I am Qin Shihuangdi, and I am declaring the creation of a new dynasty.
The emperor left behind a remarkable artistic legacy, a sign of a classical civilization. In 1974 farmers digging a well about 35 miles east of Xi’an discovered an underground pit near the burial mound of the First Qin Emperor. The pit contained a vast army made out of terra-cotta, or hardened clay.
Chinese archaeologists believe that it was a re-creation of Qin Shihuangdi’s imperial guard, meant to be with the emperor on his journey to the next world. It has been estimated that one-third of the national income may have been spent on preparations for the ruler’s afterlife.
When the Xiongnu challenged Chinese communities near the northern frontier, a number of states constructed walls to keep out the nomads. Warriors on horseback, however, had definite advantages over the infantry troops of the Chinese. Qin Shihuangdi’s answer to the problem was to strengthen the existing system of walls and to link them together.
We know Qin Shihuangdi’s project as the Great Wall of China, and it serves as an architectural reflection of the Qin dynasty’s defensive needs. However, the wall that we know from films and photographs was not built until 1,500 years later. Some of the walls built by Shihuangdi do remain, but most of them were built of loose stone, sand, or piled rubble and disappeared long ago.