As the traveling exhibition of terracotta warriors tours the U.S. from 2008 to 2010, a scholar chronicles the life of their terrifying emperor.
China's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi (258-210 B.C.), began work on his tomb at age thirteen, when he became boy king of Xian, a dusty state in western China. By the time he died, over seven thousand meticulously detailed figures of soldiers and horses, acrobats, strongmen, scribes, administrators, musicians, artists, birds, and other animals in terracotta and bronze were waiting to be buried with him. In the first biography of this fascinating, powerful and terrifying man, Frances Wood brings Qin to life amidst the glory of early China and reflects on the historical arguments that make him a mystery. Qin Shihuangdi was one of the greatest military leaders in history. He set out to conquer and unify China. He introduced coinage, standardized weights and measures, and the written word. He gave us the name "China," and the Great Wall, begun during his reign, still fascinates the world. Despite his achievements, however, he has been vilified throughout history for achieving his goals by suppressing opposition, burning books, and burying scholars alive. Frances Wood encourages readers to look more closely at the life of a man who created the country we know today as China.
About the Author
FRANCES WOOD is head of the Chinese Department at the British Library. She lives in London, England.
In 246 B.C., at age 13, Zheng, also known as Qin, ascended to his late father's throne. Proclaiming himself the first emperor, Qin ruled for 36 years, expanding his empire through military force and unifying China with a well-ordered set of legal codes. In this first-rate historical and biographical sketch, Wood, head of the British Library's Chinese Department, debunks some of the legends of megalomania and cruelty that have grown up around Qin (for instance, that he buried alive scholars who disagreed with him). Using the 1974 discovery of an army of more than 6,000 terra-cotta soldiers buried in Qin's tomb, Wood points out the emperor's obsession with immortality, his fear of death and his desire to maintain his rule in the afterlife. Wood admits there's little written evidence about Qin; yet her close reading of these sources offers fresh insight into a little-known figure and his kingdom, far outpacing John Man's The Terra Cotta Army(see below). 36 b&w illus., 1 map. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.