Shi Huangdi

first Chinese emperor
Born: 260 B.C.
Birthplace: ?

Shi Huangdi (also written Huang-ti) means “first emperor.” Only 13 years old when warlords placed him on the throne of a warring Chinese state, Shi Huangdi proceeded to defeat other Chinese principalities. By 221 B.C. the Shi Huangdi had conquered much of present-day China, forming a unified empire, which took its name from his family, Qin (pronounced like chin). A brutal ruler, he disarmed warring nobles, created a centralized, bureaucratic state with uniform weights, measures, and laws. He standardized Chinese writing and built much of the Great Wall of China by connecting walls built by earlier rulers. He also encouraged commerce through construction of a massive network of roads and bridges. Shi Huangdi was buried in a vast mausoleum guarded by 6,000 life-size terracotta guards in Xian, which was uncovered in 1974.

Died: 210 B.C.

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