Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Ancient China: The First Emperor of China

In 221 BC, the king of the state of Qin unified the Warring States. Having conquered all independent kingdoms, he named himself Qin Shi Huang: First Emperor of Qin. It was the first time all of China was under one ruler. 

Qin, pronounced "chin", is the basis for the western word "China"

Although his reign only lasted 12 years, the First Emperor ushered in two thousand years of imperial rule. Known as a cruel, merciless leader who burned most books and buried scholars alive, his reforms have had lasting effects. He established common currency, standardized weights and measures, and standardized the Chinese script. He had an extensive national road system built connecting the provinces to improve trade. He also began construction of the Great Wall, knick named the "longest cemetery on Earth" due to how many workers died during its construction, their bodies thrown into trenches alongside the wall.

Ban Liang: Chinese currency dating from around the time of Qin dynasty.
Emperor Qin standardized currency to facilitate trade.
Coins were cast, and you can find an image of coin mold here.
The ban liang, round with a square center were easy to string together and convenient to carry.
The shape of the coins remained this way until the beginning of the 20th century
Photo Credit: Jean-Michel Moullec

Emperor Qin - First emperor of ChinaThe Emperor of Qin was obsessed with immortality, and took mercury pills in the hopes of extending his life. It is believed the mercury intake was the cause of his death at the age of 49, while traveling on tour of Eastern China in the summertime. Fearing an uprising, the very few statesmen who knew of his death pretended he was alive until they had returned to the capital. They continued to bring him food and pretend to speak to him about important manners. In order to mask the smell of his decaying body, carriages of fish were ordered ahead and behind the emperor's carriage. His tomb, which took 38 years to complete, was protected by the famed terracotta warriors. Although he thought his dynasty would rule China for thousands of years, his empire collapsed three years after his death. 

Extension Activity:

Mold your own coins!
Photo Source: Angelicscalliwags
The Angelic Scalliwags studied ancient China in their homeschool. Their extensive studies covered all dynasties, each with a fantastic, creative, hands on activity. Their site is always a source of inspiration, and their family is enchanting. If you would like to learn more about ancient China, you can read all of her ancient China blog posts here, and to learn more about the Qin dynasty and a look at molding your own Chinese coins, go to her Qin dynasty post.  Don't their finished ancient Chinese coins look great?

Photo Source: Angelicscalliwags

Want to learn more about his terracotta army? You can read our post here, with book reviews, video, and our own crafted clay soldiers.


  1. Thanks so much for the mention, and the vote of confidence. Always much appreciated!

    1. I can't imagine not mentioning your ancient China studies - they were so great!


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