From his base in western China, the powerful ruler of the state of Qin rose to unify all of China. An ancient Chinese poet and historian described how the ruler crushed all his rivals: “Cracking his long whip, he drove the universe before him, swallowing up the eastern and the western Zhou and overthrowing the feudal lords.”
Shi Huangdi was the founder of the Qin dynasty. His strong authoritarian government unified China.
In 221 B.C., the ruler of Qin proclaimed himself Shi Huangdi (shur hwahng dee), or “First Emperor.” Although his methods were brutal, he set up patterns in government and other areas that shaped future Chinese civilization.
Shi Huangdi was determined to end the divisions that had splintered Zhou China. He spent nearly 20 years conquering most of the warring states. Using rewards for merit and punishments for failure, he built a strong, authoritarian government.
The emperor abolished the old feudal states and divided China into 36 military districts, each ruled by appointed officials. Inspectors, who were actually more like spies, checked on local officials and tax collectors.
Shi Huangdi forced noble families to live in his capital at Xianyang (shyan yahng), where he could keep an eye on them, and divided their lands among the peasants. Still, peasants had to pay high taxes to support Shi Huangdi's armies and building projects.