Hey Guys !
We’ve recently been working on Shi Huang Di in Humanities class. Our final task was to write a essay answering the question: To what extent was Shi Huang Di a good emperor? Here is my essay:
To what extent was Shi Huang Di a good emperor?
Qin Shi Huang Di was the First Emperor of a unified China, who ruled from 246 B.C. to 210 B.C. At the age of 13, he became emperor of the state Qin. At this time, all seven states were still at war. After 10 years of war, in 221 B.C, Shi Huang Di concurred all the states and became ‘The First Emperor Of China’ In his 35-year reign, he managed to create magnificent and enormous construction projects. He also standardized Chinese script, currency and transportation. He had many positive deeds, but caused much destabilization within the Chinese society.
Qin Shi Huang Di had many positive achievements, that influenced the whole of China, making him a good emperor. First of all, he standardized the Chinese currency and script. The British Museum in their post ‘Qin Shi Huang Di – Ruling an Empire’ state that before the currency was standardized, each state made their own. Many people wanted to trade items, but people didn’t have enough bronze, or the same money. When the First Emperor unified China, he made the ‘banliang’ coin of the Qin state the single currency of China. The standardization of coinage was helpful to China because it improved trade. The coin looked like a bronze or gold circle with a small square in the middle. When the currency was standardized, it was easier to trade: people traded more, and this benefited the economy. Shi Huang Di also standardized the Chinese script during his reign. A online document named ‘The Qin Dynasty’ states that from 221 – 207 BC, the first chinese language was created. People all over China use the same writing, and the same characters were taught at schools all over china. It helped people to communicate easier and faster. Moving on, according to Dynasties of China, in their section ‘The Qin Dynasty’, Shi Huang Di made a huge improvement in transportation. He built a giant straight road which was a 500 mile highway. He also built many other roads. All together, they covered over 4225 miles. For trade he had a 3 mile wide canal that covered 1250 miles and was 3 miles wide. An online Microsoft Word named ‘Face Off: Emperor…’ explains that Shi Huang Di made the roads wider so 6 horses could pass each time. He built 5 major roads called ‘Speedways’ linking the north, northeast, east and southeast of the Empire. Canals were built to improve long distance transport. As a result Shi Huang Di had an advantage during war times, because he could quickly transport food, troops and weapons to the war area. With this improved transportation system, communicating, traveling and sending items, was a lot easier. Lastly, Shi Huang Di built the massive and Great wall Of China. Culture-4-Travel in an entry ‘The Great Wall of China – the Greatest Curse’ justify that The Great Wall’s purpose was to protect from incoming nomadic enemies from the north. The wall was built up to 9 meters high, to stop invaders and there horses of getting over the wall. They added watch towers so the Chinese armies guarding could see the enemies coming from a far distance and think about a war strategy. Gates were built into the wall so the army could go outside the wall and attack. Stairwells were built in the wall and they were so confusing that if you did not know the wall, you would get lost in the stairwells. Shi Huang Di wanted to protect his kingdom in the best way he could: he had many strategies for his newborn country. This makes him a good emperor.
However, Shi Huang Di had negative achievements as well. Firstly, during Shi Huang Di’ rule, he made new laws. If people didn’t follow these laws, there were very strict punishments. Docstoc in their newsletter ‘The Law of Shi Huang Di, First Emperor’ state that there were very harsh punishments if Shi Huang Di’s people did not follow his belief of Legalism. Penalties for less serious violations include beatings with sticks and hard labour (i.e Great Wall). For more serious offenses, punishments included whipping, cutting of the nose, cutting of one or both feet. Death penalty was only for criminals who threatened the emperor or state. Execution was normally by beheading, but in some cases, the criminal could be cut in two at the waist, or torn apart by horse drawn chariots. Shi Huang Di wanted everyone to share the same belief as him. There were was no freedom of thinking and expression. Secondly, to build Shi Huang Di’s Great Wall he used ‘slaves’. Travel guide in their post ‘Who, When and Why Built the Great Wall of China?’ explain that Shi Huang Di was known to be a tyrant. Every day, he forced thousands of men anywhere from 13 to 70 years old to build his wall. Three groups of people built the wall: soldiers, common people and criminals. Soldiers were used to build this wall, while Shi Huang Di could have used his people to create a strong army. Many farmers were also part of the project, so the people in China couldn’t eat much because not everyone know how to take care of the crops. This caused China to not have enough food and live in poverty. Many people died during its construction, due to the heavy work, short time limit and tough condition. Culture-4-Travel in an entry ‘The Great Wall of China – the Greatest Curse’ explain that the Great Wall of China is known as “Wan Li Chang Cheng” which means ‘5,000km long wall’. The Great Wall of China is made up of stone, brick, soil, sand, wood, and human bones. Further more, Culture-4-Travel also states that The Great Wall of China is one of the worlds greatest projects. It is not just one wall but it is a lot of walls connected together. Shi Huang Di demanded that walls were connected together to protect his new country. Many of his people suffered and died, leaving him not a very good emperor. Shi Huang Di had very strong beliefs on how he wanted to unify his country. Finally, one of the things that shows Shi Huang Di’s brutality, was his burning of books and killing of all scholars. The Ancient Standard in their entry ‘Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di – The Man…’ on February 21, 2011 state that “under Qin Shi Huang Di’s rule, many existing books were burned. He saved books dealing with topics such as astrology, medicine and divination. However, owning a copy of any outlawed texts was a serious crime. Qin Shi Huang had many scholars buried alive simply for owning copies of books he had burned.” Shi Huang Di was a follower of Legalist beliefs. He ordered the burning of all books that did not agree with Legalism. This shows that Shi Huang Di did not want anyone thinking different than him. He also decided to burn all the books about different governments, or any books that had noted down different thoughts than his. It is clear that he wanted his unified country to be and think the same.
Whether Qin Shi Huang Di should be remembered more for his positive creations or his brutality, is an own opinion. On one hand, the public works and punishments were too harsh for the population. The condition craftsmen lived in during the construction of the great wall were terrible. Finally, the banning of all books that supported forms of government other than the current one and burying of all scholars alive was very cruel. On the other hand, we cannot forget that Shi Huang Di standardized Chinese currency, invented a script that is still used today. He created an easier way of transportation and constructed many big projects. By far the most positive achievement of Shi Huang Di is his creation of an entire new country. No matter how many cruel things Shi Huang Di did, everyone agrees that Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the China, was one of the most important rulers in Chinese history.