Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor of China
Qin Shi Huang (or Shi Huangdi) was the First Emperor of a unified China, who ruled from 246 BCE to 210 BCE. In his 35-year reign, he managed to create magnificent and enormous construction projects. He also caused both incredible cultural and intellectual growth, and much destruction within China. Whether he should be remembered more for his creations or his tyranny is a matter of dispute, but everyone agrees that Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, was one of the most important rulers in Chinese history.
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According to legend, a rich merchant named Lu Buwei befriended a prince of the Qin State during the latter years of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BCE). The merchant's lovely wife Zhao Ji had just gotten pregnant, so he arranged for the prince to meet and fall in love with her. She became the prince's concubine, and then gave birth to Lu Buwei's child in 259 BCE. The baby, born in Hanan, was named Ying Zheng. The prince believed the baby was his own. Ying Zheng became king of the Qin state in 246 BCE, upon the death of his supposed father. He ruled as Qin Shi Huang, and unified China for the first time. Early Reign:
The young king was only 13 years old when he took the throne, so his prime minister (and probable real father) Lu Buwei acted as regent for the first eight years. This was a difficult time for any ruler in China, with seven warring states vying for control of the land. The leaders of the Qi, Yan, Zhao, Han, Wei, Chu and Qin states were former dukes under the Zhou Dynasty, but had each proclaimed themselves king as the Zhou fell apart. In this unstable environment, warfare flourished, as did books like Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Lu Buwei had another problem, as well; he feared that the king would discover his true identity. Lao Ai's Revolt:
According to the Shiji, or "Records of the Grand Historian," Lu Buwei hatched a new scheme to depose Qin Shi Huang in 240 BCE. He introduced Zhao Ji to Lao Ai, a man famed for his large penis. The queen dowager and Lao Ai had two sons, and in 238 BCE, Lao and Lu Buwei decided to launch a coup. Lao raised an army, aided by the king of nearby Wei, and tried to seize control while Qin Shi Huang was traveling outside of the area. The young king cracked down hard on the rebellion; Lao was executed in a grisly fashion, along with his family. The queen dowager was spared, but spent the rest of her days under house arrest. Consolidation of Power:
Lu Buwei was banished after the Lao Ai incident, but did not lose all of his influence in Qin. However, he lived in constant fear of execution by the mercurial young king. In 235 BCE, Lu committed suicide by drinking poison. With his death, the 24-year-old king assumed full command over the kingdom of Qin. Qin Shi Huang grew increasingly paranoid (not without reason), and banished all foreign scholars from his court as spies. The king's fears were well-founded; in 227, the Yan state sent two assassins to his court, but he fought them off with his sword. A musician also tried to kill him by bludgeoning him with a lead-weighted lute. Battles with Neighboring States:
The assassination attempts arose in part because of desperation in neighboring kingdoms. The Qin king had the most powerful army, and neighboring rulers trembled at the thought of a Qin invasion. The Han kingdom fell in 230 BCE. In 229, a devastating earthquake rocked another powerful state, Zhao, leaving it weakened. Qin Shi Huang took advantage of the disaster, and invaded the region. Wei fell in 225, followed by the powerful Chu in 223. The Qin army conquered Yan and Zhao in 222 (despite another assassination attempt on Qin Shi Huang by a Yan agent). The final independent kingdom, Qi, fell to the Qin in 221 BCE. China Unified:
With the defeat of the...
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