“First Emperor of China” Movie Review

June 7, 2010

Released in 1989 and narrated by Christopher Plummer, this version of the First Emperor of China is about half the length of the nine-part series, The First Emperor: The Man Who Made China (link to part 1), about Qin Shi Huangdi on YouTube.


This documentary was first seen on an IMAX screen, and it covers a few of the known facts about the first emperor’s life.  There is the attempted coup by a prime minister; the assassin with a poison knife; the conquest of six Chinese nations to unify China (too brief on detail); adopting one written language, which resulting in book burning and burying hundreds of scholars alive who disagreed with him; completing the Great Wall of China, and the creation of the Terra Cotta army that would guard his tomb.

Then there is emperor’s quest to live forever by consuming a form of liquid mercury, which shortened his life by decades—an example of how power corrupts absolutely making a man believe he was as powerful as a god.

This link will take you to the New York Times review, which said it was a painless history lesson full of vibrant period details but lacking human drama.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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