Traditional China

In the past three decades, China’s economy has grown at an average rate of 10% a year and is now the largest in the world. China is therefore likely to play an increasingly significant role on the global stage over the course of the twenty-first century, but in order to understand China in the present we must begin with its past. Towards this end, China’s social, political, and cultural history we will explored from prehistoric times to the early nineteenth century.

The distribution of grades for the course is as follows:

Your final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:

APossesses a deep understanding of the major concepts and themes of the course. The “A” student is able to consistently identify and explain key ideas in the readings, develop genuine insights into the broader significance of these concepts, and demonstrate a high level of intellectual engagement in class discussions.
BDemonstrates a serious commitment to the course and a strong grasp of the major concepts and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than the “A” student.
CDemonstrates a reasonable effort to attend class and participate in discussions as well as a basic grasp of the course material.
DDemonstrates a minimal commitment to the course and a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.
FFails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of effort in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic concepts and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.

Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • identify the main periods of premodern Chinese history and discuss the major philosophical, religious, cultural, political, and economic developments associated with them
  • explain the centripetal forces that united Chinese civilization despite the centrifugal forces that tended towards decentralization and fragmentation
  • develop a thesis on an aspect of premodern Chinese history that is supported by arguments that draw on a combination of primary and secondary sources

Class/BodhiBlog Participation
The Class Participation mark (worth 10% of the final grade) will be based on your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material; although the quality of your comments will obviously be taken into consideration, all attempts to seriously engage the readings — from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a relevant question — will enhance your grade. You can also enhance your grade by posting reflections on the readings and/or class discussions to an online discussion forum that I call BodhiBlog (“Enlightenment” Blog), which can be accessed through Blackboard. Although your mark will ultimately depend on my subjective evaluation of the quantity and quality of your comments, you may reasonably expect to receive at least a “B” if you attend class regularly, actively participate in class discussions, and contribute a minimum of 5 substantial postings to the BodhiBlog.

Midterm and Final Exams
The Midterm and Final Exams will include an assortment of multiple choice questions, as well as sections in which you will be asked to identify the significance of key terms and write essay answers to questions on major themes covered in the course. Further details will be provided prior to each exam.

Midterm Paper
In 210 BCE, the Second Qin Emperor (Qin Er Shi) was enthroned at the age of twenty-one following the death of his father, the First Emperor of China (Qin Shihuangdi). According to the Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), the Second Emperor was placed on the throne by the Prime Minister Li Si and the Chief Eunuch Zhao Gao, who manipulated the line of succession for their own benefit and in the process destabilized the dynasty and contributed to its collapse a few years later. However, what if Li Si and Zhao Gao had been challenged by a brilliant official with the capacity to teach the Second Emperor the proper Way of the Ruler and thereby stabilize the dynasty? For the Midterm Paper, you will be that brilliant official, writing a 4-5 page (1000 word minimum) “memorial” to the Second Emperor that (i) identifies the causes of the Zhou dynasty’s failure; (ii) explains the reasons for the First Emperor’s success; and (iii) establishes a plan to build on this foundation and secure the dynasty for his descendants. Since the First Emperor implemented a Legalist polity, you will need to decide whether to advocate for continuing this approach without modification, or whether it should be tempered and/or replaced by one of the other political solutions of the period, such as Confucianism or Daoism. You should also indicate whether you would maintain the centralized rule of the First Emperor or restore (either partially or completely) the type of “feudalism” that prevailed during the Zhou dynasty. Your paper must include references to a minimum of five “academic” (i.e. peer-reviewed) sources using “Chicago Style” footnotes and bibliography. Your paper should be submitted online at Blackboard/Assignments; late submissions will be penalized one full grade (i.e. A to B) for each day that the paper is late.

Topic Paper/Annotated Bibliography and Final Paper
The final assignment will be a 10 page (2500 word minimum) research paper that will be due on the last day of class (Friday, November 18). A list of Potential Paper Topics is provided below, though you are encouraged to revise them however you see fit, or develop a topic of your own choosing. In either case, you will be required to submit a 1-page topic paper together with an annotated bibliography of the sources that you intend to use by Friday, November 4. The topic paper should identify the issue that you wish to explore in the final paper and must include a “thesis statement,” which is the main point that you will attempt to demonstrate in the paper. The annotated bibliography should be divided into two sections, one for “primary sources” and the other for “secondary sources”; altogether, your bibliography must include a minimum of seven “academic” sources (i.e. peer-reviewed books and journals, as opposed to non-academic websites), at least two of which must be “primary sources.” Each source should be followed by an “annotation” that summarizes the source, assesses its reliability, and reflects on its relevance to the project. The final paper must include appropriate citations for both direct and indirect quotations using “Chicago Style” footnotes, as well as a final bibliography (without annotations). Since I take plagiarism very seriously, I strongly recommend that you become familiar with the boundaries of academic honesty and don’t attempt to transgress them. If you have any doubts regarding what does or does not constitute plagiarism, please refer to the college’s plagiarism policy. Essays that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs. Since this paper is worth a significant portion of your final grade (25% for the paper plus 10% for the Topic Paper/Annotated Bibliography), you should expect to devote a considerable amount of time to this project; towards this end, I will be happy to meet with you individually to provide further guidance at any stage in the process. All papers should be submitted online at Blackboard/Assignments; late submissions will be penalized one full grade (i.e. A to B) for each day that the paper is late.

Required Texts
Hansen, Valerie. The Open Empire: A History of China to 1800. Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. [OE]
 Wills, John E., Jr. Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012. [MOF]

Office, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Tuesday: 2-5  ~  Thursday: 2-4  ~  Tea/Talk on Thursdays from 4-5
Phone: 630-637-5619
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