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Class News and Syllabus

History 410: Cities in Imperial China

Winter 2011
CRN 26214
MW 4.00-5.20
Lillis 112

Prof. Ina Asim
Office: 317 McKenzie Hall
Phone: 346-6161
Office Hours: U 3:00-4:00 pm and by appointment


This course will give a survey of different categories of Chinese cities in imperial China. After introducing the ritual and ceremonial functions of capitals from antiquity to the Song (960-1279) we will study the development of urbanization as seen in the capitals, cosmopolitan economic centers, and market towns of Late Imperial China. Participants will become acquainted with China’s important centers of governmental power and economic thrive as well as with the relevant arguments of the theoretical discussion in recent studies on urban history.

In this seminar style course heavy emphasis will be placed on the reading assignments and their discussion in class. Therefore it is required that all participants study the respective material carefully. Be prepared to discuss the questions that will be posted for the sessions.

Course Requirements for Undergraduate Students

1. Regular attendance and active participation in class discussions. 20%

Participation is part of your grade, attendance alone is insufficient. Regard your participation in the course as an investment. If you are very tired one day, bring some food to class to enhance your energy level. If you are not able to attend class due to illness or injury, for religious reasons or because of jury duty please notify me as as soon as you are aware of the necessity of absence. In class you are expected to be prepared, to contribute to discussions in class and to be respectful to all other participants.

Cell phones, ipods, and other electronic devices have to be turned off during class. Laptop use is limited to taking notes in class.

2. One paper of 6-8 pages. Topic options will be discussed during the first and second class meetings. The paper topic will be introduced to the class in a short presentation (precisely 5 minutes).

A summary of the most important points of your research will be sent as a Word attachment to the instructor at least one day before the presentation. The instructor will make this summary available to all class participants on this class website. Final versions of papers are due in week 9.

Paper, presentation: 40% .

3. Response to questions concerning reading assignments and class discussions in two quizzes (20 %) and the final exam. 20%.

In week 3 (January 19) you will provide a typed draft (hardcopy, no emails) of your paper topic, which consists of:

1. the title and a short description of your topic,

2. an introduction of the main sources which you will consult in order to answer the questions raised by your topic,

3. three sources you intend to use (NO WIKIPEDIA!).

Preparing the presentation:

The presentations should focus on the most important points you have learned while preparing your paper. They should NOT be summaries of your entire paper content. Presentations have to be sent to the instructor as an email attachment (Word document or powerpoint –  at least 24 hrs before the presentation is due). They will be checked for errors, revised, and returned. Presentation summaries and additional reading material will be posted on the website as we proceed with the topics. Remember you have FIVE  5!!

Writing the term paper:

For a guide to writing history papers I suggest Anthony Brundage, Going to the SourcesA Guide to Historical Research and Writing. Wheeling, Illinois 2002 (and further editions). or Rampolla’s Pocket Guide to Writing History.

Your paper has to be argumentative (discuss your topic, do not only describe or summarize it), well organized and include the following:

1. Your name and title of the paper.

2. Introduction and your thesis statement in which you explain the historical context of your topic, the major points you cover in your paper and a statement explaining your thesis or purpose of your research paper. The introduction should be of approximately half to one page in length.

3. Main body: present your findings to support your thesis statement

4. Conclusion(s): briefly restate your thesis, summarize your arguments and explain why you have come to a particular conclusion. The conclusions are an important part of your paper. Saying that something is “so interesting” is not a conclusion. But beware of broad generalizations that you cannot prove.

5. Bibliography: this is an important part of your paper and should include all academic sources. For an academic paper only academic websites (such as university and educational websites like those ending in .edu) are acceptable. The content and terminology of websites may be inaccurate and non-academic. No Wikipedia please! If in doubt, please ask when handing in your draft.

6. Please use the Pinyin transliteration system for Chinese terms. A table of Pinyinand Wade-Giles is posted on this website.

7. Write Chinese terms (qi, li, yin, yang etc.) in italics. Write book titles in italics.

8. Avoid colloquialisms! (No”you” in a paper.)

9. Consider singular and plural nouns. If you start a sentence with ‘A person …” do not use the reflexive pronouns “they / their/ in the end of the sentence.

10. Distinguish between legend and historical facts and figures. Many Chinese inventions are attributed to legendary figures because the exact date of their first appearance is unknown. Read your sources carefully!

11. Insert page numbers.

12. No contractions in a paper! I don’t want to..=. I do not want to

13.  Read the paper one more time before you hand it in; let a friend read it and point out what remains unclear.

14. If you quote a website, it is insufficient to simply quote the site. All quotations and paraphrases must be documented properly. This includes web pages you might plan to consult. The complete URL web address of any web page used is mandatory. For correct citations please follow the guidelines provided on

Other quotations can be penalized as plagiarism. Cases of plagiarism will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. If you are unsure of what plagiarism is, please refer to the guide on the following website:

The following website contains policies on academic honesty and conduct:

15. Read more than websites! A paper that consists of quotations from websites cannot be graded like a paper that shows intensive research and library work.

The paper is due in week 9 in order to avoid delays and collisions with preparations for the finals. Papers handed in late will be accepted only with documented medical justification. Print and staple all pages together. No emailed papers please.

[Requirements for Graduate Students

Please prepare a three two five page, double-spaced, book review of each of the three books of your choice. The list of reading materials (see below) will help you to select books for review. There is an additional list available that contains research articles in Chinese. Reviews are due on the dates given in the course outline.
In your reviews you should demonstrate a command of the content of the book and the sources the author relies on. Explain the objective of the main thesis developed in the book and the methodology applied by the author. Consult as many professional reviews in relevant periodicals for Asian Studies (Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Journal of Asian Studies, T’oung Pao etc.) as possible but cite and acknowledge wherever you refer to them. Reading reviews by other authors will help you to place the book in its historical context and guides you to express your own observations.
As a general outline when preparing the review you can follow the pattern given below. Add other important information that will enhance the understanding of the reader of your review whenever further aspects of the book need to be covered.

1. Bibliographical data
2. Summary of content / summary of author’s argument
3. Sources and methodology
4. Most valuable contribution to the topic
5. Most important shortcomings and questions that are left unanswered

6. Your suggestions (for comparisons with other works by the same author/ other authors; further reading; improvements for future editions; regarding the audience of the book etc.)]

Reading Materials:

The following book is available at Black Sun Books on Hilyard and 24th Street:

Linda Cooke Johnson (ed.), Cities of Jiangnan in Late Imperial China. Albany: State University of New York Press 1993.

Additional reading material will be posted on the course website under “Readings” (password protected).

Course Outline

Week 1

01/03 M 1. Introduction

01/05 W 2. Ideals of City Planning in Chinese Antiquity
Laurence Ma, The State of the Field of Urban China: A Critical Multidisciplinary Overview of the Literature

Week 2

01/10 M 3. Capitals of the Early Empire: Xianyang, Chang’an, Luoyang
Reading: Arthur Wright, The Cosmology of the Chinese City. In: Skinner: The City in Late Imperial China. 33-73 (website-posting)

01/12 W 4. Capitals of the Early Empire (cont.)


Week 3

01/17 M 5. Martin Luther King Day no classes in session

01/19 W 6. Chang’an and Luoyang during the Middle Empire Cities and Their Hinterland
Reading: Skinner: Introduction: Urban and Rural in Chinese Society (website posting)



Week 4

01/31 M 7. The Development of an Urban Commodity Economy in the Later Empire
1. Kaifeng

01/26 W 8. The Development of an Urban Commodity Economy in the Later Empire (cont.)

2. Hangzhou

Reading: Gernet: 13-58 (website posting)

Week 5

01/26 W 8. Sea ports

1. Quanzhou


Week 6

02/07 M 9. 2. Canton
Reading: Grimm: 475-498 (website posting)

02/09 W 10. Canton (excerpts from Derek Heng, new website posting)


Week 7

02/14 M 11. The ‘Ideal’ City – The Yuan Capital Dadu
Reading: (new website posting)


02/16 W 1. The Organization of Trade in Ningbo
Reading:  (new website posting)


Week 8

02/21 M 13. Ming City Planning:
Nanjing & Beijing
Reading: Mote 101-153 (website posting)

02/23 W 14. Survey of Chinese Frontier Cities:

1. Kunming, Lanzhou, Xining, Hohot, Urumqi
Reading: Gaubatz 45-83 (website posting).


Week 9

02/28 M 15. Suzhou – Center of Commerce and Craftsmanship
Reading: Marmé 17- 45 & Santangelo 81-116 (in Cooke Johnson).

03/02 W 16. Urban Reform in the Ming: Hangzhou
Reading: Fuma 47-79 (in Cooke Johnson).


Week 10

03/07 M 17. A Jiangnan Center of Military and Commerce: Yangzhou
Reading: Finane 117-149 (in Cooke Johnson).

03/09 W 18. The Early Years of Shanghai
Reading: Cooke Johnson 151-181)


Week 11

03/14 M 3:15 pm Final Exam in Lillis 112