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East Asia Civilization to 1650

(Fall 2017)

Class Meeting Times: Instructor: Xing Hang

Mondays (M), Wednesdays (W), and Office hours: Olin-Sang 118, (M and W) 3:30 – 4:30
Thursdays (Th.), 10:00 – 10:50 AM PM, or by appointment

Lown 2 Telephone: 781-736-2361


Teaching Assistants:

Haoqian Chen Dana Fischer

Office hours: Rabb 214, Office hours: Rabb 358,

(M) 1:00 – 2:00 PM Tuesdays (T) 2:30 – 3:30 PM

Email: Email:

Course Description and Objectives

The course provides a thematic and chronological survey of the diverse geographic and cultural
units that collectively form what we call East Asian civilization. In particular, we examine the
shared historical experiences of present-day China, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia
from the beginning of recorded history to the middle of the seventeenth century and beyond. We
pay special attention to their interrelationships of political, social, economic, religious, and
artistic change, while taking into account the adaptation and development of these broader trends
within the unique environment of each regional unit. The course challenges Eurocentric images
of a “timeless” and “isolated” East Asian civilization by treating it as an open system with
connections that increasingly tied its member entities with one another and with the broader
world through time. Students will learn to consider ideals and assumptions vastly different from
their own cultural and intellectual traditions. The course also encourages critical thinking through
the close reading and analysis of primary sources—the most important tools of historical
research—and selected secondary works. The ability to speak, write, and analyze information
coherently is a crucial skill that can transfer into students’ careers and other aspects of their lives.

Course Requirements

Success in this four-credit course is based on the expectation that students will spend a minimum
of nine hours of study time per week, including the reading of 100 to 150 pages, in preparation
for class. Assignments are weighted according to the following categories:
1) Regular lecture attendance and section participation. 30%

Lectures focus upon historical themes and trends that draw upon but go beyond the scope of
the assigned readings. Only by showing up can students acquire the basic context for
discussions, exams, and the essay.

In addition, students must demonstrate active participation, not just mere presence, to earn
full credit. At the beginning of every week, discussion questions based upon the assigned
readings and lectures will be posted on LATTE. Students should think carefully over them,
and contribute their reflections and insights. Section meetings, held almost every Thursday,
serve as the primary venue for sharing thoughts and exchanging ideas. Attendance is thus
mandatory in discussion sections. Undocumented absences and/or frequent tardiness will
result in a warning, followed by a grade of 0 per missed meeting. Students may also obtain
participation credit by offering insights or asking questions during lecture, or posting on
LATTE throughout the week if they feel hesitant about speaking up in a classroom setting.

To facilitate lecture comprehension and participation in discussion, students should read the
assignments listed under “Readings” in the Course Outline over the week and have
completed them all before the next discussion section meeting. They should also download
the list of key terms, found on LATTE under each class meeting, and bring it to lectures to
facilitate note-taking and comprehension. Lecture PowerPoints will be available as a LATTE
link several days after a lecture takes place.

2) Midterm and Final, given on 10/4 and 12/13. 45%

The two exams, which are open book and to be completed outside class, will test your
knowledge of the material over the semester. The midterm makes up 15% of your final grade,
while the semi-cumulative final, emphasizing all material since the midterm, constitutes the other
30%. Both involve the identification of key terms and essay questions aimed at challenging
students to evaluate the historical significance of what they have learned in lecture and assigned
readings. To prepare, study over the careful notes (hopefully!) you have taken during lectures
based upon the list of key terms and discussion questions.

3) Analytical essay, due 11/6. 25%

One of the goals of this course is to improve students’ critical thinking and writing skills.
Accordingly, they will hand in an 8-10 pages double-spaced paper that involves the analysis
and synthesis of primary sources. Students can either work with material from different
geographic components of East Asia or a particular area over a long period of time. Detailed
instructions will be announced in class.
Technology Policy

I encourage the use of technology in the classroom, a crucial trend in the future of higher
education. However, they are not to be abused for purposes unrelated to the class. I reserve the
right to restrict or ban their use if necessary.

General Rules

You are expected to be familiar with and to follow the University’s policies on academic
integrity (see Faculty may refer any suspected
instances of alleged dishonesty to the Office of Student Development and Conduct. Instances of
academic dishonesty may result in sanctions including but not limited to, failing grades being
issued, educational programs, and other consequences.

No late assignments will be accepted without the prior agreement of the instructor and/or the
submission of a valid written explanation. Course overloads and work duties are not acceptable
excuses for late assignments or failure to participate fully in other class activities. Late papers
will be marked down a letter grade for each day they are late, weekends included.

If you are a student with a documented disability on record at Brandeis University and wish to
have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see me immediately.

Required Reading

All assigned readings, as well as the syllabus, handouts, and classroom resources are available
online on LATTE.

Any part of this syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. LATTE contains
all of the assignments listed below under “Course Outline” and reflects updates and
modifications. In cases of conflict, refer to LATTE as a living version of this syllabus.
Course Outline

Week 1
Introduce yourself to us and your fellow classmates on LATTE! (Just
click “Introduce Yourself” and select “Add a new discussion topic.”
Follow the instructions from there). Please tell us your name, major,
year, one or two points unique about you, and what you expect out of
the course.

8/30 (W): 1. Introduction: Defining East Asia and East Asian History

8/31 (Th.): 2. The Spatial Setting

Week 2
Readings: Chang Kwang-chih, “China on the Eve of the Historical
Period,” in Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy (ed.), The
Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization
to 221 BC (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp.

Ian Glover (ed.), Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History (London:

Psychology Press, 2004), pp. 7-17, 21-57.

Primary Sources: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Chinese Civilization: A

Sourcebook (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), pp. 3-16;

William Theodore de Bary (ed.), Sources of East Asian Tradition, vol.

1: Premodern Asia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), pp.

9/4 (M): NO CLASS

9/6 (W): 3. Prehistory and the Dawn of Civilization

9/7 (Th.): 4. From Bronze to Iron

Week 3
Readings: Reuven Amitai and Michal Biran, Nomads as Agents of
Cultural Change: The Mongols and Their Eurasian Predecessors
(Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2014), pp. 50-78.

Primary Sources: de Bary, vol. 1, pp. 29-40, 49-92, 106-130.

9/11 (M): 5. Intellectual Ferment, Political Consolidation

9/13 (W): 6. Xiongnu and Imperial China: The Struggle for Wealth and Power
9/14 (Th): 7. DISCUSSION

Week 4
Readings: Kenneth R. Hall, A History of Early Southeast Asia:
Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100-1500 (Lanham, MD:
Rowman and Littlefield, 2011), pp. 37-76, 89-95;

Christopher Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central

Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2009), pp. 78-79, 84-92.

Primary Sources: David J. Lu, Japan: A Documentary History (New

York: M. E. Sharpe, 1997), pp. 3-20;

“Economics and Trade,” “Ma Yuan’s Administration,” “Governing the

South,” “Society and Culture,” “The Trung Sisters,” in George E.
Dutton, Jayne S. Werner, and John K. Whitmore (ed)., Sources of
Vietnamese Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012),
pp. 15-16, 20-22, 25-27, 56-57;

de Bary, vol. 1, pp. 491-496.

9/18 (M): 8. Routes on Land and Sea

9/20 (W): 9. Political Consolidation on the Peripheries

9/21 (Th): 10. NO CLASS

Week 5
Readings: Karl Friday (ed.), Japan Emerging: Premodern History to
1850 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012), pp. 77-87, 99-107;

Wang Zhenping, Tang China in Multi-Polar Asia: A History of

Diplomacy and War (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2013), pp.

Primary Sources: de Bary, vol. 1, pp. 264-270, 501-503, 506-507;

“Philosophy and Religion,” in Dutton et al., pp. 18-20.

9/25 (M): 11. Triumph of Buddhism

9/27 (W): 12. A Multipolar Order

9/28 (Th): 13. DISCUSSION

Week 6
Readings: Wang, pp. 138-190;

Hall, pp. 103-133.

Primary Sources: Ebrey, 116-136;

Lu, pp. 69-71.

10/2 (M): 14. From Tibet to Srivijaya: State Formation along the Silk Road

10/3 (T, 15. DISCUSSION


10/4 (W): 16. MIDTERM DUE

The Age of Aristocratic Splendor

10/5 (Th.): NO CLASS

Week 7
Readings: Friday, pp. 166-176.

Primary Sources: de Bary, vol. 1, pp. 534-540;

Sem Vermeersch (trans.), A Chinese Traveler in Medieval Korea: Xu

Jing’s Illustrated Account of the Xuanhe Embassy to Koryo (Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press, 2016), pp. 72-80, 145-151, 154-163, 206-

Lu, pp. 81-101.

10/9 (M): 17. Medieval Korea and Japan

10/11 (W, 18. DISCUSSION


10/12 (Th.): 19. NO CLASS

Week 8
Readings: Valerie Hansen, Open Empire: A History of China to 1800
(New York: W. W. Norton, 2015), pp. 258-297;
Hall, pp. 159-210.
Primary Sources: Ebrey, pp. 139-171;

“The Southern Land,” “Economics and Trade,” “Ethnic Relations,” in

Dutton et al., pp. 33, 41-43, 81-88.

10/16 (M): 20. China among Equals

10/18 (W): 21. The Classical Empires of Southeast Asia

10/19 (Th): 22. DISCUSSION

Week 9
Readings: Lo Jung-pang, China as a Sea Power, 1127-1368 (Hong
Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011), pp. 71-89, 125-138;

Hall, pp. 211-252;

Friday, pp. 177-199.

Primary Sources: de Bary, vol. 1, 351-360, 540-549;

Ebrey, 178-185.

10/23 (M): 23. Maritime Reorientation

10/21 (W): 24. Korea and Japan: The Shift to Militarism

10/22 (Th): 25. DISCUSSION

Week 10
Readings: Timothy May, The Mongol Conquests in World History
(London: Reaktion Books, 2013), pp. 81-171.

Primary Sources: Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Matthew Kapstein, and Gray

Tuttle (ed.), Sources of Tibetan Tradition (New York: Columbia
University Press, 2013), pp. 328-345.

10/30 (M): 26. The Precocious Mongols and Their Rise to Power

11/1 (W): 27. Eurasian Integration

11/2 (Th.): 28. DISCUSSION

Week 11
Readings: Lo, pp. 161-209;
Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas (Oxford, UK: Oxford
University Press, 1994), pp. 57-86, 107-136.

Primary Sources: Lu, pp. 149-160.

11/6 (M): 29. The Ming Order in East Asia

11/8 (W): 30. Chinese Withdrawal from the Sea

11/9 (Th.): 31. DISCUSSION

Week 12
Readings: David Kang, East Asia before the West: Five Centuries of
Trade and Tribute, pp. 54-138;

Friday, pp. 299-308.

Primary Sources: de Bary, vol. 1, pp. 566-567, 573-594.

11/13 (M): 32. ESSAY DUE

Challenges to the Ming Tributary System

11/15 (W): 33. Triumph of Neo-Confucianism

11/16 (Th.): 34. DISCUSSION

Week 13
Readings: Timothy Brook, Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century
and the Dawn of the Global World (New York: Bloomsbury Press,
2008), 84-116, 152-184.

11/20 (M): 35. The Power of Silver

11/22 (W): NO CLASS

11/23 (Th.): NO CLASS

Week 14
Readings: JaHyun Kim Haboush, The Great East Asian War and hte
Birth of the Korean Nation (New York: Columbia University Press,
2016), pp. 73-120;

Adam Clulow, The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter
with Tokugawa Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013),
pp. 205-255.
11/27 (M): 36. An East Asian World War

11/29 (W): 37. Competitive Quest for Maritime Dominance

11/30 (Th.): 38. DISCUSSION

Week 15
Readings: Beckwith, pp. 222-231;

Evelyn S. Rawski, Early Modern China and Northeast Asia: Cross-

Border Perspectives (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press,
2015), pp. 62-102.

12/4 (M): 39. The Grand Retrenchment

12/6 (W): 40. Calm before the Storm

12/7 (Th.): 41. Looking Back, Looking Forward