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The First Emperor of China

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Christine Moguel
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The First Emperor of China

C. Moguel

Film Review:    Documentary- The First Emperor of China

            He was only 38 years old when Qin Shi Huang became the first emperor of china in 221 BC.  This documentary on YouTube dives right into the historical facts surrounding the first emperor, how he gained control by bringing about peace in a country that had lived 500 years of war, to how he influenced measuring systems, language, and the road system throughout to create a more unified China.   The documentary is a great tool to show our students the story of the first emperor because it highlights the developments of the Qin dynasty in very bright and colorful depictions of his life.  The students can not only learn about the time line of his rule but also get a glimpse as to how they dressed, transportation methods of the time, and other aspects of life and culture as it was during 259 BC- 210BC. 

The documentary traces an attempt on his life early on only to have Qin to fire back on the rebels and pronounce himself first Emperor of China.   It showed how in that time he wanted to be the only and absolute leader of the civilized world.  It went on to show how he crowned his Empress and went on to have more than 3,000 concubines (a fact that the students did not understand) however, only to show that he was the man with the most power.  The documentary went on to talk about how after 500 years of War – Qin brought about peace.  He melted down all of the bronze from the weapons to create 13 large bronze statues as an act to show the people that the warring was done and the reign of peace had begun. 

In an attempt to unify the country under his rule Qin Shi Huang made several adaptations to the way things were run in every kingdom to unify them under one rule.  He standardized the weight and measuring systems throughout the kingdoms.  To speed up transportation he had roads widened to fit 6 horses passing through.  He built irrigation systems, and issued new coins that could be used anywhere in the empire.  He introduced simplified characters to make literature more universal.

His quest for immortality was the thing that killed him in the end.  He used his alchemists to find different potions to help him reach immortality.  The pills he took had mercury in them and ultimately were to blame for his death at 49 years old of poisoning.  He would be protected in the afterlife because he had an army of life size terracotta sculptures (7,000) buried underground at his burial site to assure he is protected in the afterlife.

I enjoyed the documentary, as It served a purpose to learn about the great and powerful Qin empire and rule.  My students all enjoyed the documentary; the highlight of the movie was qin buried 460 scholars alive to prove a point.  Harsh yet memorable part of the story of Qin Shi Huang- the first Emperor of China.