Prince Zheng was born in 259 BC, son of the king of the Qin state. China was divided into seven major states, which were continuously fighting each other. Historians call this the Warring States period.
When Zheng was thirteen his father died, so Zheng became king of Qin. For the first several years, a regent helped him to rule the land, but by the time he was 22, King Zheng took full control. He was very ambitious. He wanted to unite the Chinese states under one rule. He set out to conquer them one by one, eventually becoming the leader of all China. He declared himself emperor and changed his name to Shi Huang, which meant "first emperor."
Qin Shi Huang wanted the empire to run smoothly for thousands of years, so he established reforms in many areas.
Emperor Qin divided the country into administrative units. There were 36 "commanderies," which were further divided into districts and counties.
Emperor Qin unified China by establishing a common currency (money) and standard units of measure. With everyone using the same money and measurements, the economy ran much smoother.
There were many ways of writing in China at the time. Under Emperor Qin, everyone was required to teach and use the same standardized writing system.
Emperor Qin improved trade and travel in China by building a vast network of roads and canals throughout the country. He also began construction of the Great Wall, connecting many of the existing walls throughout the country to form one long wall to protect China from invaders from the north.
Although Emperor Qin was a skilled leader, he was also a tyrant. He outlawed most forms of religion, requiring people to be loyal and obedient only to the government. He ordered that most books be burned. He wanted history to begin with his rule and the Qin dynasty. Scholars who did not bring their books to be burned were killed.
Over 700,000 workers constructed his tomb, building a vast terracotta army of 8,000 soldiers, horses, and chariots that he thought would protect him in the afterlife.
Qin Shi Huang died while traveling in Eastern China in 210 BC. His son Huhai was on the trip with him. Huhai wanted to become emperor, so he hid his father's death and forged a letter from his father to his older brother telling him to commit suicide, paving the way for Huhai to become emperor.
When Zheng first became King of Qin, there were many assassination attempts on his life. He became obsessed with living forever and ordered his best scientists to find an elixir of immortality.
Emperor Qin thought his family would rule China for thousands of years. However, the empire collapsed only three years after his death.
Source: Emperor Qin Shi Huang
Copyright © Ducksters