Hu Hai (230-207BC) – 18th Son of Emperor Qin Shi Huang

Hu Hai was the second emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), the eighteenth son of Qin Shi Huang and the younger brother of the Crown Prince, Fu Su. After Qin Shi Huang died in the last royal progress, he killed Fu Su by conspiring with Zhao Gao and Li Si and so ascended to the throne.

Years of Youth

Among the sons of Qin Shi Huang, Hu Hai was absolutely not qualified to be the second emperor. He was a notorious fop without good manners. Once, he went to a feast held by his father. Unwilling to drink in a measured way before the emperor and chancellors, he found an excuse and walked out. Seeing the orderly arranged shoes of the chancellors outside the palace gate, he kicked them about in confusion with the help of Dutch courage. His uncultured behavior made everybody at the scene disappointed. Later when he became the emperor, the country in his rule was also in a mess like those shoes. After all, one's nature cannot be altered.

Contrived a Plot to Seize Power

Hu Hai was firmly controlled by his teacher Zhao Gao, a great conspirator. After Emperor Qin Shi Huang died in the royal progress, Zhao bewitched Hu Hai and Li Si into altering the dying Qin shi Huang's will in which he had designated Fu Su to ascend the throne. They forged an imperial edict ordering Fu Su and Meng Tian to be put to death due to their lack of contribution to the country. Fu Su and Meng Tian committed suicide. Hu Hai seized the power that was not originally not meant for him.

A Fatuous Emperor

After becoming the emperor, Hu Hai immediately began to eliminate those who opposed him and threatened the throne. Abetted by Zhao Gao, he mercilessly slaughtered his brothers and sisters in Xianyang, and killed many ministers and generals in his court for no reason. Zhao Gao seized the opportunity and planted his relatives and faithful associates in the court. Hu Hai remained defenseless to the plotting of Zhao Gao.

At the same time, Hu Hai indulged in the super luxurious life. In his opinion, the emperor needed do nothing but enjoy life. He forged a large number of peasants from around the country to build Epang Palace and the mausoleum in Lishan Mountain. He ordered 50,000 soldiers to defend the capital and all parts of the country were forced ceaselessly to provide provisions to the capital. Those who transported the provisions were forbidden from taking the food within 300 li (93 miles) around Xianyang City. All peasants had to bear heavier taxation besides providing unpaid hard labor over the years. His cruel rule resulted in the break out of the Uprising of Chen Sheng and Wu Guang, the first large-scale peasant uprising in Chinese history.


In order to thoroughly take over the national power, Zhao Gao advised Hu Hai to stay in the harem and hear the daily government work reports. He certainly agreed for he was more fond of playing than working. Thereupon, every big and small governmental affair was judged by Zhao Gao. Hu Hai had already lost the imperial power.

Zhao Gao had long coveted the throne for a long time. One day, he found his chance had come. He ordered his son-in-law Yan Le to lead about 1,000 people, who made a false claim of seizing a thief and rushed into Hu Hai's palace. Hu Hai was forced to cut his own throat and was entombed with civilian status.

The Emperor's Mausoleum

Today in the southern slope of Xiqujiang Village in Xi'an, visitors can find a round mausoleum standing alone in a shady nook. It is the mausoleum of Hu Hai. The sealing earth of the tomb is five meters (16 feet) tall. To the north of the tomb, there is a stone stele, on which is carved an official script of six characters 'Qin Er Shi Huang Di Ling' (The Mausoleum of the Second Emperor of Qin Dynasty). Around the mausoleum, there is a series of sculptures and pictures, all depicting the stories of Hu Hai and the brief history of the Qin Dynasty.

Entrance Fee:
CNY 10
Bus Route:
Take bus no. 224 or 715 and get off at Qujiang Guanweihui Station
Surrounding Scenic Spots:

 See introdution to another son of Emperor Qin Shi Huang: Fu Su
- Last updated on May. 08, 2023 -
Questions & Answers on Hu Hai
Asked by Frank Cantafio from USA | Jan. 28, 2018 16:03Reply
Hu hai cruelty
I read that Hu Hai killed all of his fathers concubines in case any were pregnant with his heir.
Is that true?
Answers (1)
Answered by Jude from ITALY | Jan. 28, 2018 19:16

Yes, it’s said that he killed all the concubines of his father and his brothers.
Asked by Ms.Hailey LaBelle from USA | Apr. 14, 2011 17:34Reply
What year did Hu Hai die?
Answers (5)
Answered by Mr.Jack | Apr. 15, 2011 01:59

He died in 207Bc.
Answered by james brown from USA | Feb. 02, 2016 12:59

My social studies teacher has taught me that he died in 206 BCE.
Answered by Stephanie from AUSTRALIA | May. 26, 2016 03:57

He died when he was 50 and he was still emperor
Answered by xxyoohoo | May. 08, 2023 13:10

I thought he died in 210 BCE?
Answered by DumbBird73 | Feb. 04, 2024 14:37

He died in October 207BC. (13 years late!)
Ask a Question
Question Summary (100 characters)
Details (optional) (2,000 characters)