Ziying of Qin

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Ziying, King of Qin
King of Qin
ReignOctober – December 207 BC
PredecessorQin Er Shi
DiedJanuary 206 BC
Ancestral name: Ying (嬴)
Clan name: Qin (秦) or Zhao (趙)
Given name: Ziying (子嬰)
Posthumous name
Emperor Shang (殤皇帝)
HouseQin dynasty
FatherUnknown (no firm consensus; candidates include Fusu, Chengjiao, Zheng, Yiren)
Traditional Chinese子嬰
Simplified Chinese子婴
Literal meaningInfant son
Qin Sanshi
Literal meaningQin Third Generation
Qin Shangdi
Literal meaningQin Emperor Who Died Young

Ziying, King of Qin[a] (Chinese: 秦王子嬰; pinyin: Qín-wáng Zǐyīng, died c.January 206 BC[2]) was the third and last ruler of the Qin dynasty. He ruled over a fragmented Qin Empire for 46 days, from mid-October to early December 207  BC. He is referred to in some sources with the posthumous name Emperor Shang of Qin (秦殤帝) although Qin abolished the practice of posthumous names. (In Chinese tradition, even someone who never held a ruling title while he was alive might be given the posthumous title "emperor" after his death.)


There is no firm consensus as to what Ziying's relationship to the Qin royal family really was.

He is mentioned in historical records as either:

  1. A son of Qin Er Shi's elder brother (who, according to Yan Shigu's commentaries,[3][4] was Fusu);[5]

    In the third year of [Qin] Er Shi (207 BCE), Zhao Gao, after killing [Qin] Er Shi, installed [Qin] Er Shi's elder brother's son Prince Ying as the King of Qin.

    — Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, "Records of Qin Shi Huang"
  2. An elder brother of Qin Er Shi;[6]

    In the third year [of Qin Er Shi], [Zhao] Gao made a coup d'etat, [Qin] Er Shi committed suicide, and [Zhao] Gao crowned [Qin] Er Shi's elder brother Ziying.

    — Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, "Chronology of the Six States"
  3. A younger brother of Qin Shi Huang;[7] or

    It is said that Zhao Gao, after killing [Qin] Er Shi, took the Emperor's Seal and had the intention to usurping the throne, but none of the courtiers would join his cause. And so [Zhao] Gao, knowing that his actions were not accepted by Heaven and not supported by the courtiers, summoned [Qin] Shi Huang's younger brother to give him the [Imperial] Seal. Ziying ascended the throne, but was concerned, and claimed illness to remain absent from court, conspiring with the eunuch Han Tan [zh] to assassinate [Zhao] Gao.

    — Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, "Chronicle of Li Si"
  4. A son of a younger brother of Qin Shi Huang.[8]

    ... summoned [Qin] Shi Huang's younger brother's son Ying to give him the [Heirloom] Seal.

    — Xu Guang [zh], Commentaries on Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, "Chronicle of Li Si"

While Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian does not specify Ziying's age, it implies that he had at least two sons, whom he consulted.

Being Qin Er Shi's nephew[edit]

According to the historian Professor Wang Liqun's analysis,[which?] the maximum possible age of Ziying when Zhao Gao assassinated Qin Er Shi was 19. Therefore, his sons would have probably been around the ages of 1–2 and so it was not possible for him to consult them.

For Ziying's sons to be old enough to be consulted, a traditional age for them would have been around 14–16. Since they were 14–16 in 207 BC, when their supposed great-grandfather (i.e. three generations apart from them) Qin Shi Huang (born 259 BC), if he had been alive, that he could have been only 52 is highly improbable.

It seems unlikely that Ziying was either Fusu's son or any other grandson of Qin Shi Huang.

Being Qin Er Shi's brother[edit]

Ziying being another elder brother of Huhai (Qin Er Shi) is as unlikely as a grandson of Qin Shi Huang. Since Huhai showed no restraint at killing at least 20 of his siblings after ascending to the throne, sparing one elder brother is possible but rather incredible.

Being Qin Shi Huang's brother[edit]

Li Kaiyuan in his study[9] stated that Qin Shi Huang only had three brothers of any kinds: one paternal half-brother (Chengjiao) and two maternal half-brothers (sons of Lao Ai), therefore Ziying, if indeed being another brother of his, would have had more mentions in Chengjiao's supposed betrayal.

Being Qin Shi Huang's nephew[edit]

Ziying being Zhao Chengjiao's son bore no threat to Huhai's reign and was neither one of Qin Shi Huang's direct descendants nor in a higher position in the succession to Huhai. Ziying was also said to have tried to persuade Huhai not to kill Qin Shi Huang's other sons and daughters, which could have been a difficult task if he was among them.


After Qin Er Shi's death, Zhao Gao chose Ziying to be successor and changed the ruling title "emperor" back to "king" because the Qin dynasty then was as weak as the former Qin State, which no longer ruled the whole of China but held onto only Guanzhong.

Ziying was the only person in the Qin imperial court to defend and to try to persuade Qin Er Shi against the wrongful executions of Meng Tian and Meng Yi. He lured Zhao Gao, the regent who had assassinated Qin Er Shi, into a trap and killed him. Ziying later surrendered to Liu Bang, the leader of the first group of rebel forces to occupy Xianyang, the Qin capital. He was eventually killed, along with his male family members, by another rebel leader, Xiang Yu.


Ziying sometimes appears as a door god in Chinese and Taoist temples, usually paired with his successor, Emperor Yi of Chu.


  1. ^ Although the last Qin ruler is often referred to as "Ying Ziying" according to modern Chinese naming conventions, it was not customary to combine ancestral names (姓; xìng) with given names in ancient China.


  1. ^ Baxter, William & al. "Baxter–Sagart Reconstruction of Old Chinese Archived April 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine", pp. 6 & 148. 2011. Accessed 10 December 2013.
  2. ^ 12th month of the 1st year of Liu Bang's reign. The month corresponds to 12 Jan to 10 Feb 206BC in the Julian calendar.
  3. ^ Ban Gu; Ban Zhao; Ban Biao. Yan Shigu (ed.). Han Shu 漢書 [Book of Han] (in Chinese).
  4. ^ Sima Qian; Sima Tan. Yan Shigu (ed.). Shiji 史記 [Records of the Grand Historian] (in Chinese).
  5. ^ Sima, Qian. "Records of Qin Shi Huang". Records of the Grand Historian (in Chinese).
  6. ^ Sima, Qian. "Chronology of the Six States". Records of the Grand Historian (in Chinese).
  7. ^ Sima, Qian. "Chronicle of Li Si". Records of the Grand Historian (in Chinese).
  8. ^ Sima, Qian. "Chronicle of Li Si". In Xu, Guang (ed.). Records of the Grand Historian (in Chinese).
  9. ^ Li Kaiyuan (李开元) (2006-07-16). 秦王子婴为始皇弟成蟜子说——补《史记》秦王婴列传 [Qin prince Ziying was Qin Shihuang's younger brother Chengjiao's son: supplement to the biography of Qin Ziying in the Shiji] (in Simplified Chinese). 象牙塔网络. Archived from the original on 2018-03-25.
Third Generation of Qin
 Died: 206 BC
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Qin Shi Huang
King of Qin
207 BC
Preceded by Ruler of Qin
207 BC
Ruler of China
207 BC
Succeeded by