Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How Qin Shi Huang Changed the World

The next in the "world change" series at LiveScience examines the almost mythical Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who unified the nation around the same time as the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage. Seven warring states in China had been at war for aroiund 200 years before the nation unified.

"The world's most populous nation and emerging superpower was a jumble of warring states when Qin Shi Huang appeared on the scene in 246 B.C. as a powerful regional leader. Two decades later he was Emperor, bringing together the vast territory that would become China, standardizing its culture and implementing a form of government that his followers would use for another 2,000 years."

Qin Shi Huang established a centralized government, built roads and canals, standardized Chinese currency and the writing system, and abolished the old feudal order. He also was paranoid of attack from both internal and external enemies, and started the construction of China's most notable architectural feat, the Great Wall. He also built himself an enormous mausoleum, which covers four square miles, with a main chamber as large as the Great Pyramid of Egypt. According to records written just after his death, the crypt includes a huge map of his conquests with rivers of mercury running throughout it, thousands of terracotta warriors modeled on his actual warriors (8000 of which have been already found outside the tomb guarding the entrance) and a jewel encrusted "sky" of stars on the ceiling. The actual main chamber has yet to be excavated until better technical means of preserving the artifacts has been developed.

While the Qin Dynasty was overthrown shortly after his death, the nation took its name from him (Qin is pronounced "chin", hence China) and was mostly governed by the system he established for over 2000 years until the Chinese Republic was established in 1912.

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