Also referred as Qin Shi Huang, Shi Huangti, Qin Shih Huandi or Shih Huan- ti, Shi Huangdi was fist emperor to rule the unified china. In fact, the name Shi Huangdi, is not his actual name, it is a title name that means, the first emperor. The Qin dynasty that he founded (pronounced and Chin) which is the name that was later given to China. Shi Huangdi was also the emperor who initiated the building of the great wall as well as the construction of the Grand Canal. He was actually born as Ying Zheng (also referred to as Zhao Zheng) in the powerful state of Qin to a mother known as Zhao Ji who was a dancing and king of Qin, Zhuangxiang. However, according to Szuma Chuen, a renowned historian, Zhuangxiang was not the biological father of Shi Huangdi because his mother was actually pregnant by the time he met the king. It is believed that his mother was impregnated by LU Buwei, a wealthy business man who helped Zhao Ji meet the king.
How Shi Huangdi rose to power
As a young prince, Ying Zeng grew up in the palace (Qin court) and when his father died, his immediately took over the throne. At that particular time, he was just 12 or 13 year old. At the time of his father’s death, his biological Lu Buwei had risen the ranks and had become a minister. Lu Buwei was made the acting king until Ying Zeng came of age. According to historian Szuma Chine, Lu Buwei was very concerned that Ying Zeng would actually recognize him as his father, a factor that will automatically make him lose the throne. As a result, he tried his best to distance himself from his mother, Zhao Ji and even replaced her with Lao AI to actually keep him company. Lao AI established herself as the palace eunuch. As a result, he was able to walk in the palace without any suspicion. The two had 2 sons together and both of them were actually kept a secret from every other person in the palace except LU Buwei. LU knew that one of his secret sons will later become as king of Qin meaning that he would no longer have to worry that he will be exposed that he was the biological father of Ying Zeng. He therefore decided to organize for a takeover. One day when the ordained young king had traveled (in 238 BCE) Lao Ai took advantage of that opportunity and used the secret signet ring of his mother, Zhao Ji to gather a rebellion army. The king also sent his army against that of Loa and successfully defeated them. Upon defeat, the king ordered the execution of Lao for mobilizing a rebellion army. In addition to that, he also order the entire family of Lao to be killed and placed Zhao Ji on house arrest. LU Buwei later committed suicide by poisoning himself and the young king had to name LI SUI, his close associate as the new prime minister and from that moment, he ruled the Qin state fully.
How Shi Huangti policies allowed Qin state to prosper
The policies that Shi Huangti initiated allowed significant growth and prosperity of the Qin state over the seven Warring states. in fact, the central government of Zhou dynasty which was situatedat Luoyang was not able to function effectively during the period of Warring states (between 476-221). At that particular time, China had broken into 7 separate states including the Qi, Chu, Han, Wei, Zhao and Yan. All these seven states constantly fought against each other with the aim of establishing supremacy. In fact, none of the 7 states felt they had what it take to grabMandate of Heaven, which is a principle that rulers use to get legitimacy from Zhou Dynasty. None of the 7 states felt that they had gain advantage over other states. The reason why all other states were unable to gain a competitive advantage over others is because they all used the same strategies and tactics.
Another setback that they face is the fact that all the 7 states used the same type of technology that was provided by MO, TI, a pacifist philosopher and a renowned engineer. As a result none of the state had an upper hand over their competitors. The Qinstate had a very strong army, war chariots and iron weapons. However, king Zeng was not able to take advantage of the resources that he had to defeat other states.
Shang Yang who dies in 338 BCE was one of the most renowned and influential state men in Qin state. During his time as politician, he was able to create and organize ideology of Legalism andalso advocated for total war. In fact, during his time, warfare was considered as way in which states demonstrated their skill. It also provided room for state to formulate strategies and infinite rules that none of the conflicting states broke. War game was seen as normal practice that allowed emperors to mobilize their troops and even ascend into power without being bullied. During that time, the commanding general actually did not attack a non-combatant. He was even supposed to treat a defeated rival with honor. At 260 BCE during the Battle of the Changping, the Qin used Shang philosophy to defeat Zhao state but made very little progress afterwards. King Zheng take full advantage of Shang Yang ideology and commanded his troops which easily defeated other 6 states. Qi was defeated in 221, Yan in 222, Chu in 223, Wei in 225, Zhao in 228 and Han in 230 BCE. After the defeat of all the 6 states, Zheng later decided to unite all the 7 states all under his rule. He claimed the responsibility of Mandate of Heaven from Zhou Dynasty and went ahead to proclaim himself as the first ever emperor (Shi Huangdi), the founder of QIN dynasty which he ruled.
The Qin Empire
Having accomplished the goal of uniting all the 7 states, sheng turned his full attention to administrative work and with the loyal help of his able prime minister, Li Siu, he decided to change the way the all the states were governed. The king decided to shift the normal way of governing which was based on local anatomy and customs and instead, he decided to rule by establishing powerful central government and the rule of law. This allows the country to thrive. The policies that he created enabled him to initiate building projects, issue state coinage, establish peasant proprietorship , simplified official ceremonies, divided feudal states and also initiated the construction of great highway from all directions from the capital, a factor that help to unite people. He also ensured that the country was ruled by law and order by issuing tough orders to correct people who broke the law. He also discouraged letter and encouraged science.
The dynasty did its best to ensure that they improve the quality of lives of its citizens. The fortifications and walls that once separated the Warring states were all destroyed and the construction of great wall begun. The wall separated the other side of the country and protected the land from hostile nomad tribes. On the other hand, he built the Lingqu canal in the south that aided in trade and transport. All weapons that were obtained from defeated states were all melted down and the melted owe was used to make creative art work.
The terracotta army
The period of prosperity and peace that the emperor enjoyed was short lived. Things started going wrong in 213 BCE. The prime minister that the king had appointed, Li Siu was frustrated of constantly being criticized by Confucian scholar who compared it to previous dynasties they referred to as dynasties of golden age. From that frustration, he ordered that all official histories be all burnt the only exception being memoirs of Qin. He also directed that forced to be used for individuals who attempted to hide their work. Life during the period of the Warring state was very difficult. However, it still gave rise to many school of thoughts that comprised of writings including those of Mo Ti, Teng Shih, Yang Zhu,Confucius among many others. When the king took over the seven state, he formulated strict policy of legalism that governed the new state that was formed. However, Shi Huangti decide to rewrite all legal code that he had formulated, a factor that lead to suppression of freedom of speech, burning of book as well as death to people who refused to comply with the new directive. This particular period of his rule was referred to as “Burning of books” and “Burying of Philosophers”. His main objective was to actually make Shi Huangti unpopular especially among the Chinese historians. Many generations expressed their frustration of his decision to contaminate his own grave. In fact, his son, Fusu also criticized him and saidthat Shi Huangti had hidden some copies of the books that he had denied people to access in his own private library.
Shi Huangti’s death and the fall of the Qin
Assassination attempts on Shi Huangdi has been made in the recent past but none of them materialized. However, the attempts to have him dead increased overtime. In fact, it reached a time when he used to sleep while his sword lying across his knees. In addition to that, he also slept in a random room and ensured that very few people knew where he was sleeping. With time, he started becoming obsessed with his death and even sought the medicines of immortality. When he discovered that is plan was not working out, he came up with another plan that included building of palace as his grave that was as comfortable as the palace that he was currently living in. He ordered his artisan to create a big army that comprised 8000 terracotta warriors. All of them were to be fully armed in order to offer him protection. The tomb that was created was so lavish and it is said to represent heaven image. Once the tomb was created, it was actually trapped and buried to prevent looting.
Unfortunately, Shi Huangdi died in 210 BCE while on a long trip to find medicine of life that would have granted him immortality. The cause of his death is not well known but sources say that he actually died when he drunk a poison thinking that it was elixir. The death of Shi Huangdi was kept a secret by Li Siu until when he was able to change the emperor will and named his young son as the official descendant to the throne. Li Sui named the young son because he knew that he could easily manipulate him. When all things were set, Li Siu ordered that the body of Shi Huangdi to be brought back straight to the city’s capital. The body was hidden in a merchant caravan that was carrying dead fish. The main reason why his body was carried in a caravan carrying fish was to suppress the bad smell of the body that had already stared to decompose. Li changed the will immediately and announced the death of the first king. He also announced that he will be succeeded by his young son, Hu-Hai. The young son was given the name Qin Er Shi. However, the new king only ruled poorly for only 3 years. He was famous for being the king who killed messengers that brought bad news. In fact, the popular phase, “don’t kill the messenger” was as a result of his action. He even went ahead to kill the person who helped him ascend to the throne, Li Siu. Successful coup by Zhao Gao actually forced the young king to commit suicide. His nephew took over as the new emperor and immediately executed Zhao Gao. From that particular point, the government was in total confusion and there was no any competent heir who was likely to take over the throne. This triggered people to start rebelling the Qin dynasty which led to its collapse. After a long period of war between the Chu and the Han, the Han dynasty finally emerged victorious and ruled China.