emperor of China
Huang-ti was heir to the throne of Chin, a powerful feudal
state in northwest China. On his accession he set about uniting
China, annexing the other feudal states with ruthless efficiency,
aided by espionage, bribery, and war. He proclaimed himself emperor
in 221 BC, founding the Chin dynasty from which China derives
During his reign, Shih Huang-ti destroyed the existing feudal
structure and divided the empire into 36 provinces under a centralized
administration. Networks of roads and canals were engineered,
and the major part of the Great Wall was built. Weights, measures,
coins, and written characters were standardized in a quest for
cultural uniformity. Yet this also led to the burning of all
books that diverged from official Chin philosophy and history.
On his death Shih Huang-ti was buried in great splendor - entombed
among 6,000 terra-cotta soldiers for him to summon in the afterlife.
His autocratic rule and belief in magic had caused such resentment
that the Chin dynasty collapsed four years later, even though
it formed the model for all later dynasties.