The First Emperor of China SS.6.W.4.9a
An Emperor is Born • Prince Zheng of the royal family of the Chinese state of Qin (pronounced Chin) was born in 259 B.C.E. • 3 years later, the Qin had taken over the region ending the previous Zhou dynasty. • Prince Zheng became king of the Qin dynasty at 13 years old. • By 221 B.C.E., he gained control of all of China and took the new title Qin Shihuangdi, or First Emperor of Qin.
Maintaining Power • So that he would not be threatened by local lords, Qin Shihuangdi replaced the old feudal system with a government he controlled personally. • He divided the territory into 36 districts with a governor of his choosing in charge of each. • In order to unify China, Qin Shihuangdi also standardized many of the practices that differed from place to place. • Standardize: to make the same
Laws • Qin Shihuangdi was greatly influenced by Legalism. • Recall that Legalists believed in strict laws, harsh punishments, and a strong central authority. • Many of the new laws were aimed at government officials. • For example, officials were punished if the grain in storehouses spoiled or if a wall built under their supervision collapsed. • Other laws governed everyday life. • For example, widows were not allowed to remarry.
Laws Continued • Since Qin Shihuangdi’s laws were based on Legalist beliefs, they spelled out exact punishments for bad behavior. • Rich and poor were punished equally. • Typical punishments included fines, forced labor, whippings, and even beheadings. • Qin Shihuangdi’s methods were especially unpopular with the Confucians who believed that proper behavior came from setting a good example, not harsh laws. • In response, Qin Shihuangdi had 460 Confucian scholars executed and all Confucian books burned. • Any man found studying Confucianism would be marked with a tattoo on his face!
Money, Money, Money! • To make it easier to trade, Qin Shihuangdi standardized the system of money. • Throughout China, people had used many types of items as money including shells, pearls, silver, tin, and various coins. • Under the Qin dynasty, the only acceptable form of money became metal coins made of gold or bronze. • The coins had holes in the center so that people could carry several of them together on a cord.
Other Achievements • Qin Shihuangdi also simplified the writing system by getting rid of many of the written characters that were in use across China. • A later dictionary listed 9,000 approved characters. • To protect his empire from invaders, the emperor ordered a long wall to be built along China’s northern border. • Earlier kingdoms had already built smaller walls of their own, so Qin Shihuangdi ordered that the sections be connected. • It later became known as the Great Wall. • Few traces of the original wall survive. • The Great Wall as we know it today was built by later rulers.
The Death of Qin Shihuangdi • In 210 B.C.E., after just over 10 years as ruler, Qin Shihuangdi died. • No one knows the cause of his death, although some have suggested that he may have been poisoned. • At the time, he was 600 miles away from the capital city searching for a potion which would make him immortal. • His body was taken back and buried in a gigantic tomb in a man-made mound.
Qin Shihuangdi’s Tomb • The tomb of Qin Shihuangdi is one of the most impressive tombs ever discovered. • It included a complex of structures which stretched over several square miles. • Over 700,000 workers helped to build it, and some of them were buried with the emperor to prevent grave robbers from learning about its contents. • The treasures of Qin Shihuangdi’s tomb were discovered in 1972, and among them were tools, precious jewels, and other rare objects.
Qin Shihuangdi’s Tomb Continued • Most amazing of all, archeologists discovered an entire army there made of terra-cotta, a kind of clay. • The army included more than 6,000 life-size figures such as archers, foot soldiers, chariot drivers, and horses. • So far, archeologists have not found any two figures that are exactly alike. • The entire tomb has still not been completely excavated, and many speculate that they may have created a model of an entire underground city!
The End of the Qin Dynasty • The Qin dynasty fell apart shortly after the death of Qin Shihuangdi. • The harshness of his rule had caused a great deal of unhappiness, and soon after he died, rebellions broke out in the countryside. • Civil war followed as various leaders struggled for control. • Finally, in 206 B.C.E., Liu Bang, a peasant leader, defeated his rivals and established the Han dynasty.