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Li Si

Li Si (ca. 280 BC - September or October 208 BC) was the Prime Minister of the state (and later the dynasty) of Qin, between 246 BC and 208 BC. A famous Legalism_(philosophy)|Legalist, he was also a notable calligrapher. Li Si served under two kings and emperors: Qin Shi Huang, king of Qin and later First Emperor of China -- and his son, Qin Er Shi.

He helped systemize Chinese language|Chinese writing by inventing a new, centralized script based on prior regional scipts called the xiaozhuan.
The xiaozhuan is important in the history of Chinese writing as being one of the first efforts to systemize the Chinese ideographical system of writing.

Historians credited Li Si for giving Qin Shi Huang the idea of burying the Confucian scholars and widespread destruction of historical records and literature, including key Confucian texts, which he thought detrimental to the welfare of the state. A staunch believer in a highly bureacratic system, Li Si was also instrumental in systemizing standard measures and currency in post-unified China.

Li Si was a disciple of Xunzi. One of his most famous prose works, In Advice Against the Driving Away of Guest Immigrants (諫逐客書), was written in reaction to a vehement Qin edict to drive away all foreign immigrants from Qin territory.

Li Si was killed in the aftermath of a power struggle which involved the throning of new emperor Qin Er Shi and the rise of chief eunuch Zhao Gao. He was executed and chopped into two at the waist.

Li Si was originally from the kingdom of Chu (state)|Chu. When he was young, he was a minor official in that county. One day he saw a mouse eating filthy food inside the toilet, and took note that whenever someone or a dog came near, the mouse would hide in fear. Later he saw another mouse in the granary eating the food stored there, which was free of fear because no human or dog goes there. Thinking about the difference between the two mice, he came to understand that no matter how much talent a man might have, his life depended on his environment and the best is to be like the mouse living in the granary.

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