In the seventh month of 2010 BC, the first emperor’s search for immortality has ended. At the age of fifty, Qin Shi Huangdi is dead.
While China’s first emperor is being buried according to his wishes, a power struggle rages outside the tomb. By tradition, the oldest son should have become the emperor but several ministers want a younger son on the throne. The others are assassinated and there is a slaughter.
The emperor is also not going alone into the afterlife. While his chosen successors are being assassinated, hundreds of his favorite concubines will stay with their master and die with him. The tomb’s designers and builders will be sealed in the tomb too. Everyone who knows the way dies.
Qin Shi Huangdi left a legacy–a unified nation with a single written language and a system of administration that is still used today.
Chinese alchemists knew liquid mercury as the only substance that could dissolve gold. To the ancient mind, that meant mercury had power that might prolong life. However, the human body cannot absorb pure mercury so the Chinese alchemists made a compound the emperor could digest.
As the mercury is absorbed, it slowly destroyed his nervous system and brain. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi becomes aggressive, argumentative and paranoid. He goes into hiding. Anyone revealing his location is killed. His kidneys’ are failing and he starts talking to the gods.
Thirty-five years after becoming the king of Qin at thirteen, he goes on another Imperial tour. But this time, he does not see the nation that is bankrupt and near famine. All the emperor can think about is living forever.
He’s told that giant fish guards the island of the immortals. The emperor dreams that he is a sea god who will kill the giant fish. Near the end of 210 BC, he visits the ocean hunting the giant fish with a crossbow while wading in the surf.
His advisors plan what to do with China once the emperor dies. On the return to the capital, the emperor falls ill and the Imperial convoy stops.
The totalitarian philosophy in the new Chinese empire was called legalism. There are rules that govern every part of every citizen’s daily life with the punishment spelled out. Physical punishment could mean mutilation. For example, if two are caught having sex, they will be beheaded. Every aspect of private life is part of Qin law.
In 220 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi goes on an inspection tour of his empire. With the major wars over, millions of troops are put to work finishing the Great Wall of China to stop the nomadic tribes to the north from raiding into China, which they have done for centuries.
The Great Wall of China is the greatest engineering project of the ancient world. It is thirty feet high and more than three thousand miles long. At one point, over a million people are working on the wall and about a quarter of them will die.
The emperor makes more demands. He sends hundreds of thousands to build a tomb that fits his rank as the first divine emperor of China. The burial mound, larger than the largest pyramid in China, is at the center of an above ground and underground city. His tomb is made of bronze surrounded by mercury rivers and oceans.
Recently, using ground penetrating radar and other instruments, a three dimensional model is built of the underground complex.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author ofMy Splendid Concubine[3rd edition].When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
Subscribe to “iLook China”! Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.
By 223 BC, Shi Huangdi is ready to unify China. Only the states of Chi and Chu are left, but the Chu army destroys his first invasion force.
Shi Huangdi raises another army and invades again. A million troops face each other. It is a standoff. To win, Shi Huangdi tricks the Chu generals to make a mistake, and the last great obstacle to the unification of China falls.
The last country, Chi, joins without a fight. Qin becomes China. At the age of 34, Qin Shi Huangdi is crowned with a veil of stars. He is the first god emperor of the Qin people.
The system of governance put into place will long outlast the emperor.
Qin Shi Huangdi commissions a Terra Cotta army that will guard him in death, and the troops are larger than life. In one pit, more than two hundred sets of armor made of stone have been found with no bodies to wear them. It is believed that the armor may have been made for the spirits of dead soldiers who suffered violent deaths in combat so the dead would not become vengeful spirits.