Qin Shi Huangdi
Real World Background
Qin Shi Huangdi began his career as the ruler of the kingdom of Qin in 247 B.C., ascending the throne when he was around twelve or thirteen. At that time, China was divided into a number of rival kingdoms, of which Qin was just one; Qin Shi Huangdi conquered all the other kingdoms, however, bringing them under his control by 221 B.C. He then united them into a single empire, abolishing the feudal system and replacing it with a centralized government. He also standardized almost everything in China: weights and measures, currency, the writing system, even the length of axles in carts. Partly to keep out raiders, partly to provide a symbolic border to his realm, he ordered the building of the original Great Wall of China. (The present-day Great Wall was a later rebuilding, carried out by the Ming Dynasty between 1487 and 1505. The original Great Wall, built of earth rather than stone, had crumbled away after Qin Shi Huangdi's passing.)
Qin Shi Huangdi declared himself the First Emperor (the literal meaning of his title), intending that his successors would bear similar titles (Second Emperor, Third Emperor, etc.); his plan was foiled, however, when his dynasty petered out after his death. (China was named after the Qin Dynasty that he had founded, however, ensuring that its name would endure.) To counter opposition to the changes he had made throughout his domain, he is said to have ordered the burning of nearly all the books in China, particularly philosophical classics such as the writings of Confucius that might be to organize or justify rebellion against him; some historians hold, however, that the Burning of the Books might have been invented after his reign and the rise of new dynasties in his place, to make him look worse than he was.)
Qin Shi Huangdi sought immortality, including sending out expeditions to search for a legendary island that bestowed eternal life. Despite his efforts, he died in 210 B.C., and was laid to rest in a hidden tomb near the city of Xi'an. His tomb was designed to represent China under his rule, including over eight thousand terracotta warriors to represent his army, a model of his chariot, and statues of the acrobats and dancers in his court; the terracotta warriors were rediscovered in 1974. Legend claims that it even held a great map of China with its rivers represented by quicksilver, and a depiction of the heavens and their constellations (with gemstones serving as stars) above, though this has yet to be discovered.
- Qin Shi Huangdi at Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia