Good Reading : October 2010
younger readers word of mouth true tales Imagine you're made king at the age of 12.You have plenty of enemies.You have a million soldiers ar med with all kinds of awesome weapons.You have tons of gold and a network of spies. What would you do with all that power? In ALISON LLOYD's new book, Wicked War riors and Evil Emperors, we discover that it happened to a real boy, who made himself China's first emperor. He was brilliant and brutal. His legend, and the stories of his wicked warriors, have lived on for thousands of years. Wicked War riors and Evil Emperors: The true story of the fight for ancient China by Alison Lloyd is published by Puffin, r rp $16.95. The First Emperor's Name LIVES On The First Emperor sur vived a dangerous childhood. He succeeded in his ambition to rule the world (or the 40 million people he knew about, at least). Despite all his efforts, he did not live forever. Nor did his dynasty. Or did it? The title the First Emperor gave himself -- Qinshi huangdi -- might seem difficult to remember, but it has become part of the English language. If you remember that the 'Q' in 'Qin' is pronounced 'Ch', then you can guess where the English word 'China' came from. In name at least, China today is still the empire of the Qin. The Big Bronze MELTDOWN The first thing the Emperor did was to make sure his old opponents, the noblemen of the other states, couldn't rise up to fight against him, like they'd done so often in the past. The Emperor confiscated everyone's weapons, except those of his own army, of course. He had them taken to his capital city, Xianyang.They were melted down and made into twelve giant bronze statues for the palace courtyard. Each of the statues is said to have weighed 130 000 kilograms. (That's the weight of about 75 cars.) Chinese TAKEAWAY Then the Emperor moved 120 000 rich families from all the states to the capital, where he could keep an eye on what they were up to. (And they could share their wealth with the Emperor.) The First Emperor was more than a millionaire. Every luxury under Heaven was his for the taking. And take them he did.Whenever the Emperor removed another noble, he had an imitation of that noble's home built at Xianyang for himself, and the best stuff from the noble's house was moved there. 'The bells, drums and beautiful girls of the other states filled his halls,' the official Chinese historian tells us. By the time the Emperor had been in power for 10 years, he had a collection of 277 palaces and towers. China's BLOODIEST Battle Qin soon took on one of the states it wasn't 'best friends' with. In 260 BC, Qin troops fought their norther n neighbour -- Zhao -- at a place called Changping. The Battle of Changping was the bloodiest fight in ancient history. After the Zhao ar my had been defeated, the Qin killed every remaining Zhao soldier. That was to make sure the Zhao army could not recover and attack Qin. 400 000 Zhao soldiers died at Changping. Large numbers of Qin soldiers died too, so in total there were over half a million men killed in this battle. Human bones are still being dug up there today -- imagine finding a skeleton in your vegie garden. WICKED WEAPONS SWORDS Weapons were high-tech, valuable items in ancient China. Generals and rich noblemen had long straight swords made from bronze. A good sword was a work of art, decorated with gold patterns and engraved with the owner's name. Ordinary foot soldiers usually joined the ar my without weapons. If a state was poor and desperate, its soldiers fought with sharpened sticks and wooden clubs. Not much fun if you were facing the swords, spears, crossbows and chariots of your enemy. Or a herd of fire-breathing dragons. Bronze: a mixture of copper, tin and lead. Different combinations of these metals made the weapons harder or more flexible. Xianyang: pronounced 'Syen-young'. It was near where the Chinese city of Xi'an is today. See the map at the beginning of the book. Xianyang had seven bronze and iron foundries (factories) to make weapons for the Qin army.