- "I have collected all the writings of the Empire and burnt those which were of no use."
- "Qin Shi Huang"
Qin Shi Huang (also known as Qin Shi Huangdi, among other names) (260 – 210 BC) was the first Chinese emperor of the Qin dynasty.
He was born in 260 BC as the crown prince of Qin, a state in a divided, warring China, becoming the Qin king at the age of 13.
He finished the reunification of China, and is today considered its first true emperor. After unification, he made many changes to China's systems of law and bureaucracy, including the standardization of coins, roads, and measures and the establishment of a merit-based Chinese civil service. He also oversaw the connection of many smaller walls into the Great Wall of China.
But for all his accomplishments, he was also responsible for many atrocities.
He considered himself ruler of not just China, but the entire universe. He was also paranoid, particularly of scholars and intellectuals, whom he considered burdens on society, and often enacted harsh punishments on those he was suspicious of.
One of his most infamous acts was declaring himself the start of Chinese history, and trying to have the records of history that predated him destroyed, and killed scholars who tried to oppose him. This became known as the "burning of books and burying of scholars."
Death and Legacy
Obsessed with immortality, Shi Huang attempted to develop an elixir of life. Ironically, this hastened his own demise, given the detrimental effects of the mercury he experimented with.
His tomb, famed for the Terracotta army that guards it, was built over the course of 38 years by 720,000 men, an example of both the vast power and the ego that characterized this emperor.
Even in death, a lot of blood was shed in his name.
His empire fell soon after his death due to the fight over who would take his place, and was replaced by the Han dynasty in 202 BC.