Shi Huangdi (l.259-210 BCE/r.221-210 BCE, likewise known as Qin Shi Huang, Qin Shih Huandi, Shi Huangti or Shih Huan-ti) to be the an initial emperor of a merged China. Shi Huangdi method `First Emperor" and also is a title, not a proper name. The Qin empire (221-206 BCE) he started (pronounced `Chin") offered its surname to China.

Rise come Power

The young prince thrived up in ~ the Qin court and assumed the throne at age 12 or 13 following his father"s death. Lu Buwei had risen in the court to become a minister and was made regent till Ying Zheng come of age. Again according to Szuma Chien, Lu Buwei came to be concerned that his son would acknowledge him together father and so shed the throne and also he thus distanced self from Zhao Ji and also encouraged one more of the court, Lao Ai, to keep her company in his place.

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Lao Ai disguised himself as a palace eunuch and also so came and went indigenous the queen"s chamber there is no suspicion. They had actually two sons together who were kept a secret from everyone at court other than Lu Buwei. It occurred to Lu that among these mystery sons could much better serve together King that Qin as he would then no longer have to worry around being exposed together the boy"s father and so arranged a coup.

In 238 BCE, as soon as the young king to be away indigenous court on travels, Lao Ai used the signet ring the Zhao Ji to mobilize a segment of the army in revolt. The king sent out his army against Lao Ai"s forces, beat them, and had Lao enforcement by being torn apart. He then had Lao"s whole family executed and also placed Zhao Ji in seclusion under virtual residence arrest. Lu Buwei committed suicide by poison. King Ying Zheng then named his close associate Li Siu together Prime Minister and also ruled totally over the state the Qin.

Victory end the Warring States

The Warring States duration in China (c. 481-221 BCE) to be a time when the main government the the Zhou Dynasty, located at Luoyang, to be no longer able come administrate effectively. The country had damaged into seven separate states, Chu, Han, Qi, Qin, Wei, Yan, and Zhao that continuously combated each various other for supremacy. Nobody of these claims felt confident enough to wrest the Mandate of heaven (the principle through which a ruler was legitimized) indigenous the Zhou empire as none to be able come gain advantage over any kind of other.

Every state fought using the very same tactics and also strategies together the others and also their intends were additional hampered through the efforts of the pacifist philosopher Mo Ti, an may be engineer, who seems to have provided each state v the same varieties of technology in order to neutralize any kind of advantage. Although the state that Qin had actually a formidable army, stole weapons, and war chariots, King Zheng to be unable to do any far-ranging headway in success over the various other states.


One that the most prominent statesmen in Qin to be the politician Shang Yang (d. 338 BCE) that developed and codified the approach of Legalism and supported total war. Prior to Shang"s reforms, war was taken into consideration a nobleman"s game of skill and strategy in i m sorry one observed definite rule which might not it is in broken. That was common practice to allow an foe force come mobilize on the field and even to pass into position without molestation. A commanding basic did not assault non-combatants and also was meant to law a defeated foe v honour.

At the fight of Changping (260 BCE), the Qin to work Shang"s ideology to loss the state of Zhao but, afterwards, made tiny further progress. King Zheng, making complete use the Shang Yang"s philosophies, and also leading an army of significant size, swiftly defeated the six various other states. Han fell in 230 BCE, Zhao in 228, Wei in 225, Chu, in 223, Yan in 222, and also Qi in 221BCE. Zheng then united the says under his solitary rule, declared the Mandate of sky from the Zhou Dynasty, and proclaimed himself an initial Emperor that China – `Shi Huangdi", founder of the Qin Dynasty.

The Qin Empire

Having consolidated his empire, that turned his attention to administration and, v the assist of Li Siu, “resolved to basic Chinese culture not, as heretofore, ~ above custom and local autonomy, however upon clearly law and also a powerful central government” (Durant, 695). Initially, this government served the people in that Shi Huangdi"s policies permitted for an extensive building projects and also prosperity. Durant writes:

simplified official ceremonies, approve a state coinage, split most of the feudal estates, prepared for the prosperity that China by establishing peasant proprietorship of the soil, and paved the means for unity by building great highways in every direction native his capital…Traveling in disguise and also unarmed, the made keep in mind of abuses and also disorders, and also then approve unmistakable orders for your correction. He urged science and also discouraged letters. (696)

In all ways, the beforehand Qin empire worked to boost the lives of the people. The walls and fortifications which when enclosed the boundaries of the separate warring states were destroyed and also the great Wall was started from your ruins, marking the north boundary that the empire and also protecting the land from marauding nomad tribes. In the south, the Lingqu Canal was built to help in transport and in trade. Weapons of the beat states to be melted down and made right into works the art.

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Terracotta Army
Ingo Staudacher (CC BY-SA)

This time that peace and also prosperity, however, to be short-lived. In 213 BCE Li Siu, having grown tired of hearing Confucian scholars criticize the program by to compare it to the past empires of a `golden age", wrote, “I suggest that the official histories, with the exemption of the Memoirs the Qin, be all burnt, and also that those that attempt come hide be required to lug them to the authorities to it is in burnt” (Durant, 697). Back life during The Warring States period had been difficult, the had provided rise to The Hundred colleges of thought which consisted of writings such together those the Confucius, Mo Ti, Mencius, Teng Shih, and Yang Zhu, amongst many, plenty of others.

Maintaining Shang Yang"s strict ideology of Legalism together the official policy the the federal government (which he had instituted in ~ the begin of his reign) Shi Huangti re-wrote the legal codes, suppressed flexibility of speech, burned the books, and put to fatality all the refused to comply. This period of his power is recognized as the `Burning the the Books and the Burying the Philosophers". Durant comments:

The only permanent an outcome was to loan an aroma of sanctity come the proscribed literature and also to do Shi Huangti unpopular v the Chinese historians. Because that generations the human being expressed their referee of him by befouling his grave. (697)

His very own son, Fusu, criticized him in discussing that Shi Huangti had duplicates in his exclusive library the the same publications he denied to the people.

Shi Huangti"s death & the loss of the Qin

Shi Huangdi had actually been topic to assassination do the efforts in the past yet now lock increased. “He satellite on his throne through a sword throughout his knees and also let no man know in what room the his numerous palaces he would sleep” (Durant, 697). He ended up being obsessed through death and also sought elixirs of immortality. Failing in that, he set about to provide himself v as comfortable and secure an afterlife as the existing one he to be living.

He decreed a palace be built as his tomb and also commissioned artist to develop an military of over 8,000 terracotta warriors, totally armed, to protect him on the other side. The tomb was for this reason extravagant the it was stated to be a vision of sky and, once built, it was buried and booby-trapped to avoid looting.

In 210 BCE, Shi Huangdi passed away on a trip to uncover the elixir of life which would approve him immortality. Some sources indicate that he passed away by poisoning after drink what he thought was the elixir. Li Siu kept his death a secret until he could adjust the emperor"s will certainly to name his young, pliable boy as heir, who Li Siu thought he could manipulate. He had actually Shi Huangdi"s body brought back to the capital concealed in a seller caravan the dead fish in order to hide the smell of the decomposing corpse, changed the will, and also then announced the pass of the an initial Emperor and the ascede of his son, Hu-Hai, who took the name Qin Er Shi.

The brand-new king reigned poorly for three years and was famous for death messengers who lugged him bad news (marking his only legacy, the beginning of the saying, `Don"t kill the messenger"). Throughout this time Li Siu to be executed and also his co-conspirator in raising Qin Er Shi come power, Zhao Gao, forced the young emperor to commit suicide.

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Following this coup, Qin Er Shi"s nephew took the throne and had Zhao Gao executed. In ~ this point, with the government in complete disarray and also no experienced heir to the throne, the nation rose in rebellion and also the Qin empire collapsed. A duration of civil war, between the claims of Chu and Han (known as the Chu-Han Contention, 206-202 BCE), ensued i m sorry was fixed in favor of the Han adhering to the fight of Gaixia in 202 BCE. Liu Bang (l. 256-195 BCE) of Han climate took the throne name Emperor Gaozu and also founded the Han Dynasty, among the greatest in China"s history, which would rule from 202 BCE come 220 CE and also establish numerous of the rites and traditions currently integral come Chinese culture.

Editorial ReviewThis write-up has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and also adherence to scholastic standards before publication.


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A freelance writer and former part-time Professor of ideology at Marist College, brand-new York, Joshua J. Mark has lived in Greece and Germany and also traveled with Egypt. He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy in ~ the college level.