Friday, August 24

There is a short homework assignment due today.

Reading assignment:  The Legendary Emperors

Friday's reading is an account of the earliest rulers of China, rulers of enormous wisdom, morality, and power.  Towering heroes of the past, whose only defect is that they did not exist -- they are legends.  But for the people of the Classical era, they were real, and so, in our effort to adopt the perspective of the Classical age, they will be important for us.

Begin preparation for Friday by noting the lists of names and questions at the close of the reading.  The narrative of the legendary emperors includes a series of figures, but the emperors who will be key for us will include: 1) The Yellow Emperor, 2) Yao, 3) Shun, 4) Yu.  Each of these figures stands for important aspects of culture creation in early China; on Friday, we will look closely at the stories of the first three to pinpoint just what these were.

I don't intend to lecture about the legendary emperors at all -- this seems to me a very straightforward reading (I recognize it is dry -- there is no need for you to read closely details such as the genealogical lists embedded in the account: the task here is not memorization of details, but an understanding of the basic story line of traditional legend).  During the last 30 minutes of class, I want to discuss the four study questions at the end of the assignment, particularly as they relate to the Yellow Emperor, Yao, and Shun.  If we have time, we will also discuss the Homework assignment that you'll have completed for this class (see the link above), which you'll hand in at the beginning of class.

Note -- To help you bear in mind the list of "essential sages" and key points of their legend, consult the supplementary list: Key Names in the Classical Account of the Legendary Past, posted on this site.  (Only a portion of the handout concerns today's sages.)