20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts

Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, by Zhongyi Yuan (c. 1850). Wikimedia Commons.

19. Qin Shi Huang – the First Emperor of China – was the victim of several, ultimately unsuccessful, assassination attempts during his conquest and unification of the nation

Qin Shi Huang (b. 259 BCE) was the founder of a unified China in 220. Suffering multiple assassination attempts in an effort to thwart his unstoppable advance throughout modern-day China, the first occurred in 227. Organized by the Crown Prince Dan of Yan, two men, Jing Ke and Qin Wuyang, were dispatched with gifts for the great conqueror. Upon meeting the legendary ruler, Wuyang became paralyzed with fear, leaving Jing Ke to carry out the effort alone. Unintentionally revealing a hidden dagger in the process of unveiling a map, the pair engaged in single-combat, resulting in Jing Ke suffering eight mortal wounds at the hands of the emperor.

A close friend of Jiang Ke, Gao Jianli sought to avenge his friend. However, having had his eyes put out upon recognition at court, his amateurish effort to kill the emperor with a piece of lead hidden within a lute failed spectacularly. The third attempt, occurring in 218, came at the hands of the defeated Han. Arranged by aristocrat Zhang Liang, who sold his estate to pay for the endeavor, Liang and an assassin hid in a mountain pass with a metal cone weighing approximately 100 kilograms. Upon seeing the imperial convoy, the assassin hurled the cone at the carriage sending it off the cliff. However, the emperor was actually traveling in a second identical carriage, thus surviving the inventive effort.