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The First Emperor Essay

China, aside from being one of the largest countries in the world and the most populated, is also a rising global economic power of today. Its rise to power has been most prominent when it hosted the 2008 Olympics, opening its beauty and grandeur to the world. With China’s promising potential of being an international economic icon, it can emerge to be one in a short span of time. Before there was China, it is a civilization infested with war. It was also known as the Warring State Period. War between independent states battled for resources and power (Gernes 4).

The war erupted during the Bronze Age and went on for centuries. As the chaos continued, these independent lands were slowly conquered one by one by the Zhou Kingdom (Gernes 5). The ascendancy of Qin Shi Huangdi as the king of the Zhou clan prompted the start of a unified China. His given name was Zheng and was known as the ‘King of Qin’. He abolished feudalism to centralize his political rule. Qin abolished all detractors and worked closely together with his advisor Li Si. Reforms were made to standardize things such as language, religion, and philosophy to create a single identity for the empire (Lewis 11).

Legalism became his motto which contradicted the Confucian philosophy of “doing things for the common good” (Veeck, Pannell, Smith, and Huang 58). Legalism involves doing things for good of the state (Veeck, et al. 58). Zheng concentrated on strengthening his army to defeat opponents and at the same time to solidify his power to the territories outside the imperial court (Lewis 18). By declaring himself an emperor, he was able to create an organized structure to rule the state. The formation of the state vested him with responsibilities and power as an emperor.

Mark Lewis described him as not just a ruler: He was not merely the supreme ruler, chief judge, and high priest but the very embodiment of the political realm. The state radiated out from his person; everyone in state service was his servant and held office entirely at his behest. The state was the emperor, along with his retinue of servants, and without him there could be no state (2). Zheng divided the Chinese empire into prefectures and assigned governors to report all progress to the imperial court. Centralizing his power became easier because of the division.

Zheng established road and canal passages, making communication and transportation convenient. This particular improvement made the Qin Empire obtain more resources for the state, and his army was mobilized much faster and organized making them win for battle (Veeck, et al. 58). One of the renowned infrastructures of his time would have to be the Great Wall. This was made by the purpose of creating a separation between the kingdom and barbarians. The Great Wall served as a security boundary to be protected from outsiders and nomads that do not belong to the civilized empire (Noon and Turnbull 9).

This wall served as a strategic location for battle in favor of the Qin. It was used as a protector for the imperial soldiers against foreign raiders such as the Mongols and other nomads who tried to infiltrate into the capital of Xiangyang (Noon and Turnbull 54). His empire had only been short-lived; it lasted for only 19 years (from 221 to 206 BC) because of the uprising that was led by the peasant rebellion. The dynasty crumbled several years after Qin Shi Huangdi’s death because of the revolution.

He was buried in an underground with the famous 7,000 terracotta army guarding his tomb. This grandeur showed the kind of power he had over the nation that he had built. The movie “Hero” is one of the movies that portray the character of Qin Shi Huangdi as the unifier of China. The movie depicts the emperor’s hunger to conquer vaster lands and richer soils and accumulate more power for the state. He saw unity of ideology, religion, language, and even writing style as ways to have a single solid state. This motivation for power was the reason for other forces who tried to stop his reign.

Consolidation of the six kingdoms was attained because of the emperor’s dream of having one China. The film clearly shows an ambitious Zheng to uphold power to all six kingdoms. He believed that by unifying these lands, it will bring peace and will not allow the Warring State Period to happen for a second time. Since the emperor imposed the philosophy of Legalism, the ending scene from the film depicted his inner conflict—whether to persecute the character of Nameless or not. Though reluctant, he permitted the persecution to follow the law.

This decision was to serve as a role model for establishing a powerful state. Zheng’s goal of being emperor brought China to the golden age of its civilization. The political will that he instilled created an influential empire during his time. Zheng tried to uphold China as a powerful kingdom until death. His unification brought peace, and it paved the way for China to have an identity in this world—an identity that will soon be a major key player in the modern international community. Works Cited Gernes, Michael. “China: Unfulfilled Promise. ” Major Themes in

Economics. Spring 2001. University of Northern Iowa. 9 October 2008. <http://www. cba. uni. edu/economics/Themes/Gernes. pdf>. Lewis, Mark. E. The Early Chinese Empires. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2007. Noon, Steve and Stephen Turnbull. The Great Wall of China 221 BC-AD 1644. New York: Osprey Publishing, 2007. Veeck, Gregory, Clifton W. Pannell, Christopher J. Smith, and Youqin Huang. China’s Geography: Globalization and the Dynamics of Political, Economic, and Social Change. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. , 2007.


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