Qin Shihuangdi (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: Qin Shihuangdi unified China and established an empire that lasted until 1911.
Qin Shihuangdi, the “first emperor of Qin,” is easily the most significant political figure in Chinese history, his well-earned infamy for brutality notwithstanding, because he unified China under a single state with a standardized written language. In 246 b.c.e. as a child, he ascended the throne of the state of Qin. Between 230 and 221 b.c.e., King Zheng (as he was then known) was able to defeat all six of his rival states (Qi, Zhao, Chu, Han, Wei, and Jin) and end the Warring States period, a military feat that would culminate in the creation of a unified empire.
The secret of the first emperor’s military triumphs, both before and after 221 b.c.e., lay in his masterful exploitation of the new forces unleashed in an era of profound social transformation. Not only did this ruler of a semibarbaric frontier state forge a mighty fighting machine out of iron (replacing bronze), but he also organized a veritable people’s army with the peasants whom he was liberating from their feudal lords, thereby introducing a whole new kind of warfare both in scale and in organization. Assisting in the shaping of the imperial order was a powerful new social class, the rich merchants. Already a political force inside the kingdom of Qin before the birth of the future emperor, these wealthy men emerged to play a...
(The entire section is 377 words.)
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