The famous historian, Sima Qian, said of Qin Shi Huang, the tyrant who united China and in the process terrorised its people:
Qin is a man of scant mercy who has the heart of a wolf.
If the Qin should ever get his way with the world, then the whole world will end up his prisoner.
Qin Shi Huangdi displayed many of the characteristics of a tyrant. He was ruthless, obsessive and cruel. Any group who might conceivably question his authority or undermine his power was oppressed, cruelly treated and even executed. For instance, according to legend, he ordered hundreds of Confucian scholars to be buried alive. Qin was also paranoid about threats to his power and the looming prospect of his own death. In his quest to lengthen his life by drinking so-called “elixirs of life”, he may actually have shortened it.
Nevertheless, this merciless tyrant succeeded in uniting the Warring States of China and establishing a unified writing system. Although his dynasty was short-lived, his reign was to have far-reaching effects on the history of China.
1 PBS Video: Qin Shi Huangdi and the Story of China
3 Extra reading and notes on Qin Shi Huang: