The King Who Made War Illegal! Challenging the Official History of The Art of War and the Terra Cotta Army–Part II
Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of a unified China. His remarkable success in ending 200 years of war and founding the empire through peaceful means had followed a methodology fully articulated in a manual that we know today as The Art of War but which author David Jones insists is really a manual for the management of organizations and relations between organizations.
There are great mysteries about the life of Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor of China—and a grand conspiracy. And these tightly related events are of profound significance extending way beyond the borders of China.
A portrait painting of Qin Shi Huang, first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. ( Public Domain )
A great deal had gone into the plans and execution that ended two hundred years of war and established an empire. There were remarkable achievements in the way the empire was administered, and the changes that had been put in place. Privilege and feudalism were eradicated. Placement and promotion were based on competence—not connections. But the first empire ended in only four years after the death of Qin Shi Huang. What could have gone wrong?
Not Everlasting Life, but a Swift Death for the Emperor
The emperor was on daily medications that were allegedly intended to make him immortal, but they were lead-based, and he died from poisoning. He died before he had fully institutionalized his regime, and he had no named competent successor. There were assassination attempts against the emperor, and it is not unreasonable to suspect that the poisoning may have been intentional. The enemies of Qin Shi Huang, who claimed the "Mantle of Heaven," considered him a usurper and heretic. In fact, his very existence was an offence to them.
A 19th century ukiyo-e by Kuniyoshi depicting the ships of the great sea expedition sent around 219 BC by the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, to find the legendary home of the immortals, the Mount Penglai, and retrieve the elixir of immortality. ( Public Domain )
But opposition was not easily mobilized. The state's royal families had all been moved to the new capital. Their supports and networks has been shattered. All weapons had been confiscated and melted down. But stability and sustainability all depended on a solid core in the empire. It might be said that the first empire was based on a personality - a personality that had achieved miracles - and all of them in the living memory of the population. Perhaps a coup was simply impossible.
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With the death of Qin Shi Huang the empire wobbled. It's likely many thought him immortal. And perhaps recovery might have occurred if a strong successor has followed him. But such was not to happen. A series of weak, unprepared, and ineffectual replacements paved the way for what could have been a simple takeover. The official history states that the first empire was replaced though an armed revolution led by peasants who despised Qin Shi Huang. This is almost certainly false.
Propaganda and Political Fabrication
With their return to power in the Han dynasty, the Confucians and military regained all that they had lost. But popularity and common support were not easily gained. The new regime knew that they had to discredit the life and achievements of the first emperor to ensure they became accepted as the legitimate power in the new nation. They designed and delivered a campaign of dis-information that was extraordinary, unprecedented, and utterly successful. To this day, the second (Han) dynasty is considered to be the founders of China, while Qin Shi Huang and the Qin Kingdom are given short shrift in the official histories.
The dis-information program was brutal. Most of it remains enshrined in what is considered the history of China, even though much of it is unverified. It included alleged facts about the emperor that I dismiss as political fabrication. Included were arguments that the emperor:
- assembled an army of several hundred thousand soldiers to destroy the neighboring states and maintain order;
- decapitated prisoners of war by the tens of thousands;
- buried scholars alive;
- burned all books that did not coincide with his views;
- used the bodies of workers to reinforce the Great Wall;
- spent the wealth of the nation on palaces and luxuries;
- established a system of professional and amateur spies to report on dissidence with severe punishment for real or imagined infractions;
- drove the people into near slavery and poverty to maintain the armed state.