Ancient China had clowns attached to the Imperial Court, and Huang-ti
- who built the Great Wall of China -employed one to keep his spirits up.
Tradition holds that it was Hsi-ling-shi, wife of the Emperor Huang-ti
, who discovered silk in the third millennium b.c.
In 206 B.C., the Qin (=Ch'in) emperor Shi Huangdi (=Ch'in Shi'h huang-ti
) was buried in Xi'an (in the Ch'in tomb), the capital of his empire, together with a fabulous terracotta army of 6,000 life-sized soldiers and horsemen, all of them different but individually detailed.
The pattern was set by the Emperor Huang-Ti
a long time ago.
According to Abul-Farag, Al-Mamun's great book hunt reflected goals opposed to those pursued by the Chinese and the Turks,(18) who sought to excel "in the mechanical arts." The reference to the Chinese and their predilection for the "mechanical arts" at the expense of "philosophy" is not a vague allusion, but rather reflects -- in what is perhaps a legitimate hypothesis -- the tradition that has reached us through the Historical memoirs of Sseu-Ma Ts'ien: Ch'in Shih Huang-ti, the Emperor who had the Great Wall built (213 B.C.), is reported to have caused, at the urging of his advisor Li Szu, all books to be destroyed except those relating to medicine, pharmacology, and divination.
Ptolemy Philadelphus and Ch'in Shi Huang-ti were nearly contemporaries; each of them, concerned about the future of his library, called upon an advisor and followed his counsel.
Moreover, the Biography of Prince Shotoku (Shotoku Taishi denreki [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED], an early tenth-century source, reports that Prince Shotoku is said to have further elaborated on the implications of the Sui court's use of this term: "The meaning of huang-ti
[UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] is the same all over the world.
Born into an aristocratic family in the state of Ch'in, he entered the army and rose to become a general under Shih Huang-ti
; commanded armies for Shih in the unification of China and the creation of the Ch'in dynasty (222); led a huge Ch'in army to conquer southern China (215-210), and established himself as viceroy of the area with his capital at Canton (Guangzhou); became increasingly independent as the Ch'in dynasty faltered, and proclaimed himself Prince of Yueh (in Zhejiang province) (205); recognized the suzerainty of the new Han dynasty (196), but retained most of his autonomy; defeated a Han invasion (181), and died about 167.
As the unifier of China, Shih Huang-ti
was the founder of the Chinese Imperial system which persisted, with modifications, until 1912; an energetic and resourceful general, he was also an able ruler, but was sometimes cruel and spiteful, and was often dominated by superstition.