Qin Shi Huang
The First Emperor Memorialized in Film
Poster for "The Emperor and the ASsassin"
Seal of the First Emperor of China
King Ying Zheng (the future First Emperor of China)
How does the movie’s portrayal of Ying Zheng
compare with the historical First Emperor?

Seal of the First Emperor of China
Is Jing Ke’s character in the movie consistent with the facts
presented in the Prologue of The First Emperor of China?
Lao Ai (a.k.a. Marquis Changxin)In the ninth year of the king’s reign [238 BCE] someone reported that Lao Ai was not a real eunuch at all, but had constantly been engaging in secret misconduct with the queen dowager, and that she had borne him two sons, both of whom were being kept in hiding. “He and the queen dowager have agreed,” said the report, “that, when the present king passes on, one of these sons shall succeed him.”
The king thereupon referred the matter to his officials for investigation and all the facts were brought to light, including those that implicated the prime minister Lü Buwei. In the ninth month Lao Ai and his three sets of relatives were executed, the two sons whom the queen dowager had borne were put to death, and the residence of the queen was officially transferred to Yong. Lao Ai’s followers were all deprived of their household goods and sent into exile in Shu.

Lu Buwei, Prime Minister of QinThe king of Qin wanted to put the prime minister Lü Buwei to death as well but, because he had won great distinction in the service of the former king, and because so many followers and men of eloquence came forward to speak on his behalf, the king could not bring himself to apply the death penalty. In the tenth month of the tenth year [237 BCE] of his reign the king of Qin removed Lü Buwei from the office of prime minister. ... [Later, the king] ordered Lü Buwei, the marquis of Wenxin, to leave the capital and proceed to his fief in Henan. A year or so later [235 BCE] he learned that so many of the followers and envoys of the various feudal lords were travelling to Henan to call on Lü Buwei that their carriages were never out of sight of each other on the road. Fearful that there might be some plot afoot, the king sent a letter to Lü Buwei saying, “What did you ever do for the state of Qin that Qin should enfeoff you in Henan with the revenue from a 100,000 households? What relation are you to the ruler of Qin that you should be addressed as ‘Uncle’? Be so good as to take your family and retinue and move your residence to Shu!”
Map of Qin showing Xianyang (the capital) and Shu
Lü Buwei judged that he would only have to suffer increasing insult and, fearing the death penalty, he drank poison and died. (Records of the Grand Historian: Qin, 164-5; cf. Clements, The First Emperor of China, Chapter 2)
How does this account (from the biography of Lü Buwei in
Records of the Grand Historian) compare with the film version?
Chronology of Events in the Shiji
Records of the Grand Historian
Qin destroys the state of Zhou in 256 BCE
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Ying Zheng (the future First Emperor) becomes King of Qin in 246 BCE
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Lao Ai (Marquis Changxi) killed in 238 BCE
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Lü Buwei takes poison in 235 BCE
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The state of Han is annexed in 230 BCE
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The state of Zhao is annexed in 228 BCE
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Jing Ke dies in 227 BCE
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The state of Wei is annexed in 225 BCE
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The state of Chu is annexed in 223 BCE
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The state of Yan is annexed in 222 BCE
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The state of Qi is annexed in 221 BCE
(completing the unification of China)

Map of the Warring States Period
Seal of the First Emperor of China
What did Sima Qian have to say about Lady Zhao?

Essay 1: The First Emperor of China
The Grand Historian, Sima Qian, offers the following reflection on the First Emperor’s unification of China:
Then Qin faced south to call itself ruler of the empire, which meant that the world now had a Son of Heaven to head it. The masses hoped that they would be granted the peace and security to live out their lives, and there was not one of them who did not set aside selfish thoughts and look up to the sovereign in reverence. ... But the First Emperor was greedy and short-sighted, confident in his own wisdom, never trusting his meritorious officials, never getting to know his people. He cast aside the kingly Way and relied on private procedures, outlawing books and writings, making the laws and penalties much harsher, putting deceit and force foremost and humanity and righteousness last, leading the whole world in violence and cruelty. In annexing the lands of others, one may place priority on deceit and force, but insuring peace and stability in the lands one has annexed calls for a respect for authority. Hence I say that seizing, and guarding what you have seized, do not depend upon the same techniques.1
Explain why you either agree or disagree with Sima Qian’s assessment of the First Emperor. Your position should be supported by at least four examples of the First Emperor’s accomplishments and/or failures drawn from Jonathan Clements’ The First Emperor of China as well as references to at least two additional peer-reviewed secondary sources. Since Clements’ book does not have an index, you should take notes on relevant passages as you read through the text. For more details on the essay requirements see the Essay 1 Rubric below.