Stories from History: Qin Shihuang Burned Books and Buried Scholars Alive

PureInsight | November 8, 2007

[] During the
Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) China underwent an epoch-making
transformation. Leading people from different social strata proposed
different opinions and a hundred schools of thought contended. They
were Zhuangsi, Mengzi, Xunzi, Mozi, and Hanfeizi, and many others. They
covered the schools of Confucianism, Legalists, Daoisism, and Mohism.
After Emperor Qin Shihuang united the country, he established an
autocratically centralized government. Besides carrying out political
and economic measures to solidify his new regime, he also adopted some
tyrannical ruling strategies.

Qin Shihuang praised the ideology of the Legalists highly. In 213 B.C.,
he accepted a suggestion by his Prime Minister Li Si to eliminate
literature other than historic records by burning the poems and
writings of various schools of thinkers in attempt to homogenize
thinking. This was a huge catastrophe to Chinese culture and the famous
"book burning" in history.

In the following year, Qin Shihuang also accepted Li Xi's suggestion to
bury 460 Confucian scholars alive in the capital city of Xianyang. This
was the so-called "burying Confucian scholars alive."

When reading about the book burning by Qin Shihuang, I can't help but
to think of the Great Cultural Revolution launched by the Chinese
Communist Party in 1966 and the unjustifiable persecution of Falun Gong

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