Emperor of China
Like Alexander the Great and
Julius Caesar, Shi Huangdi con-
quered vast areas and unified
diverse peoples under one rule.
After becoming the first emperor
of what is now China, he attempt-
ed to suppress the traditional
Confucian way of governing by
imposing a harsh legal system.
n 1974, near the city of Xian,
Chinese archeologists unearthed
almost 8,000 full-sized clay statues
of warriors, horses, and chariots.
facial features along with a distinct
hairstyle and armor showing his
found the clay army buried on the
approach to the still-unopened tomb
Huangdi, who died more than 2,000
years ago. Before his death, the
emperor had ordered 700,000 workers to labor on his
tomb. His ability to command many people to
work on such projects flowed from his suc-
cess as a military mastermind. But he also
established a severe legal code that conflicted
with traditional Chinese ideals.
The Unification of China
For more than 250 years before the first
emperor, war raged throughout China.
Starting in 481 B.C., the seven major king-
doms making up what is now most of China
constantly fought one another. This is
known in Chinese history as the Period of
Warring States. Gradually, the Kingdom of
Qin, in the north, took advantage of its
superior cavalry to form a fearsome war
machine. Led by a series of gifted lead-
ers, Qin won 15 major wars
from 374-234 B.C.
Near the end of this violent
time, an ambitious rich mer-
chant, Lu Buwei, sought the
favor of Zizhu, the crown
prince of Qin. In 259 B.C.,
Lu Buwei presented one of
his mistresses to the prince.
Later, this woman gave birth
to a child, named Cheng,
become the first emperor of
China. Tradition has it that
the merchant Lu Buwei, not
Crown Prince Zizhu, actual-
ly fathered the child. In any
case, when Cheng was 10-
years-old, Zizhu became
king of Qin and made Lu
Buwei his chief adviser.
Zizhu died after only three
years on the throne. Cheng
succeeded him. But since
Cheng was only 13 years
old, his mother and Lu
Buwei governed in his name
until he reached adulthood.
When Cheng turned 21 in 238 B.C., he assumed full
powers as king. But his mother and her lover con-
spired (possibly with Lu Buwei) to overthrow his
rule. King Cheng acted quickly to crush the conspira-
cy. He temporarily banished his mother from the Qin
capital, decapitated her lover, and removed Lu Buwei
from his high office.
He also ordered all foreigners
expelled from Qin. But a brilliant
government official, Li Si, persuad-
ed him to cancel the order. Li Si,
himself a foreigner, convinced
Cheng that many valuable people
would end up serving the enemies
of Qin if forced to leave. Li Si so
impressed Cheng that the king pro-
moted him to minister of justice in
place of Lu Buwei.
Hundreds of full-size statues, like this terra-cotta