Being emperor of China was one of the toughest jobs in the world. The Chinese believed that an emperor's right to rule was bestowed by heaven. If the emperor failed to govern responsibly or mistreated the people, his right to rule - the 'Mandate of Heaven' - could be withdrawn. Natural disasters such as floods or famines could be seen as evidence that the emperor had lost the support of heaven - and should be overthrown.
Throughout Chinese history, the emperors of China exhibited many styles of leadership. Some ruled ruthlessly and crushed all opposition while others expanded trade and supported the arts. For each one, their personal preferences shaped their decision-making and the impact of their reign. In this activity, students explore the nature of leadership in Chinese history.
Suggested Time: 1-2 hours
After completing this lesson, students will be able to describe and evaluate the leadership qualities of emperors and empresses in China’s history.
- Which Emperor Are You? Interactive Game
- Video Clips and Background Essays
Engage - Leadership Qualities
- In small groups or individually, brainstorm positive and negative leadership characteristics. Identify why these characters are positive and negative.
- Identify the top five ideas in both categories.
- As a class, discuss those characteristics and the following questions:
- What types of leaders have the positive and negative characteristics?
- Is it possible for a good leader to hold negative characteristics? Why or why not?
Explore - Which Emperor Are you?
- Have students take the Which Emperor Are You? quiz on the Story of China website, tracking their responses to the questions as they go through the quiz.
- Students should review the paragraph in the quiz that describes why they were assigned that specific emperor. Students should also view the background essay and/or video clip.
- Have students react to the characteristics held by the emperors and their responses to the questions in the quiz. Student should also analyze their responses.
Apply - Connecting Ideas
- Using the leadership characteristics determined in the explore section above, have students evaluate their selected emperor. Would they categorize him or her as more negative or positive? Why?
- Students can use one of the following methods to articulate their findings:
- A chart
- An infographic
- A multimedia presentation
- A short essay or blog post
- Have students share their findings with each other. Discuss any differences in opinions on leadership qualities.
- Apply the types of scenario to modern political figures in various countries.
- Using the questions below, students should analyze the effectiveness of each of the emperors and empresses.
- Do you expand your empire or protect the land you have?
- Are you good to the people?
- If you are provoked, do you fight back? Hunker down?
- Do you listen to advice?
- Are you good at buckling down to do your work?
- What would you do to achieve your goals?
- Do you have refined or healthy hobbies? Or rowdy ones?
- Are you open to new things from new places?
- Are you good at managing your money?
- Drawing on the questions above and resources on each emperor, students should write an essay on effective leadership in China or in general.