''South-West China: lively Yunnan and its exotic neighbours''. Lonely Planet. . p. 222. The canal allows water transport between north and south China. The canal, 34 kilometres in length, links the Xiang River which flows into the Yangtze River, Yangtze and the Lijiang River, Li Jiang, which flows into the Pearl River (China), Pearl River. The canal connected two of China's major waterways and aided Qin's expansion into the south-west. The construction is considered one of the three great feats of Ancient Chinese engineering, the others being the Great Wall and the Sichuan Dujiangyan Irrigation System.


Elixir of life

Later in his life, Qin Shi Huang feared death and desperately sought the fabled elixir of life, which would supposedly allow him to live forever. He was obsessed with acquiring immortality and fell prey to many who offered him supposed elixirs.Ong, Siew Chey. Marshall Cavendish. (2006). ''China Condensed: 5000 Years of History & Culture''. . p. 17. He visited Zhifu Island three times in order to achieve immortality. In one case he sent Xu Fu, a Zhifu islander, with ships carrying hundreds of young men and women in search of the mystical Mount Penglai, Penglai mountain. They were sent to find Anqi Sheng, a 1,000-year-old magician whom Qin Shi Huang had supposedly met in his travels and who had invited him to seek him there. These people never returned, perhaps because they knew that if they returned without the promised elixir, they would surely be executed. Legends claim that they reached Japan and colonized it. It is also possible that the book burning, a purge on what could be seen as wasteful and useless literature, was, in part, an attempt to focus the minds of the Emperor's best scholars on the alchemical quest. Some of the executed scholars were those who had been unable to offer any evidence of their supernatural schemes. This may have been the ultimate means of testing their abilities: if any of them had magic powers, then they would surely come back to life when they were let out again. Since the emperor was afraid of death and "evil spirits", he had workers build a series of tunnels and passageways to each of his over 200 palaces, because traveling unseen would supposedly keep him safe from the evil spirits.


Final years


Death

In 211 BCE a large meteor is said to have fallen in Dong Commandery, Dongjun 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" ().Liang, Yuansheng. (2007). ''The Legitimation of New Orders: Case Studies in World History''. Chinese University Press. . p. 5. 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 pulverized. During his fifth tour of Eastern China, the Emperor became seriously ill after he arrived in Pingyuanjin (Pingyuan County, Shandong), and died on July–August 210 BC at the palace in Shaqiu prefecture (沙丘平台, ''Shāqiū Píngtái''), about two months away by road from the capital Xianyang. The cause of Qin Shi Huang's death is still largely unknown. Reportedly, he died from Chinese alchemical elixir poisoning due to ingesting mercury (element), mercury pills, made by his alchemists and court physicians, believing it to be an elixir of immortality. A possible contributing factor was illness due to the stress of running the empire.


Succession

After the Emperor's death, Prime Minister
Li Si Li Si (; 280 BCSeptember or October 208 BC) was a Chinese calligrapher, philosopher, and politician of the Qin dynasty. He served as Chancellor (China), Chancellor (or Prime Minister) from 246 to 208 BC under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, the ki ...

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 entourage 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 were left ignorant of the Emperor's death; only a younger son, Ying Huhai, who was travelling with his father, the eunuch Zhao Gao, Li Si, and five or six favourite 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. Eventually, after about two months, Li Si and the imperial court reached Xianyang, where the news of the death of the emperor was announced. Qin Shi Huang did not like to talk about his own death and he had never written a will (law), will. After his death, the eldest son Fusu would normally become the next emperor.Tung, Douglas S. Tung, Kenneth. (2003). ''More Than 36 Stratagems: A Systematic Classification Based On Basic Behaviours''. Trafford Publishing. . Li Si and the chief
eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man A man is an adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot ...

eunuch
Zhao Gao conspired to kill Fusu because Fusu's favorite general was Meng Tian, whom they disliked and feared; Meng Tian's brother, a senior minister, had once punished Zhao Gao. They believed that if Fusu was enthroned, they would lose their power. Li Si and Zhao Gao forged a letter from Qin Shi Huang saying that both Fusu and General Meng must commit suicide. The plan worked, and the younger son Hu Hai became the Second Emperor, later known as Qin Er Shi or "Second Generation Qin".


Family

The following are some family members of Qin Shi Huang: * Parents **
King Zhuangxiang of Qin King Zhuangxiang of Qin (281–247 BC), personal names Yiren and Zichu, was a ruler of the Qin state during the third century BC in the Warring States period of ancient China.‘‘Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty'' (English translati ...
**
Queen Dowager Zhao Zhao Ji (;Ji 姬 was an Chinese surname#Xing, ancestral name of the Zhou dynasty, Zhou royal family, which later evolved to generally mean "lady" in successive eras. With such a name being the last part of hers, it could also mean that Zhao was a pr ...
* Half siblings: ** Chengjiao (prince), Chengjiao, legitimate paternal half brother from a different mother Lord of Chang'an ** Two illegitimate maternal half-brothers born to
Queen Dowager Zhao Zhao Ji (;Ji 姬 was an Chinese surname#Xing, ancestral name of the Zhou dynasty, Zhou royal family, which later evolved to generally mean "lady" in successive eras. With such a name being the last part of hers, it could also mean that Zhao was a pr ...
and
Lao Ai Lao Ai (; died 238 BCE) was an imposter An impostor (also spelled imposter) is a person who pretends to be somebody else, often through means of disguise. Their objective is usually to try to gain financial or social advantages through social e ...
. * Children: ** Fusu, Crown Prince (1st son)《史记·高祖本纪》司马贞《索隐》写道:“《善文》称隐士云赵高为二世杀十七兄而立今王,则二世是第十八子也。” ** Gao ** Jianglü ** Qin Er Shi, Huhai, later Qin Er Shi (18th son) Qin Shi Huang had about 50 children (about 30 sons and 15 daughters), but most of their names are unknown. He had numerous Concubinage, concubines but appeared to have never named an empress.


Legacy


Mausoleum

The Chinese historian
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
, writing a century after the First Emperor's death, wrote that it took 700,000 men to construct the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, emperor's mausoleum. British historian John Man (author), John Man points out that this figure is larger than the population of any city in the world at that time and he calculates that the foundations could have been built by 16,000 men in two years. While Sima Qian never mentioned the Terracotta Army, terracotta army, the statues were discovered by a group of farmers digging wells on 29 March 1974. The soldiers were created with a series of mix-and-match clay molds and then further individualized by the artists' hand. Han purple and Han blue, Han Purple was also used on some of the warriors. There are around 6,000 Terracotta Warriors and their purpose was to protect the Emperor in the afterlife from evil spirits. Also among the army are chariots and 40,000 real bronze weapons. One of the first projects which the young king accomplished while he was alive was the construction of his own tomb. In 215 BCE Qin Shi Huang ordered General Meng Tian to begin its construction with the assistance of 300,000 men. Other sources suggest that he ordered 720,000 unpaid laborers to build his tomb according to his specifications. Again, given John Man's observation regarding populations at the time (see paragraph above), these historical estimates are debatable. The main tomb (located at ) containing the emperor has yet to be opened and there is evidence suggesting that it remains relatively intact.
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
's description of the tomb includes replicas of palaces and scenic towers, "rare utensils and wonderful objects", 100 rivers made with mercury (element), mercury, representations of "the Astronomical object, heavenly bodies", and crossbows rigged to shoot anyone who tried to break in. The tomb was built at the foot of Mount Li, 30 kilometers away from Xi'an. Modern archaeologists have located the tomb, and have inserted probes deep into it. The probes revealed abnormally high quantities of mercury, some 100 times the naturally occurring rate, suggesting that some parts of the legend are credible. Secrets were maintained, as most of the workmen who built the tomb were killed.


Reputation and assessment

Traditional Chinese historiography almost always portrayed the First Emperor of the Chinese unified states as a brutal tyrant who had an obsessive fear of assassination. Ideological antipathy towards the
Legalist Legalist, Inc. is a Legal financing, litigation finance company based in San Francisco, California that funds commercial lawsuits on behalf of plaintiff attorneys, applying machine learning algorithms to evaluate its potential investments. History ...
State of Qin was established as early as 266 BCE, when Confucian philosopher Xun Kuang, Xunzi disparaged it. Later Confucian historians condemned the emperor who had Book burning, burned the classics and had buried Confucian scholars alive. They eventually compiled a list of the ''Ten Crimes of Qin'' to highlight his tyrannical actions. The famous Han poet and statesman Jia Yi concluded his essay ''The Faults of Qin'' (過秦論, ''Guò Qín Lùn'') with what was to become the standard Confucian judgment of the reasons for Qin's collapse. Jia Yi's essay, admired as a masterpiece of rhetoric and reasoning, was copied into two great Han histories and has had a far-reaching influence on Chinese political thought as a classic illustration of Confucian theory. He attributed Qin's disintegration to its internal failures. Jia Yi wrote that: In more modern times, historical assessment of the First Emperor different from traditional Chinese historiography began to emerge. The reassessment was spurred on by the Century of humiliation, weakness of China in the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century. At that time some began to regard Confucian traditions as an impediment to China's entry into the modern world, opening the way for changing perspectives. At a time when foreign nations encroached upon Chinese territory, leading Kuomintang historian Xiao Yishan emphasized the role of Qin Shi Huang in repulsing the northern barbarians, particularly in the construction of the Great Wall. Another historian, Ma Feibai (), published in 1941 a full-length Historical revisionism, revisionist biography of the First Emperor entitled ''Qín Shǐ Huángdì Zhuàn'' (), calling him "one of the great heroes of Chinese history". Ma compared him with the contemporary leader Chiang Kai-shek and saw many parallels in the careers and policies of the two men, both of whom he admired. Chiang's Northern Expedition (1926–1927), Northern Expedition of the late 1920s, which directly preceded the new Nationalist government at Nanjing was compared to the unification brought about by Qin Shi Huang. With the coming of the Chinese Civil War, Communist Revolution and the establishment of a new, revolutionary regime in 1949, another re-evaluation of the First Emperor emerged as a Marxist critique. This new interpretation of Qin Shi Huang was generally a combination of traditional and modern views, but essentially critical. This is exemplified in the ''Complete History of China'', which was compiled in September 1955 as an official survey of Chinese history. The work described the First Emperor's major steps toward unification and standardisation as corresponding to the interests of the ruling group and the merchant Social class, class, not of the nation or the people, and the subsequent fall of his dynasty as a manifestation of the class struggle. The perennial debate about the fall of the Qin Dynasty was also explained in Marxist terms, the peasant rebellions being a revolt against oppression—a revolt which undermined the dynasty, but which was bound to fail because of a compromise with "landlord class elements". Since 1972, however, a radically different official view of Qin Shi Huang in accordance with Maoism, Maoist thought has been given prominence throughout China. Hong Shidi's biography ''Qin Shi Huang'' initiated the re-evaluation. The work was published by the state press as a mass popular history, and it sold 1.85 million copies within two years. In the new era, Qin Shi Huang was seen as a far-sighted ruler who destroyed the forces of division and established the first unified, centralized state in Chinese history by rejecting the past. Personal attributes, such as his quest for immortality, so emphasized in traditional historiography, were scarcely mentioned. The new evaluations described approvingly how, in his time (an era of great political and social change), he had no compunctions against using violent methods to crush counter-revolutionary, counter-revolutionaries, such as the "industrial and commercial slave owner" chancellor Lü Buwei. However, he was criticized for not being as thorough as he should have been, and as a result, after his death, hidden subversives under the leadership of the chief eunuch Zhao Gao were able to seize power and use it to restore the old feudal order. To round out this re-evaluation, Luo Siding put forward a new interpretation of the precipitous collapse of the Qin Dynasty in an article entitled "On the Class Struggle During the Period Between Qin and Han" in a 1974 issue of ''Red Flag'', to replace the old explanation. The new theory claimed that the cause of the fall of Qin lay in the lack of thoroughness of Qin Shi Huang's "dictatorship over the reactionaries, even to the extent of permitting them to worm their way into organs of political authority and usurp important posts." Mao Zedong was reviled for his persecution of intellectuals. On being compared to the First Emperor, Mao boasted: Tom Ambrose characterises Qin Shi Huang as the founder of "the first police state in history".


Cultural references

* "The Wall and the Books" (""), an acclaimed essay on Qin Shi Huang published by Argentina, Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) in the 1952 collection ''Other Inquisitions'' ('). * ' (1962) – The film portrays Qin Shi Huang as a battle-hardened emperor with his roots in the military. * ''Big Trouble in Little China'' (1986) – Qin Shi Huang is mentioned as having defeated the film's main villain, Lo Pan, in battle, and subsequently cursing him to live as a ghost. The events of the film revolve around Lo Pan's attempts to break the curse. * ''The Emperor's Shadow'' (1996) – The film focuses on Qin Shi Huang's relationship with the musician Gao Jianli, a friend of the assassin
Jing Ke Jing Ke (died 227 BC) was a retainer of Crown Prince Dan Crown Prince Dan () was a crown prince of the State of Yan during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was also called Yan Dan (). He lived in the State of Qin as a hostage, but ...
. * ''The Emperor and the Assassin'' (1999) – The film covers much of Ying Zheng's career, recalling his early experiences as a hostage and foreshadowing his dominance over China. * ''Hero (2002 film), Hero'' (2002) – The film stars Jet Li, a nameless assassin who plans an assassination attempt on the King of Qin (Chen Daoming). The film is a fictional re-imagining of the assassination attempt by Jing Ke on Qin Shi Huang. * ''Rise of the Great Wall'' (1986) – a 63-episode Hong Kong TV series chronicling the events from the emperor's birth until his death. Tony Liu played Qin Shi Huang. * ''A Step into the Past'' (2001) – a Hong Kong TVB production based on a science fiction novel by Huang Yi (author), Huang Yi. * ''Qin Shi Huang (2001 TV series), Qin Shi Huang'' (2002) – a mainland Chinese TV series production. It features a semi-fictionalized story of the emperor's life, from his childhood until his death. Zhang Fengyi starred as Qin Shi Huang. * ''Kingdom (manga), Kingdom'' (2006) – a Japanese manga that provides a fictionalized account of the unification of China by Ying Zheng with Li Xin (Qin), Li Xin and all the people that contributed to the conquest of the six Warring States. * ''Fate/Grand Order'' (2015), an online, free-to-play role-playing mobile game of the Fate/Stay Night, Fate franchise developed by Delightworks and published by Aniplex features Qin Shi Huang as a Ruler class servant. * ''First Emperor: The Man Who Made China'' (2006) – a drama-documentary special about Qin Shi Huang. James Pax played the emperor. It was shown on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom in 2006. * ''China's First Emperor'' (2008) – a special three-hour documentary by History (U.S. TV channel), The History Channel. Xu Pengkai played Qin Shi Huang. * In the 2005 4X video game ''Civilization IV'' developed by Firaxis Games, Qin Shi Huang is one of the two playable leaders of China, with the other being Mao Zedong. ** Qin Shi Huang would later reappear in the 2016 4X video game ''Civilization VI'' developed by Firaxis Games to lead the Chinese civilization once again. * In the manga ''Record of Ragnarok'', Qin Shi Huang is the seventh human fighter in the Ragnarok tournament against the gods, and is pitted against Hades.


Notes


References


Bibliography


Early

*
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
( 91 BCE). ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dep ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'' ** ** ** **


Modern

;Books * * * * * * * * * * * * ;Articles * * * *


Further reading

* *


External links


Qin Shi Huang
at Chinaknowledge * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang, 260 BC births 210 BC deaths 3rd-century BC Chinese monarchs Former theocrats Founding monarchs Legalism (Chinese philosophy) Military leaders Qin dynasty emperors People from Handan