Today in social studies we discussed the rise and fall of the Qin Dynasty, ruled for 10 years by Shi Huangdi, China’s first emperor. Qin Shi Huangdi was a great leader who united the 7 warring states in China and expanded China’s borders to what they mostly are today. He seperated his great empire into districts that were ruled by individual government officials that the emperor approved of individually. He boasted that his Dynasty would last for 10,000 generations. In truth, his empire lasted about 15 years, or 2 generations. He led a harsh and strict rule, outlawing Confucius beliefs and ideals and killing or imprisoning those who practiced or believed those ideals. He began work on the Great Wall of China; a great defensive blockade against the raiding nomadic northern tribes. This took him about 10 years to build and involved mostly slave labor. However he also burnt any all books that didn’t teach ways to better China and the current Emperor. In other words if it wasn’t a book on technology, farming, or medicine it was destroyed. There go the old ways and beliefs!
During this time there was a strict belief in legalism, emphasizing the strict adherence to legal codes and the absolute power of the emperor. Throughout this time there were many advances including a single, common currency and improved writing systems. However due to the harsh and unfair rule, there were many groups of rebels beginning to work together in an attempt to overthrow the Qin Dynasty. One of the most important rebel members was a man named Liu Bang.
Liu Bang was one of the only emperors in China to come from a family of peasants. Not showing any interest in farming, he became a minor patrol officer. On a escort mission to take a group of convicts to a location, he released all the prisoners. This got him exiled and he began to help form an army to take over Qin Shi Huangdi. After the rebellion succeeded in disposing of the Qin Dynasty, Liu Bang took command and became the next emperor of China. Along with various other accomplishments, he continue to lead many military campaigns against Qin vassals and supporters. He also brought back Confucianism and its beliefs and ideals.
Now, let’s discuss the Star Wars story line.
First we have emperor Palpatine, a harsh and dictatorial ruler who disposed on the Jedi order; having all practitioners and supporters killed or imprisoned. He also divided his empire (The Galactic Empire) into smaller sectors, each ruled by a Moff or Grand Moff (the top governor of the sector.) These sectors followed all the same rules and regulations throughout the empire, with no freedom of their own, and no say in the government. Palpatine was so sure of his rule, that he boasted that it would last for 10,000 years. Incidentally, it only lasted 24 years. Palpy led a harsh and strict rule over his empire and spent a good time (after Order 66) hunting down and killing all Jedi. If wasn’t just Jedi either that he was adamant to kill, but also any that showed a sensitivity towards The Force. Any Jedi supporters were also quickly dispersed and imprisoned.
Palpy didn’t build a Great Wall, but he did build a giant planet killing laser called The Death Star. While it wasn’t build to defend the empire, it did strike fear into the empire’s enemies, just as the Great Wall was meant to do. The Death Star took 20 years to build (the first time,) and involved mostly all slave labor for its completion.
During the Empire’s rule it was pretty much understood that Emperor Palpatine had absolute power. That was never really a question, except to the rebellion. The Empire did however institute a common form of currency called “credits.” This later changed to individual currencies during after the Empire fell. During this time, while the Rebellion was building it’s troops, a young man who came from a farming community rose in stature. Luke Skywalker lived with his Aunt and Uncle on Tatooine where they worked on a moisture farm. Luke however was not interested in farming and instead wanted to help the Rebellion cause. Over time he helped form Rogue Squadron, a rebel military group. He eventually destroyed the Empire (helped really) and got a higher stature in the New Republic. However, he continued to lead many military cacampaignsagainst outer lying Imperial bases and supporters. He fully adopted the Jedi way and helped incorporate the Jedi Council back into the basic government of the New Republic.
Did I mention the correlation between the Han Dynasty and Han Solo? Ok so it’s just a name, but it’s still something!
And so this is how I taught the early history of Ancient China to a class of 6th graders. About 1/5 figured it out before I mentioned anything, 1/4 were able to catch on while I explained, and at least 3 face palmed in embarrassment that t hey didn’t figure it out. Say what you will, but it’s nice to have pop culture help with learning!