Leader Analysis: by Shanice C.

NAME OF LEADER: Qin Shi Huangdi
(meaning “first emperor”)

LIFESPAN: 260 B.C to 210 B.C

TITLE: First Chinese emperor



Shi Huangdi followed Legalist political beliefs, leading a government consisting of strict laws and harsh punishments in order for people to behave in a proper manner. Huangdi had a centralized bureaucracy, demanding that everyone follow his rules and policies. Huangdi wanted all Chinese people to do things the same, including the same punishments throughout his empire. Huangdi was not a fan of Confucianism and embraced it by setting all writing that opposed of Legalism was to be set a flamed, saving only books on farming, medicine, and the ones involved with predicting the future. Most scholars were against it so Huangdi burned them alive. He burned about 460 scholars. 
Huangdi and his army occupied the lands around China’s major rivers, and then turned north towards the Gobi Desert. In the south, they continues conquering more land advancing as far as the Xi River when Huangdi proposed that there wouldn’t be any future revolts. In each city Huangdi and his troops invaded, they destroyed all the walls and stole all their weapons. Shi Huangdi changed China’s old political system, giving himself absolute power. He shared non with the lords and took their all the land away from the nobles, forcing them to move to the capital so he could keep a close eye on them. He also compelled thousands of commoners to work for the government on building projects. The workers often faced years of hardship, danger, and even death. In order to control China, he divided the land into administrative provinces, each having its own governor. Then he divided the provinces into countries, governed by appointed officials. By doing this, it help organize his tax system and to enforce his strict chain of demands. He set up a whole new money system where standardized gold and silver coins became China’s new currency. The weights and measures were consistent, even the width of the carts were the identical. The Chinese script was also standardized. People everywhere were required to use the same sets of symbols so now people from all different regions were about the communicate through writing. This allowed a sense of shared culture and common identity. Due to the changed writing, trade became easier and more efficient. 

Huangdi enforced strict Legalist ideology which brutalized the peasants. Huangdi no longer followed the feudal system. Now people were chosen based on their abilities, not family ties of those with higher authority. The workers had exact, fixed tasks and were governed by organized, written rules. Awards and punishments were based on efficiency and dependability. Administration was divided into forty units or “commanderies” and each one was ruled by a civil and military authority and an inspector representing the emperor using systems of checks and balances. 

Under the rule of Huangdi, new, massive, building project were occupying China, helping to unify the country. They built a new network of roads, connecting the capital to all parts of the empire. The roads made it a lot easier for travel, each being the same width. It helped the army move more swiftly and making it easier to revolt in distant areas. Huangdi also improved China’s water systems by building canals to connect the country’s rivers. The canals bettered transportation and made it more efficient to ship goods from north to south. Also, they built an irrigation system to have better and more farming land. For protection against nomads, Huangdi built defensive walls all around the empire, hoping to keep invaders out. This wall is the famous Great Wall of China. The building of this wall required years of hard labor. Thousands of workers help build the wall and many of them died in the process. 

Legalist as a political organization was “short-lived.” After the death of Shi Huangdi, the Han dynasty took over; they went back to believing in Confucianism. The level of harshness was also lessened in China.

Many policies were kept and still used till this day. During the Han dynasty, they kept Huangdi’s centralized imperial rule and strong bureaucracy that lasts for about 2,000 years. The system of checks and balances is the same system we use in the United States. They created the U.S. Constitution’s three branches that operate based on the same system. The Qin’s standardized weights, measures, values, coinage, cart axle, roads, the legal code, and written script was attempted to be used in multiple empires, like Persia. Parts of Huangdi’s irrigation system are also still used to this day.