1. Qin Shi Huang – The First Emperor

Qin Shi Huang Di NEW SKIN

Qin Shi Huang Reign card

Long ago what we know as ‘China’ today was split into several smaller rival states; all fighting, killing and conquering each other on a regular basis. ‘Kings’ were ten-a-penny, with numerous families of prominence claiming the title over their own patches of land.

However, in 221 BCE this was all thrown out the window when one family, the Qin, after a particularly long stretch of conquering suddenly realised they had defeated enough of their enemies to control the whole flipping landmass. With the title of ‘King’ thoroughly devalued, the patriarch of the Qin family instead dubbed himself the much grander sounding title of ‘Qin Shi Huang (di)’, or in English “The First Emperor of Qin”.

Much of what makes up China today was created by Qin Shi Huang, but with each achievement there was always a catch.

invented chinese
Qin Shi Huang helped create the written Chinese language as we know it today, designing the character system that 1.3 billion people in the world still communicate with.
So what’s the catch?
With such a great new language, who needs the old one? Qin Shi Huang burned every book, scroll or letter that wasn’t written in his new script, destroying centuries or perhaps even thousands of years of history that pre-dated him. Such a move could be bad PR, so Qin Shi Huang made sure to have anyone executed that was caught talking about these lost works.

the great wall
It’s China’s best known landmark and a huge feat of ancient engineering, you’ve got to give old man Qin credit for that.
So what’s the catch?
His wall isn’t the one we all know today, Qin’s wall wasn’t nearly as long and fell down a long time ago. It would be more appropriate to call it ‘The Average Wall of China’ in comparison to it’s modern day counterpart.

terracotta army
His last great achievement was his tomb, which contains the now famous Terracotta Army. More than 8,000 full scale warriors statues fill the tomb, all hand-painted and each with unique faces and uniforms, too. What a guy!
So what’s the catch?
To keep the tomb’s many treasures a secret, Qin ordered that all the builders and workers be trapped inside the tomb along with his corpse. The methods were extreme, but certainly worked. Qin’s tomb remained a total mystery for over 2,000 years until it was finally re-discovered in 1974.
orange breaker
With such a chequered history it’s no surprise that the emperor was plagued by assassination attempts. As a result of this constant threat, Qin Shi Huang became obsessed with finding an elixir of life… and much to his delight he found just that!

His top team of alchemists and court physicians rose to the challenge and acquired a magical and mysterious potion to keep the one true emperor of China alive forever.
Alright, what’s the catch?
Unsurprisingly the elixir wasn’t what it seemed and the shiny silver substance was actually mostly (or entirely) liquid mercury. Qin Shi Huang died almost immediately.
orange breaker

So that’s the ‘First Emperor’ out for the count, with a second on the horizon the Qin dynasty can only go up from here… right?

Find out, as the Qin Dynasty continues with Shi Huang Di’s son, Emperor Qin Er Shi

qin shi huang naming

Chinese names work differently to English names, and the names of the emperors are no exception. While in English a name is structured as (Given name)(Surname), for example ‘John Smith’; In Chinese the subject’s surname comes first, giving us ‘Smith John’.

By this logic, for Qin Shi Huang , the character ‘秦’ (Qin) is the family name. This character will remain at the beginning of the name as long as the dynasty continues, and will usually be dropped when referring to each emperor once the context is no longer needed.

His given name is made up of the Chinese characters for ‘First’ (始) and ‘Emperor’ (皇); giving him the title ‘First Emperor of Qin’. It’s a simple and sensible system, so prepare for it to be thrown out the window extremely soon.

Posted in Qin