We started out our Villains From History class learning about the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Before the class I spent some time reading about and studying Qin’s life then created an outline to make sure I hit everything I wanted to talk to the kids about.
We spent a few minutes at the beginning talking about how probably no one who has every lived was all the way good or all the way bad, except Christ, to point out that there were some good things that Qin did during his reign. They had a lot of fun as we talked about the “less kind” things he did. They knew the answer to what Qin did to those that crossed him after the first one of two and would tell out, “He killed them or made them slaves!”
I purposely skipped over some of the details of his life, because of the age group I was teaching, such as his still in question origin story and his mothers lover who tried to assassinate him. We’ll save those details for another day, but we still covered most of the big, important events of his life, and got a feeling for who he was.
Qin Shi Huang
259 BCE – 210 BCE
- Born Ying Zheng
- Became King when he was 13, but wasn’t really in charge until he was 19
- Seven warring states – conquered them all within 10 years
- China unified for the first time
- From state of Qin – where China got its name
Did Some Good
- Universal standardization
- Money, Weights, Axle lengths, Writing
- Linked fortresses that protected the individual states – start of Great Wall of China
Not As Good
- He ordered almost all books to be burned except historical records of the Qin and some medical and agricultural texts
- Relocated powerful families to the capital so he could keep an eye on them
- Weapons from warring states were confiscated melted down
- Peasants had one of two jobs – assigned to grow food or to harvest silk. If they tried to do anything beside their assigned job or if they were slow or lazy, they were put to death, or sent to work on the wall.
- People who disagree with him were put in prison to do hard labor or put to death
- Hundreds of thousands of workers (slaves, prisoners) built palaces, canals, and roads
Underground Army and Tomb
- Built a huge tomb (20 sq miles) using 700,000 forced-labor conscripts
- Over 8,000 life sized figures in full armor
- Infantrymen, Archers, Chariots and horses, Officials, Servants, Entertainers
- No two look alive
- Been subject to several assassination attempts
- “He sat on his throne with a sword across his knees and let no man know in what room of his many palaces he would sleep.”
- Died on a trip to find the elixir of life
- His unified empire fell apart less than four years after his death
At the end of class we pull up a short video to review everything we had learned.