Characteristics Of Qin Shi Huangdi

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The reign of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, in the third century BCE is known for its unprecedented unity of Chinese lands and for the establishment of the Chinese imperial system. While the 221 BCE unification of the Warring States into a single Chinese state may seem like the natural progression of events in hindsight, it and the subsequent unity in the Qin dynasty was not an inevitable outcome and required active effort to accomplish. Qin Shi Huangdi had to take many measures beyond conquering the last six Warring States to truly bring a sense of unity to his newly-formed empire. Claiming supreme authority and centralizing power allowed him to standardize weights, coins, and script throughout his empire, as well as to build a unifying …show more content…
Firstly, he established the Chinese imperial system after conquering the last of the Warring States in 221 BCE. In his book, The Early Chinese Empires, Mark Lewis says, “The first change carried out by the Qin was to create a new title and model for the ruler. Unification required institutions and values that could transcend regional ties, and the ultimate authority for these institutions and values would be a semi-divinized monarch who ruled as the agent of celestial powers” (Lewis 51-52). This goes back to the Zhou idea that a good ruler would have the Mandate of Heaven, meaning he was more or less endorsed by Heaven, and that a bad ruler would lose the Mandate of Heaven and have to be replaced by a better ruler. The First Emperor took care to reflect that he was a legitimate holder of the Mandate of Heaven in his choice of new title and …show more content…
According to Wood, “As he approached middle age, the First Emperor became increasingly interested in the pursuit of immortality and susceptible to charlatans. He also became increasingly secretive and suspicious” (Wood 33). In 219 BCE, the First Emperor met men called “recipe gentlemen,” who “were above all concerned with herbs and potions designed to extend life” (Wood 116). They told him of three islands where immortals lived, so he sent them on an expedition to these islands in search of herbs that would prolong his life. The expeditions were ultimately unsuccessful. However, that did not stop Qin Shi Huangdi from attempting to achieve immortality. Wood says, “It is nowhere recorded which drugs, whether plant or mineral, the First Emperor . . . ingested in his quest for immortality, although it has been suggested that he took pills made from a distinctly poisonous mixture of gold, mercury, jade, sulphur, cinnabar, orpiment, quartz and lead, ‘dissolved’ in a herbal mixture” in hopes that the incorruptible nature of these substances would be transferred to his body (Wood 119). Even centuries later during the Ming Empire, the Ming Emperor also had an interest in achieving immortality. Admiral Cheng Ho, a eunuch who gained the Emperor’s favor, led several naval expeditions in the fifteenth century with the primary purpose of collecting tribute and conducting trade; the admiral and

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