221 BCE — Qin Shi Huang orders the construction of the Great Wall

The self-proclaimed First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang is one of the most important figures in Chinese history. Under his leadership, massive reforms to the legal and economic systems took place – and, not incidentally, numerous scholars and writers were outlawed or executed, and their books burned. He also decreed vast infrastructure projects, including a massive program of road-building, and the creation of the Great Wall of China.

Huang was not responsible for the entire wall, but rather, for the construction of links between pre-existing sections and extending the ends of the them. The project was a long one, and would be completed for centuries, but it sure kept thousands of peasants to busy to rebel for generations at a time, and may have even served some defensive purpose (which is usually considered to be the reason for its construction).

Referenced in:

The Great Wall — Dead Kennedys

circa 221 BCE — The Analects of Confucius are first completed

One of the most influential works in Chinese history, the Analects of Confucius were written over a period of several decades durring the Warring States period.

Ever since copies of the Analects first begin to be distributed, over 2000 years ago, it has shaped Chinese society, teaching the Confucian virtues to generation after generation. Its influence has also been felt in other parts of Asia, as it slowly diffused into other nations and cultures.

Even today, the Analects remains one of the canonical texts that any serious Chinese scholar (or scholar of China) must read and understand in order to be considered properly educated.

Referenced in:

I Like Chinese — Monty Python