Qin dynasty

Delice Bette | February 23, 2023


Qin Dynasty ( Chinese: 秦朝; pinyin: Qín Cháo, Wade-Giles: Ch”in Ch”ao) was a dynasty that ruled China between 221 BC and 207 BC. It was preceded by the feudal Zhou dynasty and followed by the Han dynasty in China. The unification of China in 221 BC under the First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (or Shih Hwang-Tih) marked the beginnings of imperial China, a period that lasted until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912.

The kingship came to an end in 256 BC, when King Nan of the Zhou dynasty, deprived of all prerogatives, died without leaving any descendants. The unification of China is credited to the powerful militaristic state of Qin (225-206 BC), which occupied a large area of territory on the west bank of the Yellow River. The Qin kings fought against their rivals with rare ferocity and conquered all the great Chinese feudal kingdoms in turn. In the midst of these dramatic struggles, the Zhou dynasty disappeared after eight centuries, the longest of any Chinese dynasty. In 247 BC, at the age of thirteen, Zheng ascended to the throne of Qin, and in 221 BC, after great victories he conquered the whole of China and asked his ministers to find him a title that would match his merits.After much debate they proposed the title of August Sovereign ( Huangdi ) which he adopted, deciding to be called the First August Sovereign ( Shi Huangdi ), his successors were named second, third and so on. The name he gave himself originated in an ancient tradition that China had three ,,Huangs” (,,Auguists”) and then five Di (,,Sovereigns”) at the beginning of its existence. In several ways, the new concept of Empire was attached to the past and borrowed much from the old Zhou royalty: the choice of a colour (black), a number and an element known to be favourable to the dynasty (water). Qin Shi Huangdi chose the number six as the standard number and ruled by virtue of the element water. He decided that flags and clothes should be black, the colour of water. The official hats were six fingers long, and the carriages six horses. Now the royal function is not only religious, the sovereign plays the role of an effective authority and wants to show off his power. He orders a grandiose palace to be built at Xian yang, where 10,000 people can live and the princely palaces of the conquered kingdoms are reconstructed. When expressing himself he uses a special pronoun to describe himself: Zhen ( we). When he delegated authority to one of his officials, this was done by means of the fu, the badge made up of two perfectly matched halves, one of which was given to the one who received his mission, the other was kept in the chancellery for inspection. The victory of the Qin state against its enemies was only possible by organizing a well-equipped army with strict discipline, in addition to the competence of the commanders and the vision of the monarch. The chronicles speak of hundreds of thousands of heads cut off (no prisoners of war were taken). Although such brutality was common in Old China, this bloody picture of unification by fire and sword foreshadowed the harshness of Qin Shi Huangdi”s regime in his new rule. The prince of Qin began by annexing neighbouring territories along the

In order to consolidate the empire, Qin Shi Huangdi took measures that often lead one to think back to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. The Qin emperor imposed heavy taxes on the population and carried out mass forced recruitments both for the army to support his extensive military campaigns and for his ambitious construction projects. Priority was given to agricultural production, and the peasant-soldier, subject to conscription and conscription, became the key element. Peasant families are divided into collectively responsible groups. A severe code, full of cruel punishments, keeps recalcitrants in check. Because of the harsh regime and heavy taxes, after 211 BC, when the Qin emperor Shi Huangdi died, a powerful peasant uprising broke out and his successor was overthrown and the Qin dynasty ceased to exist. In the wake of these events, the Han dynasty came to power for almost four centuries (206 BC – 220 AD) and took over the achievements of its predecessor in a creative way. The dynasty”s founder, Liu Pang, was given the name Kao-Zi (Supreme Ancestor) after his death. In 180 BC, Emperor Wen ascended to the throne, whose sole concern was to improve the state of the people and bring the country to a high level of prosperity. Wen issued numerous decrees inspired by ancient traditions and formulated the following principle: “The Way of Heaven (Tian Tao) says that Disasters come from detestable actions, while Prosperity comes from Virtue. The faults of all officials originate in me.” His successor, Emperor Wu (156 BC – 29 March 87 BC), was one of China”s most important emperors and the seventh Han dynasty. He was born Liu Che, and ascended the throne in 141 BC and reigned for 54 years. He took over the throne from his father Han Jingdi who, by putting down the Seven States Revolt (154 BC), succeeded in centralising state power. During his reign Confucianism was strongly supported and became compulsory in the administration. This measure combated Taoist alchemy, two philosophical schools of thought that vehemently opposed each other. Buddhism appeared around the same time, but only became an official religion in 65 BC during the reign of Han Mingdi. During Wu”s reign, numerous wars were fought, the empire expanding as far as Tarim and the Ferghana Valley (102 BC – 101 BC) Korea (108 BC), and in southern China the expansion culminated in the conquest of Canton (111 BC) to the Vietnamese border. The successes of these wars, particularly in southern China, helped to consolidate the Chinese state and increase its population, and this territorial expansion led to easier trade contacts, for example with Persia. His foreign policy focused mainly on defending against the nomadic Xiongnu tribes who were carrying out Asian invasions.

– sec. XXVI-XXI BC. Age of the legendary sovereigns Fuxi, Shennong, Huangdi, Shaohao, Zhuanxu; Dawn of Chinese civilization and social organization in tribal lineages.

– sec. XXI-XVII BC. Xia Dynasty – hereditary monarchy, founded by the Great Yu; control over waterways; development of the agricultural lunar calendar.

– sec. XVII-XI BC. Shang dynasty – hereditary kingdom; beginnings of history written on oracular bones and bronze vessels; flourishing of bronze working, production of protoporcelain.

– 1122-255 BC. Zhou Dynasty – Autocratic hereditary kingdom headed by the Son of Heaven.

– 1122-771 BC. Western Zhou Dynasty – Synthesis of the fundamental elements of Chinese civilization;

841 BC – beginning of conscious and systematic recording of historical events; development of the code of rites, emergence of fortified cities; flourishing of agriculture and crafts (bronze, silk fabrics, etc.).

– 770-256 BC Eastern Zhou Dynasty.

– 770-476 BC Period ,, Springs and Autumns” – decline of central power; strengthening of vassal nobility and formation of feudal states.

– 475-221 BC The ,,Warring States” period – Introduction of the production and use of iron and steel tools and weapons; invention of the compass; development of mining, agriculture, irrigation; flourishing of the school of philosophy; the collection of cultural creations. The “Spring and Autumn” and “Warring States” periods constitute the first stage of the great process of national fusion in China, which resulted in the formation of the Han nation (the majority Chinese population).

– 221-206 BC Qin Dynasty – Establishment of the first unified feudal state in Chinese history; unification of writing, units of measurement, money, vehicle gauge; construction of the Great Wall, a network of roads and canals (the world”s first canal with locks), the great burial complex of the founder emperor of unified China; opening of waterways to the east.

– 213-209 BC First large-scale peasant uprising in Chinese history, led by Chen Sheng and Wu Guan.

– 206 BC-220 AD Han Dynasty.

– 206 BC – 25 AD Western Han Dynasty – measures are taken to consolidate the central autocratic state and to encourage the revival of agricultural and handicraft production; in 104 AD the lunar-solar calendar is developed and Confucianism is adopted as the ruling ideology of Chinese society; the first work of Chinese history is written by Sima Qian.

– 25-225 c.e. Eastern Han Dynasty – Han dynasty re-established; Buddhism penetrates China; Silk Road opened and consolidated; Yellow Turban Uprising. II. Qin Dynasty and the First Emperor of China

The feudal Qin state was always considered a semi-barbaric one, because its people came from an uncertain mix of Chinese, Tibetans and Mongols. One Zhou nobleman wryly said that before the Qin state adopted the refined court music of its more civilized neighbors, “their palace orchestra was banging clay pots and rubbing bones against each other.” . Strategically located with its capital close to modern Xi”an, the Qin state was regarded with great awe during the Warring States period.

Credit for the unification of China goes to the powerful militaristic state of Qin (225-206 BC), which occupied a large area of territory on the west bank of the Yellow River. The Qin kings fought against their rivals with rare ferocity and conquered all the major Chinese feudal states in turn. In the midst of these dramatic struggles, the Zhou dynasty disappeared after eight centuries, the longest of any Chinese dynasty.

One after another, the states were ruthlessly invaded by the formidable Qin armies, leaving thousands of decapitated bodies scattered across the fields. The frustrating nature of the beginnings of Qin civilisation should not, however, mislead us: as so often in history, a simpler and usually more vigorous humanity is the most likely candidate to bring about the boldest changes and achievements, often against a backdrop of the decadence of an older, more refined, but more drained civilisation. We are familiar with the unification of ancient Egypt through the conquest of Lower Egypt by the mountainous and less refined Upper Egypt, the unification of the Italic Peninsula by the rustic Latin people, who first had to crush the resistance of the neighbouring Etruscan civilisations, and the modest beginnings of the great ancient powers such as Assyria and Persia, whose civilisations owed a huge debt to conquered Babylon. And the examples could go on.

The “Great Qin Beast”, as the state was called, owed much of its success to a court minister, the noble Shang. He had formed a powerful government, following the philosophy of the legalists, many aspects of which would forever be part of imperial rule. Noble Shang had no time for pious but abstract Confucian notions like humility, honour of tradition and noble example. He entrusted his fate into the hands of fortune, cunning and absolute tyranny and made the Qin state invincible by instituting harsh laws, ruthless punishments and compulsory conscription into the army for all subjects. Lord Shang was so unyielding that when the crown prince of Qin broke one of his rules, he had the prince”s tutor severely punished for failing to teach his pupil the laws. When the Qin ruler died, the noble Shang, fearing execution by the former prince, the current king, set out to stage a coup. When his forces were defeated, and the noble Shang himself fell in battle, the new ruler demanded to be tied to four chariots and torn to pieces. Another Qin court advisor, a wandering scholar, foolishly advocated Confucian ideals of princely virtue and moral governance. Angered, the ruler decided to punish him by castration, saying, “If I were to submit to this conceited man”s bragging, we would be completely annihilated by other warring kingdoms. The culprit was given the role of eunuch at the palace, while the ruler continued his plans to “tighten China like a blanket.” For 2,000 years there was a legend of a Qin warrior king who founded a powerful country: China. He was the first emperor, and his empire became his fortress, defended by the Great Wall. When the first emperor was lowered into his grave, legend says he was the strongest man on earth. For 36 years, he had unleashed the bloodiest times in China”s history and achieved the impossible: he united a people and had ten thousand times as many subjects as the Egyptian pharaohs had in an empire that would outlast Rome by a thousand years.

The reality of the emperor”s life has long been shrouded in mystery. For two millennia, the only detailed information came from a single historical work produced about a hundred years after Qin Shi Huangdi”s death, the chronicles of the great historian Sima Qian . Archaeological discoveries in 1974 supported the legend and proved its veracity. The previous king of Qin died after a short reign of 3 years and was succeeded to the throne by his son Ying Zheng , the future Qin Shi Huangdi, who was 13 years old at the time. At the beginning of his reign, the young king was controlled by his mother and her lover Lu Buwei , who became prime minister. An important role for the future of the Qin kingdom will be played by a young scholar named Li Su. Li Su arrives at Ying Zheng”s court and is hired by his minister. During an audience with the king that he managed to gain at one point, Li Su advised the king to destroy the feudal lords and unite the whole world under his sceptre. The scholar”s words awakened in Ying Zheng the awareness that his is the true power that he will use with great courage in the next ten years. He continued the conquests of his predecessors with such savagery that, by 221 BC, he had succeeded in subduing China in its entirety and had the feudal kingdoms begging for mercy. It has been written that, from start to finish, the Qin campaign of conquest cost a million and a half Chinese lives. The seven warring states of ancient China were: the horse-rich Qi in Shaanxi, the land of the early Zhou, the Zhou state in the valleys of the Middle Yangtze and the Han River, the three Jin, i.e. the Han, Wei and Zhao states resulting from the division of the Jin kingdom, the old and wealthy Qi kingdom ruled by the Tian family, and two states whose power had only recently asserted itself: the Yen in Hebei, whose capital was in the region of Beijing, and the Chu state. Six of the states were weakened by unceasing wars, while the Qin kingdom was growing stronger. For ten years, the youngest of the kings who had ever led his people into battle, he steeled his power in wars. In its campaign against the Zhao state, the Qin army takes more than ten thousand prisoners who are executed, contrary to the customs of war. Ying Zheng finds the key to acquiring the empire through blood, is totally unscrupulous and relies totally on the army. The victory of the Qin state against its enemies was only possible by organising a well-equipped army with strict discipline, in addition to the competence of the commanders and the vision of the monarch. Chronicles speak of hundreds of thousands of heads cut off. Although such brutality was commonplace in Old China, yet this bloody picture of unification by fire and sword foreshadowed the harshness of Qin Shi Huangdi”s regime in his new rule. The Qin prince began by annexing neighbouring territories on the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, the

The second pit contains full-sized horses, harnessed in fours to battle chariots, and infantrymen, cavalry officers and archers are arranged like a modern-day army corps. The first bronze objects also appear. The third pit is somewhat smaller and reflects the concept of battle strategy during the Qin dynasty: the commander and his headquarters behind the army. During the excavations, numerous destroyed or broken statues were discovered. It seems that immediately after the emperor”s death, the underground corridors were looted and destroyed by treasure hunters or even rebels in search of weapons. However, many statues, numerous weapons, arrowheads, as well as the remains of wooden bows and crossbows and fragments of bronze shields remain intact. The terracotta figures were a funerary offering, 7,500 warriors have been unearthed who, in all respects except that they are not flesh and blood, are genuine warriors . The discovery mirrors the real aspect of the Qin army. The big surprise was that the first three ranks of the vanguard were made up of highly mobile infantry. It seems these were the emperor”s shock troops. Behind them came the heavy infantry, which in turn was supported by columns of chariots, and behind them a fast cavalry swept everything in its path. It was not only the precision of the army”s order that amazed the researchers, but also the weapons they carried. Although only their metal parts have survived, they are the finest bronze weapons preserved anywhere in the world.

One of the most incredible discoveries is a sword, perfectly preserved after 2000 years lying in the ground. The weapon”s pinch shows that it was actually used in battle by a soldier. Qin dynasty swords are significantly longer than those of previous dynasties. Qin armourers perfected bronze metallurgy to give their soldiers a 30% better chance of getting close to their opponents with their weapons, the longer the blades of their weapons than those of their enemies. One halberd bears an inscription saying that it was made in the fifth year of the Qin emperor”s reign by Prime Minister Lu Buwei. This was a guarantee of quality and the prime minister himself was held responsible for the quality of the weapons carried by the soldiers. The army”s equipment was among the best of the time. Military inventions were welcomed and rewarded with bags of gold by the emperor – such as the bow that fired three arrows simultaneously. When several thousand archers so equipped shot a hail of arrows at the enemy, the psychological effect was terrifying. Qin Shi Huangdi”s armies were among the first to use a tactic later made famous by the Huns, Mongols and other steppe peoples. The cavalry opened the battle, attacking enemy armies in small funnels and firing arrows from horseback, retreating strategically to attack again, mercilessly harassing the enemy. When the enemy was weakened and his ranks thinned considerably, Huangdi sent his infantry to attack, massacring the survivors by the thousands. It was a barbaric but effective tactic. And in this way, Qin Shi Huangdi succeeded in ending one of the bloodiest chapters in Chinese history, the ”Warring States” period, defeating all rivals and proclaiming himself Emperor of unified China in 221 BC.

The well-trained and motivated Qin army, equipped with precision weapons and led by an unscrupulous and ambitious king, was the perfect war machine. In 7 years, Ying Zheng conquered 13 cities in the enemy Han state and another 20 cities in rival states. But if external enemies seemed easy to overcome, inside the royal court, unseen enemies were out to destroy him. Official history records Ying Zheng”s coming of age at the age of 20 as the turning point, when the queen mother had a new favourite, Marquis Lao Ai , who had given the queen two secretly raised sons and intended to put one of them on the throne. Knowing that the discovery of his plot was only a matter of time, the queen-mother”s lover made a desperate bid for power. He stole the royal seals, thereby acquiring the authority to mobilize troops. District forces under Lao Ai”s command marched on the royal palace. Security of the palace was the responsibility of Prime Minister Lu Buwei, who had discovered the plot and prepared a trap into which Lao Ai”s forces plunged blindly. The plot is foiled and Lao Ai captured and executed along with his entire family. The first threat to Ying Zheng”s reign passed and harsh control became the standard treatment for everyone, including the ruling family. Within a year, Lu Buwei, disgraced and banished from the palace, commits suicide. Behind the scenes at the palace, the emperor”s own protégé, Li Su, will be the grey eminence behind the throne. He is setting up a totalitarian ideology, only fit to be imposed on a unified China. By 237 BC, the state of Qin had incorporated three other independent Chinese states. Panic spread in the face of the marching war machine. The Yen state was next, not coincidentally sending a diplomatic mission to the Qin court with the aim of emboldening the terrible force. The envoys brought gifts of peace to King Ying Zheng, even flattering gifts: a map of the Qin conquests and the severed head of a Qin general who had defected, a sign that Yen would not offer sanctuary to enemies of this state. But the two suns were actually professional assassins on a suicide mission. For all the accuracy of the plan, the plot failed, King Qin managed to save himself only by his own efforts, defending himself with his sword, no one daring to intervene without the king”s order, as the court regulations stipulated.

In 223 BC, King Ying Zheng fulfilled his dream of unifying China. He had two more states to conquer, of which the Zhou state was the fiercest enemy, achieving a first victory against Qin and threatening the ambitious king”s dream. Ying Zheng sends against his main enemy, his best general, Wang Jian at the head of an army of 600,000 men. Skilful, Wang Jian refuses to fight the Zhou armies for a long time, holding his ground and forbidding any offensive action. When, tired of waiting and convinced of the cowardice of the Qin troops, the Zhou commanders decided to retreat, Wang Jian ordered a general offensive, trapping the enemy in a marching formation and defeating them catastrophically and decisively. The commander of the Zhou forces commits suicide, and the Zhou king is captured. Achieving a total and somewhat surprising victory over its greatest rival, the Qin kingdom occupies the last remaining independent Chinese state, Qi, without a fight.

In 221 BC, at the age of 34, Qin is now China and Ying Zheng is crowned with a veil of stars symbolizing the divinity of the First Emperor of China. He takes his name as Qin Shi Huangdi, First August Sovereign of Qin, a title with imperial value. He considered himself not only a divine figure but an initiator, a creator, the ancestor of a long lineage. Qin Shi Huangdi, together with the prime minister, set up a system of rules that coordinated even the details of daily life and included punishments for breaking them. Even private life did not escape the tentacles of Qin law, which had to be respected throughout the empire. The first Emperor perfected a strict code of laws that held both the perpetrator and up to five members of his family responsible for any deviation from the rules of social conduct, and

One of Qin Shi Huangdi”s earliest reforms was to abolish the old feudal system by refusing to grant any land in China as estates to his relatives and aides. He forced 120,000 old noble families to move from their vassal states to the new capital to keep them under his authority. His loyal demigods and generals administered the cities and military commands. To prevent insurrections, the First Emperor decreed that all spears, arrowheads, knives and metal tools be confiscated throughout the country and sent to the capital. He then had them melted down and turned into twelve giant statues of warriors guarding the imperial palace. For the same reason, he tore down all the fortifications and defensive installations in the provinces, even the earthen walls of villages. These measures were extremely unpopular, but they helped bring the old feudal wars to an abrupt halt.

He imposed the standardization of Chinese writing, currency to facilitate trade, intensified the silk trade, created and standardized the measurement system and education, unified the wheel gauge of carts, invented what we now call mass production and quality control, the imperial seals to attest to it, stimulates the talents of administrators who rise in rank by ability to write and personal merit, not by inherited title, imposing meritocracy creating a government of an efficiency never before seen. The emperor”s organisational genius was expressed in the crystallisation of the first Chinese state, divided into 36 prefectures each headed by a civilian, a military man and a superintendent ”rapporteur”. This concept was ill-suited to the mentality of the peoples of the region. However, with the help of a brutal agrarian reform, carried out mainly by expropriating former noble estates, he managed to win the consent of the poor peasants: recognition of property rights, replacement of feudal servitudes by a proportional tax paid to the central state. The prefects in charge of the great works (roads, dykes and canals), the generals in charge of security in these prefectures, themselves spied on by superintendents appointed by the emperor, formed an extremely solid administrative network that allowed.

It is interesting that a great victor on the battlefield also manages to be a formidable steward, and has time to fight for eternity. Feeling divinely commissioned, he crosses, conquers and subdues valleys and mountains, which he inscribes with huge tablets to consecrate his authority over his subjects, and to fix him in eternity. He believes in astrology and elevates it to the rank of imperial faith; he guides his political actions by cosmic events, dream-tellers are at the top of the list, he consecrates by ritual sacrifices, he baptizes places and orients palaces by the stars, his vision incorporates and assimilates the geographical with the mythical, China under him becomes a sacred land. Qin Shi Huangdi distanced himself from the Zhou dynasty under the sign of fire, which he had defeated, and placed his new dynasty under the sign of water. He has the ambition to raise the profane to the sacred, changes the calendar and rearranges all the official holidays.

In order to consolidate the empire, Qin Shi Huangdi took measures that often lead one to think back to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. The Qin emperor imposed heavy taxes on the population and carried out mass forced recruitments both for the army to support his extensive military campaigns and for his ambitious construction projects. Priority was given to agricultural production, and the peasant-soldier, subject to conscription and conscription, became the key element. Peasant families are divided into collectively responsible groups. A severe code of laws, full of cruel punishments, keeps recalcitrants in check. Because of the harshness of the regime, it is no wonder that after 211 BC, when the Qin emperor Shi Huangdi died, the Qin dynasty met an early and violent end.

From the 7th century BC to the 17th century, more than ten Chinese dynasties were involved in building and rebuilding extensive fortifications. The dynasties before Qin had provided good preliminary experience and foreshadowed the construction on a gigantic scale of the Great Wall, a visionary project also belonging to Qin Shi Huangdi, and the later dynasties maintained it, enjoyed its benefits, strengthened and expanded it. It is no coincidence that the Great Wall of China, as it is commonly known today, is the wall built and renovated by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The earliest foreshadowing of the Great Wall was the fortifications built in 665 BC in the state of Zhou as a defence against other states. The Great Wall not only kept the invaders out but also isolated the Chinese who developed one of the world”s greatest and most original civilisations. Begun as a royal project, the Great Wall survived the decline of imperial dynasties and today is a symbol of the past and a source of national pride. In 215 BC, the First Emperor of China set out on a tour of inspection of his empire, which for the first time was a peaceful and secure country. Millions of discharged soldiers are thus available for other tasks and Qin Shi Huangdi plans the construction of the greatest project of antiquity: the Great Wall of China, an impenetrable barrier to China. To protect his unified state against the frequent incursions of the nomadic Xiongnu tribes, known in Europe as Huns, China”s first emperor orders that fortifications built by his predecessors be linked together and new sections of the wall built. In 214 BC, the emperor sent the general Meng Tian to the northern frontier of the empire with an army of 300 000 workers and an unknown number of political prisoners to build a chain of fortifications. It would advance both east and west for a total length of some 6 000 kilometres, creating the longest wall in the world that would later become justly famous. Winding its way along mountain and hill ridges and through deep valleys, the Great Wall of China, which is lined from place to place with parallelepiped forts and high defensive towers, is 8 metres high and 6.5 metres wide. Paved with stone, it was used as a road as well as a trade route. The towers were strategic points, where weapons stores were located and soldiers were loaded, and from them information could be transmitted over long distances by fire and smoke as well as by sound signals. Seen from the air, the Great Wall of China looks like a dragon stretching along China”s ancient northern border and has become a symbol of the whole country. To build the great fortification, hundreds of thousands of peasants were forcibly displaced to the north, where they were guarded by a huge army. The emperor passed a law that every offender caught was obliged to work on the construction of the Wall. Organising the construction work, security and maintenance of the workers was in itself a feat. The work was carried out in extreme conditions, the peasants unpaid for their labour suffered from the brutality of the army supervising the work and the threat of nomadic warriors from the Mongolian steppes who unleashed attacks in an attempt to thwart the construction of these impressive fortifications, obviously directed against them. Work was proceeding at a merciless pace, with new and new teams of workers being brought in. The human costs were enormous, with the peasants the ones who suffered. Prisoners sentenced to hard labour at the wall had to travel hundreds of kilometres in handcuffs and iron shackles around their necks. Many of them died on the march. Those who survived were housed in camps with poor living conditions and made to work in all weathers. There was a desperate shortage of food. Supplies had to be carried huge distances by convoys of pack animals or by rafts on rushing rivers. Much of the food was stolen by bandits or eaten en route by porters. Famine accelerated an already high death rate and led to violence between workers and overseers. It seems incredible, but the construction that took millions of man-hours and was carried out in such harsh conditions was completed in seven years. Crowds of builders started work from the north-east to the west. First the towers were built, most of them 12 metres high. Between the towers was a 6-metre-high courtyard designed to prevent potential invaders from infiltrating. Where there was stone, workers laid a foundation of granite blocks up to 4 metres by 1.5 metres. On top of the foundation, an outer structure of clay bricks or stone was built, sometimes the wall was constructed of layers of rammed earth.

By unifying China, ensuring its security against the barbarians from the north, and strengthening its internal order, admittedly through terror, Qin Shi Huangdi was able to concentrate on another project of paramount importance for any Chinese, let alone an emperor, a project related to the afterlife. The emperor resolved to build the most opulent tomb ever built in China, commensurate with his unparalleled achievements. Qin Shi Huangdi”s tomb, a square-shaped, recessed pyramid, had long been known and located from the descriptions of Sima Qian, the court historian of the next dynasty. Early in his reign, Ying Zheng, prepared for his death and began building a tomb that, according to tradition, would contain models of his most prized possessions, including his army. One of the most unbelievable features of the terracotta army, however, was the size, not only of the army as a whole, but also of each individual soldier. Chinese kings were known to bury miniature terracotta soldiers as protective spirits in the afterlife, but never life-size and carrying perfected weapons . Ying Zheng felt that in death the spirits of his enemies might attack him and he needed an army of clay soldiers who, by their very nature, would last forever. Some historians say that the clay army was not to guard Emperor Qin from evil spirits from the other world, but from the unruly spirits of the slain. Since Lao Ai”s coup attempt, the emperor”s greatest fear had become betrayal and assassination. Now no one at court was armed except him, and no one, except him, could summon the troops. Ying Zheng”s new security system had failed during the Yen plot, however, and from that moment on, paranoia would grow in his mind. For the rest of his reign he would be haunted by images of death. For Ying Zheng, it is not the fact of death itself that terrifies him so much, but the knowledge that he has filled the spirit world with the spirits of those he sacrificed, souls that, as soon as he dies, will seek revenge. The King believes that only one thing can protect him in the afterlife: an army of spirits. One of Huangdi”s many quirks has been his quest for immortality. Eternal life obsessed him. Court musicians played nothing but songs about immortality, and numerous explorers were sent out into the wide world to find the elixir of eternal life; alchemists worked in vast laboratories to unravel the riddle of life and death. Archaeological research has shown that even a terracotta army was not enough. Near the emperor”s burial mound, empty stone armour was found, with no terracotta warriors to carry it. It is thought that the burial of these stone armour sets may be related to beliefs about the spirits of dead soldiers who suffered violent deaths,

In the seventh month of 210 BC, the journey to immortality ended. At the age of 50, Qin Shi Huangdi died. His death was concealed for two months by his minister Li Su and chief eunuch Chao Kao, as the emperor was on a military expedition and the news would cause chaos in the empire and these high-ranking courtiers feared an attempt to seize the throne before they could consolidate power in their own hands. It being summer, the corpse quickly rotted, spreading a pestilential smell, and to conceal the fact that the emperor had died his advisers brought in the imperial hold, in which his corpse lay, which with fish, pretending that Huangdi craved to serve such . During the return journey to the capital, the two conspirators hatched plans for a brutal palace coup. Qin Shi Huangdi had, in one of his last decrees and without the court”s knowledge, appointed his eldest son as successor to the dynasty throne. The prince was at the time in the north, on the border, with General Meng Tien and his army, serving his sentence for his objections to the Burning of the Books. Minister Li Su and eunuch Chao Kao promptly destroyed the dead ruler”s decree and devised a false imperial edict that both the general and the crown prince were sentenced to death. When this decree reached those concerned through an imperial messenger, the Qin heir obediently resorted to suicide . Before taking his own life by swallowing poison, the proud general Meng Tien told the messenger, “For three generations, my family has served the house of Qin. Now I have under my command 300,000 soldiers, I have the power to stage a rebellion, but I prefer death because I do not want to dishonor my ancestors and forget the honors the emperor has bestowed on me.” In later centuries, when Chinese learned gentlemen recited this famous statement of supreme faith, attested in ancient documents, they were often moved to tears in the literal sense . Qin Shi Huangdi”s body is taken to the mausoleum built during his lifetime. The emperor took with him not only the concubines who had not borne him sons and the terracotta army but also the architects, draughtsmen, engineers and builders, all who knew the ins and outs. All secrets, except the legend of the rivers and seas of mercury are sealed. Minister Li Su and eunuch Chao Kao arranged to put a younger Qin prince on the throne as the second emperor of the dynasty under his name Er Shi Huangdi (Second Emperor August). Eunuch Chao Kao had been fawning over the incompetent prince under his influence. Legend has it that Chao Kao and the Second Emperor arranged for all the other children of the imperial family to be killed and buried in a crypt near their father, thus removing any possibility of a plot for the throne within the palace. During the first year of the Second Emperor Qin”s reign a revolt broke out, instigated by a common soldier and the men in his unit. Instead of risking execution for failing to return to their camp in time, as required by Qin military regulations, they decided it was wiser to die as rebels. Armed only with clubs and garden stakes, this small band sparked a revolution that would sweep across China. Homeless peasants and soldiers wandering the provinces, many of whom had turned to banditry, joined the rebels. Before long, lords, nobles, scholars and the entire population rose up in a great storm against the oppressive Qin regime. At first, the imperial armies were able to hold off the rebel hordes, but within months the united revolutionaries were in the lead. Eunuch Chao Kao locked the second emperor in the palace, isolated from all other advisers, and thus easily persuaded him to believe his repeated assurances that all was well. Finally, in 208 BC, Prime Minister Li Su advised the eunuch to be less bold in his usurpation of power and pay more attention to the desperate military situation. For this boldness, the eunuch had Li Su thrown into the dungeon where he ended up torn to pieces, cut in half from the waist down. The great rebel army, led by the supreme soldier, continued to record victories. Eunuch Chao Kao began to fear that if the emperor found out he had been deceived, he would lose his life, so he arranged for his assassination. The successor of the second emperor of the Qin dynasty occupied the Dragon”s throne as a puppet for only forty-three days and executed the eunuch when he learned of his crimes. The Qin capital fell to the rebel commander, who set up his headquarters on the outskirts of the city. The Third Qin Emperor, with a rope tied around his neck as a sign of humiliating surrender, walked out of the palace


  1. Dinastia Qin
  2. Qin dynasty
  3. L”habitude chinoise actuelle consiste à inclure les noms des dynasties dans les noms des empereurs, ce qui donne dans ce cas Qin Shihuangdi. Plus tard, son nom est abrégé en Qin Shihuang, car les noms chinois à quatre caractères sont très peu courants.
  4. Derk Bodde: The state and empire of Ch”in. In: The Cambridge History of China. Band 1: The Ch”in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220. 1986, S. 20–102, hier S. 69.
  5. Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer: Geschichte Chinas bis zur mongolischen Eroberung 250 v. Chr. – 1279 n. Chr. 1999, S. 18.
  6. Dado el hábito chino moderno de incluir los nombres de la dinastía como parte del apellido, convirtió el nombre del emperador en Qin Shihuangdi. Más tarde, esto fue abreviado a Qin Shihuang, porque es raro que los nombres chinos tengan cuatro caracteres.
  7. Antiguamente conocido como Canton
  8. Maspero 1978 324. o.
  9. Gernet 2001 79. 80. o.
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