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Terracotta warriors history - Terracotta Warriors Tour

Terracotta warriors history


Emperor Qin Shi Huang – China’s First Emperor Ever

To discover more on Emperor Qin’s Terracotta Army, it is necessary that we learn about Emperor Qin Shi Huang first.

Qin Shi Huang – whose first name was Zheng and surname Ying – was born in 259 BC and died in 210 BC. He was the pioneer of the nationally centralized feudal empire and a visionary leader. During his time, there were lots of wars, bloody murders and chaos. However, Emperor Qin was a great leader full of passion and spirituality.

After long periods of fighting and warring, the whole of China was divided into several vassal countries including Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qi. In order to protect territories and increase national power, new policies which focused on promoting agriculture and intensifying military affairs, were created. With time, the wars among those seven vassal countries became severe and actually continued that way for so many years. For instance, in the renowned war which happened in Chang ping, Zhao was compelled to surrender to Qin due to food shortage and hunger. Till today, the debris can still be found in the site of Gao Ping, Shanxi province.

The long years of war did not only leave a negative impact on millions of innocent people, it also affected productivity. The existence of different currencies and handwritings slowed down the rate of development – buying and selling became difficult and culture amalgamation was impossible. Two countries who shared the same border built different kinds of tollgates, just to  sabotage each other. At this stage, things were really getting out of hand and some sort of solution was needed. The idea to settle the dispute and come together as one would go down as one of the biggest contributions to historical development.

During that period, Qin was a very small country and was despised by the other six countries. In 356 BC, Shang Yang’s political reform was established. The goal of the new law was to manage state affairs legally, promote the planting of plantations and allow small countries to join battle, engage in provincial bargaining and possess possessions privately. The reforms brought great change to politics, the economy and other fields. Even though Shang Yang was later killed, the Qin Dynasty grew very quickly. 100 years later, this growth led to a great increase in national power. During the reign of King Zhao, Qin became a wealthy country with millions of soldiers, chariots and horses. Certainly, only Qin could unite the whole country.

History reveals that Emperor Qin Shi Huang was born in 259 BC. During his time, there was a dire need for someone who could unite the warring countries and eliminate every form of disagreement. As the war raged on, continuous fighting helped to reveal Ying Zheng’s ambitious character.

Emperor Qin’s life was full of adventure. His father, Yi (also known as Zi Chu), was King Xiao Wen’s son and King Zhao’s grandson. Yi was not respected because he had been sent to Zhao country as a hostage and was not really known. His life was in disarray.

However, everything changed dramatically with the arrival of Lv Buwei, who was a businessman in Yang Zhai. Not only did Lv Buwei possess great business acumen, he also had a political and strategic mind. He meet Yi during one of his business  trips in Han Dan city. He immediately realized that by using Yi’s special status, he could take a political gamble without losing anything.

Lv Buwei’s political goal was to help Yi ascend the Kingdom’s throne. He made use of several intelligent strategies.  The first thing he did was to present Yi with 2.5 kilograms gold, so that it could bring him a lot of friends. After that, he travelled to Zhao and bribed Queen HuaYang, who was the royal concubine of King Xiaowen. Through this process, Yi found his way back to the King Qin of and was made prince of King Qin. After one year, King Xiaowen died and Yi, who was known as King Zhuang Xiang, took over the throne.

As a matter of fact, there was a secret, which finally created political crisis between Yi and Lv Bu Wei. When Yi was a hostage in King Zhao, he met Zhao Ji, Buwei’s concubine, and eventually fell in love with her. The scandal provoked Lv Buwei greatly. However, in order to achieve his political goal, Lv Buwei finally decided to send Zhao Ji to Yi as a wife. After their marriage, Zhao Ji gave birth to a boy in January and he was named Ying Zheng. According to historical records, Zhao Ji didn’t disclose the fact that she had already lived together with Lv buwei and was already pregnant, so no one could really tell who Ying Zheng’s father was.

Consequently, Emperor Qin was seen as the bastard of Lv Buwei, and he was also known as Lv Zheng. Historian believe that the story was made-up fictitious by Lv Buwei.

Definitely, being a bastard or not did not play any role in the Emperor’s historical contribution. Historical records show that Emperor Qin was an great and honourable man with bulging eyes, a nice nose and a big stature.

In 247 BC, Qin’s father (King Zhuang Xiang) died from a severe sickness. Ying Zheng, who was just 13 years old, took over his father’s kingship. He was too young and inexperienced to occupy that kind of complex political position, so he had to rely on the Queen Mother and ministers. With such privilege bestowed om them, Lv Buwei and the Queen Mother ruled the whole empire without any restriction.

As stated earlier, Emperor Qin’s Queen Mother Zhao had a personal relationship with Lv Buwei. After the death of King Zhuang xiang, and Emperor Qin’s succession, the Queen Mother felt deserted and continued her affair with Lv buwei. Sensing that this new development could be disastrous, Lv buwei – who was scared of Emperor Qin’s chastisement – found a guard whose name was Lao ai, to date Queen Mother Zhao, just so he could cut off this complicated relationship. With Queen Mother Zhao’s assistance, Lao ai became very powerful and amassed great wealth, he even claimed to be Ying Zheng. However, he silently endured his suffering, waiting for the perfect time to have his revenge.

In 238 BC, when Ying Zheng turned 22 years old, he underwent his coronation in Ji Nian palace, following his Empire’s system. After that he started ruling his empire himself. Through eradicating disaster, implementing political reforms and increasing the Nation’s might, he eventually achieved his goal of uniting the whole state. During that time, Qin created a wonderful strategy for destroying the other 6 rival states.  In military affairs, he kept increasing military strength and constantly put the army under severe training. When it came to diplomatic matters, he encouraged the policy of segregation and even invested lots of money on the sabotage of ministers in the other six rival states, and this led to great confusion. With this strategy, he was able to annihilate all the six rival states, one after the other. He strongly followed his policy of selecting wise men. He put some intellectuals in charge of areas that were not subject to the Qin, including Li si, Wei liao, and Yao Jia. These helped assisted him greatly in unifying the whole country.

In 236 BC, Emperor Qin embarked on a quest to conquer the other six states that existed at that time in ancient China, including the states of Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao and Wei. His army conquered the territory of those six rival states. Just within a period of ten years, Emperor Qin’s army had the capacity to destroy enemies and repossess the dominions.

In 221 BC, Emperor Qin successfully brought the war – which lasted for hundreds of years – to an end. He did this after the spring and autumn period. After bringing the chaos to an end, he attacked Bei Yue (located in Zhe Jiang Province, Fu Jian Province and so on), battled with Hun, fortified the border area and created the Qin Dynasty – the first united feudal state in China’s history. The Qin Dynasty, with its centre in Xian yang, was great nation which occupied a large expanse of land. Its territory stretched out from the sea in the south and east, to Gan Qing in the west and Mount Yin and the area of Liao Dong in the north. Back then, Qin Dynasty was not just a powerful nation geographically, it also was also doing well in politics, economy and civilization. Emperor Qin knew that for him to govern the while nation efficiently he had to prove this authority, and that’s what he did.

Before the unification happened, the highest governor was referred to as king. Due to his great contribution to the practice of government, Qin demanded that his ministers provide him a befitting title. They suggested that he should be called ‘Tai Huang’ but Qin thought of himself higher, so he eventually resolved to call himself ‘the beginning emperor’, which simply meant that everything he had achieved could be handed down forever. After that, the title ‘emperor’ was used for thousands of years. To set himself apart form others, Emperor Qin established a set of new policies. For instance, the order of Emperor was called “zhi” and “zhao” and his great seal could only be referred to as “Xi”. Here’s another example. The name “Zheng” can only be used by the emperor to refer to himself. Furthermore, following the theory in the spring and seasons, Emperor Qin made a law that only black could be seen as a noble symbol. Even though this seems like superstition today, but back then they certainly met the needs of intensifying imperial power.

Definitely, the above policies had limitations. To increase his imperial power, Emperor Qin had to establish series of severe feudalization, ranging from centrality to region. Maybe his biggest contribution to the practice of government in China was the institution of then centralized states. He instituted three gong and nine qing in the centre. By doing this, Emperor Qin made himself the head of military affairs and thus evaded being neglected.

Emperor Qin dissolved the feudal system and thus split the country into 36 prefectures (and later added more to make oy 46 prefectures) that were further disintegrated into counties, townships, Tings and Lis. He selected twelve ministers who assisted him in making decisions concerning the affairs of the state. Immediately all these policies were established, they played an important role not only in ruling the whole dynasty at that time but also in setting up the foundation for 2000 years of feudalization in China.


Qin Shi Huang was quite interested in construction and showed his capability. Before he achieved his dream of unification, he had already erected lots of beautiful palaces in Xia Yang yong etc. After he achieved the unification, he decided that building a palace would the only way to show all his achievement. He started a large construction program inside the Empire, and he increased the size of his tomb and had several palaces built. Almost 270 places were found around his capital – Xian yang. In the last ten years, palace sites pit 1,2 and 3 were discovered. Archaeologists observed that the palace was constructed intelligently, the different palaces were joined by gallant pavilions. However, it’s  so painful to know that it was razed down by fire at the end of the Qin dynasty – what we can only see today are artifacts.

Today, We commend Emperor Qin’s establishment on feudalization. We will also take a look at the unifying measures that he took in removing the differences that existed amongst differing areas, and facilitating the development of the economy. We will also look at the civilization that was worked on. The unifying measures include:

First of all, Qin regulated the system of coinage. During the war, the coins used were were not only heavy, they were also shapeless, and this made it difficult to trade with currency. In 221 BC, Emperor Qin decided to do away with the country’s coin and established a new currency system. This new coin had a circular shape, and its centre was a hollow square. From that point forward, it was used until the later Qing dynasty.

Secondly, the system of weights and measurements was also regulated. To create a unified weights and measurement system, Emperor Qin decided that only the regulation in Shang Yang’s reformation could be used. To enforce this regulation, he imprinted a related inscription in official regulators. During that century, those regulators were seen in Shan dong province, Shaan xi province, Jiang su province etc. Historical records reveals that long measure in Qin dynasty was inch, chi, Zhang and yin. 10 inches was equivalent to 1 chi, 10 chi to 1 Zhang and 10 Zhang to 1 yin. 1 chi was equal to 23.1 centimetres. Back then, weight measure was he, sheng , dou and hu and the scale measure was zhu, liang, jin, jun and shi.


Thirdly, Emperor Qin introduced a handwriting everyone could use.  Due to the prolonged interruptions in the later warring period, there was huge differences in different areas, and this prevented the development of the economy and culture, not to mention the progress of politics. To solve this problem, Li si was ordered to create “small seal script” and send it to the whole dynasty. From the observations of experts, it was discovered that Qin’s new handwriting was a successful reformation. Compared to that of the other six states, his new handwriting was orderly in shape and also easy to write. It was a great achievement in the history of handwriting development.


Finally, Emperor Qin gave an order that the width of carriage axles should be precisely six feet. In the 220 BC, the road that surrounds Xian yang was constructed. Eight years later, in a bid to defend against intrusion from the Hun, the road from Xian yang to Jiu yuan county (now called Neimeng) was constructed. It covered a distance of over 700 kilometres. These roads helped to link-up the areas far away from Xian yang and also played an important role on stabilizing the regime.


Asides the above unification measures which he implemented, Emperor Qin also standardized the nation’s legal system, following king Qin’s original law. In order to prevent trespassing, he had the defensive walls of the states rebuilt. After working hard for ten years, The Great wall, which covered a distance of almost 10,000 miles was finally linked from Liao Dong (Today’s Liaoyang, in liao Ning province) to Lin Yao (today’s Min county, in Gansu province). From that time, The Great wall which is a great wonder, lies in the north of China. It is a monument full of creativity and ingenuity.

As a great feudal monarch, Emperor Qin displayed a certain kind of courage and wisdom and was popularly called “the only Emperor in thousands of years”.  However, he was also a proud dictator. In fact, it was just his dictatorial dominance that brought about the quick death of the Qin Dynasty. As his imperial power grew, Emperor Qin became more covetous. Historical records and archaeological discovery reveals that the law in Qin dynasty became very vicious. For instance, there were several kinds of execution for defaulters, and this was a depiction of the suffering in the Empire. Emperor Qin frequently examined the reports from all parts of the country, in order to be enlightened on the problems everywhere in his domain. He also ensured the reports were weighed (writings were engraved on bamboo or wood back then) and would not sleep until he had read a certain weight of reports. This only shows that the law which was supposedly created to protect the whole country was just a tool that met Emperor Qin’s personal needs.

During that time, Confucian scholars were killed, and so many scholars were persecuted. This destroyed Chinese the culture, and had a negative influence on Emperor Qin’s achievements.

In 213 BC, so many ancient records and Confucian writings were destroyed. One day, Chun Yu yue, a scholar of King Zhao, became dissatisfied with the greediness of some minsters and suggested that asides the system of county, the feudal system should be taken in Qin dynasty as well. Remember, Emperor Qin dissolved the feudal system immediately he started his reformation. Chun Yu yue’s statement was a bit out of place but he was friendly. A certain minister named Li si accused the scholars of attacking the Emperor and the system, pointing out that such statements could eventually endanger imperial power. He blamed it on the books and records that scholars read and suggested that ancient records and Confucian writings be destroyed.

From a logical point of view, it is obvious that Li si’s statement was ridiculous, however it perfectly suited the needs of Emperor Qin who wanted to unite the whole nation by all means. It then became a reality. Following Li si’s suggestion, all the historical records – except Qin jin, a curatorial book – were burnt. Also, freedom of speech was taken away. The Emperor gave only 30 days for all books to be incinerated. Failure to do that resulted in punishment. With these kind of laws effected, convention Chinese culture suffered a great blow.

The next year, Emperor Qin gave another brutal order which ensured that Confucian scholars were burnt alive. It is believed that Confucian scholars were burnt alive twice – one happened in Xian yang where almost 460 scholars were burnt and another happened n Lintong where about 700 scholars were burnt. Today, we can still see the “Vale of Confucian scholars” and this certainly brings us great sorrow.

The main reason why Emperor Qin buried books and burned Confucian scholars alive was to stabilize feudal regime, however, everything went contrary to his wishes. Like we all know, the people who conquered the Qin dynasty – Liu bang and Xiang yu – were not Confusion scholars at all. Emperor Qin was a very wicked dictator, so wicked that he even punished those who opposed any of his proposals. In 210 BC, during his fifth tour of inspection, Emperor Qin died.

Actually, Emperor Qin’s death brought an extremely arrogant dynasty to an end. Truly, it was his cruelty that gave rise to different kinds of social disharmony in the former years. After Qin’s death Hu hai became the next Emperor. He was not an astute politician and could even make decisions. Hu hai lived in luxury and and was more wasteful than his father. In 209 BC, two peasants – Chen Sheng and Wu Guang – started a revolution in Da ze village (today’s county su, In An hui province) and it spread throughout the whole country. In 206 BC, some insurgents reached Xian yang and seized hold of Zi ying. The Qin dynasty which was once so lively and insurmountable, became the ephemeral feudal dynasty which lasted only 15 years. In spite of its short duration, it was a great influence and paved the way for the success of future dynasties.


























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