Because the Nineteen Eighties, China’s harsh first emperor has turn out to be a preferred topic for delicate, revisionist portrayals in TV and movie.
Within the just lately concluded hit historic drama “Qin Dynasty Epic,” Qin Shi Huang (259 B.C.-210 B.C.) — the primary emperor of China — is depicted as a benevolent ruler who needs to get rid of the kings of different states, unify the nation, and produce happiness to the individuals.
That is in sharp distinction to historic China’s conventional depiction, which sees him as a tyrant rising from bloody wars. But, such empathy for Qin Shi Huang hasn’t been unusual in well-liked Chinese language tradition over the previous 4 a long time, reflecting each a reinterpretation of historic figures and a shift in mainstream values.
Because the Han dynasty (202 B.C.-220 A.D.), which adopted the Qin, Confucian thought has dominated Chinese language society. Qin Shi Huang was seen as a tyrannical, unruly determine who put his personal ambition earlier than the lives of extraordinary individuals and suppressed Confucianism by “burning the books and burying the students.” This evaluation lasted in China proper till the top of the monarchy in 1912, when intellectuals who accepted Enlightenment tenets attacked Qin Shi Huang as a totem of imperial energy. Following the founding of the Individuals’s Republic, playwright Guo Moruo even used Qin Shi Huang to satirize Chiang Kai-shek, the chief of the Kuomintang, in his historic play “Gao Jianli.”
Though some throughout the Republican interval regarded to reappraise China’s first emperor, essentially the most important change didn’t come about till the Nineteen Eighties. At the moment, new historicism emerged in Chinese language historical past and literature, which advocated reassessing authority, and deconstructing and producing new historic narratives. Beneath this affect, historic dramas comparable to “Yongzheng Dynasty” and “For the Sake of the Republic” boldly recreated and reevaluated figures just like the Yongzheng Emperor, Empress Dowager Cixi, and Solar Yat-sen, giving audiences a refreshing change and triggering heated debates.
Amid this new wave, Qin Shi Huang was an vital object for examination. In 1986, Asia Tv in Hong Kong launched the primary historic drama based mostly on his life titled “Rise of the Nice Wall.” Shortly after, broadcast stations throughout the Chinese language mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan all adopted go well with, releasing dramas centered on the emperor. Within the Nineties, movies and TV dramas introduced extra various views, each crucial of his despotism and admiring of his achievements, reflecting the complicated attitudes producers had towards the emperor. Proceed to learn the total article right here
– This text was written by Zong Cheng, and translated by David Ball. It initially appeared on Sixth Tone.