Chinese History I: From Origins to the Mongol Empire
This course will explore the rise, development, and transformations of China’s sociocultural practices and political institutions from earliest times to the Mongol period (14th century). In doing so, we will challenge many of the conventional views of premodern China. For example, instead of seeing China as developing in isolation from the outside world, we will look closely at its international relations, its expansionist tendencies, its numerous conquests by non-Chinese neighbors, and its involvement in Silk Road trade. Topics covered will include the political and economic systems, urbanization and the development of a market system, the rise and unfolding of its philosophical and religious traditions (Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism), and changes in its social and cultural practices. Class assignments will be varied, relying on scholarly articles as well as primary sources, including government documents, memoirs, diaries, biographies, philosophical texts, and fiction. Group conferences will allow for more in-depth reading and discussion of primary documents. This class will provide background to Professor Landdeck’s spring lecture but is not required.