China’s Great Library of Alexandria

Quin Dynasty Book Burning image

Most educated people know about the burning of the great library of Alexandria, and what a tragedy for humanity that was.

But I suspect that fewer people – at least in the Western hemisphere – know about the Quin dynasty’s massive campaign of book burning in 213 BC.

The emperor Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇), at the suggestion of his chancellor Li Si (李斯), instituted book burning (he condemned “all previously written historical books as worthless and ordered them burned, much to the detriment of our understanding of early Chinese history,” according to Jared Diamond), the persecution of intellectuals (including the burying alive of many Confucians), and a restriction on formal education for the common people. I think this can fairly be described as proto-totalitarianism.

As with the great library of Alexandria, we can only speculate about what has been lost.

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3 Responses to “China’s Great Library of Alexandria”

  1. crazyasuka Says:

    I didn’t know about that! Wow, what a waste. It sucks that computers didn’t exist back then to make backups. 😦 These days burning a physical book is nothing.

  2. Visuallens Says:

    From my visual, he wa a cruel and fearsome emperor and definately not a good looking emperor as seen above. From history books that I read, he commanded his soldiers to kill and bury alive many people and burn books because he didnt want anyone to go against his rule and power. He wanted to rule for ever and he even sent his men to search for herbs which would help to keep him to remain young.

    Qin Shi Huang remains a controversial figure in Chinese history. Many people nowadays believe that he was doing a good job as he unified Chine into one language, mandarin for his people.

    The great wall of China that he built was to protect against the enemies and is now one of the wonders of the world.

  3. Creative Class » Blog Archive » The Wikipedia Revolution - Creative Class Says:

    […] been destroyed or lost in massive amounts, like the burning of the great library of Alexandria, the book burning in China’s Quin dynasty, or the medieval witch burnings which eliminated knowledge of folk medicine. In Asimov’s […]

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