2012年6月18日 星期一

Historical Inaccuracies of the 2008 Movie The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Of the three Mummy movies in the recent trilogy, I liked the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor least.  First of all, there are no mummies.  Second of all, there is no Rachel Weisz.  Lastly, the movie was not even set in Egypt anymore breaking away from all previous connections to the other Mummy movies.

However, one Mummy tradition continued; the misrepresentation of ancient history and culture to provide a (in this case especially) cheap trill.  While The Mummy and The Mummy Returns at least had entertainment value, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor only highlighted the lack of historical basis in the movies.  So if you are inclined to watch to movie anyways, here are some historical inaccuracies you could use to trash it some more.  (note: the film never named the emperor as Qin Shi Huang but the prologue describing the one king who united China makes this perfectly clear)

1) Assassination: In the prologue of the film, the narrator claimed that "the other rulers hired assasssins to kill the king before he could conquer them all."  The assassination attempt is portrayed as two assassins who attacked the emperor in his bedchamber at night with fully armed guards arriving too late to assist the emperor.
A. The assassins were not hired by other rulers together and instead, was the brainchild of one man - Dan, the Crown Prince of the state of Yan.
B. The assassination attempt actually occured during day and in the Qin Shi Huang's court.

2) Attack!: After fending off the attempted assassins, the emperor threw his knife ordered the invasion to begin tonight.  This leads to audience to infer that they are invading the culprit behind the assassination attempt.  In actuality, the emperor did not immediately invade after the incident because the King of Yan, upon learning of the failed attempt, executed his own son to appease the emperor.  The state of Yan was not invaded for another 5 years.

3) The Great Wall: After depicting his victory, the narrator claimed that "[the emperor] enslaved his conquered enemies and forced them to build his Great Wall.  When they were dead or useless, he had them buried beneath it."
A. The laborers of the Great Wall were not just enemy prisoners of war.  He had also enlisted large numbers of peasants and other forced laborers to construct it.
B. While thousands died in the wall's construction, the deceased were not intentionally buried under the wall. Instead, they were buried around the general area out of convenience.

4) Quest for Immortality: Qin Shi Huang was described having sent General Ming to find a witch who can grant him immortality.  Inferring from the film's description (during his scene) and portrayal (during the conquest scene showing Ming beside Qin Shi Huang), Ming would likely be one of the top Qin generals.  After finding Zi Yuan, they traveled west ot Turfan on the western border of China in search of the great library. 
A. The generals most trusted by Qin Shi Huang were Wang Jian, Meng Tian and Tu Sui.  It was likely that Ming was modeled after one of them; however, none of the above were sent to discover the elixir of immortality.
B. Instead of sending an armed expedition led by a general to locate the elixir of immortality, Qin Shi Huang sent a eunuch named Xu Fu along with a group of young boys and girls.
C. The beliefs at the time states that the elixir of life was located east of China on a legendary island called "Peng Lai" and guarded by sea monsters where a legendary immortal named Anqi Sheng.  The legends of the time does not in any way involve a witch.
D. The Xiongnu who controlled Turfan during the period of time in question, Qin Shi Huang's reign 247 - 221 BC, were a nomadic people.  They did not have the culture to possess the greatest library in the ancient world.  Their empire was formed by Modu Chanyu a decade after the death of the emperor.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (movie) RUSSELL WONG as warrior Ming Guo in an all-new adventure that races from the catacombs of ancient China high into the spectacular Himalayas: "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor".

5) Oracle Bones: After a long search, Zi Yuan & Ming discovered the "long lost oracle bones, a collection of all mystical secrets of the ancient world."  The oracle bones were in the form a brown stack of reeds used to write on in ancient China.
A. Oracle bones do not contain any mystical secrets but instead is a way a divination to ask the deities questions.  These bones were burnt until they cracked and the cracks would be interpreted to read the answers.
B. Oracle bones are not reeds but instead bones or shells from either an oxen or a turtle respectively.

Actual Oracle Bone - Source: Chinese University of Hong Kong


6) Sanskrit: In the film, the writings on the the 'oracle bones' were written in Sanskrit.
A. The language of Turfan of Xiongnu people are debated to be either proto-Turkic or proto-Hunnic by different scholars.
B. Sanskrit is an Indo-Aryan language; there are no connections between  the Xiongnu people and the Indo-Aryans of India.

7) Death to An Emperor: In Mummy, the death of Qin Shi Huang was caused by Zi Yuan's curse which turned him and his soldiers into clay outside his imperial court.
A. Qin Shi Huang's death is rumored to have been caused by the mercury pills he took to prolonged his life.
B. He died in Shaqiu prefecture two months journey away from his capital.

8) The Emperor's New Clothes: The entire portrayal of Qin Shi Huang to this point had him in military uniform.  He should have worn the imperial robes with a veiled headdress.


Actual Appearance of Qin Shi Huang - Source: China Travel Depot

9) Colossal Mistake: During the cut-scene that delineates the passage of time, sand was shown to be blowing over a stone colossus.  While Qin Shi Huang did build colossus (12 in fact), none were made of stone.  Instead, they were made of bronze that was melted from the weapons he collected from the states he had conquered.

10) The Terracotta Army: Upon entering the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Alex and Roger found the terracotta army buried with Qin Shi Huang.  These clay figures were depicted to be colorless.  In actuality, the terracotta soldiers should have been fully colored.  Although the soldiers we see today does not have color, it was only because the colors dissolved very soon after it was exposed to air.


Terracotta Army - Source: Michigan State University


11) Booby Traps: As Roger and Alex along with the workers entered the tomb, they inadvertently engaged ancient booby traps that were in place to protect the emperor's corpse.  It is important to note that despite the prominence of ancient booby traps in adventure films, none had ever been encountered by archaeologists in the field as they deteriorate after a certain amount of time.  Ancient texts records that Qin Shi Huang's tomb does have crossbow-based traps; however, it is important to note that even if they were maintained at full-draw with a hair trigger, the bow strings were made of materials that would perish after thousands of years.

12) Treasureless Tomb: Throughout their entire journey into Qin Shi Huang's tomb, the only discoveries within the tomb were the terracotta army, booby traps and the hidden corpse of the emperor.  This means that many of the treasures that were supposedly buried with the emperor was missing.
A. There were supposedly rivers of mercury that ran throughout Qin Shi Huang's tomb that recreated a map of China within the tomb.  This has been further corroborated by mercury tests with results hundreds of times over the norm done in the area.  The map reportedly also has a astronomy section with precious stones inserted to form stars.  This was also absent in the film.
B. Texts record the presence of priceless jewels and artifacts buried within the tomb with the emperor.  

Estimated Apperance of the inside of Qin Shi Huang's tomb - Source: China.org


13) Shangri-La: When the British officer visited the O'Connells to request their assistance in a delivery, Evie immediately recognized the precious stone as the Eye of Shangri-La and claimed that "if you believe the legend, it points the way to the Pool of Eternal Life.
A. There has been countless Chinese legends of a hidden paradise but none mentioned the pool of eternal life.  The first recorded source of this legend The Peach Blossom Spring described a valley hidden from the outside world but made no reference to immortality.  Instead, the reason it was deemed a paradise was because of the absence of political turmoil.
B. The legend of Shangri-La was begun by British author James Hilton in Lost Horizon in 1933.  It had little influence from traditional Chinese sources and is generally believed to be based on Tibetan, not Chinese, customs.

14) 20th Century: General Yang welcomed Qin Shi Huang to the modern world by saying (in mandarin) welcome to the 20th century.  The emperor never questioned exactly what year this is despite him being born before Christ and would not know our current calendar system (the Gregorian calendar).  Furthermore, the Chinese a different calendar that combines lunar and solar qualities.

15) Overcrowded Beaufighter: Mad Dog Maguire flew a Bristol Beaufighter carrying 6 passengers (3 O'Connells, Jonathan, Lin and the cow) and landed it halfway up a mountain.  However, the Bristol Beaufigher is a fighter/ torpedo bomber and does not have capacity to carry passengers regardless of modifications.



16) Three-Headed Dragon: After entering the waters of the Pool of Eternal Life, Qin Shi Huang was able to transform himself into a three-headed dragon.  The dragon was covered with scales, breathed fire, had wings and three claws on each hand.
A. The Chinese dragon differs greatly from a western dragon.  It does not stock body that was seen in the film and should instead should resemble a snake more than western dragon.
B. Although Chinese dragons can capable of flight, they do not possess wings.
C. The dragon in the film only had three fingers.  During Qin Dynasty China, imperial dragons should have five fingers while three-fingered dragons are used more often by commoners.  Since it is the physical transformation of Qin Shi Huang, the three-headed dragon in Mummy should have had five fingers.
D. Most Chinese dragons are seen as controllers of rivers, seas, oceans and other bodies of water.  They have no association with fire-breathing - a western dragon trait.
E. The physical properties of a dragon is very exacting is Chinese culture.  It should have precisely 117 scales.
F. The dragon in the film is more likely based on King Ghidorah, a three-headed dragonesque monster from the Godzilla franchise.


Qin Dragon Tile - Source: Travelpod


17) Great Wall & Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum: Zi Yuan informed Evie that "the terracotta army is not indestructible until it crosses the Great Wall."  When Qin Shi Huang arrived to awaken the army, you could see the Great Wall in the near distance.
A. Assuming the supernatural is possible, it would be likely that the terracotta army would have the cross the Great Wall to become indestructible as the original Great Wall was intended to be a dividing point between the Qin Empire and the Xiongnu nomads.  Hence, it does not make sense that a Qin army needs to LEAVE the Qin Empire to become indestructible.
B. The tomb of Qin Shi Huang was built 30 km from Xian which is in Shanxi province.  However, no section of the Qin Great Wall was built in Shanxi province.  Hence, it would be impossible to march from the tomb to the wall in such a short period of time.



18) The Altar: Zi Yuan was depicted as performing a ritual in an altar beneath the Great Wall to awaken the soldiers buried there to battle against Qin Shi Huang.  However, the Great Wall was constructed as a deterrence against Xiongnu raiders and no evidence of any altar of significance was discovered there.

And here it is, more faults to add to an already long list of problems with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.  To be perfectly honest, I had much more fun listing its detriments than watching the movie.  Hopefully, you feel the same way about reading this blog entry.  Anyways, this is the last movie of the Mummy franchise so I am going to have to find a new historical movie/ movie series to poke at.  If there any suggestions as to what next or if I missed anything, don't hesitate to give me a holler.

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