Zhang Liang’s Attempt at Bo Langsha-张良博浪沙行刺


Emperor Qin Shi Huang, seeing that he had complete control over the entire realm, felt a sense of pride. He planned to tour the entire country, partly to showcase the prosperity and power of the Qin Dynasty and partly because he feared that remnants of the vassal states might still be hiding throughout the land, waiting for an opportunity to rebel against Qin. He intended to use the tour to uncover these rebels and show them that no one dared to oppose the Qin Dynasty!

His intuition was indeed correct, as there was someone waiting for an opportunity. His name was Zhang Liang, born into a noble family of the Han state during the Warring States period. However, by Zhang Liang’s generation, Han had already declined and was eventually conquered by the advancing Qin army. Young Zhang Liang lost both his family and his homeland. Filled with hatred towards Emperor Qin Shi Huang for destroying his family and state, Zhang Liang conceived a plan to assassinate him. He sold all his possessions, telling those around him that he was going to study abroad, and thus left his hometown.

Along his journey, Zhang Liang met many capable individuals, seeking companions to assist him in assassinating Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Despite the contributions Emperor Qin Shi Huang made to China’s unification and the beneficial policies he implemented after establishing the Qin Dynasty, his cruelty was well-known, and many people harbored resentment towards him. After relentless efforts, Zhang Liang finally found a powerful ally willing to assist him. Delighted, Zhang Liang had a 120-jin heavy iron hammer (one jin in the Qin era was roughly equivalent to half a kilogram today) made as a weapon for this partner. He then began to scout Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s whereabouts, preparing to seize an opportunity during his tour.

In 218 BCE, during Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s third tour, while passing through Bolangsha south of Yangwu County (modern-day Yuanyang, Henan), a massive unidentified object suddenly flew out from the roadside and crashed directly into the middle of a carriage, shattering it into pieces. Zhang Liang and his partner thought they had killed Emperor Qin Shi Huang, but it turned out the carriage was carrying a minister instead. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, known for his suspicion and past assassination attempts, frequently changed carriages to avoid attacks. As per Qin’s regulations, carriages of the emperor and ministers had distinct features, with the emperor’s carriage pulled by six horses and ministers’ by four, making it clear which carriage Emperor Qin Shi Huang was in. The emperor’s vigilance and carriage rotations thwarted Zhang Liang’s attempt this time. Enraged, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered a nationwide search for the assailants, but Zhang Liang and his partner managed to escape. Unable to find the culprits, Emperor Qin Shi Huang eventually gave up, and the incident was soon forgotten.

During his escape, Zhang Liang adopted a new name and fled to Xiaonan (modern-day Juiningbei, Jiangsu). After the danger had passed, he emerged once again. Later, through a fortunate encounter, he received a military strategy book from an elderly man named Huangshi. From that moment, Zhang Liang earnestly studied military tactics and eventually became a renowned military strategist.

Though Zhang Liang’s plan to assassinate Emperor Qin Shi Huang failed, history has bestowed upon him high praise, and his story is recorded in “Records of the Grand Historian” and “History of the Former Han Dynasty.” Zhang Liang is revered as a hero.