Instructor: TJ Hinrichs, Cornell University
Offered at Southern Connecticut State University in Fall 2005
MWF 10:10-11:00

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Survey of East Asian history from antiquity to around 1600. The primary purpose is to provide students with a basic literacy in East Asian history and cultures. Substantive emphasis on areas of experience or practice common across East Asia, such as the classical traditions and cosmology, the Chinese script, bureaucratic institutions, Buddhism, the tribute system, and the Mongol conquests. Pedagogical emphasis on constructing and substantiating historical arguments, and analysis of primary sources in translation through class discussion and short writing assignments.

Readings for purchase and on reserve:

  • Patricia Ebrey, Anne Walthall, James B. Palais. East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Houghton-Mifflin, 2005.
  • Sourcebook (available from Tyco).

This is your course. You decide what you want to get out of it, how it ranks among your priorities this semester, and how much time and energy you can afford to put into it. If you are having trouble with some part of the course, email me or come see me. (Please use telephone communication as a last resort.) I can often help or direct you to someone who can.

All classroom behavior should be characterized by civility, attentiveness, and respect. All coursework should be performed with integrity. Examinations should structure your review, assimilation, and recall of material; essay assignments should structure your development of your own ideas and writing skills. When you refer to or quote others’ ideas, even if you arrived at similar ideas on your own, you must cite your sources. If you have questions about this, try checking the links at <http://library.southernct.edu/plagresforstu.htm> or see me. Besides undermining the learning process, plagiarism or cheating will result in an F and will be reported to the dean, possibly resulting in further penalties.

Attendance and Participation : A type of learning and creativity emerges in group discussion that you do not get in independent work. In addition, expressing yourself clearly and contributing intelligently to group discussions are highly prized skills in this culture. Some people find it difficult to think or express themselves in groups. Some people become so excited about their own ideas that they forget to really listen to and think about what other people are saying. Class discussion is an opportunity to develop group communication skills.

Weekly Preparation: Read all of the following week’s readings before class on Monday. (Obvious exception: Read the first week’s readings during that week and weekend.) It is helpful to estimate the number of pages assigned, calculate how long it will take you to read and take notes on it, how long it will take you to prepare for any tests or written assignments, and make sure you leave yourself time to do them.

Check your SCSU email account regularly. If you have trouble doing this from home, do it from a computer at school. I will be sending out essential information via email.

If you find yourself short on time, rather than beginning from the first page assigned and reading as far as you can go, read proactively. Read those sections of the textbook and other secondary readings (including introductory sections to the primary readings) that seem most pertinent to the study guide questions and key words, and give the rest a quick skim. For assignments such as response papers and the debate, prioritize the readings according to what is most important to completing the assignment.

As you read, you may come across words or ideas that you do not understand. For English-language words, make it a habit to look them up in a dictionary such as <http://www.m-w.com/home.htm> and expand your vocabulary. For concepts from East Asian cultures that we are studying for the course, if the explanations in the readings are not clear, ask in class. If you are curious and diligent, you might consider looking up encyclopedia articles on these and on events and people, for example in <http://www.britannica.com/>. Be careful with Wikipedia; it can be unreliable.

Note taking: The act of writing things down will not only give you something to review later, it will reinforce memory. In class, take notes not only on facts and on assignments, but on ideas that sound interesting or important. Remembering and thinking about these ideas will help you with your essays. For secondary readings such as the textbook and introductions to the primary readings, pay particular attention to things that help answer the study guide questions, and to definitions of key words.

Short Quizzes 10%

Short identifications, ~15 minutes. There will be 3 quizzes; the grade of the lowest (including one missed, or a 0), will be dropped.

Debate 5%
See Week V.

Response Essays 20%

Double-spaced typed pages, usually 1-3 paragraphs long, due at the beginning of class on Monday. You are required to do 4 out of 8 response paper assignments, one for each pair, as follows:

1A (Week III) or 1B (Week IV)

2A (Week VIII) or 2B (Week IX)

3A (Week XI) or 3B (Week XII)

4A (Week XIV) or 4B (Week XV)

Late essays that are the first in a group (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A) will be not be accepted. Those that are second in a group (1B, 2B, 3B, 4B) will not be accepted without a formal excuse, such as a doctor’s note.

Writing takes you deeper into a question than contemplation or talking can. This small preparation greatly enhances the quality of class discussion. For people who have trouble writing, this is an opportunity to work on it in small, less daunting pieces.

Assignments need to be readable. These assignments will be explained on the Friday before they are due by email and in class. On Monday, students will read each others’ essays and give each other feedback. While these will not be graded strictly, they will help you to prepare for your exam essays, which I will grade. Take them seriously!

Response Essay Feedback 5%

Students giving feedback will write their names on their partners’ assignment, and will be given credit for giving feedback. Feedback will be on both assignment content and on writing. Feedback should always be CONSTRUCTIVE!! Think about how you can give the feedback in a way that helps your partner improve. Do not be afraid to point it out if your partner is missing the point of something or is using an ungrammatical construction.

Midterm Examination 20%
To schedule a makeup for a missed midterm examination, bring me a formal excuse, such as a doctor’s note.

Final Exam 40%  

Key to Citation Abbreviations

CC : Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd. Ed., Ebrey, Patricia, ed. New York: The Free Press, 1993.

SCT Vol. I : Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1: From Earliest Times to 1600. Eds. William Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

SKT Vol. I : Sources of Korean Tradition, Vol. 1: From Early Times Through the Sixteenth Century. Edited by Peter H. Lee, et. al. New York :  Columbia University Press, 1997.

SJT Vol. I : Sources of Japanese Tradition, Vol. 1: From Earliest Times to 1600. Ed., by Wm. Theodore de Bary, et. al. New York : Columbia University Press, 2001.

I. Introduction: What is East Asia?

The Eurasian continent is usually divided between Europe and Asia. Why? What is East Asia? What are the major political units that divide it today? What holds these together (as East Asia)? What divides them (besides national boundaries)?


Sourcebook :

  • Optional: Eric Hobsbawm, “The Curious History of Europe,” On History, (New York: The New Press, 1997), pp. 217-227.
  • Optional: Thomas Bartlett, “Implications of the name Da Qin in Chinese,” submitted to H-ASIA <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>, August 19, 2000.
  • East Asia : “Connections: The Prehistory of East Asia,” “Early Korea” (through “Geography of the Korean Peninsula”), “Early State and Society in Japan” (through “The Geography of the Japanese Archipelago”), pp. 3-9, 116-117, 137-138.


  1. Introduction to Course, Pedagogical Goals August 29
  2. Geography and History (Space and Time) August 31
  3. Peoples and Archaeology (Bodies and Things) September 2

II. East Asian Cultures

Again, what is East Asia? What cultural features are distinctive to it, and what divides it?


  • East Asia : “ China in the Bronze Age” (through “Developments Outside the Shang Core”), “Early Korea” (“Bronze Age Culture”), “ Early State and Society in Japan” (through “Ancient Religion”), “Material Culture: Writing Japanese,” [hangul chart] pp. 10-19, 117-119, 138-141, 200, 298.
  • Sourcebook : “Invention of the Korean Alphabet,” SKT Vol. I, pp. 294-296.


  1. Writing Systems and Languages September 7
  2. Quiz September 9
    Preview: The Rise and Decline of the Zhou Order

III. The Zhou Order

China’s Zhou period is considered a golden age throughout East Asia, one to which, through the ages, people looked for models of morality and governance. What were the models of morality and governance associated with this age? This image of the Zhou as a golden age was especially developed by Confucius and his followers, responding to an age that they saw as in decline from their great past. How did Confucius diagnose and seek to treat the problems of his day? How do his responses differ from those of Mozi?


  • East Asia : “The Western Zhou Dynasty,” “Philosophers and Warring States” (through “Mozi”), pp. 19-34.
  • Sourcebook : “Classical Sources of Chinese Tradition,”“Confucius and the Analects,” “Mozi: Utility, Uniformity, and Universal Love,” SCT Vol. I, pp. 24-76.


  1. Response Paper 1A September 12
    Mandate of Heaven, Cosmic Order, and De
  2. Confucius and Mozi September 14
  3. Preview: Warring States September 16

IV. Warring States and Contending Schools I: From Human Nature to the World

As the Zhou world broke apart into warring states, what new questions emerged? What different sorts approaches to these questions were developed by later Confucians and others?


  • East Asia : “Mencius” to end of chapter, pp. 34–42.
  • Sourcebook : “The Way of Laozi and Zhuangzi,” “The Evolution of the Confucian Tradition in Antiquity,” “Legalists and Militarists,” SCT Vol. I, pp. 77-223.


  1. Response Paper 1B September 19
    The Problem of Human Nature
  2. Shaping Society/Polity (Non-Action?) September 21
  3. Preview: Debate Assignments September 23

V. Warring States and Contending Schools II: Debate

What are the key issues for warring states rulers? What are the key issues for the major thinkers and advisers of the period? What different kinds of worlds are they hoping to create? How does your philosopher (assigned for the debate) fit into these debates? What is he trying to persuade rulers to do, and how is he going about selling his ideas to them? Prepare some key quotes to produce during the debate. More thorough preparation would include reading other philosophers’ writings, anticipating their arguments, and developing rebuttals.

Debate Roles: Confucius, Mozi, Laozi, Zhuangzi, Mencius, Xunzi, Guanzi, Lord Shang, Han Feizi, Li Si, Sunzi, King of Qi


  1. Debate Preparation September 26
  2. Debate September 28
  3. Debate Recap
    Preview: Bureaucratic Empire & Cosmology September 30

VI. Qin-Han Bureaucratic Empire: Confucianism, Law, Cosmology

The Qin and Han saw the emergence of new political forms and theories of cosmology that not only remained influential in East Asian governance until the fall of the last imperial dynasty in 1911, they continue to inform religion, medicine, martial arts, and divination throughout East Asia today.

What new institutions and approaches to governance did the Qin introduce and bequeath to the Han? What was the problem of the Xiongnu, and in what ways did policy advisers disagree over appropriate responses? (In what ways do their positions also reveal different views of empire and governance?) What new theories of imperial rule and governance were introduced by Dong Zhongshu and Emperor Wu? What is the new cosmology that both undergirded these new imperial regimes and new understandings of the body and medicine?


  • East Asia : “The Founding of the Bureaucratic Empire,” pp. 43-64.

Sourcebook :

  • “Penal Servitude in Qin Law,” “The Debate on Salt and Iron,” CC, pp. 51-53, 60-63.
  • “The Medical Microcosm,” “The Imperial Order and the Han Synthesis,” “Han Views of the Universal Order,” SCT Vol. I, pp. 273-278, 283-310, 346-352.


  1. Quiz: Cosmology October 3
  2. Dong Zhongshu’s synthesis October 5
  3. Preview: Political Division and Basic Concepts of Buddhism October 7

VII. Buddhism I: Conflict, Adaptation, Accommodation

Where did Buddhism come from and when and how did it enter China, Korea, and Japan? What are the basic ideas and practices of Buddhism? In what ways did these conflict with earlier Chinese, Korean, and Japanese values? To what extent was it an issue that Buddhism was non-Chinese/Korean/Japanese? What strategies did Buddhists use to overcome these obstacles to acceptance? What did various people in East Asia find attractive in Buddhism? How did this differ between China, Korea, and Japan?


  • East Asia : “Buddhism in India and Its Spread Along the Silk Road,” “Political Division in China and the Spread of Buddhism,” pp. 65-87.
  • Sourcebook :
  • “The Introduction of Buddhism,” “The Parable of the Burning House,” “Buddhism’s Assimilation to Tang Political Culture,” SCT Vol. I, pp. 415-432, 448-450, 476-480.
  • Albert Welter, “Buddhist Ritual and the State,” RCP, pp. 390-396.
  • “The Introduction of Buddhism,” SKT Vol. I, pp. 34-55.
  • “ Nara Buddhism,” SJT Vol. I, pp. 100-121.


  1. Quiz: Buddhist Concepts October 10
    Objections to Buddhist Practices and Ideas
  2. Local Accommodations October 12
  3. Preview: The Tang Empire and Inner Asia October 14

VIII. The Tang Empire and Cosmopolitan East Asia

In these readings, concentrate on areas of cultural exchange. What were the relationships between Tang, Inner Asia, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam? What made Tang administrative forms, writing, and poetry attractive in Korea and Japan? What motivated cultural exchange and adaptation in these various places?


  • East Asia : “The Cosmopolitan Empires of Sui and Tang China,” “Cultural Contact Across Eurasia,” “Early Korea,” “Early State and Society in Japan,” pp. 88-152.
  • Sourcebook :
  • Richard Smith, Chapter 2, “The Place of Barbarians in Chinese History,” Chinese Maps: Images of ‘All Under Heaven’, (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 7-22.
  • “Chinese Thought and Institutions in Early Japan,” SJT Vol. I, pp. 63-99.
  • “Political Thought,” “Confucian Political Thought,” “Confucian Learning,” “Chinese Learning and the Growth of the Educated Class,” SKT Vol. I, pp. 21-22, 63-69.


  1. Response Paper 2A October 17
    The Tribute System
  2. Korean and Japanese Adaptations of Tang Models October 19
  3. Preview: Overview of Pure Land, Meditation, and Esoteric Buddhism October 21

IX. Buddhism II: New Schools, Popularization, and Transformation

What are the major practices and ideas associated with Pure Land, Meditation School, and Esoteric Buddhism? With which groups of people in China, Korea, and Japan, were these types of Buddhism popular? What about these types of Buddhism appealed to them? In what ways did they transform them?


Sourcebook :

  • “Schools of Buddhist Practice — The Pure Land School,” “The Meditation School” (“The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch,” “Anecdotes of Master Caoshan,” “Miracles of Guanyin”), “Emperor Wuzong’s Edict on the Suppression of Buddhism,” SCT Vol. I, pp. 481-483, 491-504, 509-514, 531-536, 585-586. — 25 pp
  • “Belief in Pure Land,” “Establishment of the Meditation School,” “Geomancy,” “Resurgence of Buddhism,” “Publication of the Tripitaka,” “Chinul and the Chogye School,” SKT Vol. I, pp. 101-105, 120-135, 224-226, 228-233, 237-239. — 30 pp
  • “Kûkai and Esoteric Buddhism,” “The Spread of Esoteric Buddhism,” “Amida, the Pure Land, and the Response of the Old Buddhism to the New,” “Zen Buddhism,” SJT Vol. I, pp. 153-164, 175-184, 211-222, 306-316. — 40pp
  • “Religious Epic” (“Mulian Rescues His Mother”), Sources of Chinese Tradition Vol. 2: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century, 2 nd Edition, comp. William Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, ( New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), pp. 93-104. — 15 pp


  1. Response Paper 2B October 24
    Pure Land
  2. The Meditation School and Esoteric Buddhism October 26
  3. The Buddhist Hells and Funerary Rites October 28

X. Synthesis and Consolidation


  1. Last Questions October 31
  2. Midterm November 2
  3. Preview of the Tang-Song Transition November 4

XI. Transformations of Chinese Society

This week we will look at major transitions in Chinese society that occurred roughly between the eighth and thirteenth centuries, and which consolidated under the Ming (1368-1644). The readings cover a confusing mass of political figures and events. We will pull this together in class. In your readings, focus on these trends. How do they relate to each other?
• the fall of the old aristocratic families and the rise of the gentry class,
• the rise of Neo-Confucianism and the examination system of official recruitment,
• the formation of institutions of local governance and local elite leadership,
• the shift of the empire’s cultural and economic centers from the northern plains to the Jiangnan (“South of the [Yangzi] River”) region,
• commercialization, urbanization, and popular culture
• the spread of printing and literacy
• the rise of lineages and the spread of Confucian family rituals, and
• restrictions on women’s property ownership, footbinding, the confinement of elite women to the inner quarters, and the valorization of female chastity.


  • East Asia : “ China Among Equals,” “The Ming Empire in China,” pp. 153-175, 269-289. — 40 pp
  • Sourcebook :
  • “Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucian Program,” SCT, Vol. I, pp. 720-725, 730-731, 737-751. — 20 pp
  • “Women and the Problems They Create,” “The Attractions of the Capital,” “Village Ordinances,” “Commercial Activities,” “What the Weaver Said,” “Concubines,” “Widows Loyal Unto Death,” CC, pp. 164-168, 178-185, 211-222, 245-255. — 30 pp


  1. Response Paper 3A November 7
    Chinese Gentry, Local Society, and Urban Life
  2. Family and Women November 9
  3. Preview: Steppe Nomads and Genghis Khan November 11

XII. Mongol Empire

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Mongol Genghis (a.k.a. Chinggis) Khan and his descendants conquered and ruled over the most extensive empire the world has ever known, including China and Korea. Genghis Khan has been characterized both as a genius of strategy and tactics, and as cruel and barbaric. The Mongols’ impact on the lands they conquered and fought has been characterized as ruinous, with wholesale slaughter of civilians as well as opposing armies, and the destruction of essential infrastructures such as irrigation systems, setting back the economies and cultures of regions for centuries. Mongol rule has also been characterized as a Pax Mongolica — as tolerant to trade, travel, and to diverse religions and cultures, fostering exchanges of all sorts across the Eurasian continent. What can we make of such contradictory assessments?


  • East Asia : “Meeting New Challenges,” “China and Korea Under Mongol Rule,” pp. 225-251. — 25 pp
  • Sourcebook:
  • Sandra Aili Green, “Tracing Muslim Roots: A Brief History of the Hui,” Education About AsiaVol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 2005):34-35.
  • The Secret History of the Mongols: The Life and Times of Chinggis Khan , trans, Urgunge Onon, ( Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 2001), pp. 226-262. — 30 pp
  • Li Chih-ch’ang (1193-1278), The Travels of an Alchemist: The Journey of the Taoist Ch’ang-ch’un from China to the Hindukush at the Summons of Chingiz Khan Recorded by His Disciple Li Chih-ch’ang, trans. By Arthur Waley, (London: Routledge, 1931), pp. 43-46, 100-104, 111-120. — 15 pp
  • Marco Polo (1254-1323?), The Description of the World, trans. A. C. Moule and Paul Pelliot, (London: Routledge, 1938), pp. 192-204. — 10 pp
  • “Relations with the Mongols,” SKT, Vol. I, pp. 200-205. — 5 pp


  1. Response Paper 3B November 14
    The Mongol Eurasian Empire
  2. Trade, Religion, and the Arts November 16
  3. Legacies of Mongol Rule November 18

XIII. Transformations of Japanese Society: Preview (Thanksgiving Week)


  1. Preview: Heian Court Culture November 21

XIV. Transformations of Japanese Society

Unlike those in China, Japan’s ruling dynasty and aristocratic families survived the rise of new ruling classes and governmental systems. How can we understand this? What can we learn about history and historical change from fiction?


  • East Asia : “Heian Japan,” “Kamakura Japan,” “Japan’s Middle Ages,” pp. 192-224, 252-268.— 45 pp
  • Sourcebook :
  • Murasaki Shikibu, “The Paulownia Court,” “The Broom Tree,” The Tale of Genji, trans. Edward G. Seidensticker, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), pp. 3-48. — 45 pp
  • “The Way of the Warrior,” SJT, pp. 263-291.— 30 pp


  1. Response Paper 4A November 28
    Imperial Continuity
  2. Rise of the Samurai November 30
  3. Preview: Social Class and Structures of Political Power in Korea December 2

XV. Transformations of Korean Society

Koryô and Chosôn Korea, as in Song-Ming China and Kamakura Japan, saw the emergence of new configurations of social dominance. What led to the decline of some classes and the rise of others? What are the bases of social and political power? What were the roles of Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism in these historical changes? How did they impact families and the roles of women?


  • East Asia : “The Koryô Dynasty,” “Centralization in Early Chosôn (1351-1598),” pp. 176-191, 290-306. — 40 pp
  • Sourcebook :
  • “Local Clans and the Rise of the Meditation School,” “The Role of Rites,” “Funerary and Ancestral Rites,” “The Position of Women,” “Propagation of Confucian Values,” SKT Vol. I, pp. 117-120, 313-326. — 5 pp


  1. Response Paper 4B December 5
    Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism, and Power
  2. Families and Women December 7
  3. Comparisons between China, Japan, and Korea December 9