Qin Shi Huang And The Chinese Language

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Saturday, 1 August 2009
My friend Gabriel, over at learnchinesetoday.info has written a guest post based about histoical figure Qin Shi Huang and his influence on the Chinese Language.

As some of you may know, the official title of 'emperor' was first used by Qin Shi Huang several hundred years before Christ. At the end of the 7 warring states period, the Qin state had conquered most of the other states and unified China properly.

Historically speaking, it was true that under the leadership of Qin Shi Huang, life was harsh and difficult. Many historians viewed him as a dictator who ruled across the land with an iron hand.
Untold numbers died working to build the Great Wall of China.

And yet paradoxically, it was Qin Shi Huang who had help create a lasting legacy in Chinese history. He had played a huge role in maintaining the stability and longevity of Chinese culture.

What did he contribute? Well, before the Qin dynasty, the 7 different states each had their own languages, rules and customs. After unification, Qin Shi Huang went about creating one common language. Everyone had to read and write the same Chinese characters.

This seemingly simple but profound change in standardizing the Chinese language would bind and enable the Chinese people to maintain their identity and culture for thousands of years to come.

If he had not done so, China might have developed differently. The Chinese people might have different languages and writing not unlike Europe (the French, British, etc.)

There were many more changes Qin Shi Huang made that help shaped the future course of Chinese imperial system, but suffice to say, Qin Shi Huang was not merely known as just a brutal dictator.

So the next time you wish to learn Chinese, think back to this historical figure who had contributed much to this ancient language.
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