From approximately 400 b.c. to 221 b.c., China experienced a bloody civil war. Powerful states fought one another and ignored the authority of the Zhou kings. One state—that of Qin—gradually defeated its chief rivals, declaring the creation of a new Dynasty, the Qin Dynasty.
The ruler of the Qin dynasty was Qin Shihuangdi, meaning “the First Qin Emperor.” An ambitious person, he came to the throne in 246 b.c. at the age of 13. He ruled under the laws of Legalism, the belief that all humans are wicked and must have strict laws to control them.
He order the building of a system of roads throughout the entire empire. Many of these roads led out from his capital city of Xianyang . He reduced the powers of the landed aristocrats by dividing their estates among the peasants, who were now taxed directly by the state. In doing so, he eliminated possible rivals and gained tax.
Qin Shihuangdi was equally aggressive in foreign affairs. His armies advanced to the south, extending the border of China to the edge of the Yuan River, or Red River, in modern-day Vietnam. To supply his armies, he had a canal dug from the Chang Jiang in central China to what is now the modern city of Guangzhou.
The Qin emperor’s major concern was in the north. In the area south of the Gobi, there resided a nomadic people known to the Chinese as the Xiongnu. Qin Shihuangdi’s answer to the problem was to strengthen the existing system of walls and to link them together. Today we know Qin Shihuangdi’s project as the Great Wall of China.
The Emperor became seriously ill and died on 10 September 210 BC at the palace in Shaqiu about two months away by road from the capital . The cause of Qin Shi Huang's death is still largely unknown, reportedly, he died from Chinese alchemical elixir poisoning due to ingesting mercury pills, made by his alchemists and court physicians, believing it to be an elixir of immortality.