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Accomplishments of the First Emperor of Qin

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            China, a 3,691,502 sq mi country is now officially known as People’s Republic of China, It is the most populous country in the world. The capital of China is Beijing while its largest city is Shanghai. China has a 4,000-mi (6,400-km) coast that fronts on the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea. It is bounded on the east by Russia and North Korea, on the north by Russia and Mongolia, on the west by Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and on the south by India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. (factmonster.com)

Emperor as defined by Brainy Quote, it is the sovereign or supreme monarch of an empire; a title of dignity superior to that of king. On the other hand, dynasty as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is a succession of rulers of the same line of descent; it is a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time.

image from http://www.sacu.org/qinemperor.html

Origin name of China

            China possibly came from the Sanskrit word ‘Chinasthana’ meaning country to the East of India. It is used before in the time before the First Qin Emperor. The Chinese people not at all used ‘China’ as the name for their country. Their names used include ‘Zhongguó’ literally means central kingdom and was used even before the Qin dynasty; ‘Zhonghuá’ that literally means central prosperity and ‘Hàn’; used after the Han dynasty. (sacu.org) 

About Qin Dynasty

            In the time of 221 before Christ, the Qin came to power – one of the Western states that existed during the Warring States Period. The first emperor of Qin Dynasty was Shi Huangdi – where the tradition of having emperors as rulers started. Qin dynasty is sometimes called Ch’in – it said that it is where the name China originated. (mnsu.edu)

About Qin Shi Huangdi

            The founder and very first ruler of all China was Qin Shi Huangdi who was born in 259 B.C. The story of Qin Shi Huagdi goes like this: about 300 years after Sakyamuni, who was the founder of Buddhism and was born in what is known now as India; in Handan, an ancient town in China, a baby was born. Yingzheng the real name of Qin Shi Huang led a tough childhood when his father who is the son of the King of Qin state, was held captive in the State of Zhao until Lu Buwei, who was a wealthy merchant secured their discharge back to the Qin. Then, he replaced his father for the throne. (warriortours.com)

In Qin Shi Huangdi’s 36 years of ruling the country, his accomplishments go beyond the achievements of Alexander the Great, Hannibal, or even Julius Caesar. He is a man with astounding energy and power. One reason is that he constructed the Great Wall, eradicate the feudal system of land holding, standardized weights, measures, calendars, chariot axles, even folk music, and obliged the people of a detailed, uniform code of law. He gave China its name and set up the longest running form of government – China’s Imperial System that lasted approximately 2,200 years. On the other hand, only few Western people are conscious of his accomplishments. Unfortunately, he died in the period of 210 B.C. (hostallero.com)

image from http://www.utexas.edu/courses/wilson/ant304 /biography/arybios98/smithbio.html 

He give the title  Shi Huangdi that means ‘First August Emperor’ to himself because he believes that his son would be the subsequent descendant and his son’s son will be the third and so on. The use of huangdi ‘august emperor’ was probably selected as a homophone of huangdi the name of the mythical Yellow Emperor. (sacu.org)

At the age of thirteen years old, he ascended to the throne of the state of Qin in 246 B.C., and the name ‘China’ was not yet existing by that time. He was one of the seven warring states competing for the power to direct the Center Plain in what appears to be a never-ending series of bloody battles. In 238 B.C., after a period of eight years, Qin Shi Huangdi dons the cap and sword of his majority.  At twenty-one years old, Huangdi discovered more under his advisers than even they had suspected. He knew that there was a planned rebel against him led by the ambitious and unfaithful Lu Buwei. After knowing this, Qin Shi Huangdi promptly disgraced his chief advisor and forced him to commit suicide. After that, he right away appointed Li Si to become his new advisor.

            Qin Shi Huangdi was not an ordinary aristocrat. He walks in the streets of his capital in disguise and have usual trips around the empire. He also set himself a quota of work to do each day. It is said that he only needs one hour of sleep each night. He was a paranoid person because he is always the subject of assassination attempts. He was a megalomaniac dictator because of being superstitious and bad tempered. There were about 100,000 people who died as because of his policies.

Brief Preview of Qin Shi Huangdi’s achievements

As mentioned above, Qin Shi Huangdi was China’s first emperor; he was a trailblazing figure and has a lot of contribution in the world history. He had tremendous accomplishments ranking him on the levels of Napoleon, Caesar and Alexander the Great. The well known cultural symbol such as Great Wall that was built on the North to protect against attack, vast mausoleum that was guarded by the life-sized Teracotta soldiers found at the burial site for Shi Huangdi; standardized the legal systems, language and writing of China and standardization of measurements were some of Qin Shi Huangdi’s accomplishment.

During his time, currency was also standardized – a circular copper coin with a square hole in the middle; roads and irrigation canal were constructed all over the country. But, his most extraordinary achievement was the conquest of the six warring states to create China’s first empire in 221 B.C. Qin Shi discovered the incredible technological and societal advances through bright recreation and cautious elucidation.

Great Wall of China

            The first emperor commenced a number of projects to further defend his territory while building offensive ways to continue the development of his empire. One of these projects was the Great Wall which spans around 1,864 miles wherein 700,000 mostly peasant people were tasked to build it to protect his kingdom from the Nomadic invaders from the North.

Creation of canals and highways

He also created canals that convey food and were also used to dampen or irrigate new fields. With the creation of canals as transportation and irrigation of fields, he moved on the people to take possession of underutilized land. This is the first time in the history of China that people were given land to put up their own private property.

Highways from the capital were also constructed to push the trade industry and to heighten the mobility of the Qin Shi Huangdi’s army. Because of this, people were able to mingle with other people of greater distances. He then expanded the reforms all over China.

The Law Code

            Because of the time to time and region to region variations of written language, a standard set of characters were formulated. After having a cohesive language, the first emperor formed a law code. The new law code incorporated instructions for the Ch’in’s people to be divided into groups of five to ten families. Everyone in that group is responsible for the crime that will be committed by any one of them. Other standardizations that the first emperor established were the currency, weights and measurements, and the size of cart axles to accommodate the gaps in the edges of the roads. (Wolock, Eric)

Unification of warring states

            With Huangdi’s expert tactics and cautious formation of coalitions it led him to a brilliant success in the brutal unification wars that governed the history of that period in 220s.

After five centuries of disunity and strife in the land, Qin Shi Huangdi had succeeded in what no ruler before him had been able to achieve. The country was united in only twenty-five years and the Qin dynasty proclaimed in 221 B.C.

Under his rule a total change of the land we now call China took place even though he had only eleven more years to live.  He created new administrative units for the capital city of Xianyang and the rest of the country. He also purge of the feudal system of landholding and uninvolved the aristocratic warlords.  (hostallero.com)

Discovering the Mausoleum and Terracotta warriors

In March 1974, near the city of Xian in the north-central province of Shaanxi, farmers digging for water unearthed a fragment of a warrior figure, part of the Terra Cotta Army of Qin Shi Huangdi, who ruled between 246 and 210 BC. Just 15 km to the west of this site lies the mausoleum of the First Emperor that is located about 7.5 kilometers from Lintong county, Xian in Shaanxi province.

image from http://www.warriortours.com/cityguides/xian/mausoleum_qinshihuang/

For 2000 years, a secret army of clay soldiers has protected the hidden tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Until 1974 none knew of its existence; now Chinese archaeologists are gradually unfolding the mystery. Archeologists by mistake discovered an underground ditch in the province of Lintong around 1974. There in the four underground chambers, they found approximately 8,000 life-sized soldier figures from the time of the first emperor.

image from <http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/ shaanxi/xian/terra_cotta_army/qin_shihuang_1.htm>

Each face of the soldiers resembled one of the ten Chinese characters: ri, jia, you, shen, yong, zi, mu, feng, tian and guo. Shen, the ninth character symbolizes a monkey in the Chinese astrological zodiac. According to Maurice Cotterell using the Lin Yutang’s Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage, he wrote in The Terracotta Warriors that Chinese mythology tells the story of the monkey; how he had to complete 81 tasks (9 x 9) before he could get to heaven. With this, according to her, we can conclude that the monkey character shen and the number 9 that associates with it refer to God. Monkey in the Chinese mythology is immortal and God-like similar to what the first emperor felt when he was about to reach the end of his life.

            According to one of the resources I’ve used, there was about 100 pits containing the skeletons of horses and terra cotta grooms that composed the emperor’s stables – they also provided hay. Other pits held clay models of birds and plants and must have represented his parks. Some twenty tombs probably hold the remains of his councilors and retainers. At the center of the necropolis is a mound that marks the emperor’s own grave which was not yet been excavated. According to the historical records of the first century B.C., it states that the tomb contained palaces and pavilions filled with rare gems and other treasures. It was also equipped with crossbows to shoot any intruders automatically; the ceiling was inlaid with pearls to replicate the sun, stars and the moon. On the other hand, the floors and walls were lined with bronze to exclude water and mercury was siphoned in to give the image of flowing rivers. (warriortours.com)

It also stated that in 246 B.C., the construction of the Qin Mausoleum began as soon as Qin Shi Huangdi ascended the throne. The work intensified after the conquest of the rival states employing 720,000 workers for a period of 39 years. Li Si, the minister of Qin also supervised the project until 208 BC., which was stop when the capital was beset by the rebel troops. (warriortours.com)

From the resource it was shown that the site chosen was south of the Weihe River beside the slopes of Black Horse Mountain in what is now Lintong county which was 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from Xian. Screened by the five peaks of Lishan Mountain, the site corresponds with traditional Chinese geomantic omens as an ideal burial place for emperors who held the belief that they would spend their afterlife in another world. (warriortours.com)

The appearance of the mausoleum is of a low earth pyramid with a wide base. No excavations have been done but it is said that it have been plundered at least once. Information about the construction of the mausoleum comes almost entirely from the brush of Sima Qian, the author of The Historical Records, which was written about a century after the fall of Qin. (warriortours.com)

image from http://www.warriortours.com/cityguides/xian/mausoleum_qinshihuang/

Records state that the mausoleum, which covers 56.25 square kilometers, was a microcosmic replica of the Qin capital. Originally, double rectangular walls surrounded the mound with gates on the four cardinal points resembling the imperial city. The inner wall measured 1,355 meters from north to south and 580 meters from east to west, with a perimeter of 3,870 meters. The length of the outer wall was 2,165 meters from north to south and 940 meters from east to west. (warriortours.com)

The center crypt was positioned in the southern part of the interior city as the nucleus of the three concentric circles formed by the imperial palaces, sacrificial trenches and supplementary crypts scattered around. Remnants of hipped roofed imperial palaces, gardens and temples spread mainly at the northern section of the inner wall; sacrificial trenches with the vestiges of animals and horses and a bronze cart trench were found at the western part between the walls and auxiliary royal tombs spread eastward from the city.

Many wonders of the tomb were described by Sima Qian who was a Chinese. He wrote it less than a century after the emperor’s death. He put in writing of uncommon jewels, a diagram of the heavens with stars symbolized by pearls, and on the base of the crypt a landscape map of China containing rivers and seas signifies flowing mercury.

image from http://www.utexas.edu/courses/wilson/ant304 /biography/arybios98/smithbio.html

“However, Sima Qian never mentioned the terracotta army – which was discovered by a team of well diggers. The details of the terracotta armies make it so important. The soldiers were created with a series of mix-and-match clay molds and then further individualized by the artists’ hand”. (China online)

No two terracotta soldiers are alike because the sculptures characterize a standard of art that experts previously believed was far further than the craftsmen of the Qin Dynasty. Each man was created with solid legs and a hollow torso. The soldiers were fortified with bronze spears, bows and arrows.

All the standing warriors were attached to clay plinths that rested on the cemented floor, which still bear a resemblance to a contemporary pathway. The soldiers were orderly arranged in battle formation including the 600 clay horses and 100 life-sized working wooden chariots.

image from http://www.utexas.edu/courses/wilson/ant304 /biography/arybios98/smithbio.html

Chinese archaeologists have been meticulous and patient in their work. The main tomb containing the emperor has not yet opened and there is still a possibility that it remains unbroken. It is said that molten copper was used to seal it. (China online)

Also, a magnetic scan of the site has revealed that a large number of coins are to be found in the unopened tomb, occasioning conjecture that the royal treasury was interred with the emperor. Scans of the earth atop the tomb have shown unusually high concentrations of mercury in the shape of china’s waters, adding supplementary to the reliability of Sima Qian’s description. 

End of Qin Shi Huangdi’s Empire

            Qin Shi Huangdi believed that his newly found system will last eternally. And on his death in 210 B.C., all of his aspirations quickly fell apart. Li Si made sure that a younger brother who he believed he could better control and can be the apparent successor of Qin Shi Huangdi but this demonstrated a bad misjudgment. Another minister Zhao Gao gained the superiority over the new Second Emperor (Er Shi). Li Si was exiled and killed but it was not long before both Er Shi and Zhao Gao were dead too and the Empire broke up and descended into war. The conflicts of the mighty, as ever, reflected the general unrest of the population. After 36 years of rule, taxation had risen out of all proportion to the ability to pay; the all-embracing regulations; the forced conscription for public works and army service disrupted normal family life. The original ‘warring’ kingdoms sprang back into brief life until the rise of the new dynasty – Han Dynasty. (sacu.org)

He was buried in the enormous mausoleum complex at Lintong, the place where the Terracotta warriors – that took 38 years to be built; are to be found and was also the East of Xian. 

Historians’ Opinion regarding Qin Shi Huang

            The data below to be presented was from China Online http://www.chinaonline. cn.com/chinese_ culture/biography/qin-shi-huang.html. According to the site, in traditional Chinese historiography, the First Emperor was almost always portrayed as an atrocious tyrant, superstitious because of his interest in immortality and murder paranoia, and sometimes even as a mediocre ruler.

As early as 266 B.C., ideological prejudices against the Legalist State of Qin were established. It is when Confucian philosopher Xun Zi compared it. Confucian historians condemned the emperor who had destroyed by fire the classics and buried Confucian scholars even if they are still alive. They sooner or later compiled the list of the Ten Crimes of Qin to emphasize his oppressive actions.

Jia Yi, the famous Han poet and statesman concluded his essay The Faults of Qin (過秦論), with what was to become the standard Confucian judgment of the reasons for Qin’s collapse.

He elucidate the definitive limitation of Qin as a result of its ruler’s pitiless pursuit of power, harsh laws and excruciating burdens placed on the population in projects such as the Great Wall – the precise factor which had made it so powerful; for as Confucius had taught, the strength of a government eventually is based on the support of the people and moral conduct of the ruler.

In lieu of the systematic Confucian unfairness on the part of Han scholars, some of the stories recorded about Qin Shi Huang are uncertain and some or many may have been invented to highlight his bad character.

Some of the account are plainly fabricated and are premeditated to tarnish the First Emperor’s image. One example is the tale of a stone dropped from the sky imprinted with words disparaging the emperor and predicting the collapse of his empire after his death.

This makes it easier said than done to know the truth about other stories. For example, the allegation that he had 460 scholars executed by having them buried with only their heads above ground and then decapitated seems unlikely to be totally true, but we have no means to know for sure.

There emerged a new appreciation of the man who had unified China in the three decades between the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the outbreak of the Second World War with the deepening dissatisfaction with China’s weakness and disunity.

In the time when he was writing, when Chinese territory was intruded upon by foreign nations, leading Kuomintang historian Xiao Yishan emphasized the role of Qin Shi Huang in driving away the northern barbarians from the country and particularly in the making and construction of the Great Wall.

Another historian, Ma Feibai (馬非百), published in 1941 a full-length revisionist memoirs of the First Emperor entitled Qin Shi Huangdi Zhuan (《秦始皇帝傳》), giving him a recognition as ‘one of the enormous heroes of Chinese account.’

Ma Feibai judge against Qin Shi Huangdi with the contemporary leader Chiang Kai-shek and saw many similarities and analogous when it comes to the careers and policies of the two men, both of whom he well-liked. Chiang’s Northern Expedition of the late 1920s, which directly preceded the new Nationalist government at Nanjing was weigh against the unification brought about by Qin Shi Huang.

In 1949, with the coming of the Communist Revolution fresh explanation again surface. The establishment of the new, revolutionary regime intended another re-evaluation of the First Emperor and this point following or basing with the Marxist theory.

On average, the new interpretation given of Qin Shi Huang was an amalgamation of customary and contemporary views, but fundamentally significant. This is epitomized in the Complete History of China that was an official survey of Chinese history that was compiled in September 1955.

The work described the First Emperor’s major steps in the direction of unification and standardization as consequently to the interests of the ruling group and the merchant class, not the nation or the people, and the succeeding fall of his dynasty a demonstration of the class struggle.

The constant debate of the fall of the Qin Dynasty was also clarified in Marxist terms, the peasant rebellions being a revolt against domination — it is a revolt which destabilized the dynasty, but which was bound to fail because of conciliation with ‘landlord class elements.’ Since 1972, however, a fundamentally unusual bureaucrat view of Qin Shi Huang has been given prominence throughout China.

In the new era, Qin Shi Huang was seen as a farsighted ruler who destroyed the forces of partition and established the first combined, centralized state in Chinese history by rebuffing the past. Personal attributes, such as his quest for immortality, so emphasized in traditional historiography, were barely mentioned. The new evaluations depicted how, in his time where there is an era of great political and social change, he had no compunctions in using brutal schemes to compress counter-revolutionaries, such as the ‘industrial and commercial slave owner’ chancellor Lü Buwei.

Unfortunately, he was not as scrupulous as he should have been and after his death, hidden subversives, under the leadership of the chief eunuch Zhao Gao, seized power and used it to refurbish the old feudal order.

“To round out this re-evaluation, a new interpretation of the precipitous collapse of the Qin Dynasty was written in an article entitled ‘On the Class Struggle During the Period Between Qin and Han’ by Luo Siding, in a 1974 issue of Red Flag, to replace the old explanation”. (China online). 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 allowing and permitting them to worm their way into organs of political authority and usurp and take over important posts.

Qin Shi Huang was ranked #17 in Michael H. Hart’s list of the most influential figures in history. He was also compared to Mao Zedong, chairman of the People’s Republic of China, who was reviled for his persecution of intellectuals. Being compared to the First Emperor, Mao responded: “He buried 460 scholars alive; we have buried forty-six thousand scholars alive… You [intellectuals] revile us for being Qin Shi Huangs. You are wrong. We have surpassed Qin Shi Huang a hundredfold.” (China online)

Expert Opinion from Dr Jeffrey Riegel

            According to Dr Jeffrey Riegel the presenter of Discovery Channel’s upcoming documentary The First Emperor: The Man Who Made China, Qin Shi Huangdi obviously was a very effectual ruler because he formed many of the institutions during his regime and put in place improvement that had to do with managing a country as large as China, and which have still existed even until the present and modern day.

Dr Riegel added at the similar instance that he had to have been fairly oppressive to a degree, especially later in his life when he did all those massive projects like building the Great Wall, all of which required great amount of labor in order to surmount his foes and form an empire.

            He also said that in fact, the first emperor was much more open-minded and flexible in terms of his beliefs, ideology and guidelines for his people. According to Dr Jeffrey, the archaeological findings and data in the vicinity of the tomb is an evidence for a thing that unlike many burials that predated his burial, Emperor Qin’s interment plans had more to do with his vision and philosophy for his country than to gratify his own individual need or greed. Emperor Qin was creating a new fortress, a new supervision that would be a kind of saintly netherworld administration that would supply and provide things to preserve the constancy of the empire long after he was gone for thousands of generations; all within the boundaries of his immense crypt.

Before, it is believed and was the general opinion that the first emperor was paranoid so he desired a terracotta army to defend him subsequent to him passing away. But as more archaeological effort was done and more of the crypt complex is excavated, they realized that it has less to do with Qin’s personal requests, needs and desires, but it has something more to do with his vision for establishing an empire that would outlive him. Qin Shi Huangdi was more concerned with protecting and preserving the empire, rather than with satisfying his own needs and having wealthy burial goods placed in the tomb.

            In spite of everything, Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi still remains to be one of the most influential and significant individuals in China’s account. He is the man who shaped the communal forms and government administration and structures of law that have live on and existed for many centuries.


            As a conclusion, the First Emperor significantly enhanced the economy of China by having a unified system of things like currencies and measurements and also by expanding different reforms. He is also well known because of creating a unified set of cultural, political and economical standards all over the country that up to now is well known all over the world. Qin Shi Huangdi was a good and well known emperor that did a lot of good things and I can say that he a responsible and tough leader during his time.

Other different achievements of Qin Shi Huangdi can also be seen in the research. Indeed, he is more of a great leader than a dreadful one that other people say.


Brainy Quote.Definition of emperor.<http://www.brainyquote.com/words/em/ emperor159526. html>

Cheang, Michael.18 December 2006.The first emperor.< http://www.archaeologynews.org


China Online.Qin ShiHuang.<http://www.chinaonline.cn.com/chinese_culture/biography/qin-


Factmonster.Definition of China.<http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/world/A0811892.html>

History of Classroom presents China’s First Emperor.China’s First Emperor Guide.


Hostallero.com.The First Emperor of China.<http://www.hostallero.com/hostallero


Merriam-Webster Dictionary.Definition of dynasty. <http://www.merriamwebster.com/


MNSU.edu.Qin Dynasty.<http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/china/early_imperial_


Sacu.org.The First Qin Emperor. <http://www.sacu.org/qinemperor.html>

Travel China Guide.Emperor Qin Shi Huang.<http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/


Warriortours.com.Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.<http://www.warriortours.com/                     cityguides/xian/mausoleum_qinshihuang/>

Wolor, Eric.Qin’s First Emperor.< http://www.indiana.edu/~ealc100/Group6/ericwolok.htm>

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