First attempted assassination

Jing Ke
Jing Ke’s assassination attempt on Qin Shi Huang; Jin Ke (left) is held by one of Qin Shi Huang’s physicians (left, background). The dagger used in the assassination attempt is seen stuck in the pillar. Qin Shi Huang (right) is seen holding an imperial jade disc. One of his soldier (far right) rushes to save his emperor. Stone rubbing; 3rd century, Eastern Han

King Zheng and his troops continued to take over different states. The state of Yan was small, weak and frequently harassed by soldiers. It was no match for the Qin state.So Crown Prince Dan of Yan plotted an assassination attempt to get rid of King Zheng, begging Jing Ke to go on the mission in 227 BC. Jing Ke was accompanied by Qin Wuyang in the plot. Each was supposed to present a gift to King Zheng: a map of Dukang and the severed head of Fan Wuji.

Qin Wuyang first tried to present the map case gift, but trembled in fear and moved no further towards the king. Jing Ke continued to advance toward the king, while explaining that his partner “has never set eyes on the Son of Heaven”, which is why he is trembling. Jing Ke had to present both gifts by himself. While unrolling the map, a dagger was revealed. The king drew back, stood on his feet, but struggled to draw the sword to defend himself. At the time, other palace officials were not allowed to carry weapons. Jing Ke pursued the king, attempting to stab him, but missed. King Zheng drew out his sword and cut Jing Ke’s thigh. Jing Ke then threw the dagger, but missed again. Suffering eight wounds from the king’s sword, Jing Ke realized his attempt had failed and knew that both of them would be killed afterwards. The Yan state was conquered by the Qin state five years later.

Second attempted assassination

Gao Jianli

Gao Jianli was a close friend of Jing Ke, who wanted to avenge his death. As a famous lute player, one day he was summoned by King Zheng to play the instrument. Someone in the palace who had known him in the past exclaimed, “This is Gao Jianli”. Unable to bring himself to kill such a skilled musician, the emperor ordered his eyes put out. But the king allowed Gao Jianli to play in his presence. He praised the playing and even allowed Gao Jianli to get closer. As part of the plot, the lute was fastened with a heavy piece of lead. He raised the lute and struck at the king. He missed, and his assassination attempt failed. Gao Jianli was later executed.

Third attempted assassination

Zhang Liang (Western Han)

In 230 BC, the state of Qin had defeated the state of Han. A Han aristocrat named Zhang Liang swore revenge on the Qin emperor. He sold all his valuables and in 218 BC, he hired a strongman assassin and built him a heavy metal cone weighing 120 jin (roughly 160 lb or 97 kg). The two men hid among the bushes along the emperor’s route over a mountain. At a signal, the muscular assassin hurled the cone at the first carriage and shattered it. However, the emperor was actually in the second carriage, as he was travelling with two identical carriages for this very reason. Thus the attempt failed. Both men were able to escape in spite of a huge manhunt.

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