Qin Shi Huang is remembered as one of the greatest emperors from the imperial period of Chinese history. His Imperial Majesty is well known for creating the ancient Qin dynasty and for the unification of China. Upon unification, Huang assumed the role of emperor making him the first emperor of China, and before becoming emperor, he was the King of Qin.
One of his legacies was laying the groundwork for what we know today as the Great Wall of China. His reign is predated as far back as May 7, 247 BC when he assumed the throne of Qin as its King. Huang, being only 38-years old at the time, proclaimed himself emperor of all China sometime in 221 BC. The above timelines suggest that intrinsic details of his reign which include historic events, wars, and achievements of the emperor may likely have been lost over time.
However, historians and archaeologists have unearthed most of the information. As such, future generations who were not privileged to have witnessed the imperial Chinese period are quite fortunate to relive those times through reading and visiting landmark sites. We have been able to highlight a few details of His Imperial Majesty’s reign as well as some facts about the identities of his children for your reading pleasure.
The Birth and Upbringing of Qin Shi Huang
Born on February 18, 259 BC, His Imperial Majesty was given the name Zhao Zheng. According to Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian, Zheng was Qin Prince Yiren’s eldest son. Prince Yiren was later crowned King of Qin and was styled as King Zhuangxiang of Qin. However, Huang’s paternity is often contested with some claiming Prince Yiren wasn’t his biological father.
The records of the Grand Historian reveal that King Zhuangxiang befriended a wealthy Qin merchant known as Lu Buwei. It was Buwei who acquainted the king to his future wife Zhao Ji. The story has it that Zhao was Buwei’s concubine and unknowingly to His Highness, had conceived for him already but this is largely based on speculations.
Zheng, heir apparent to the throne of Qin, was raised in the courts of the Han Palace.
Upon the untimely death of King Zhuangxiang in 246 BC, Zheng succeeded the throne. Being only 13-years old at the time, Zheng was considered a minor and as such could not ascend the throne. Lu Buwei, King Zhuangxiang’s longtime friend, was appointed as regent until he came of age.
How His Reign Unified China
Buwei went on to conspire with a man called Lao Ai and the late King’s mother to overthrow King Zheng. The plot was uncovered after Lao Ai was heard mouthing off the plan to overthrow the king. Lao Ai and his family were immediately executed by the king. Sensing the danger that would soon befall him, Buwei took his own life while the late King’s mother was placed under permanent house arrest until she kicked the bucket a few years after the incident.
After the coup had been dowsed, Qin Shi Huang quickly set out to unify all of the seven major Chinese States: Qin, Han, Wei, Chu, Zhao, Yan, and Qi. King Zheng and his army began taking the states one after the other starting with Yan and working their way up. Zheng made use of language, communication, and currency in unifying all of China. The unification process which took nine years to complete was finished sometime in 221 BC.
Qin Shi Huang proclaimed himself the Emperor of all China after the unification was complete. He banned the feudal system and replaced it with a more structured and centralized system of government, which was very autocratic. His Imperial Majesty made sure laws were written and available for the people and those who violated the laws were severely punished. To protect his kingdom from the nomads of the north, he started the construction of the Great Wall of China.
Facts Surrounding The Death of Qin Shi Huang
The Emperor, after surviving many assassination attempts, died on September 10, 210 BC while on a tour of Eastern China. It was revealed that Qin Shi Huang was consumed by the desire to possess eternal life.
He recruited court physicians and alchemists to provide solutions that would elongate his life. After toiling for years, the team came up with an elixir of immortality.
This elixir as the story goes, was what ended the life of the 49-years-old Emperor. As he was aware that his quest for eternal life might fail, he had a giant tomb built for him with more than 8000 clay soldiers accompanying him to the afterlife.
Despite his many achievements, his brutality made many of his subjects despise him. For instance, records have it that Qin Shi Huang burned more than 400 scholars alive and stoned more than 700 scholars to death. It has been explained that he had to be that brutal to attain his accomplishments. Apart from the wall he began, he also commenced the construction of Lingqu, a canal that connected the Pearl River and Yangzte, among other things.
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Here’s What Is Known About His Children
The first emperor reportedly had an insatiable sexual appetite. History has it that he never took a wife nor named an empress; rather, Huang had an array of concubines many of whom bore children for him. His Imperial Majesty is reported to have fathered as much as 50 children in his lifetime. Notable amongst his children were Crown Prince Fusu, Gao, Jianglü, and Hu Hai.
This caused lots of hitches in the succession plan. Also, the Emperor’s prime minister Li Si, upon perceiving an uprising, decided to conceal the demise of the Emperor. Only a handful of the Emperor’s trusted eunuchs and one of his sons knew about Qin Shi Huang’s death.
The charade came to an end when the Prime Minister and the chief eunuch came up with a plan to kill the Crown Prince and Meng Tian; they were the next in line to take the crown. Both Fusu and Meng Tian killed themselves after they received a letter ordering them to take their lives; the letter had the signature of the late Emperor which was forged by Li Si.
Hu Hai was crowned the Second Emperor almost immediately. Also known as Qin Er Shi, Hu proved incapable of managing the vast Chinese empire. His reign brought an end to the famous Qin dynasty and the many legacies of Qin Shi Huang.