Western Zhou Group Projects

Links near the bottom of this page will lead you to your specific assignment.


As you're all aware, we're going to be studying the Western Zhou era (1045-771) through group projects, focused on the corpus of translated inscriptions from ritual bronzes that constitute your reading on Inscriptional Records of the Western Zhou.  Attendance on the four dates of this project is particularly important: if you will be absent on any day, be absolutely sure to notify me and your project members in advance.
                                                                                                                                   How the project will run.

On Wednesday, October 24, we'll have a background class: I'll present an overview of the traditional portrait of the Western Zhou, as reflected in the Shiji; the Shiji text is translated in your reading for that day, The History of the Western Zhou. The course webpage for Wednesday will show you how we read bronze inscriptions through one example, and we will look at one or two others in class.  We'll also look at an example of a translated inscription to illustrate how information can be extracted from the inscriptions through careful reading. 

On Friday, October 26 the project will begin. You will all meet in your assigned groups, to talk together about your initial impressions of the inscriptions assigned to you, as they bear on the questions each group will be trying to answer.  Each group will be responsible for surveying the full range of Western Zhou bronze inscriptions in the reading (except Group C, which will skip Period 3 [only because we are one student short of a full five groups in this year's class]), with each group member responsible for about one quarter of the range.  There should be some time after each group presentation for general discussion. 
               Before Friday's class, you should have made an initial survey of the inscriptions for which you will be responsible. In the group meetings, there will be time to search inscriptions together, as a group, for material that will allow each group to present a "story" of how the inscription record reflects its particular topic -- the history of Western Zhou warfare, ritual, law, and so forth. By the end of the period, each group should have identified one member who will give a 1-2 minute final summary of the overall findings of the group.

The week of October 29, groups will present oral reports to the class all three meetings. [The day each group will make its presentation will be determined randomly, except that Group C will not present on Friday -- if you know now of a day when you need an excused absence the week of presentations, email me in advance so that we can take that into account when setting the schedule.]
     Each four-person group will have about 25 minutes: 4-5 minutes for each person, 1-2 minutes for a group summary statement, and a few minutes reserved for class Q&A. Two groups will present on each of Monday and Wednesday, one group on Friday.  The format will be that each group member will summarize his or her findings in turn, and then the classmate responsible for the overview of issues will sum up.  All these reports will be very short, so you'll need to prepare carefully and keep control of time. Hit the headlines, and illustrate each with your best evidence (which may at times not be 100% definite). You may want to read your 5-minute summary directly in order to control time. Groups will probably need to communicate by e-mail over the weekend.             
     What you find is up to you -- scholarship on these inscriptions is not well developed, in English or in Chinese. There's lots to find, either through positive information or through surprising silences, and although there are some clear points everyone will notice and agree on, close reading and reflection can yield new and unexpected answers.  There are also plenty of places where evidence is puzzling or ambiguous.  I'll be circulating among groups Friday to answer questions, but there are many questions I simply can't answer.  (Please be very clear on one point -- these are translations, and therefore, you can't place tremendous emphasis on specific word choices, and, of course, you can't assume, without some added evidence, that two people or places with the same Chinese name are identical. You may, however, treat the translations as accurate, although I'd like you to be aware that they are not reliable in a scholarly sense -- all these translations were prepared just for use in this course.)

Written Component:  Each of you will write up and submit a summary of 400-600 words (double-spaced) of your findings.  The summary should be the basis of your class presentation, but when you speak in class, you may want to work from a different "script," or speak more informally from notes. 
                                                                      Paper copy of the summary should be handed in on the day you make your presentation.
The most effective strategy is usually to focus on just one or two questions for your report, indicate range of evidence (using inscription numbers to identify where you found evidence), and then focus on close analysis of just one or two very useful inscriptions. If no clearly targeted inscriptions can be found, a back-up strategy would be to broaden the range of questions and just give an overview of developments.

On separate pages, I have listed the group TOPIC AREAS, with examples of the questions each topic area might imply, and GROUP ASSIGNMENTS, where you find which group you're assigned to, and which specific range of inscriptions you'll be responsible for.

NOTE: This is a graded assignment, and the chief basis of the class participation grade for G380 (though I do take note of those who ask questions and offer comments in other classes and those count too). I assign project grades to individuals, but if a group's performance is very strong, I strengthen the grade of each constructive contributor. Participation in Q&A counts, and attendance as part of the "audience" when your group is not presenting is very important to these presentations. For this reason, an unexcused absence the week of October 29 will count as an absence from two classes. An unexcused absence the day of your own presentation counts as absence from all four days of the project.