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Qin Shi Huang Ti (秦始皇帝)

Chinese. Name of the first emperor of an imperial and unified China (fig.). Born in 259 BC, he in 246 BC became king of the powerful feudal state of Qin (Chin), at the young age of 13. In 221 BC, he unified several feudal states through annexation and warfare, and founded the Qin (Chin) Dynasty. His autocratic rule was marked by cruelty and megalomania, from the enforced integration of several feudal states to the tremendous cost in human lives in the pursue of his numerous gigantic projects, including the construction of the Great Wall of China (fig.), an extensive national road system, and a mausoleum (fig.) guarded by a life-sized army of Terracotta Warriors (fig.). In the major political reforms he undertook after unifying China, he is said to have outlawed and burned many books, and allegedly buried their authors and other intellectuals alive with them. Ironically, in a bid to gain longevity and immortality through Wai Dan (外丹), i.e. External Alchemy, he swallowed mercury pills on a regular basis, which gradually poisoned him, and on 10 September 210 BC eventually killed him, at the age of 49. Since he was on a tour of his country when he died and fearing an uprising over the power vacuum, his dead was initially kept quiet to most of the Imperial entourage accompanying the Emperor. To allow the Emperor's body to be transported back to the capital Xianyang, two carts filled with fish were reportedly arranged to accompany the Emperor's wagon, i.e. one in the front and one directly behind, in order to prevent anyone from noticing the foul smell of the decomposing body emanating from the wagon, whilst his son and some his closest eunuchs who were informed, kept up appearances by bringing food on regular intervals. His name is also transcribed Qin Shih-huang Ti or Chin Shi Huang Di. The words Huang and Ti in the name, both mean ‘emperor’, either used together or separately, and his name is therefore often shortened to just Qin Shi Huan. Construction of his tomb, with 35 square miles the largest in China (i.e. 500 times bigger than any other tomb excavated in the nation), was started as soon as he ascended the throne and is said to have lasted 37 years, hence it continued even after his death. At one point some 710,000 people worked on it. So far, no one has been able to find the entrance to the tomb where the emperor is buried. The main imperial burial chamber is described to be guarded by crossbows and to envision an entire replica of the universe. The ceiling is said to be covered with pearls and precious gems that represent the constellations, and on the floor there is a model of China's landscape, including the Great Wall and rivers of mercury that wind through the valleys. The personal name of China's very first emperor was Ying Zheng, and as is usual in literature, the reign name Shi Huang Ti of this emperor is preceded by the name of the Dynasty, i.e. Emperor Shi Huang Ti of the Qin Dynasty is called Emperor Qin Shi Huang Ti. See also LIST OF CHINESE RULERS.