Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Qin Shi Huang / Ying Zheng -- First Emperor in History of China and His Unified Feudal Kingdom  

Ying Zheng (259 B. C. -- 210 B. C.), honored as Qin Shi Huang, was the first emperor and founder of the first united feudal empire, the Qin Dynasty, in the history of China.

He was one of the greatest monarchs with unprecedented achievements and mysterious legends.

Qin Shi Huang's Turbulent Childhood As A Hostage

Zheng’s father was not very appreciated by his grandfather, so he was a hostage prince in the Kingdom Zhao where Zheng was born.

 

A merchandise named Lv believed that investing on a prince of the powerful Kingdom Qin would be the best business he could ever do; so Lv offered them lots of money to make sure that they lived more comfortably and wouldn’t be treated badly by the guard soldiers of Zhao.

 

Lv also bribed Zheng’s grandfather’s favorite concubine, and gained her support.

 

However, Zheng and his parents still frequently suffered, and had experienced many life and death moments. 

 

After the General Bai Qi  massacred around 450, 000 of Zhao’s fine soldiers, the King of Zhao wanted to kill Zheng’s entire family. 

 

Under that circumstance, Lv helped Zheng’s father disguised and escaped back to the Qin, while Zheng and his mother were left in the Kingdom Zhao.

 

Zheng’s mother was a daughter of a rich businessman of Zhao, so they were hidden in his house secretly for years.

 

Most of Zheng’s childhood was spent in hiding and escaping, and without proper education; until his father finally ascended to the throne and welcomed him back to the Kingdom Qin. 

 

Challenges and Difficulties As A Teenager King

But Zheng’s father passed away very soon, so Zheng ascended to the throne as a 12 year old teenager, only 3 years after he came back to the Kingdom Qin.

 

At that time, Zheng wasn’t quite close to anyone. 

 

At that time, the Kingdom Qin was actually under the charge of Qin’s nobles and the merchant Lv, who also had a romantic relationship with Zheng’s mother according to many gossips.

 

In addition, Zheng's mother also had another lover and had two bastards with this person, who obtained many power in the following years.

 

Forces of other six kingdoms, all tried to influence and manipulate this young king as their own puppet monarch.

 

Zheng himself stayed extremely careful, humble and quiet, while trying to make some talented friends of his own age. 

 

Retrieving Power and Eliminating Political Enemy 

When Zheng was 20 years old, he held the Coming of Age Ceremony, an important rite in ancient Chinese Culture, and started to retrieve the centralized power back.

 

His younger brother and his mother’s lover initiated some coups, trying to expel Zheng from the throne, but they were both defeated and killed.

 

Then Zheng forced Lv to commit suicide, grounded his own mother, and killed her lover and their two bastards. 

 

Zheng used one year to defeat all of his political enemies and gained all the centralized power, with the assistance of those younger officials that he trusted, such as the General Wang Jian.

 

Afterwards, he marched toward his path of establishing a bigger and stronger empire. 

 

Perishing of Six Kingdoms and Disappearing of His Queen 

Zheng nominated Wang Jian as the cheif commander of Qin’s army.

 

When Wang and his son were fighting and defeating countries in the north of China, Zheng married a princess of the Kingdom Chu, the huge empire in the south, and had his first baby boy.

 

Decades later, after all the northern land was under Qin’s control, Zheng started to fight with the Kingdom Chu. 

 

General Wang Jian led Qin’s 600, 000 soldiers successfully perished Chu. 

 

Zheng finally brought an end to the period of endless battles and contentions; a unified and centralized empire was established.

 

But Zheng erased his queen, the princess of the Kingdom Chu, from all types of official records. Afterwards, he had never nominated another queen.

 

No one knew what happened between them, but their son was always Zheng’s favorite child and his trusted heir. 

First Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang and the Empire Qin

Ying Zheng, a believer of great unity and centralized power, announced himself as the first emperor, the Qin Shi Huang, of this big and powerful empire; he was no longer a king of a smaller state. 

 

Unprecedented Political Systems

Qin Shi Huang innovated the autocratic monarchy — the emperor system. In this system, no one could share power with the emperor; therefore, he had the absolute control over his country.

 

The central government had three major official officers who were in charge of administration, military and supervision, respectively. They were independent from each other, and reported directly to the emperor. 

 

The System of Enfeoffment and Hereditary were officially abolished in the history of China. Qin Shi Huang widely applied the System of Prefectures and Counties, where the counties were directly regulated by the emperor and the officers that were assigned by the central government.

 

In addition, salt and iron business could only be operated by the government. 

 

The Household Registration System was implemented, which made it possible for the emperor to manage and coordinate the whole of the country.

 

Qin Shi Huang then unified measurement, currency and language of those six perished kingdoms.

 

The Standardized Royal Roads, which was the rudiment of highway, were constructed in the whole of the country as well.

 

Qin Shi Huang also acknowledged the Private Ownership of Land nationwide, which highly motivated farmers and promoted the agricultural production.

 

As for the royal members of the other six perished kingdoms, Qin Shi Huang assigned them some land, and had them under careful monitoring. 

Till then, Qin became a real united country with unification and harmony.

 

Military Achievements and Construction of the Great Wall

Moreover, Qin Shi Huang largely extended Qin’s territory by initiating many other wars and encouraging people to move further and cultivate more farmland.

 

After a big military success defeating the Huns (also named Xiongnu), he commanded to build The Great Wall to defend this nomadic regime, and constructed a luxury palace to enjoy life.

 

That palace was burnt into ashes by a leader of an uprising army named Xiang Yu later, but the Great Wall is standing tall and upright for thousands of years.

Unification of National Ideology 

In order to reach a consensus, however, Qin Shi Huang commanded to burn many books except those were relevant to people’s livelihood as well as management; hundreds of intellectuals from other philosophical schools, except the Legalism, were executed as well.

 

This behavior was long criticized by many historians who considered him as a tyrant.

 

Besides that, Qin Shi Huang always trusted and well respected his ministers and generals; most of them were well treated and rewarded.  

 

Pursuing of Immortals 

After Qin Shi Huang having gained extraordinary achievements in all respects, searching for immortals became one of his main purposes.

He held some grand sacrifice ceromonies in the holy Mount Tai, the place that believed can connect the heaven, the secular world and the hell.

In the meantime, many people were sent to look for celestial beings.

 

He also had visited many other mountains and seas where might have immortals living in, according to ancient myths and legends.

 

No one knows what exactly he had found, but many mysterious stories about him were passed from generation to generation on the places that he had visited.

Departure of Qin Shi Huang and Fights Over His Throne

This great emperor passed away on his fifth tour. 

 

Before he departed, Qin Shi Huang left to a will in which he gave the throne to his talented and well respected first son named Fusu, the boy that he had with his only queen, the princess of the Kingdom Chu.  

 

However, Qin Shi Huang’s 18th son stole the throne and forged a will saying the emperor commanded Fusu to suicide, with the help of some powerful ministers. Then they sent it to the Prince Fusu, who was serving in the military far away.

 

Fusu, the legit heir of the Empire Qin, followed this faked will and committed suicide. 

 

A powerful and intelligent general, the one who defeated the Huns and built the Great Wall, was also forced to commit suicide, because of his sincere fidelity to Prince Fusu. 

 

Perishing of the Qin Dynasty and Qin Shi Huang's Legacy

The new emperor snatched the crown, but he couldn't run the empire well. 

 

He buried all of Qin Shi Huang’s imperial concubines alive, and murdered all of his other siblings and disobedient officials, cruelly.

 

Without a qualified monarch and exceptional generals, the Qin Dynasty was defeated and perished by some uprising armies, only two years after Qin Shi Huang’s death. ​

However, Qin Shi Huang's ideology, a big unified country, was well established and still dominates in the current Chinese culture.

 

The centralized system that he invented was applied and inherited by the following Chinese emperors for thousands of years.

 

Qin Shi Huang's Mysterious, Grand Mausoleum

Qin Shi Huang’s whole life was a legend with unprecedented achievements, moreover, his posthumous world was exceptionally marvelous as well.

 

Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang is one of the few mysterious graves that had not been opened yet, because of the limited protection technology. 

According to historical documents, his mausoleum utilized about 800,000 labors and took 39 years to finally finish.

 

It is said that he copied his entire capital city underground, so his grave was super huge, mysterious, and full of magical sayings.

 

Within his underground palace, valuable pearls were inlaid in the copper-made-top as the stars, large amount of mercury was arranged as lakes and seas, countless treasures were displayed in many rooms of the big palace, while very dangerous defensive mechanisms were delicately set all over the mausoleum. 

 

The famous Terra-Cotta Warriors were designed to be the powerful army that protects his grave; the excavated ones, however, are only a small part of the entire troop of the Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum.