Spring 2020

History of Dynastic China

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-171  |  History, as HIST-171


George Qiao (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 171 [ASP/TC/TE] and ASLC 171) This introductory course provides a broad overview of China’s long history and major cultural traditions from its very beginnings to the eve of modernity. No familiarity with China or previous experience in the study of history is assumed or required. Over the course of the semester, we will investigate long-term economic, social, and cultural transformations as well as the great diversity of this enormous part of the world. We will examine a broad array of issues, such as the important role of geography in shaping Chinese history, the glorified antiquity in traditional Chinese political thought, the rise and fall of unified dynastic empires, China’s troubled relationship with the Inner Asian steppe and nomadic people, continuing state penetration of frontier regions and ethnic statecraft, cycles of peasant rebellions and civil wars, the emergence of major philosophical schools and the canonization of Confucian thought, the establishment of the civil examination system and bureaucratic states, the formation of a literati culture, the rise of Buddhism and Daoism and the transformation of the Chinese religious landscape, the evolution of gender, family, and kinship structures, and China’s engagement with the outside world through trade and diplomacy. In this course, students will study a wide range of primary sources—ancient classics, poems, films, paintings, novels, and memoirs—and learn to develop skills in critical analysis and situating these sources in their historical contexts. At several points in the semester, we will also look at how this history has been used and recycled in contemporary politics and popular culture and reflect upon the continuing legacies of this history for China and the world today. Classes will entail lectures combined with close readings and discussions that engage primary texts, interpretive essays, and film. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Qiao.


Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Writing, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020