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  • The First Emperor of China: September 13, 2007 - September 26, 2007
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Author Topic: The First Emperor of China  (Read 422 times)
Description: Qin Shi Huang, king of the Chinese State of Qin 247 - 221 BCE
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« on: December 20, 2006, 12:04:15 AM »

British Museum
13 September 2007 ? 7 April 2008     

The First Emperor of China
Admission charge, sponsored by Morgan Stanley

This major loan exhibition will present a reassessment of one of the best known discoveries in world archaeology, the Terracotta Army of the First Emperor of China. Some of these famous figures have travelled abroad since the surprise discovery of the site in 1974, but no loan exhibition has ever assembled so many important objects, including newly discovered pieces which have never left China before.

The exhibition will provide an insight into China's First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, and his legacy. He rejected Confucianism, burning its books and was thought to have  put 460 scholars to death, possibly by burying them alive.  But he also presided over the unification of the coinage system, the standardisation of weights and measures and script. In introducing the idea of a unified state and effectively creating China in 221 BC, the First Emperor of Qin created what is today the oldest surviving political entity in the world. How that state has survived, developed and is viewed today will be explored through events, lectures and debates around the exhibition.
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2007, 08:23:58 AM »

Pollen Reveals Terracotta Army Origins

Jennifer Viegas - Jan. 29, 2007

China?s Terracotta Army has mystified scholars since the 8,099 clay warriors and horses were first discovered in Emperor Qin Shihuang?s mausoleum in 1974. The figures, meant to protect the emperor in the afterlife, were buried with him around 210-209 B.C.

At least one mystery about the imposing faux army recently was solved. It is now known that the horses and warriors were constructed in different locations, based on analysis of pollen found in fragments of terracotta that were collected from the clay figures.

The findings have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

"When the plants were flowering in the time of the Qin Dynasty 2000 years ago, the pollen flew in the air and fell in the clay, even if the pollen could not be seen with the naked eye," lead author Ya-Qin Hu told Discovery News.

Hu, a scientist in the Institute of Botany at Beijing?s Chinese Academy of Sciences, and colleagues crushed the collected terracotta fragments, washed them and performed gravity separation. The resulting organic residue was mounted in glycerol and observed under a powerful microscope.

Using these methods, the researchers identified and recovered 32 different types of pollen. The pollen found in the terracotta warrior sample was mostly from herbaceous plants, such as members of the mustard and cabbage family, the genus of plants that includes sagebrush and wormwood, and the family of flowering plants that includes quinoa, spinach, beets and chard.

The pollen detected in the terracotta horse sample, however, mostly came from trees, such as pine, kamala and ginkgo.

Hu explained that pollen in clay often is destroyed after objects are fired. Some granules survived in the terracotta, however, because the figures appear to have been fired at inconsistent temperatures with parts of the objects ?especially thicker portions ? not undergoing complete firing.

Based on the pollen differences, the researchers conclude that the horses were produced near the mausoleum, while the warriors were made at an as-of-yet unknown site away from the region.

The horses are large (over 6 feet long) and heavy (nearly 441 pounds) compared to the warriors, which weigh around 330 pounds. The horses also are more delicate, given their relatively fragile legs. The scientists therefore theorize that whomever planned the Terracotta Army?s construction determined it would be easier to have the horses built closer to the destination site to minimize transport.

Michael Nylan is a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in early Chinese history.

Nylan told Discovery News that because scientific access to the terracotta figures is difficult, it would be hard at present to verify the findings.

Pollen analysis in recent years, however, has led to some remarkable discoveries, including solving murder cases and determining the origins of other artwork.

Hu said, "We believe this work may open a new window for archaeologists to consider the possibility of finding pollen in ancient terracotta or pottery, as the pollen may tell us some stories that we want to know, but that are still unknown."


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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2007, 11:32:36 AM »

Nylan told Discovery News that because scientific access to the terracotta figures is difficult, it would be hard at present to verify the findings.

That's interesting. Why would anyone want to re-sample the figures? If anyone doubted the evidence, would not a direct examination of it be sufficient?

« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2007, 05:44:03 PM »

The tomb of China's first emperor, guarded for more than 2,000 years by 8,000 terracotta warriors and horses, has yielded up another archaeological secret.

After five years of research, archaeologists have confirmed that a 30-meter-high building is buried in the vast mausoleum of Emperor Qinshihuang near the former capital, Xian, in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.

Duan Qingbo, a researcher with Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology, said the building might have been constructed for the soul of the emperor to depart.

Archaeologists have been using remote sensing technology since 2002 to study the internal structure of the unexcavated mausoleum.

They concluded that the building, buried above the main tomb, had four surrounding stair-like walls with nine steps each, Xinhua said.

Historical records describing the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of China's Qin dynasty, do not mention the room which is 30 metres (98 feet) deep.
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« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2007, 10:55:14 PM »

Qin Shi Huang

The monarch known now as Qin Shi Huang (Chinese: 秦始皇; Pinyin: Q�n Shǐ Hu�ng; Wade-Giles: Ch'in Shih-huang) (November / December 260 BCE � 10 September 210 BCE), personal name Y�ng Zh�ng, was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 247 BCE to 221 BCE (officially still under the Zhou Dynasty), and then the first emperor of a unified China from 221 BCE to 210 BCE, ruling under the name the First Emperor (Chinese: 始皇帝; Pinyin: Shǐ Hu�ng D�; Wade-Giles: Shih Huang-Tih). As ruler, he was known for the introduction of Legalism and also for unifying China.

Qin Shi Huang remains a controversial figure in Chinese history. Having unified China, he and his chief adviser Li Si passed a series of major reforms aimed at cementing unification, and they undertook some gigantic projects, most notably the precursor version of the current Great Wall of China, a city-sized mausoleum guarded by a life-sized Terracotta army, and a massive national road system, at the expense of numerous human lives. To ensure stability, he outlawed Confucianism and buried many of its scholars alive, banning and burning all books other than those officially decreed.

For all the tyranny of his autocratic rule, Qin Shi Huang is still regarded by many today as a pivotal figure in Chinese history whose unification of China has endured for more than two millennia (with interruptions).

Youth and King of Qin: the conqueror
At the time of the young Zheng's birth, China was divided into warring feudal states. This period of Chinese history is referred to as the Warring States Period. The competition was extremely fierce and by 260 BC there were only a handful of states left (the others having been conquered and annexed), including Zheng's state, Qin, which was the most powerful. It was governed by a Legalist government and focused earnestly on military matters. Legalism taught that laws were obeyed out of fear not respect.

Zheng was born in Handan, the capital of the enemy State of Zhao, so he had the name Zhao Zheng. He was the son of Zichu (子楚), a prince of the royal house of Qin who served as a hostage in the State of Zhao under an agreement between the states of Qin and Zhao. Zichu later returned to Qin after many adventures and with the help of a rich merchant called L� Buwei, and he managed to ascend the throne of Qin, L� Buwei becoming chancellor (prime minister) of Qin. Zichu is known posthumously as King Zhuangxiang of Qin. According to a widespread story, Zheng was not the actual son of Zichu, but the son of the powerful chancellor L� Buwei. This tale arose because Zheng's mother had originally been a concubine of L� Buwei before he gave her to his good friend Zichu shortly before Zheng's birth. However, the story is dubious since the Confucians would have found it much easier to denounce a ruler whose birth was illegitimate.

Zheng ascended the throne in 247 BCE at the age of 13, and was king under a regent until 238 BC when, at the age of 21 and a half, he staged a palace coup and assumed full power. Contrary to the accepted rules of war of the time, he ordered the execution of prisoners of war. He continued the tradition of tenaciously attacking and defeating the feudal states (dodging a celebrated assassination attempt by Jing Ke while doing so) and finally took control of the whole of China in 221 BCE by defeating the last independent Chinese state, the State of Qi.

Then in that same year, at the age of 38, the king of Qin proclaimed himself First Emperor.

First Emperor: the unifier
To avoid a recurrence of the political chaos of the Warring States Period, Qin Shi Huang and his prime minister Li Si completely abolished feudalism. They instead divided the empire into thirty-six commanderies. Power in the commanderies was in the hands of governors dismissed at will by the central government. Civilian and military powers were also separated to avoid too much power falling in the hands of a single civil servant. Thus, each commandery was run by a civilian governor (守 shōu) assisted by a military governor (尉 w�i). The civilian governor was superior to the military governor, a constant in Chinese history. The civilian governor was also reassigned to a different commandery every few years to prevent him from building up a base of power. An inspector (监 ji�n) was also in post in each commandery, in charge of informing the central government about the local implementation of central policies, reporting on the governors' exercise of power, and possibly resolving conflicts between the two governors.

This administrative system was only an extension to the whole empire of the system already in place in the State of Qin before the Chinese unification. In the State of Qin, feudalism had been abolished in the 4th century BC, and the realm had been divided into commanderies, with centrally appointed governors.

Qin Shi Huang commanded all the members of the former royal houses of the conquered states to move to Xianyang, the capital of Qin, in modern day Shaanxi province, so they could be kept under tight surveillance for rebellious activities. Qin Shi Huang also ordered most previously existing books burned, excepting some medical and agricultural texts held in the palace archives.

Qin Shi Huang and Li Si unified China economically by standardizing the Chinese units of measurements such as weights and measures, the currency, the length of the axles of carts (so every cart could run smoothly in the ruts of the new roads), the legal system, and so on. The emperor also developed an extensive network of roads and canals connecting the provinces to improve trade between them and to accelerate military marches to revolting provinces.

Perhaps most importantly, the Chinese script was unified. Under Li Si, the seal script of the state of Qin, which had already evolved organically during the Eastern Zhou out of the Zhou dynasty script, was standardized through removal of variant forms within the Qin script itself. This newly standardized script was then made official throughout all the conquered regions, thus doing away with all the regional scripts and becoming the official script for all of China. Contrary to popular belief, Li Si did not invent the script, nor was it completely new at the time. Edicts written in the new script were carved on the walls of sacred mountains around China, such as the famous carved edicts of Mount Taishan, to let Heaven know of the unification of Earth under an emperor, and also to propagate the new script among people. However, the script was difficult to write, and an informal Qin script remained in use which was already evolving into an early form of clerical script.

Shi Huang made the color black the official court color. Among the five primary elements, the color for water is black. He often claimed that to Qin belongs the virtue of water. This might be due to his "taming of the Yellow River", a process of building numerous massive dams and tributaries to the Yellow River. Such an enormous undertaking certainly would not have been possible without a unified China.

No one can tell precisely when the building of the Great Wall was started but it is popularly believed that it originated as a military fortification against intrusion by tribes on the borders during the earlier Zhou Dynasty. Late in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC), the ducal states extended the defence work and built "great" structures to prevent the attacks from other states. It was not until the Qin Dynasty that the separate walls, constructed by the states of Qin, Yan and Zhao kingdoms, were connected to form a defensive system on the northern border of the country by Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Qin Shi Huang continued military expansion during his reign, annexing regions to the south (what is now Guangdong province was penetrated by Chinese armies for the first time) and fighting nomadic tribes to the north and northwest. These tribes (the Xiongnu) were subdued, but the campaign was essentially inconclusive, and to prevent the Xiongnu from encroaching on the northern frontier any longer, the emperor ordered the construction of an immense defensive wall, linking several walls already existing since the time of the Warring States.

This wall, for whose construction hundreds of thousands of men were mobilized, and an unknown number died, is a precursor of the current Great Wall of China. It was built much further north than the current Great Wall, which was built during the Ming Dynasty, when China had at least twice as many inhabitants as in the days of the First Emperor, and when more than a century was devoted to building the wall (as opposed to a mere ten years during the rule of the First Emperor). Very little survives today of the great wall built by the First Emperor.

Part of the Terracotta Army

Death and Afterlife
Later in his life, Qin Shi Huang feared death and desperately sought the fabled elixir of life, visiting Zhifu Island several times to this end. He even sent a Zhifu islander Xu Fu with ships carrying hundreds of young men and women in search of the Penglai Mountain, where the immortals lived. These people never returned, as they knew that if they returned without the promised elixir, they would surely be executed. Legends claim that they settled down in one of the Japanese islands, a view that many Chinese and Japanese people are familiar with today.

The emperor often took tours to major cities in his empire to inspect the efficiency of the bureaucracy and to symbolize the presence of Qin's prestige. Nevertheless, these trips provided opportunities for assassins, the most famous of whom was Zhang Liang. After his assassination had been attempted too often for comfort, he grew paranoid of remaining in one place too long and would hire servants to bear him to different buildings in his palace complex to sleep in each night. He also hired several "doubles" to make it less clear which figure was the emperor.

The emperor died while on one of his tours to Eastern China, on 10 September 210 BCE (Julian Calendar) at the palace in Shaqiu prefecture, about two months away by road from the capital Xianyang. Reportedly, he died of swallowing mercury pills, made by his court scientists and doctors, which contained too much of the liquid metal. The theory, devised by alchemists, was that if mercury could even absorb gold, then if eaten, it would give that person its own powers, making him immortal. Mercury compounds were mixed with some food so as to make it edible. Ironically, these pills were meant to make Qin Shi Huang immortal.

Prime Minister Li Si, who accompanied him, was extremely worried that the news of his death could trigger a general uprising in the empire, given the brutal policies of the government, and the resentment of the population forced to work on Herculean projects such as the great wall in the north of China or the mausoleum of the emperor.

It would take two months for the government to reach the capital, and it would not be possible to stop the uprising. Li Si decided to hide the death of the emperor, and return to Xianyang.

Most of the imperial entourage accompanying the emperor was left uninformed of the emperor's death, and each day Li Si entered the wagon where the emperor was supposed to be travelling, pretending to discuss affairs of state.

The secretive nature of the emperor while alive allowed this stratagem to work, and it did not raise doubts among courtiers. Li Si also ordered that two carts containing fish be carried immediately before and after the wagon of the emperor. The idea behind this was to prevent people from noticing the foul smell emanating from the wagon of the emperor, where his body was starting to decompose severely.

Eventually, after about two months, Li Si and the imperial court were back in Xianyang, where the news of the death of the emperor was announced.

Qin Shi Huang did not like to talk about death and he never really wrote a will. After his death, Li Si and the chief eunuch Zhao Gao persuaded his eighteenth son Huhai to forge the Emperor's will.

They forced his first son Fusu to commit suicide, stripped the command of troops from Meng Tian, a loyal supporter of Fusu, and killed his family. Huhai became the Second Emperor (Er Shi Huangdi), known by historians as Qin Er Shi.

Qin Er Shi was not nearly as capable as his father. Revolts against him quickly erupted. His reign was a time of extreme civil unrest, and everything the First Emperor had worked for crumbled away, within a short period. The imperial palace and state archives were burned: this has been disastrous for later historians, because after the burning of the books by his father, almost the only written records left were those in the palace archives.

Within four years of Qin Shi Huang's death, his son was dead and soon the Qin Dynasty crumbled to civil strife. The next Chinese dynasty, the Han Dynasty, rejected legalism (in favor of Confucianism) and moderated the laws, but kept Qin Shi Huang's basic political and economic reforms intact. In this way his work was carried on through the centuries and became a lasting feature of Chinese society.

« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2007, 10:34:20 AM »

Unique pyramid-shaped chamber found in Chinese tomb

Chinese researchers say they have found a strange pyramid-shaped chamber while surveying the massive underground tomb of China's first emperor and theorize it was built as a passageway for his soul.

Remote sensing equipment has revealed what appears to be a 100-foot-high room above Emperor Qin Shihuang's tomb near the ancient capital of Xi'an in Shaanxi province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.

The room has not been excavated. Diagrams of the chamber are based on data gathered over five years, starting in 2002, using radar and other remote sensing technologies, the news agency said.
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