HIST 387 Early China
The course HIST 387 Early China provides a historical survey from the Neolithic to the tenth century. The focus of this course is to familiarize the participants with early developments in philosophy, religion, and the evolving bureaucracy which formed the basis of the Chinese state. The Age of Philosophy (Jaspers) included teachers of ancient China such as Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi and others whose teachings to this day enjoy popularity among readers in China and abroad. The various teachings will be introduced and contextualized with regard to their origins and their intellectual appeal for the ruling elite. The Han dynasty (220 BCE-206 CE) saw the emerging of a state based on Confucian ideals, which came to flourish after a period of disunity during the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 CE), the period often called the ‘Golden Age of China’. The rulers of the Tang dynasty were the last committed to the ideals of an ethnically diverse aristocracy before the Neo-Confucian oriented class of non-aristocratic scholar-officials came to dominate the government.
Archaeology is a young discipline in China and has changed the perception of the locality of various emerging centers of Chinese culture. Textual sources will be matched with archaeological evidence to introduce the various centers of development that came to constitute the complex construct of ‘Chinese culture’. Finally, the course discusses the use of history for political purposes: The Chinese government shows a vigorous interest in developing a new concept of historicity for the earliest –mythical- dynasty. Contemporary examples will show how the legitimizing power of a distant past is utilized today.
The course offers a field trip for extra credit.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO ACHIEVE IN THIS COURSE
• acquire a basic knowledge of the cultural, economic, social and political forces that shaped the history of China from their beginnings to the early tenth century
• acquire a basic knowledge about the multiple ethnicities that shaped China’s history
• learn to evaluate primary sources and identify material objects and their relation to China’s early history
• learn about the construction of history: how do historians use sources to tell a story and reason about historical events and developments
• learn to develop an argument for a term paper