|The emperor ascended Mount Tai,
erected a stone monument and offered sacrifice to Heaven. …|
to the Earth was offered at Mount Liangfu. And a stone monument was
erected with this inscription [reputedly written by the Prime Minister, Li Si]:
|The Sovereign Emperor came to the throne, made decrees and laws which all his subjects heeded;
In his twenty-sixth year the land was unified, all obeyed his rule;
He inspected the black-headed people in distant parts, ascended Mount Tai and viewed the eastern extremity;
His obedient subjects remember his achievements, trace them from the start and celebrate his virtue.
Beneath his wide sway all things find their place, all is decreed by law;
Great and manifest, his virtue is handed down to ages yet to come, to be followed without change.
The sage emperor who has pacified all under heaven is tireless in his rule;
He rises early, goes to sleep late, makes lasting benefits and offers wise instructions;
Wide spread his teachings, all far and near is well ordered according to his will;
High and low are set apart, men and women observe the proprieties, fulfill their different tasks;
Public and private affairs are clearly distinguished; peace reigned and will endure till a future age;
His influence knows no end, his will obeyed and his orders will remain through eternity.
The emperor had a tower built on Mount Langya and a stone inscription
set up to praise the power of Qin and make clear his will. The
A new age is inaugurated by the Emperor;
Rules and measures are rectified, The myriad things set in order,
Human affairs are made clear And there is harmony between fathers and sons.
The Emperor in his sagacity, benevolence and justice Has made all laws and principles manifest.
He set forth to pacify the east, To inspect officers and men;
This great task accomplished He visited the coast.
Great are the Emperor’s achievements, Men attend diligently to basic tasks,
Farming is encouraged, secondary pursuit discouraged,
All the common people prosper;
All men under the sky Toil with a single purpose;
Tools and measures are made uniform, The written script is standardized;
Wherever the sun and moon shine, Wherever one can go by boat or by carriage,
Men carry out their orders And satisfy their desires;
For our Emperor in accordance with the time
Has regulated local customs, Made waterways and divided up the land.
Caring for the common people, He works day and night without rest;
He defines the laws, leaving nothing in doubt, Making known what is forbidden.
The local officials have their duties, Administration is smoothly carried out,
All is done correctly, all according to plan.
The Emperor in his wisdom Inspects all four quarters of his realm;
High and low, noble and humble, None dare overshoot the mark;
No evil or impropriety is allowed,
All strive to be good men and true, And exert themselves in tasks great and small;
None dares to idle or ignore his duties, But in far-off, remote places
Serious and decorous administrators Work steadily, just and loyal.
Great is the virtue of our Emperor Who pacifies all four corners of the earth,
Who punishes traitors, roots out evil men, And with profitable measures brings prosperity.
Tasks are done at the proper season, All things flourish and grow;
The common people know peace And have laid aside weapons and armor;
Kinsmen care for each other, There are no robbers or thieves;
Men delight in his rule, All understanding the law and discipline.
The universe entire Is our Emperor’s realm,
Extending west to the Desert, South to where the houses face north,
East to the East Ocean, North to beyond Dahsia;
Wherever human life is found, All acknowledge his suzerainty,
His achievements surpass those of the Five Emperors, His kindness reaches even the beasts of the field;
All creatures benefit from his virtue, All live in peace at home.
(Selections from Records of the Grand Historian, 169-72)
|Memorialized in History
The Burning of the Books and the Burial of Scholars
must be cautious ... in using later sources to study the Qin. In one of
the most infamous incidents recorded by later historians, the Qin
emperor launched a large-scale book burning in 213 B.C.E. that sought
destroy all dissenting points of view. ... Still, we must remember that
books were made of wooden slips. Because most classical learning, and
certainly The Book of Songs, continued to be transmitted from teacher to student, a book burning would not have had much effect.
First Emperor said:] “I confiscated
the books from the empire and got rid of all those that were of no
use. I also summoned a great many learned scholars and practitioners of
various magic arts, hoping to initiate an era of great peace. The
magicians said they wanted to employ their skills to search for rare
herbs. But now Han Zhong has disappeared without any report, and Xu Fu
and the others, after expending countless tens of thousands of cash,
have never been able to obtain the herbs, and daily I hear reports that
they are merely scheming for illicit gain. I have shown the utmost
generosity in showering Master Lu and the others with honours and
gifts, but now they speak slanderously of me so as to exaggerate my
lack of virtue. I
have also directed people to question the various scholars residing in
Xianyang, and it appears that some are spreading dubious stories in
order to mislead the black-headed people!”
He then ordered the
imperial secretary to
subject all the scholars to investigation. The scholars reported
one another in an attempt to exonerate themselves. Over 460
persons were convicted of violating the prohibitions, and were executed
[note: the word translated here as “executed” is sometimes
interpreted as “buried alive,” though contemporary scholars reject this interpretation] at Xianyang, word of it being publicized
throughout the empire so
as to act as a warning to later ages. (Records of the Grand Historian: Qin, 58)
|NOTE: Jonathan Clements suggests that the 460 scholars were specialists in alchemy
who had been employed by the First Emperor to produce an elixir of
immortality and were executed for their failure to provide any evidence of success (cf. FEC,
134-5). Although most interpretations maintain that the 460 scholars
were executed for possessing banned books, it should be noted that this
claim has been discredited by contemporary historians.
Is Clements' interpretation consistent
with the above quote?
Does it change how you feel about the scholars' punishment?
Confucian viewpoint, with its
emphasis on humanity and righteousness, provided the Han dynasty with
the perfect justification for the overthrow of the Qin. [Note: Jia Yi
(c. 200-169 BCE) was a famous official from the early Han dynasty,
which succeeded the Qin; in his work The Faults of Qin, Jia provides a thorough critique of Qin rule in an attempt to explain why the dynasty fell.] As a piece of
historical writing dictated by political considerations, the story of
the rebelling laborers further contributed to the myth. In the Grand
Historian Sima Qian’s account of the Zhou conquest of the Shang
(occurring some eight hundred years earlier and described in chapter 1), the last Shang king, surrounded by beautiful
women and luxuries, could do no right, while the first Zhou king could
do no wrong. The same kind of stereotyping shaped later accounts of how
the Han dynasty leaders overthrew the Qin.
A tomb excavated in 1975 provides a
surprising corrective to received wisdom about Qin brutality. The legal
materials from the Shuihudi tomb reveal that men called up for service
who failed to report or who absconded were liable to be beaten, not
killed, as the Han historians falsely maintained in their account of
the dynasty’s founding. The officials in charge of a group of laborers
could be fined one shield if the laborers were six to ten days late; a
suit of armor if over ten days late. We must conclude that the
Han-dynasty historians overstated these punishments to discredit the
previous and fallen Qin dynasty. ... Contrary to the writings of the Han
historians, and contrary to the expectations of modern scholars, the
provisions from the Qin code stress close adherence to a rigorously
delineated series of judicial procedures. ... [They] depict a a legal
system that stressed careful procedures usually marked by unvarying
punishments for specific crimes — they show, in short, a legal system
far different from that suggested by Han-dynasty denunciations of the
unjust rule of the Qin. (Open Empire, 103-5)
... and What About Ulrich Heininger?
when in our century the image of the past changed with the collapse of
the Empire, modern historiographers stressed the lasting merits Qin
Shihuang deserved for China’s unity. The negative aspects of his rule
receded proportionately. Thus the losses occasioned by the burning of
the books, were given less weight, when historians referred to the
destruction of the Imperial library by rebels as the chief cause for
the big gaps in the pre-Han literary tradition. Yet up to the present,
the emperor remains in Chinese and Western accounts incriminated with
the murder of the Confucianists.|
event like the murdering of four hundred and sixty Confucian scholars
was monstrous enough. So a treatise dealing with the despotism of the
First Emperor should mention it. That the Xinyu contains no comment on this atrocity, proves the whole story as a later invention. [Note: the Xinyu is a short political treatise that was written by Lu Jia
(d. 170 BCE), a Confucian official from the early Han dynasty; the work
is famous for its argument that the Qin dynasty fell because of its
cruelty and intrigues.] (Burying the Scholars Alive)
Memorialized through Fraud!
According to traditional histories, the very
harshness and inflexibility of the Qin Legalist regulations soon
provoked revolt. Within a year of the First Emperor’s death in 210 BCE,
the land was writhing with rebellion. At the same time, a power
struggle at court was simultaneously also tearing it apart from within.
It is said that when Qin Shi Huangdi died, a certain eunuch (eunuchs
were castrated imperial household servants) conspired to briefly keep
news of the emperor’s death secret and forged an edict ordering the
emperor’s capable eldest son to commit suicide. The throne therefore
passed to an incompetent younger son, who was soon reduced to a puppet.
With the eunuch’s encouragement, this Second Emperor began to suspect
other members of his own family and ordered twelve of his own brothers
and ten of his sisters executed. After three years, the Second
Emperor’s position had become so pathetic that he killed himself. By
this time, rebels were already at the gates. (HEA, 49; cf. FEC, 141-6)
Li Si, Zhao Gao, and the Second Qin Emperor
the ninth month, the First Emperor was interred at Mt. Li. When the
emperor first came to the throne he began digging and shaping Mt. Li.
Later, when he unified the empire, he had over 700,000 men from all
over the empire transported to the spot. They dug down to the third
layer of an underground springs and poured in bronze to make the outer
coffin. Replicas of palaces, scenic towers, and the hundred officials,
as well as rare utensils and wonderful objects, were brought to fill up
the tomb. Craftsmen were ordered to set up crossbows and arrows, rigged
so they would immediately shoot down anyone attempting to break in.
Mercury was used to fashion imitations of the hundred rivers, the
Yellow river and the Yangtze, and the seas, constructed in such a way
that they seemed to flow. Above were representations of all the
heavenly bodies, below, the features of the earth. “Man-fish” oil was
used for lamps, which were calculated to burn for a long time without
going out. (Records of the Grand Historian: Qin, 63)|
Qin faced south to call itself ruler of the empire, which meant that
the world now had a Son of Heaven to head it. The masses hoped
that they would be granted the peace and security to live out their
lives, and there was not one of them who did not set aside selfish
thoughts and look up to the sovereign in reverence. ... But the First
Emperor was greedy and short-sighted, confident in his own wisdom,
never trusting his meritorious officials, never getting to know his
people. He cast aside the kingly Way and relied on private procedures,
outlawing books and writings, making the laws and penalties much
harsher, putting deceit and force foremost and humanity and
righteousness last, leading the whole world in violence and cruelty. In
annexing the lands of others, one may place priority on deceit and
force, but insuring peace and stability in the lands one has annexed
calls for a respect for authority. Hence I say that seizing, and
guarding what you have seized, do not depend upon the same techniques. (Records of the Grand Historian: Qin, 81; cf. HEA, 49)|
|Explain why you
either agree or disagree with Sima Qian’s assessment of the First Emperor. Your
position should be supported by at least four examples of the First Emperor’s accomplishments and/or failures drawn
from Jonathan Clements’ The First Emperor of China as well as references to at least two additional peer-reviewed secondary sources. Since Clements’ book does
an index, you should take notes on relevant passages as you read
through the text. For more details on the essay requirements see the Essay 1 Rubric.|