Netflix Academy: The best streaming videos on ancient Asian civilizations

Note: This post is part of our series, "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming." Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on dinosaurs; aquatic life; insects; the Maya, Inca, and Aztec; Native American culturesChristopher Columbus and the Age of Discovery; the American foundersmovie adaptations of classic children’s books; and American folk heroes. Thanks to research interns Melissa Reynolds and Singer Crawford for their help in compiling these lists.

Perhaps it’s a sign of my middle age, but I can’t recall learning a thing about ancient Asian civilizations until college, when I happened to take an Eastern Civilizations course. What a shame. Just as the histories of the Egyptians, the Maya, and the Mesopotamians are chock-full of fascinating stories and characters, so too is the history of China, India, and the rest of Asia. Enjoy these movies and shows that bring them to life.

The best streaming videos on ancient Asian civilizations

1. Secrets of the Dead: China's Terracotta Warriors

Secrets of the Dead: China's Terracotta WarriorsThis episode of PBS’s “Secrets of the Dead” explores the origins of 8,000 lavishly painted terracotta warriors that guard the tomb of an ancient Chinese emperor.

Length: 53 minutes

Rating: TV-PG

2. The Story of India

The Story of IndiaIndia is the world's most ancient surviving civilization, with unbroken continuity back into prehistory. Like other great civilizations, over the millennia it has enjoyed not just one but several brilliant golden ages in art and culture. This six-part series for PBS and the BBC sets out to show a world audience the wonders of India; the incredible richness and diversity of its peoples, cultures, and landscapes; and the intense drama of its past, including some of the most momentous, exciting, and moving events in world history.

Length: Six 55-minute episodes

Rating: TV-PG

3. The Buddha

The BuddhaThis PBS documentary, created by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere, tells the story of the Buddha, a prince in ancient India who gained enlightenment and founded a religion.

Length: 113 minutes

Rating: TV-G

4. Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire

Japan: Memoirs of a Secret EmpireCommanding shoguns and fierce samurai warriors, exotic geisha and exquisite artisans—all were part of a Japanese renaissance between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, when Japan went from chaos and violence to a land of ritual refinement and peace. But stability came at a price: For nearly 250 years, Japan was a land closed to the Western world, under the absolute control of the shogun. This PBS program brings to life the story of a mysterious empire and the forging of a nation that would emerge as one of the most important countries in the world.

Length: Three 56-minute episodes

Rating: TV-PG

5. Secrets of the Samurai Sword

Secrets of the Samurai SwordEnglish archers had their longbows, Old West sheriffs had their six-guns, but Japan’s samurai warriors had the most fearsome weapon of all: the razor-sharp, unsurpassed technology of the katana, or samurai sword. In this program, NOVA probes the centuries-old secrets that went into forging what many consider the perfect blade.

Length: 53 minutes

Rating: TV-PG

6. Guge: The Lost Kingdom of Tibet

Guge: The Lost Kingdom of TibetThe Guge Kingdom, an extraordinary Himalayan civilization rich with art and culture, flourished for seven hundred years—and then vanished mysteriously in the seventeenth century. The recent archaeological discoveries revealed in this documentary may unlock the secret to the disappearance of the Guge people.

Length: 53 minutes

Rating: NR

7. Siam: A Glorious Kingdom of the Past

Siam: A Glorious Kingdom of the PastThis history of Siam begins in 1253, when several small kingdoms in the north of the country united and laid the foundation for the first true kingdom of the Thai people.

Length: 53 minutes

Rating: NR

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