Early China will explore the social, political, and intellectual trends of ancient China, with particular emphasis upon the relationship in early China between concepts of the past and perspectives of the present and future.
The range of the course will span a millennium and a half, from China's Bronze Age (beginning about 1500 BCE) to the emergence and stabilization of China's imperial state in the first century BCE. We will not, however, examine this long period in chronological sequence. Instead, we will begin by anchoring ourselves in the culture of "Classical China" (722-221 BCE), a romantic era of political fragmentation and intellectual ferment that is usually regarded as critical to the formation of the "Confucian" culture that dominated China from the early Imperial era to the beginning of the 20th century.
During the first half of the course, our goal will be to become fully familiar with the cultural perspective of the Classical period, particularly with the Classical understanding of its own past and its expectations for the future. In the second section of the course, we will examine the pre-Classical era through archaeological sources unknown to Classical culture, and we will compare the Classical conception of its past to the more analytical portrait offered through modern scholarship. In the final section of the course, we will study the early years of the post-Classical period, and compare Classical expectations of the future with the future that ultimately emerged.
Detailed syllabus: A daily schedule of class topics and readings can be found here:
Schedule of Classes