History | Early China
G380 | 25616 | Eno


This course will explore the earliest eras of Chinese history
through readings in historical, literary, and philosophical texts of
the period.  There are no prerequisites and no knowledge of Chinese
is required.

The method of this course is to anchor ourselves in the "present" of
Classical China (roughly 700-200 B.C.), the most important era in
the formation of Chinese political culture.  After we have explored
the society and culture of Classical China, we move on to
investigate Classical China's "past" (from the Neolithic era through
the period of early state formation), and then its "future" (the
post-Classical foundation of the Chinese Imperial state, which
endured until this century).

Classical China, the era of our primary focus, was a romantic era of
political fragmentation and intellectual ferment.  We will examine
the social and intellectual currents of the Classical Era through
historical narratives, and observe the central importance which
legendary accounts of the distant past played in shaping cultural
identity and political ideology.  In the second unit of the course,
we use recently uncovered archaeological materials to explore the
actual structures of pre-Classical China.  We will contrast what
archaeology has taught us about this remote period with the
Classical legends of this distant past that shaped Chinese national
identity.  Finally, we will examine how the social and cultural
crises of the Classical era ultimately gave way to a dramatically
new and unanticipated "future" in the creation of the Chinese
Imperial state.

Course readings will stress primary sources wherever possible.  We
will read texts in editions prepared specifically for this course,
which relate the readings to larger course issues.  Our readings
will include chronological narratives by ancient authors, romantic
historical tales, esoteric self-cultivation and spiritualist texts,
religious and political inscriptions only recently deciphered, legal
code books, and selections from Confucian and Daoist philosophical
texts.  Written assignments will include two exams, homework sheets
designed to build skills in text interpretation, and a reading
journal.