(I was looking through old interviews this AM, and stumbled across this great little historical anecdote on Canadian Christianity, of all places…enjoy the thought-food!)
The first emperor of China lusted after the applause of man. Ying Zheng become a warlord by the time he was thirteen. For twenty-five years he fought other warlords, building an army of a million men. They fought with brutality, “as a silkworm devours the mulberry leaf”. In one military battle he and his soldiers slaughtered 40,000 men. But Ying Zheng did what he set out to do–before he was forty he’d achieved control over his nation.
As the most powerful man in the east, he took the title Ch’in Shih-huang–first Divine Emperor of China (China’s name today comes from his title.) He declared that his dynasty would last for 10,000 years.
Emperor Ch’in was very ambitious. He formed a controlling central monarchy, developed a uniform code of law, initiated huge public work projects–roads, canals and an impressive new capital.
His palace was massive–a mile and a half long and half mile wide. It had thousands of rooms with one hall that sat 10,000 people. It connected with secret passages to 270 other palaces, so that he could sleep in a different place every night. The Emperor had an obsessive fear about enemies trying to assassinate him.
Ying Zheng has been remembered most because of the Great Wall he built, using many thousands of slaves. (Tradition says that tens of thousands of his forced labourers died during the wall’s construction and their bones were ground up and added to the mortar–the wall is referred to as the “longest cemetery on earth”.) It stretches over mountains and valleys for 1,500 miles (2,400 km). Eight men could march side-by-side along its surface, and the wall was connected by 25,000 towers. Signal messages could be sent from one side of China to the other in a day.
Emperor Ch’in was always thinking about dying. He sent wise men out far and wide to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. They were threatened with death if they didn’t find it. Of course they didn’t.
When the Emperor’s Prime Minister devised a plot against him, he was assassinated, at only forty-one years of age. Because Ch’in’s son was to be the heir and carry on the dynasty, his enemies within the inner circle forged a letter in the Emperor’s name saying the son should commit suicide–he did.
The Empire did not endure for 10,000 years. Rather it was the shortest in all of China’s long history.