When he ascended the throne in 247 BC, China was divided into seven states long been at war with one another. The boy-king began his reign with three goals. One was to conquer the other six states and unite the country. Another was to be the most powerful ruler in China. The last was to erect the grandest tomb ever built. He succeeded in all three.
FIRST EMPEROR OF ALL CHINA 259–206 BC
China’s written history goes back thousands of years but weʼll begin just 2200 years ago with the man who first united China. He began the Great Wall and built the biggest tomb in history for himself, complete with an army of 7000 clay soldiers. He said his Qin Dynasty would last 10,000 generations. It ended three years after his death.
Around 550AD, two visiting monks took the risk. They returned from China to the Byzantine Emperor Justin’s court with silkworm eggs hidden in their hollow bamboo walking sticks. That was the start of silk production in Constantinople (present day Istanbul). The Persians leaned the art of silk weaving from the Greeks, but it was not until the thirteenth century that silk production became widespread in Italy and the rest of Europe.