Mystery about Emperor Qin Shi Huang

Controversial Origins

For a long period time, people have been puzzled by the origin of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. According to the Historical Book, the natural father of the first emperor was Lu Buwei, not King Zhuangxiang of Qin. The explanation for this is that by the time Zhao Ji, the concubine of Lu Buwei, was sent as a gift to Zi Chu (later King Zhuangxiang of Qin), she was already pregnant by Lu. After one year's marriage to King Zhuangxiang of Qin, she gave birth to Qin Shi Huang. However, some scholars point out that the duration of the pregnancy lasting a full year was irregular based on modern medicine. To say the emperor was an illegitimate child is obviously a slander to him.

Handsome or Disfigured

Statue of Emperor Qin Shi Huang
Statue of Qin Shi Huang

About the appearance of the Qin Shi Huang, people have two conflicting opinions. Some say he was tall and handsome while others hold that he was short and disfigured. The description of his features can be found in the Book of History. But since the book was written in classical languages during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), there are disagreements based on the difference of interpretation of modern people. One group thinks the emperor had big eyes, a high nose, a loud voice and a spirited quality in action. Walking erect and confident, he was a real Apollo. While in the opinion of others, represented by Guo Moruo, a Chinese author, historian, and archaeologist, Qin Shi Huang had a saddle nose, protruding eyeballs and the howl of a jackal. He was pigeon-breasted and suffered from tracheitis and rickets.

However, many people cannot accept that the first emperor was such a monster and believe this only vilifies the emperor. In the Qin state, the most soldierly prince was chosen to succeed to the throne instead of the eldest. Therefore, a disfigured and handicapped boy would not be appointed as the crown price. In addition, Zhao Ji, the mother of Qin Shi Huang, was a well-known beauty. The father of the emperor, King Zhuangxiang of Qin, inheriting a royal lineage, was probably endowed with an excellent genetic code. So Qin Shi Huang, should have inherited good characteristics from his parents. Therefore, the features of the emperor were more likely to have been fine and at least not ugly.

 Were the remains of Qin Shi Huang preserved intact?
Some experts have proposed that the remains of Qin Shi Huang are intact. They provide some facts and bold guesswork to support the argument. The emperor died in Shaqiu Palace (today's northwest Guangzong County in Hebei Province) in July, when the weather might have been much cooler than in these days. The weather conditions helped preserve the body. Also, the key figures of the Qin Court including Hu Hai, Li Si and Zhao Gao were present when Qin Shi Huang died. They would have tried their best to keep the body in a good condition to show filial piety and loyalty to the country. They put the body of the emperor in Wenliang Chariot – equivalent to a modern refrigerated truck. The imperial physician Xia Wuju would have used the most advanced medical techniques at that time to preserve the body.

Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang
Qinshihuang's Mausoleum

But many other experts hold a different view. They believe only the emperor's skeleton remains in the mausoleum, even though the underground palace was not ransacked, because it was not easy to preserve the dead body in hot summer. According to the Historical Book, the body had already begun to putrefy after being transported a short distance. To disguise the bad smell to avoid the news of the emperor's sudden death to be known (as this would cause a great disorder under heaven), Zhao Gao and Hu Hai had servants place baskets of abalone. After about 50 days traveling on a bumpy road, the body of the first emperor was probably not intact. Therefore, if the mausoleum was opened today, we would only find the bones of the emperor and his real appearance is forever a mystery.

 Why the Emperor Qin Shi Huang did not determine the empress?
It is a fact that Qin Shi Huang was the only emperor in Chinese history that did not have an empress. Is it because he had too many concubines than he could choose? Or his mother's bad behavior made him hatred of women? Or there was no woman qualified enough to be his empress? There were dozens of guesses.

 What did Qin Shi Huang die from?
Like his birth, the death of Qin Shi Huang is also a mystery. His sudden death gave people a lot of space to imagine. Some say he died of poisoning from the elixirs. Some believe that he died from overwork. And in other's view, he died of murder. Who is correct? There is no final conclusion.

 Where was he buried? 
​Actually, apart from the tomb in Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, some people believe that Emperor Qin Shi Huang was buried where he passed away, which is now somewhere in Xingtai City, Hebei Province. Because at that time, his attendants were not able to preserve his body or move it back to capital city Xianyang.

 You may like:
9 Mysteries of Qin Shi Huang Tomb You May Want to Know
Qin Shi Huang Facts: 10 Things to Know about the First Emperor of China

- Last updated on Oct. 23, 2020 -
Questions & Answers on Mystery about Emperor Qin Shi Huang
Asked by bailey from AUSTRALIA | Nov. 09, 2015 16:51Reply
What happened to Qin Shi Huang at 13
Answers (2)
Answered by Bob from ITALY | Nov. 09, 2015 19:57

He ascended to the throne at 13.
Answered by EP from AUSTRALIA | Aug. 21, 2019 21:32

His father died when qin was 13, however the prime minister took over until he came of age. qin became king/emperor at 22.
Asked by Hicca from AUSTRALIA | Jul. 27, 2014 05:55Reply
What were the main features of Qin Shi Huangdi’s period of rule
Answers (1)
Answered by Elina from USA | Jul. 27, 2014 22:29

The main feature is that the emperor was in charge of the power of the country (centralization).
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