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[Perspectives] What’s your poison?

Qin Shihuangdi (260–210 BCE), first Emperor of China, was an ambitious ruler. He sought to protect his domain and promote his ideals on an unprecedented scale—he ordered the construction of the Great Wall and decreed that all books in the empire be burned. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote an essay about the contradiction of both preserving and destroying to such an extreme. Perhaps, Borges suggested, Qin Shihuangdi sought immortality; sealing his kingdom and obliterating its history would create an enclosed realm into which decay could not enter.