Qin Shihuangdi – the image of a ruler

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A universal ruler

China's First Emperor saw himself as more than the ruler of China – the whole universe was his empire. He demonstrated this by visiting China’s sacred mountains, as mythical emperors of the past are said to have done. There he sacrificed to the gods and communicated with powerful spirits.Rubbing of a ‘mountain’ inscription in praise of China’s First Emperor

He had the mountains inscribed with descriptions of his great achievements and character, beginning a tradition of mountain inscription that still continues in China today. 

Death did not suit the ambitions of a man who believed he ruled the universe. The First Emperor wanted to govern forever, and tried out many pills and potions to prolong his life. He even sent servants to look for magic herbs which were thought to grow on the mythical islands of the immortals off the east coast.

Qin Shihuangdi became increasingly afraid of dying after at least three attempts to kill him were made between 227 and 218 BC. The most famous of these attempts happened in 227 BC. The assassin, Jing Ke, sent by another state, hid a knife in a scroll and attacked the Emperor during an audience, though he was ultimately unsuccessful as his weapon struck a pillar rather than its target.

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Chinese calligraphy, £6.99

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