Andy Huynh
"The reason why China suffers bitterly from endless wars is because of the existence of feudal lords and kings."
-Qin Shi Huang
Born in the midst of war between 7 states of Ancient China, Ying Zheng (later named Qin Shi Huangdi) became the predecessor of King Zhuangxiang at the young age of 13. His childhood was not the most favored and lived a very horrible life. Qin Shi Huang had to avoid many assassinations and obstacles to become the great first emperor everyone remembers him as. During his reign, Qin Shi Huang built many important and iconic structure, created new systems, and most importantly united China. He influenced China incredibly, but with an iron fist, and he definitely did not take negative behavior lightly. Qin Shi Huang ironically died to mercury poisoning because he thought mercury was the key to immortality. Even still, he changed China and influenced it for milleniums to come.

Personal Background

Ying Zheng was destined to be king, but it happened much to soon. Ying Zheng was born in the city of Handan in 259 BC (Yeun). His actual birth date is a mystery just like the majority of his life. His mother was Lady Zhao and his real biological father was Lü Buwei not King Zhuangxiang. Lady Zhao was given as a gift to King Zhuangxiang by Lü Buwei, but by then she had already conceived Ying Zheng. It was after a year that Ying Zheng was finally born as King Zhuangxiang's eldest son. Ying Zheng lived an absolutely horrible childhood. His new father Prince Yiren (later named King Zhuangxiang) was "an unattended orphan" (Yeun). He was a hostage for "the State of Zhao...hence Ying Zheng's childhood" (Yeun). It was because of Lü Buwei that Prince Yiren was able to become king. In Turn, Lü Buwei became prime minister. Apparently money can do a lot of things. King Zhuangxiang died after only 3 years of being king and so Ying Zheng succeeded the throne as the king of Qin at the young age of 13. He proudly named himself Qin Shi Huang after defeating the other six warring states of China. Qin Shi Huang literally translates to the First Emperor of Qin (Yeun).

Qin Shi Huang had to deal with many problems until he was 21 years of age. As he grew older Lü Buwei feared Qin Shi Huang would find out that he was his biological father and so he tried desperately to find a replacement for the queen. He found a man named Lào Ǎi and makes him a personal guard for Queen Zhao. They both got along quite well and they secretly had 2 children together (Szczepanski). Lào Ǎi idiotically brags about him being Qin Shi Huang's step father during a party. This instantly angered the young king and he ordered for his capture and beheading. Lü Buwei eventually committed suicide by drinking poison and Qin Shi Huang took full power until September of 210 BC (Szczepanski). His mother is put under house arrest until she dies.

Qin Shi Huang had many wives and in doing so he had many children. He had 50 children, but many were undocumented. He had 30 sons and 15 daughters, mostly having their names unknown. Qin Shi Huang reigned for 15 years until he eventually died on September 10, 210 BC due to mercury poisoning.

Personality Traits

Qin Shi Huang was not the most liked emperor of China. Qin Shi Huang was of average height, but looked quite chubby. He had a very recognizable beard that is quite often used as a stereotype for old Asian people. Qin Shi Huang was ruthless and a tyrant while controlling China with an iron fist (Yeun). He was cruel towards all who opposed his teachings and his rules (Wu). Even if he was cruel and somewhat unjust, he was also very intelligent (Szczepanski). Calling him intelligent is probably an insult to him since he has created and established so many systems and items that we still use today. He was intimidating and most likely scared people just by looking at them directly in the eye. He was also revolutionary and saved China by creating one whole nation from seven warring states (Buchert). Qin Shi Huang was also afraid of death. He tried desperately to find the cure for immortality. He was paranoid majority of the time because of the many attempted failed assassinations directed towards him (Wu). He never really gave much sympathy towards others which probably is the reason why he is hated so much.


Qin Shi Huang was one of the greatest emperors of China, but that does not mean he was free from enemies and obstacles. His struggles begin at a young age when King Zhuangxiang was held hostage of the state of Zhao (Leino). He had experienced the horrors of war which had scarred him for life. This eventually caused his decision to end war between the seven warring states (Leino). During his reign, Qin Shi Huang was threatened by two assassinations. The first was sent by the Yan state, but the king easily fought them off. The second assassination was a musician. He disguised himself as one to get closer to the king. The attempt failed when he shot a dart aimed at the king but missed like a fool (Szczespanski). Qin Shi Huang was never fond of Confucius and his great teachings (Yeun). He preferred a totalitarian society and was an absolute dictator. Thus, he killed 460 Confucianists who opposed him and burned all the books related to Confucius (Leino). In the middle of his reign, Qin Shi Huang had to deal with the nomadic tribes of the north. He dealt with this problem by building the famous Great Wall of China. It was meant to block off the tribe from invasion, but it left many holes and it did not even make the whole length of the border (Leino). Qin Shi Huang was determined to find immortality. He feared death quite a lot and tried very hard to cure it. His advisors and scholars recommended mercury as a cure for immortality. This will eventually lead to his death by mercury poisoning (Yeun).

Historical Significance

Qin Shi Huang is famously known and remembered for the creation of the Great Wall of China, but that was simply one of his innumerable achievements.


Qin Shi Huang created the first weights and measures
in China and established coinage currency that would benefit the economy of China for centuries (Yeun). He reformed the agricultural system and standardized the length of the axles of carts for better usage on the fields (Leino; Yeun). He standardized the Chinese characters in writing and made it a part of Chinese culture (Wu). Qin Shi Huang replaced the herditary vassal system with prefectures and counties that would ruled by him directly (Leino). He had a harsh and oppressive criminal law that made it so a person charged for a felony would be severely punished (Theobald). He made convenient roads and canals for rural villages as well as creating a system of military roads (Theobald; Wu). He also combined the two great rivers of China, the Yangtze and Pearl river (Szczepanski).

Qin Shi Huang was also notoriously know for killing his people without mercy. The building of the Great Wall of China was not a simple task and involved excrutiating pain and suffering. He literally killed off half the population of China during his reign (Wu). Qin Shi Huang despised Confucius' teachings and burned all books related to him in an effort to rid the teachings from the empire. He buried 400 Confucianist scholars alive as punishment for following the teachings. (Theobald).

By uniting China, Qin Shi Huang was able to establish a central government that would better the country (Leino). Qin Shi Huang became the founder of the People's Republic of China that is still in use today (Buchert). In order to continue his legacy, he forced his people to construct the Qin mausoleum with the money famous terracotta soldiers. Mercury would flow through the tomb as Qin Shi Huang would be laid to rest (Wu).

Qin Shi Huang is considered the most influential emperor of China because his achievements are still used today in China, 2,000 years later. Qin Shi Huang famously said that he had "[longed] to become a True Man. From now on [he would be referred] True Man and will not call [himself] Zhen." Qin Shi Huang may not be the most liked emperor of China, but one cannot simply stray from the fact that his accomplishments forever changed the history of China.


Works Cited

Buchart, Thingo. "The Chairman and the Emperor: Historiography of Qin Shi Huang in the late Cultural Revolution Period: 1971-1976." Academia. 1 March 2008. Web. 6 Nov 2014.
Leino, Juha. "Qin Shihuang - The Man Who United China." gbtimes. 5 May 2012. Web. 11 December 2014.
Szczepanski, Kallie. "Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor of China." About. Web. 15 September 2014.
Theobald, Ulrich. "Persons in Chinese History - Qin Shihuang." Chinaknowledge. 8 March 2011. Web. 2 October 2014.
Wu, Annie. "Qin Shihuang." Chinahighlights. 21 August 2014. Web. 16 October 2014.
Yeun, Anna. "Qin Shi Huang." China-travel-golden-route. Web. 20 November 2014.