Man rewrites story of China's first emperor

Man rewrites story of China's first emperor
Zhao Zhiyuan, at his home in Xianyang, Shaanxi province, spent 30 years researching and writing a book about Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), who is credited with uniting China.
PHOTO: China Daily/ANN

Controversy has always surrounded Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), who has been viewed as a tyrant throughout history.

But a restaurant owner has devoted 30 years of study in his spare time to prove that Qin Shihuang was not a tyrant, but in fact an enlightened ruler.

Zhao Zhiyuan, 67, who lives in Xianyang, Shaanxi province, was educated to junior high school level and runs a small cold noodle restaurant for a living.

After learning a little about Qin Shihuang, who ruled from 259-210 BC, at primary school, Zhao started to worship the emperor who unified China and established the first feudal dynasty in Chinese history.

Almost every day after school, Zhao would go to a teahouse to listen to stories and discussions about China's first emperor, or would go to the library to read books about him.

"Over the weekend, I would stay in the teahouse for the whole afternoon to listen to the discussion about the emperor, and I would write down the views the adults discussed in my notebook and then confirm them by consulting historical books," Zhao recalled.

For years, Zhao took a great interest in the emperor. "Many people said that Qin Shihuang was a tyrant because he killed a number of intellectuals who had different ideas from him and set fire to books, but I learned that Qin created a secure state, his people were honest and law-abiding and his officials were sensitive to people's needs," Zhao said.

In 1985, after reading many books, Zhao decided to begin writing a book of his own about the emperor.

"I had to write my book late at night, since I ran a small inn and had to serve my guests at that time," Zhao said.

In order to gather more information to support his views, Zhao visited many libraries in provinces and cities all over the country, leaving the inn for his wife, Wang Yifang, to manage.

His wife said, "I have been supporting him for years because I think reading and writing are very good hobbies."

Wang said that when they ran the inn, and later when they had their small noodle restaurant, she looked after the business as much as possible to give her husband more time to write his book.

"I never complained when sometimes he got up and wrote his book at midnight," Wang said.

In June, Zhao published his book, The Legend of the Great Qin Shihuang, which is 380,000 words long and is based on his 30 years of studies.

In the book, Zhao argues that Qin Shihuang was the greatest statesman, strategist and reformer in Chinese history.

Zhao also wrote several other books about the emperor over the years and paid to have them printed.

"I did not sell the books but gave them to my relatives and friends as gifts. I wrote the books as my own legacy," Zhao said.

Zhao Chunguang, honorary president of the Writers' Association of Xianyang and also a writer and historian, said that Zhao's book has significance for academic studies on the emperor and on the Qin Dynasty.

"I have known Zhao for more than 20 years, and I think it was very hard for him to persist in studying and researching Qin Shihuang and the culture of the Qin Dynasty," Zhao Chunguang said.

He said that the residents of Xianyang, which used to be the capital of the Qin Dynasty, should learn from Zhao and pay attention to the dynasty's culture.

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