INTRODUCTION TO CHINESE CIVILIZATION
Jonathan N. Lipman
Skinner 208, email@example.com
Office Hours: Monday 4-5, Thursday 12-2
This course will introduce you to the culture and history of China from its beginnings in the 2nd millenium B.C. to the 16th century. This project, which we will attempt in thirteen weeks, is roughly equivalent in geographical and temporal scope to the study of all Euro-Mediterranean history and cultures from the earliest Pharoahs of Egypt to the Age of Elizabeth I (usually done in three semesters). Needless to say, we are not going to cover all the available material. Rather, we will focus on fundamental issues in Chinese history: economic and technological evolution; the growth, power, structures, and ideologies of the state; relations with and perceptions of other peoples; and intellectual and social life.
The course includes both textbook readings and selections from primary sources, which will give you a more intense and immediate sense of what it was like to be a Chinese person in a specific place and time. These include prescriptive texts (e.g., "how to be a good person"), philosophical texts (e.g., "what it means to be a good person"), and cautionary tales (e.g., "this is a bad person, don't be that way"), all drawn from the vast and self-conscious literature of a long-lived culture. Throughout the course, we will stress the multiplicity of China, its rich and complex history, rather than any simplistic narrative based on a unified state. In addition to change over time, we will discuss variables such as region, gender, class, religion, education, and personality as precluding easy generalizations about “being Chinese.”
The course requirements are:
1. Attendance at class;
2. Completion of readings on time;
3. A map exercise (due February 4);
4. A midterm examination (March 13);
5. Two short essays (due March 6 and April 24); and
6. A final examination.
You should always bring the assigned texts to class with you, for we will refer to them and deal specifically with their arguments and evidence. I recommend that you take notes as you go through the readings and that you bring those notes, and any questions you have about the texts, with you to class. The following books have been ordered at the Odyssey Bookshop:
Patricia B. Ebrey, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (Ebrey, History)
Patricia B. Ebrey, Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook (Ebrey, Sourcebook)
Donald S. Lopez, Religions of China in Practice
Jacques Gernet, Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion
Arthur Waley (trans.), The Analects of Confucius
A small packet of readings will be available from the History Department. Readings from the packet are numbered in the syllabus.
January 28 Introduction: Crucial Definitions for Studying China's History
January 30 Our Mountains and Rivers: The Ground of China's History
February 4 Ideas and Ideographs: The Chinese Language(s)
MAP EXERCISE DUE
February 6 NO CLASS – Professor out of town
February 11 Archaic and Diverse Beginnings: Stones, Bones, and Bronzes
(due February 4th)
Using a very recent standard map of China as your base map, create your own sketch map of East Asia, including China, Korea, Mongolia, and Japan. This will be yours to use for the semester, so you should make it a convenient, portable size. You may trace, sketch, or computer-generate your map. Carefully label all of the items listed below on your map.
1. Your map should include the following topographical features:
(due March 6)
From the list below, obtain and read one of the Chinese classical texts in translation Write a five (5) page paper placing it in the intellectual-social-political context we have studied thus far. Rely not only on the primary text itself, and the translator’s introduction and commentary, but also on the analyses of cultural climate in Ebrey, on comparisons with the sources translated in Lopez and the Sourcebook, and on other primary and secondary sources you might locate on your own.
Your paper should answer all of the following questions (if not more): Where does your text belong in the Chinese intellectual tradition? What are its major contributions and themes? How did reading it affect or change the impression you have thus far gained of Chinese culture? How do the ideas in the text compare to other ideas you have read in other texts?
All of the following are available in English. There are many translations of some of them (over 50 of the Laozi, for example), so please be sure to use a scholarly (rather than a New Age or hip) translation. If you have any doubts, check with me. The Wade-Giles romanization, the more common one for classical studies, is followed by the pinyin in parentheses.
Shu Ching (Shu Jing) - Classic or Book of History