Today on February 18th 259 BCE, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China, is born.
Qin Shi Huang, also known as Shi Huangdi, found the Qin Dynasty after he became the first Emperor of China. His birth name was Ying Zheng and later changed to Qin Shi Huang, which literally translates to ‘first emperor’. He was crowned King of the Qin state at thirteen years old. The young King’s regent and first prime minister, Lu Buwei, was suspected of being his actual father. Qin Shi Huang increasingly grew paranoid after multiple assassination attempts and was known for conducting random executions or banishing people from his court.
There were seven warring states vying for total control over China at this time in history. The period was marked by political instability and constant warfare. Books such as Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ were written during this time. The King focused on improving his military capabilities until he had the strongest army in China. The Han Kingdom was the first state to fall to Qin Shi Huang in 230 BCE. Nine years later, his armies had conquered the last independent Kingdom of Qi. Qin Shi Huang became the first man to unify northern China. With his seemingly invincible power, he managed to continue conquering as far south as Vietnam.
While the Emperor spent most of his 35 year reign on military campaign, he did initiate a number of massive public works projects, including the first portion of the Great Wall and the Ling Canal. His newly formed Chinese Empire was connected by a vast network of roads with the capital of Xianyang at its center. Qin Shi Huang reformed the Chinese bureaucracy by removing the old nobility and replacing them with appointed officials. He also became fixated on his own immortality and commissioned over 8,000 terracotta warriors to protect him in the afterlife. While Qin Shi Huang is ultimately remembered for his tyrannical rule, there’s no question he was one of China’s most important and influential leaders.