|Fig.1: These Warring States just would not get along, no |
matter how many times we sent them to their rooms to
think about what they've done.
Starting in 230 BC, Shi Huangdi began the war to end all wars...of the Warring States period. He picked off the other states one by one, starting right away with the Han that same year, then Zhao in 228 BC, Yan in 226 BC, Wei in 225 BC, stopped for a coffee break in 224 BC, then took care of Chu in 223 BC. Only Qi remained, and the king of that state sent an overwhelming force of 200,000 people to stop the invasion. The plan failed, the king was captured, and Qi was annexed into the unified Chinese state, solidifying Qi's place as the Bill Buckner of Ancient Chinese history. Shi Huangdi could now claim his rightful spot as the First Emperor of China (fig.2).
|Fig.2: Upon becoming Emperor, Shi Huangdi was given a special hat that allowed |
him to propel into the sky and watch over his hard-fought empire from above.
|Fig.3: When Legalists told Confucianists |
what to do, they would ask, "Why?"
which got really annoying after a while.
But Shi Huangdi's reign would not last forever, no matter how much he wanted it to. He became obsessed with prolonging death and finding the so-called Elixir of Life; he sent many of his subjects on wild goose chases to find it, as well as trusted many alchemists to feed him their own concoctions that would allow him to live forever. Obviously the Elixir of Life was never discovered, but they did manage to mix up the perfect recipe for a margarita. In 210 BC, Shi Huangdi died while on campaign, reportedly after taking some mercury pills designed to beat death. Huh, ironical. The Chief Minister, Li Si, knew they'd have a riot on their hands if the people knew the emperor was dead, so they covered it up on the two-month march back to the capital of Xianyang. Li even ordered carts of rotten fish to be carried around the Emperor's cart, so people wouldn't notice the corpsy smell hanging around. Seriously, that's what the sources say. I can't even make that up!
Eventually, Shi Huangdi's son, Er Huangdi (literally, "Second Emperor") succeeded to the throne, but he wasn't as capable as his father was (aka: he wasn't as much of a jerk), and the people quickly revolted against Qin rule. Within three years of the First Emperor's death, the Qin's military manpower was destroyed, the Second Emperor was forced to commit suicide, a new dynasty was taking shape, and someone in Shouchun actually did discover the Elixir of Life, but didn't get around to telling anybody. In the end, it seemed that Shi Huangdi only made a lasting impression during his lifetime...or did he? He united China for the first time in history, a precedent that would be followed up by later dynasties. The name of his dynasty, Qin (remember, pronounced like your chinny-chin-chin) gave the English language the name "China." The system of standardization in script and measurement is still used by Chinese in a somewhat different but similar form today. But honestly, the biggest present that the First Emperor left behind was this:
|Fig.4: No one can defeat a terracotta army! They are unbreakable!|
And that's the story of Shi Huangdi, China's first emperor. His rule would initiate over two millennia of imperial rule of China until 1912 with the abdication of Modai Huangdi ("The Last Emperor," which, once again, he should've saw coming), and much of his legacy is felt in China to this day, despite all the communism going on there now. My hope is that when they finally open his tomb, he will be hanging out, alive all this time, and rise to become the First Emperor all over again! And then commence with the "Burning of Laptops and Burying of Snooty Philosophy Professors!"