Historical Empathy Project: The Qin Dynasty
It was during the Qin Dynasty that the first Emperor was introduced. Although it had been in existence for fifteen years on, this period was marked by various issues including the sort of immortality and building the Great Wall. There is no doubt that the first time that China was united was under the Qin Dynasty. Due to a new law governing the citizens of China were promulgated in addition to simplifying the official language. However, the Qin Dynasty is also remembered for negative issues such as burning books, especially those written by scholars, which the emperor considered controversial. Those activities made some people consider the emperor as a dictator and oppressive tyrant while other believed him to be a hero of unification for bringing together different cultures in China (Feizi 2). This paper seeks to give a fictional narrative of the Qin Dynasty by making up a fictional character and describing the cultures, life or traditions that dominated during the period, or the kind of government that was in place.
Zhao Zheng was the first Emperor and he was the son of a young Prince Zichu, born in 259 (Hanse, Curtis, and Curtis 3). He actually came to the world in the end of Zhou Dynasty and different states were constantly fighting against one another. On the other hand, the Qin state was becoming more powerful and important for that matter. Although the state of Qin was originally a small and unrecognizable state, it grew bigger by conquering the western and eastern regions and formed one of the most recognizable states in China. With the lapse of time, the smaller states were swallowed by bigger ones and by time Duke Xiao came into power, there had been only half a dozen states left (Sullivan 22). Although the state of Qin had been ignored for some time, things turned around and it became the most recognized state in the country when Duke Xiao took charge. His policies continued during the reign of various kings, including king Zheng who succeeded in uniting the entire empire therefore becoming the first emperor and earning the title Shi-Huangdi.
It was a privilege to be born in the ruling family because you could be certain that at some point you would become the king. The final decisions were made by the ruling family. Unlike in modern states where it is the responsibility of the citizens to decide their leaders, the leadership in the Qin Dynasty was a responsibility of the ruling family. When a king died, he left the crown to one of his children no matter how young they would be. For instance, when King Zheng was crowned, he was a very young boy (Frazee 21). Therefore, his chief ministers handled most of the affairs dealing with the state. However, they did this under instructions from the young King. Nonetheless, the main powers resided in the Prime Minister, Lu Buwei, and Generals Lord Biao, Meng Ao, and Wang Ji who handled matters dealing with the armies.
In such situations, you expect rivalry to emerge between opposing groups. The same happened to King Zheng. The generals joined forces and began taking cities from other states. This resulted into five states joining forces to fight the state of Qin but they were defeated. However, the biggest threat occurred in 239 BC when Lord Chang’an, the King’s younger brother, appalled and was later killed. This created the spirit of vengeance and when his officers fought back, they were killed. Members of the town also revolted and they were killed too. The town governments of this period depended on how much power one could accrue (Sun 12). Therefore, the amount of power was measured by the number of fights and how many cities one could capture under his territory. Thus, the most powerful government was that with the largest territory.
The government operated with the philosophy of legalism, which is the exactly opposite to Confucianism which was the foundation China. Rather than focusing on righteous and virtuous qualities, legalism was all about putting the interests of the state before the needs of the people (Feizi 2). Although it is a good idea to be patriotic, human life is precious and it should be protected first before anything else. Additionally, it is good to uphold morality and all the basic needs of human life. Unfortunately, during the Qin Dynasty, human life was important only when serving the state. This gave an impression that weak people contributed to a stronger state while stronger people meant that the state was poor.
Another interesting aspect about legalism is the argument about welfare state. Most arguments about good governments talk about giving land to the poor to enable them have a better livelihood. However, if men start out on the same level and some of them grow richer while others become poor, it either means that some were working harder than others or it is because of extravagant living. Although the legalism theory seemed to be working in the beginning, things were different after the death of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (Asiapac Editorial 67). The second emperor was never told about various issues that occurred in the empire because of the fear of high taxation. Moreover, he never interacted with his ministers and the people in general.
The best way to survive during the Qin Dynasty must have been to be a close ally of the ruling family. Fighting against the King’s forces was definitely a wrong idea because he had strong armies. If I were among the principle players in the Qin Dynasty, I would have wished to play the role of Lu Buwei. This is the man who was largely responsible for bringing the China’s first Emperor to power. He began his machinations when King Zhaoxiang had been in power for 40 years (267 BC). This was the time when the King died leaving Lord Anguo, his second son in charge. Although the king had over 40 sons, he did not get any child with his favorite concubine. Being a cunning man, Lu Buwei saw this as an opportunity to shape the course of the empire. He chose one son, Zinch, and convinced the childless concubine to adopt him. This he said would ensure that the concubine would become the Queen and therefore choose her son as the successor (Department of Asian Art 21). When Zinch finally became the successor, he felt indebted to Buwei and promised to share a piece of the sate with him. This is to say that it was because of Buwei that Zinch became the King. It is a great privilege to be the main man who made one the king because he will forever be indebted to you. This gave Buwei a chance to ask for any favors from the King and he was likely to reciprocate.
The situation got even better when the King asked for a chance to marry one of Buwei’s concubines. Since this was another opportunity to strengthen their relationship, he agreed to the Kings’ request. However, one thing the King did not know was that the concubine was already pregnant with Buwei’s child. When the child was born, Zinch believed that it was his child when it was not. Therefore, the child who became the first emperor was not in fact the King’ son but Buwei’s. He was a very lucky man because he lived a very comfortable life as a marquis, earning 100,000 houses of revenue (Sullivan 65). After the death of King Zichu, the concubine went back to her previous lover, Buwei as a clandestine. Their affair lasted for a while as the young king was maturing. However, the concubine started talking about their affair and Buwei felt that his secretes would be exposed. Therefore, he looked for a man by the name Lao Ai and ensured that he satisfied the Queen and made her fall in love with him. This was a very clever way of keeping the secrets. One could argue that Buwei controlled most of the activities that took place in the empire.
Therefore, I would make sure that the child is well groomed to become the best emperor. Nonetheless, I would also make sure that he understands that I was his biological father regardless of the consequences. It is very unfair for a child to grow up thinking that one person is his father when he was actually not. Although a mistake had already been committed, the king would at one time understand that it was a mistake and he needed to accept the fact that Buwei was his father. I would therefore wait till Zichu is mature enough to understand the situation and explain to him the entire situation (Li 2).
All in all, the Qin Dynasty had its ups and downs. The greatest achievement must be bringing different states together. On the other hand, one of the major downfalls was when the people got fed up with the emperor’s cruelty leading to the disintegration of the Qin police (Veeck 72). The irony was that both Li Si and Lord Shang, who were the principle contributors of the Dynasty, were eventually executed under the same legalist system they devised. These are people who had shaped the course of the empire in various ways. Since the collapse of the Qin Dynasty, there have been cases of oppression and tyranny.
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