Jonathan Clements investigates the continuing fascination Chinese filmmakers feel for both the First Emperor and the man who tried to kill him.
It was a messy, scrappy struggle in a chilly hall, lasting less than a minute. A suicidal assassin pulled a knife out of nowhere and chased the ruler of the Qin dynasty around his throne. Bodyguards watched in frustration, forbidden on pain of death from mounting the steps to protect their leader. The court physician distracted the assassin by hurling his medicine kit at him, and when the man ducked, his would-be victim was finally able to tug his own long ceremonial sword from its scabbard. The murder attempt was over scant seconds later, as the attacker died under a rain of blows from the man who was supposed to have been his victim.
The incident changed history. Now, nothing stood in the way of the man who would become the First Emperor. The would-be killer, Jing Ke, had been the very last man who stood a chance of getting close enough to kill the power-hungry ruler. His failure to do so was a crucial event in the birth of the nation we now call China, and has been dramatised on countless occasions, not the least on film. Continue reading