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HIST102: Early Globalizations - East Meets West (1200s-1600s)

Unit 4: China's Golden Age   After the fall of the Han dynasty in 589 C.E., China descended into political and cultural turmoil.  The bureaucracy collapsed and a “foreign” religion—Buddhism— replaced Confucianism as the primary force in cultural life.  Decline was evident in most aspects of Chinese society—including in technology, the economy, and urban areas.  But beginning in the latter sixth century, two successive dynasties restored the Chinese bureaucracy and economy.  As we will see in this unit, the Tang and the Song reinvigorated the Chinese political system and revived the Confucian order.  In fact, these influential dynasties ushered in China’s “golden age.”

In this unit, we will begin by examining the downfall of the Sui dynasty and the subsequent emergence of the Tang and Song dynasties.  We will then turn our attention to the changes and developments in government, society, the arts, and the economy during this “golden age.”

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit will take you 4 hours to complete.
 
☐    Subunit 4.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: .5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3: 1.5 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify the dynasties associated with China’s decline and revival over the period under review.
  • Identify some of the causes of the turmoil that destabilized the empire and precipitated the crises of the Sui period.
  • Identify the policies and innovations undertaken by Tang rulers restore the empire’s internal cohesion and power.

4.1 Downfall of the Sui and Emergence of the Tang   4.1.1 The Tang: Religion, Bureaucracy, and the Scholar-Gentry   - Lecture: Harvard Extension School Distance Education: “China: Traditions and Transformations: Lecture 12: The Universal Empire: Cosmopolitan Tang” Link: Harvard Extension School Distance Education: “China: Traditions and Transformations: Lecture 12: The Universal Empire: Cosmopolitan Tang” (Adobe Flash)

 Instructions: Please scroll down and click on the link to “Lecture
12: The Universal Empire: Cosmopolitan Tang.”  In this video
lecture, Harvard Professor Peter Bol provides an expanded treatment
of the subjects presented in the Hooker reading, as well as an
analysis of the numerous developments in thought, culture, and
politics stemming from the interactions of Tang society with the
larger world.  
    
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displayed on the webpage above

Subunit 4.1 Assessment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation's "Reading Questions for Subunit 4.1 Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Reading Questions for Subunit 4.1" (PDF)
 
Instructions: Once you have worked through all of the assigned resources in the subunit above, please open the linked PDF and respond to all questions.  When you are done--or if you are stuck--please check your work against The Saylor Foundation's "Guide to Responding to Reading Questions for Subunit 4.1" (PDF).

4.2 The Song (Sung) Dynasty   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: “The Song Dynasty in China.” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: “The Song Dynasty in China” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  In this section of the unit we begin a study of the Song dynasty in China.  In doing so, we will make particularly heavy use of a course of readings on Columbia University’s Asia for Educators site.  Please use the link below to   access and read the entire first page in this program.  As you will find, the authors provide some key dates in Song history, a geographical depiction of the dynasty’s power, and a few reflections on its historical “significance,” subjects that will be explored in greater depth in the sections that follow.  Please give some thought throughout to matters of continuity and change in the social, economic and political affairs of Song and Tang era China.    
 
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4.2.1 Imperial Power and Confucian Revival   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China: “Economic Revolution.” Link:  Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China:  “Economic Revolution” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  Please read this page on the “population boom” coinciding with the economic development of China during the Song era before continuing on to the pages entitled “Commercialization,” “Paper Money,” “Iron & Steel,” “Textiles & Silk,” and “Ceramics.”
 
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4.2.2 Technological Advances   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China: “Technical Advances during the Song” Link: Columba University: Asia for Educators: “Technical Advances during the Song” (HTML)
 
Instructions:  Please read this page on rice cultivation in the section on “Technical advances during the Song” before continuing on to the pages entitled “Printing & Movable Type,” “Shipbuilding & the Compass,” “Gunpowder,” and “Scientific Experimentation.”
 
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4.2.3 Urban Life and Architecture   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China: “Cities” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China: “Cities” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this page on the growth of cities during the Song period   before continuing on to the pages entitled “Hangzhou & the Urban Elite,” “Temples & Religious Life,” and “The Rainbow Bridge.”
 
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4.2.4 Scholar-Officials and the Neo-Confucian Revival   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China: “Confucianism” Link:  Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China: “Confucianism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read all of this text on the Scholar-Officials whose training provides an important illustration of what the authors have called the “Song Confucian Revival.” Continue on from here to the pages entitled “The Three Perfections & Su Shi,” and “Neo-Confucianism: Family, Women, Children.”  
 
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4.2.5 Relations with the Outside World   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China: “Song Engagement with the Outside World” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators: The Song Dynasty in China: “Song Engagement with the Outside World” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read all of this text on the Song’s “Northern Rivals” before continuing on to the page entitled “International Trade, Overland and Maritime.”
 
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4.3 Changes and Innovations   4.3.1 Rise of the Scholar-Gentry   - Reading: Pennsylvania State University’s East Asian History Textbooks: Topics in Pre-Modern Chinese History: “Chapter 8: The Middle Dynasties” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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4.3.2 Changes in Government   - Reading: Pennsylvania State University’s East Asian History Textbooks: Topics in Pre-Modern Chinese History: “Chapter 8: The Middle Dynasties” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

4.3.3 Demographic Changes   - Reading: Pennsylvania State University’s East Asian History Textbooks: Topics in Pre-Modern Chinese History: “Chapter 8: The Middle Dynasties” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

4.3.4 Art and Scholarship   - Reading: Washington State University: Arthur Waley’s version of Li Po's "Drinking Alone by Moonlight" Link: Washington State University: Arthur Waley’s version of Li Po's "Drinking Alone by Moonlight" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire poem, paying attention to the poet’s emphasis on nature—a hallmark of Tang poetry.
 
Note on the text:  This poem is thought to be Li Po’s most famous work.  Li Po wrote over a thousand poems during the Tang era and is considered one of China’s most famous poets.  However, he was a Daoist and received criticism from Confucian supporters during the Tang and Song eras.  His poetry influenced many later Western artists, including Gustav Mahler and Ezra Pound.
 
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  • Assessment: Pearson Education’s World Civilizations: AP Edition: “Chapter 12, Multiple Choice Quiz” Link: Pearson Education’s World Civilizations: AP Edition: “Chapter 12, Multiple Choice Quiz” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please take the assigned multiple choice quiz on this webpage in order to assess your understanding of the “golden age” of
    China—the Tang and Song dynasties.  Click on “Submit Answers for Grading” at the bottom of the page to link to the answer key for the quiz.
     
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  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 4 Essay: The “Golden Age” of China” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 4 Essay: The “Golden Age” of China” (HTML)

    Instructions: This is an ungraded activity. If you choose to complete the activity, you may record your answer anywhere you like. You do have the option to use the link above to save your answers on Saylor.org, though you will need to create a free account in order to do so --  this will only take a minute, and you may do so here.

    • The Tang and Song eras are often referred to as the “golden age” of China. Based on your study of the resources from Unit 4, what are some of the developments in politics and culture that might be cited by scholars in support of this view?

      Tips for getting started: Please review all the resources from the unit closely in order to gain a clear understanding of what scholars mean by a “golden age” and the factors that serve to distinguish this time period in Chinese history from those which came before and after. What are some of the terms that appear to surface often in connection with these themes – wealth, power, influence, artistic vitality and innovation? Include examples from these different spheres of Tang and Song era life to illustrate your points.