Between 229 and 222 BC, Qin Shihuangdi (known at the time as King Cheng of Ch'in province, or the 'Tiger of Ch'in'), renowned to be 'humble when times were difficult, swallowing men whole when times were good', used mounted troops with crossbows to attack each of the six kingdoms, which he soon controlled. He declared himself Qin Shihuangdi (or Ch'in Shih Huang Ti), First Emperor, and divided the old states of the federacy into prefectures and districts. To quell unrest he moved 120,000 of the most influential families in his realm to his capital city, Hsienyang (Xinyang) where he had a palace with walls 70 miles in circumference and 270 pavilions (he slept in a different one each night to throw off the attempts of any would-be assassin), each connected by secret passageways.

While being widely known as the Overlord who ordered the construction of The Great Wall of China which reportedly took one million lives to build, his greatest project was even more extreme and telling, namely his attempt to eradicate all history under his new realm. He longed to be the founder of his Empire, not just its leader, so in 213 BC, just years before he passed away, he ordered (on pain of slavery at building The Great Wall, that's where much of the labor came from) the public destruction of every book, scroll or written page in China, save one copy of each, which would belong to him exclusively and with which he would be entombed. He is also have said to have burned alive 460 Confucian historians in his attempt to annhilate China's history before his rule. The idea being if all knowledge and record of the past were erased, then history itself would begin with him.

Not until sixty years after his death did the historical record begin to be restored, even then a great deal was lost.1 It became the tradition of generations of indignant Chinese scholars to 'befoul the Emperor's grave', which has over the past ten years slowly begun to be uncovered (Qin Shihuangdi's body, according to legend, floats atop a giant pool of mercury within the giant hill-sized tomb; apparently one of the clues to its discovery was mercury poisoning among local villagers).
Jorge Luis Borges, "The Wall and The Books", A Personal Anthology (1967)
Cotterell, A. The First Emperor of China (NY : 1981)
Ding & Bloodworth. The Chinese Machiavelli (London : 1976)
Macintosh, A. "The First Emperor", The Infinite in the finite (Oxford : 1995)
1. Later, Emperor Lin-ti (172 AD) wanting to prevent such a cataclysm from ever being possible again, began to have many Confucian classics and histories carved into 8ft. tablets before the National College, until the public found out the cost at which this was being done and they smashed the tablets in protest. (fr. Drogan, M. Biblioclasm (1989, Littlefield, MD)
Literally, First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. China was first unified under this man's despotic rule. Qin was originally the smallest nation-state of China, but it waited patiently while its neighbors coducted warfare, then struck as they all lay exhausted. Once Qin Shihuangdi conquered China he quickly established a strong, centralized bureaucracy to manage the huge empire. He set the first Chinese imperial capital near present-day Xi'an, in the Sichuan Province.

On his command, a standardized system of written characters was adopted, and its use was made compulsory throughout the empire. This was part of his effort to keep the empire more stable through a unified culture. To promote internal trade and economic integration the Qin standardized weights and measures, coinage, and axle widths. Private landholding was adopted, and laws and taxation were enforced equally and impersonally. The quest for cultural uniformity led the Qin to outlaw the many contending schools of philosophy that had flourished during the late Zhou Dynasty. Only legalism was given official sanction, and in 213BC this policy culminated in the Burning of the Books, where the books of all the other schools, except for copies held by the Qin imperial library, were burnt.

The First Emperor also attempted to push the perimeter of Chinese civilization far beyond the outer boundaries of the Zhou dynasty. In the south his armies marched to the delta of the Red River, in what is now Vietnam. In the southwest the realm was extended to include most of the present-day provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan. In the northwest his conquests reached as far as Lanzhou in present-day Gansu Province; and in the northeast, a portion of what today is Korea acknowledged the superiority of the Qin. The center of Chinese civilization, however, remained in the Huang He (Yellow River) valley.

The despot was also known for his cruelty. The best-known achievement of the Qin Dynasty was the completion of the Great Wall. The foreign conquests of the Qin and the wall building and other public works were accomplished at an enormous cost of wealth and human life. Forced labor and conscription of all males in the empire brought massive dissent from the people, and the persecution, torture and execution of many of the scholars in the nation did not improve his popularity. Public works, all constructed by forced laborors, killed millions. The draconian law system, which condemns almost all crimes with the pain of death, further decreased his popularity as a ruler.

When he died, he was buried with the now famous Terracotta Warriors, thousands of life-size clay statues, all with a different face. The practice of burying servants alive with their masters for the afterlife has been abandoned. After his death, his weak son was unable to hold the empire together. Within a few decades, he committed suicide. The "Dynasty to last ten thousand years" ended only after 15 years.

Qin shihuangdi was the first to coin the term "huangdi" which in English is translated as emperor. The word for "King" (Wang) was not good enough for him.

The Chinese word (wang) for king represents the levels of Zhou dynasty nobility as horizontal lines, and a single vertical line sweeping through them all. Qinshihuandi took this character, and added another on top of it to form a new one, also pronounced "wang", and combined it with di, the word for a supreme ruler, and gave himself a poetically grand title, first Huangdi, or First Emperor.

It is ironic that he is only known as the First Emperor of Qin, and also the first and last true emperor of his dynasty.

Shih Huang Ti was the first, and arguably the greatest of all Chinese emperors. In his reign, he unified China under one Emperor and created a new dynasty.

At the time he was born, with the name Cheng about 259 B.C., the Chou dynasty (founded around 1100 B.C.) was waning. The Chou emperors no longer held much power, and China consisted of various feudal states all vying for power. Huang Ti's father was the ruler of one of these states, Ch'in, in the northwestern part of China.

The Ch'in philosophy was against that of Confucius. They were for a set of firm rules impartially enforced rather than believing that ruler who ruled by example could be successful, as Confucius did. Luckily for Cheng, Ch'in was currently the most powerful state in China when his father died. At 13, Cheng became the ruler of Ch'in, but did not take power for eight years, in between which a regency ruled. As soon as he took power, he executed his mother's lover and exiled the regent. He replaced the regent with his new chief advisor, Li Ssu.

By 221 B.C., Cheng conquered all of northern China. After that he took a new title, Ch'in Shih Huang Ti, "The first Emperor of Ch'in. He claimed the new dynasty would last 10,000 generations. Huang Ti quickly instituted his plan to make his dynasty last forever. He destroyed the former feudal system, and made China into 36 provinces, all tightly under central rule. The old lords were brought to the capital to make sure they didn't cause too much trouble. They were replaced with a governor and a general in each province, the governor in charge of civil affairs, and the general in charge of the military, so no one could gain too much power.

Huang Ti continued his conquering, taking portions of South China, which had never been held under the Chou Dynasty, including Canton. Now Huang Ti's empire stretched down to the South China Sea. To support his now huge empire, he constructed roads in a fashion similar to the Roman Empire, which allowed his armies quick movement from place to place. Also, and most importantly, to contain the barbarians to the north, who would later become the Mongols, he began to combine the local walls into one, which later become the Great Wall of China. In addition, he created a standard measurements, currency, language, and laws that would spread throughout China. However, his zeal for standardization became out of control. He had all the books in China burned except for Legalist philosophy and histories in 213. This would later make him considered an arch-villain, once Confucianism took power. Also, all the reforms and wars he was carrying out led to high taxes, which led to unhappy people. Several times attempts on his life were made. However, he lived to age 49, when he died of natural causes.

Huang Ti was buried in the most luxurious tomb ever built, which took up twenty square miles. He was buried with an army of 6,000 terra-cotta life size dolls.

After his death, the Ch'in dynasty fell apart. His son was overthrown within four years. Within a few years, the Han dynasty was established, and Confucianism was reestablished. However, the Han dynasty continued many of the policies Huang Ti had established.

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