The First Emperor of China

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The Tiger Emperor’s achievements in his 36 years of rule surpasses the accomplishments of Alexander the Great, Hannibal, or Julius Caesar.  A man of astonishing energy, he built the Great Wall, abolished the feudal system of land holding, standardized weights, measures, calendars, chariot axles, even folk music, and imposed a detailed, uniform code of law.   However,  few Westerners are aware of his achievements.

Hostallero Empress
Empress of China
This Great Unifier was Qin Shihuang, founder and very first ruler of all of China.  He gave China its name, the word “emperor” and also set up the longest running form of government - China’s Imperial System which lasted over 2,200 years.  The First Emperor of the Qin dynasty was born in 259 B.C. and died in 210 B.C.  Hostallero Emperor
Emperor of China

He was only thirteen years old when he ascended to the throne of the state of Qin in 246 B.C., and ‘China’ did not yet exist.  At that time Qin was merely one of seven warring states vying for control of the Central Plain in what seemed a never-ending series of bloody battles.  After a period of eight years Shihuang donned the cap and sword of his majority in 238 B.C.  At the age of twenty-one, it became obvious that Shihuang had learned more under his mentors than even they had suspected.  Informed of a plot to rebel against him masterminded by the ambitious and disloyal Lu Buwei, Shihuang, swiftly disgraced his chief advisor and then forced him to commit suicide.  He immediately appointed a new advisor, Li Si - Chancellor of the Left, and set out to unify the land.

Firmly Shihuang took control, directing expert diplomacy and the careful formation of alliances which led to this brilliant success in the brutal unification wars that dominated the history of that period in the 220s.  After five centuries of disunity and strife in the land, Shihuang had succeeded in what no ruler before him had been able to accomplish.  The country was united in only twenty-five years and the Qin dynasty proclaimed in 221 B.C.

Although Shihuang had only eleven more years to live, under his rule a total transformation of the land we now call China took place.  He created new administrative units for the capital city of Xianyang and the rest of the country, he abolished the feudal system of landholding and removed the aristocratic warlords.  Weights, measures and currencies were standardized throughout the land, and even such details as the width of chariot axles were regulated to help prevent ruts in the thousands of miles of new roads that were being constructed.  The various and confusing local scripts were eliminated and one standardized script used throughout the land where a uniform and enormously detailed code of law was imposed everywhere.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of laborers and convicts were conscripted into Shihuang’s great building projects - the canals and irrigation works plus the hundreds of palaces and pavilions for the nobles whom he had moved away from their own conquered territories in order to weaken their power.  His most magnificent works were also being carried out during this period of enormous change - the ‘Great Wall’, his fabled palace at Afang, and his enormous tomb where his childless concubines were buried with him.

In the 1970’s, the most remarkable archaeological find of the century was made - more than 7,000 life-size terracotta soldiers and horses which guard the entrance to his tomb and this is only the beginning - Shihuang’s celestial jeweled tomb is yet to be opened.

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