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An Ancient Chinese Sex Scandal: Qin, the First Emperor

Updated on March 2, 2013

A Scandal Paves the Way for a New Empire..

Statue of the First Emperor. Courtesy Travel China.com.
Statue of the First Emperor. Courtesy Travel China.com.
A glimpse of the Terra Cotta Army and the underworld of Emperor Qin. Courtesy Travel China.com.
A glimpse of the Terra Cotta Army and the underworld of Emperor Qin. Courtesy Travel China.com.
Great wall with brooding storm. Photo courtesy of China Travel.com
Great wall with brooding storm. Photo courtesy of China Travel.com
Mount Lee, Tomb of the First Emperor. Photo courtesy China Travel.com
Mount Lee, Tomb of the First Emperor. Photo courtesy China Travel.com
Warriors awaiting restoration to their full glory.
Warriors awaiting restoration to their full glory.
Half buried..the farmer who found the statues thought they were ghosts.
Half buried..the farmer who found the statues thought they were ghosts.

By Gloria Siess {"Garnetbird"}

In 1974 a farmer in Western China uncovered what he felt to be a ghost: a clay figure of an Qin Warrior. Luckily, Archaeologists stepped in and with careful, precise work, unveiled an entire city beneath the earth. It was like no other discovery in the annals of science: rows and rows of terra cotta soldiers, rivers of mercury, bronze horsemen, cranes, and a dome that glittered with artificial stars. Objects inscribed with the name of China's Prime Minister at that time revealed it to belong to the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

Qin's rise to the status of First Emperor took place on the heels of a shocking sex scandal. Qin's Mother had been having sexual relations with Lao Ai, a well-endowed man who was believed to have been a eunich. Not only was he not a eunich, but his sexual prowess with the Queen Mother was so appreciated, she fell in love and conspired against her own son. They secretly had two children together, and the ambitious Lao Ai sought to dislodge the young Qin and place his own son on the throne of China. To make matters worse, Qin's trusted Prime Minister joined the sorrid plot and sided with Lao Ai.

DIsgusted and outraged, Qin prevailed with the help of his palace guard and army, killing the traitors (including the children) and banishing his mother from court. He would never trust women due to this terrible betrayal, and would never marry and take a Queen. Many lovely concubines would share his bed and bear him children--none would be granted any special legal status.

Qin sought to unify China, and with the help of advanced weaponry (The Cross-Bow, for one) and good generals, pushed his kingdom into war after war. A military genius, his ruthless methods worked quite smoothly: if you lost a battle, you were punished. If you brought back the head of your enemy, you were promoted and rewarded. Qin Warriors (as depicted in the Terra Cotta Statues) were famous for bravery. One after one the neighboring kingdoms fell, costing as many as 1.2 million lives. In roughly ten years Emperor Qin, who declared himself to be a God, had subdued and tamed China, standardizing weight, measures, and written language.

Qin was feared for his cruelty. Minor infractions were met with terrible mutiliations. Spies and traitors were torn apart by horses. Any offense was met with efficient torture or brandings. He showed no mercy and trusted few. As he aged his paranoid mind imagined conspiracies everywhere--no one was safe. Random attacks on China's borders demanded that a great wall be built. Qin transcripted men of all ages into what would amount to grueling slavery, killing many in the process. To be sent to build the Great Wall became tantamount to a death sentence in a gulag or concentration camp. Hated and feared, the Emperor began to fear that spirits and ghosts in the afterworld were stalking him. Even as his great Tomb and Underworld was being constructed, Qin demanded potions of youth to keep him from dying. Documents refer to the First Emperor, the "Tiger of Qin," as ingesting toxic mercury in hopes of immortality.

One of the most fascinating stories from this period has to do with a Ghost. According to legend, the Ghost of a Qin Warrior appeared after midnight to some guards, announcing that Qin had displeased the ancestors with his brutality, and would soon die. This occurred after Qin had burned ancient books in China, and forbade citizens to own books. He had also buried 460 scholars alive as a demonstration of his contempt for learning. A dynamic ruler, Qin had no patience with Ancient Chinese Wisdom and parables. Besides, reading encouraged free thinking and Qin was hopelessly paranoid by this time. By all accounts, by 211 B.C. Qin was mentally ill and waning, moving from palace to palace in fear of conspiracy and murder.

When he passed on (due in part, no doubt to mercury poisoning), his circle at court feared a rebellion and covered his coach with rotting fish, to disguise the odor of death as they passed through the countryside. The tomb at Mount Lee was ready, and Qin took his place as he put it, "Master of the Underworld, neocropolis of the dead.." His staff and all concubines who had not borne children were buried alive with him in his underworld. (a not uncommon practice in ancient China).

Today over two million visitors a year come to view the Terra Cotta Soldiers and the monument to the First Emperor. The statues are being restored by local artists to reflect the glory that was once ancient China, in brilliant hues. No one has opened the actual tomb of Emperor Qin, nor is it likely they ever will.

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    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Fascinating, and very well written. Thank you. I do hope you are wrong about the tomb never being opened. If they did it would make Tutankhuman's tomb look like a back street pawn shop.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      Me too!! Thank you for reading--this find is just amazing. The Chinese scientists once said the level of contamination might be too much to handle (mercury, etc.?) strange, isn't it? They seem very reluctant to go further with it.

    • salmonjosh6 profile image

      salmonjosh6 6 years ago from Henderson,NV

      Very nice article. I found this real riveting and informative. I had heard about this subject at school, but they did not go into this much detail (probably because I was in eighth grade). I would love to see these structures one day in person. Thanks again,I found it really interesting.

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 6 years ago from Florida

      This is a very comprehensive hub, and a great story that I didn't know! I had no idea of the details of the Terra Cotta Soldiers! I was completely enthralled by the story. Thank you for sharing this!

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Very interesting Hub. Thanks.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Thank you for sharing this amazing story. I find it sad to think of all the years the Chinese have lived under one form of oppression or another. I can't imagine what would make someone want their staff and concubines to be buried with them, or those on the other side to carry out such a thing.

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

      Interesting and I learned a lot from this one. Chinese tradition, culture and history is very rich indeed. psychologically speaking, Qin's behavior maybe -- is a product of what happened to him and the betrayal of his mom. Still, he made China into what it is now, he is part of history.

      Thanks for this nice hub, Maita

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you! Yes, Qin was also abused when he was very young by the Zhou Nation according to historians.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      This is a really fascinating story. Friends of mine saw the Terracotta Army some years ago and came away awestruck by their beauty. I was not aware of all the historical background you have provided here, which is really interesting. I have long wanted to see these figures for myself, but doubt that I every will. You have made me want it more but perhaps need it less!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 6 years ago

      Wow. Thanks for the history lesson. I once saw some of these terra cotta, in video that is, in high school. I was too young to appreciate or to try to understand it. Anyway, this hub brought memories of those days. :)

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you for reading--it makes it all worthwhile!

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Nicely written, but how can Lao Ai have fathered children if he was a eunuch? By definition eunuchs have had their testicles removed, precisely to prevent such plots against rulers.

    • profile image

      Garnetbird 6 years ago

      He was passing as a Eunuch, but he was sexually active with the Queen. Thanks for commenting!

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      The Hub states that he was "believed" to be a Eunuch but was having relations with the Queen. One article I read indicated that he had disguised his genitals somehow and, hearing of the Queen's libido, boasted of his sexual equipment. ha. It's an ancient document and somewhat amusing.

    • viryabo profile image

      viryabo 6 years ago

      Awesome!

      Never heard of this ancient Chinese scandal and was quite enthralled by the story.

      I love anything historical and thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I was so captivated.

      Thanks for the enlightenment. Rated up.

      Cheers

    • profile image

      Selina 6 years ago

      Through this article,I feel you must very interested in Chinese culture.I love too,very much.

    • Sterling Carter profile image

      Sterling Carter 6 years ago from Indian Mound, Tennessee

      What a great Hub. I just love to learn stuff like this. Thumbs Up.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      THANK you so much for reading--it made my weekend a lot nicer!!

    • vietnamvet68 profile image

      vietnamvet68 6 years ago from New York State

      Such a fascinating story, I recall seeing this on the news, you have told the story with great detail. Thanks for sharing.

    • Shelly Bryant profile image

      Shelly Bryant 6 years ago from Singapore and/or Shanghai

      Excellent hub — well written with great information.

      I've been planning to write a hub about the Terra Cotta Warriors, and will definitely link to this. I'll put a link up from my China-related website as well.

      Thanks for the great information.

    • profile image

      Garnetbird 6 years ago

      THANK you--it's great to meet people online who are interested in the same things!

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Very entertaining and informative Hub...Your Hub has filled in a lot of gaps in my original reading of the Terra cotta army unearthed in China during the 1970's...

      Lao Ai, the Rasputin of China, is an interesting character described as being sexually endowed " like a Sherpa's pony "...

      Thanks for this historical treat...Larry

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      I recall reading that somewhere..that he actually displayed his penis in a kind of wooden "frame" to attract interested females. Your comment made my day!

    • htc_phone profile image

      htc_phone 6 years ago from United States

      Nice post! It's a very interesting and informative story.I like it.

    • profile image

      amorea13 6 years ago

      GarnetBird you write excellently - this is a great hub full of fascinating history and written in a compelling style too - I loved it - thank you. Anymore please?

    • profile image

      Garnetbird 6 years ago

      THANK you for caring enough to comment/It made my morning brighter!

    • profile image

      Hotel Solvang 6 years ago

      Wow.. there are controversies and then there are controversies. Getting found out thousand years later, now there's something to be afraid of.

    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 6 years ago from Texas

      I am such a fan of this part of Chinese history, especially Qin. Very good Hub, was riveted, wish there were more . Thanks for writing this Hub!

    • Benson Yeung profile image

      Benson Yeung 6 years ago from Hong Kong

      no kidding! Thanks for the great story.

    • kkgifts profile image

      kkgifts 6 years ago from Florence, SC

      I enjoyed your hub very much. I saw this on a documentary a few months ago. It's a great story. You made it very interesting.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      I need to write some more history Hubs; right now I'm kind of working on a children's book and feel a bit scattered; THANK you for your lovely, kind comments.

    • coltenk profile image

      coltenk 6 years ago from Bonney Lake, WA

      I love learning about history such as this! It's quite interesting what you can find buried wherever you are. Just makes you wonder...

    • tristand profile image

      tristand 6 years ago

      Hubs like these just go to show you that history doesn't have to be boring. I only wish there were more of these floating around!

    • kazemaru2 profile image

      kazemaru2 6 years ago from usa

      Another unexpected story from the Far East it just shows how history is never complete so many gaps in our understanding. Especially with the whole eunuch situation.

    • profile image

      EliKen 6 years ago

      Step mothers and fathers could never be trusted...

      Ken@eliken...

    • mikiy profile image

      mikiy 6 years ago

      Such an interesting! This is categorized under History but I'd say this is more of story than history and I think that's why it caught our interest. Thank you!

    • profile image

      navp 6 years ago

      Interesting and I learned a lot from this one. Chinese tradition, culture and history is very rich indeed. psychologically speaking, Qin's behavior maybe -- is a product of what happened to him and the betrayal of his mom. Still, he made China into what it is now, he is part of history.

      Thanks for this nice hub,

    • Ellelackey profile image

      Ellelackey 6 years ago

      Yes, I agree, I also found this hub very intresting and quite informative. I do believe Qin's behavior WAS due to betrayal, but I disagree, he did not do much for china navp. Still, thankyou for the very intresting and informative hub, Elle

    • sujju profile image

      sujju 6 years ago from mangalore, india

      interesting,exciting n a beautiful hub.....thanks for the information......

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      Thank all of you for your kind comments...you are very much appreciated!

    • PaperNotes profile image

      PaperNotes 6 years ago

      Wow! China indeed has a very interesting history. This reminded me of a film by Jackie Chan. I just can't remember the title.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you--yes, it does seem like a movie at that!

    • profile image

      Jsmart 6 years ago

      Fascinating! I read or heard someplace that the reason that the Chinese Government will not open the tomb is due to a conflict of interests, in that they (like the Japanese) respect/revere Ancestor Worship, and possess a strong belief in their view of an afterlife: to open up the tomb to the light of day could (it was claimed) release the spirit of this once powerful monarch; and cast bad omens upon those responsible.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      Amazing--I agree--it seems rather risky altogether, put that way! Thank you for reading and commenting!

    • TorremochaJ profile image

      TorremochaJ 6 years ago

      I think in ancient days, strong and powerful personnel command more sex specially those who are in the rank of generals where most people afraid of them and offer their daughter for them.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 6 years ago from Northern California

      Absolutely! Thanks for reading!

    • platinumOwl4 profile image

      platinumOwl4 5 years ago

      I think this is a great hub and I would love to know more about this period, from you.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 5 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you--love your owl, by the way.

    • andrebreynolds profile image

      andrebreynolds 5 years ago

      Great information and well written hub!..Very interesting and the photos are really good.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 5 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you--this was fun to write..

    • surefire profile image

      surefire 5 years ago

      Fascinating story. I like history and love to write about it also and your hub has given me many new ideas - especially to explore the Asian history and find something interesting enough to write about.

      BTW. the pics are great - great wall specially

      A thumbs up!

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 5 years ago from Northern California

      You made my night! THANK you!!

    • profile image

      QuickieBear 4 years ago

      Try to convert it over to a R-rated movie...Hmmm I wondered hows the BO's like?

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 4 years ago from Northern California

      cute!!

    • Cybil Castil profile image

      Cybil F. Castil 2 years ago from Tacloban City

      if Emperor Zheng is notorious and had a bad reputation, I still admire him for being a strong and powerful leader.

    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 13 months ago from Singapore

      Well written hub! On one of the more juicy segments of Imperial Chinese history.

      So it was rumoured, Qin him was possibly an illegitimate child. His really was said to be Lu Buwei instead of Qin royalty. In fact, some "wild" history state that Lu Buwei (a merchant who became premier) became so tired of Qin's mother's endless sexual demands, that he arranged for the fake eunuch to entertain her.

    • GarnetBird profile image
      Author

      Gloria Siess 13 months ago from Northern California

      Oh wow!! Fascinating.

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