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HIST241: Pre-Modern Northeast Asia

Unit 1: Yellow River Civilizations   The first Chinese civilizations emerged along the Yellow River—the second longest river in China—by the second millennium B.C.E.  Despite its nickname of “China’s Sorrow,” agricultural societies, drawn by the river’s fertile soil, developed sophisticated irrigation techniques.  The Yangshao culture emerged around 2500 B.C.E. and was dependent upon hunting, fishing, and some agriculture.  But the Longshan/Xia culture, which developed in 2000 B.C.E., became a more sedentary agricultural community of large, walled villages.  These societies formed the basis for the emergence of the Shang in 1500 B.C.E., a feudal society that became the basis of Chinese civilization—they expanded irrigation systems, monopolized the use of bronze, and developed a system of writing.  It was not long, however, before the power of the Shang declined, and the Zhou (1029-258 B.C.E.), a Turkic people once ruled by the Shang, rose to power.  The Zhou seized new territory in the Yangtze River valley and established authority by forging alliances with regional nobles.

In this unit, we will study how the earliest civilizations bordering the Yellow River gave way to the Shang, a complex society ruled by all-powerful kings.  From the Shang period, we will explore the artifacts known as oracle bones, the earliest evidence of writing in China. We will examine the overthrow of the Shang by the Zhou, an event that marked the beginning of dynastic-style rule in China that would last until the twentieth century. By studying the Zhou, we will examine the concept of the “Mandate of Heaven,” the importance of controlling metallurgy, and the writing of works that come to be known as the Zhou Dynasty Classics. 

Unit 1 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you 7.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 4 hours ☐    Introduction: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.1.1: 0.75 hour

☐    Subunit 1.1.2: 0.75 hour

☐    Subunit 1.1.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 1.2: 4.75 hours ☐    Introduction: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 1.2.1: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 1.2.3: 0.75 hour

☐    Subunit 1.2.5: 2.5 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
- Differentiate between the earliest (and possibly mythical) Chinese dynasties and the rise of the powerful Shang Dynasty. - Compare how the Shang and Zhou controlled the monopoly of metallurgy and evaluate its effects on the political rule of the dynasties. - Explain how the fall of the Zhou and the political and social uncertainty of the Warring States Period helped give rise to the Confucian, Daoist, and Legalist philosophical schools of thought.

1.1 The Shang Era   - Reading: Penn State University: Professor Gregory James Smits’ Topics in Pre-Modern Chinese History: “Chapter 2: Classical China” 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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1.1.1 Precursors: The Yangshao, Longshan, and Xia   - Lecture: iTunes U: Bristol Community College History of Modern East Asia: Professor Maureen Melvin Sowa’s “Archaic China” Link: iTunes U: Bristol Community College History of Modern East Asia: Professor Maureen Melvin Sowa’s “Archaic China” (iTunes U)
 
Instructions: Please scroll down the webpage to the “Archaic China” lecture, and select the “View in iTunes” link to launch the lecture.  Please listen to the entire 27-minute lecture from Professor Maureen Melvin Sowa.  This lecture will address the basic social structure of early Chinese and East Asian societies.  She places the importance of family and kinship groups within the larger social and political systems of East Asia and explores the earliest beginnings of Chinese society.  How does Professor Sowa relate the geography of China to the development of Archaic or Neolithic societies in the region?  You should dedicate approximately 45 minutes for listening to this lecture, taking notes, and answering this study question.
 
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1.1.2 Shang Society   - Lecture: iTunes: The China History Podcast: Lazlo Montgomery’s “015 The Shang Dynasty” Link: iTunes: The China History Podcast: Lazlo Montgomery’s “015 The Shang Dynasty” (iTunes)
 
Instructions: Please scroll down the webpage to the “CHP-015 The Shang Dynasty” lecture, and select the “View in iTunes” link to launch the lecture.  Please listen to the entire 31-minute lecture from Lazlo Montgomery, an amateur historian who hosts the “China History Podcast” series.  This lecture will address the basic social structure of the Shang Dynasty and will touch on cultural, technological, and political aspects of Shang society.  Of particular note is his discussion of the origins of Chinese writing and the use of oracle bones.  Mr. Montgomery examines how these bones were used and the discovery of large stores of Shang artifacts in the 20th century.  The reading assigned beneath subunit 1.1 also covers this subunit.   Focus specifically on the section entitled “The Shang Dynasty.”
 
You should dedicate approximately 45 minutes to listening to the lecture and taking notes. 

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1.1.3 Shang Culture   - Reading: Fordham University’s East Asian History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian Link: Fordham University’s East Asian History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire document.  This document, written during the Han dynasty, recounts China’s history since the Yellow Emperor’s reign in 2600 B.C.E.  Its author, Sima Qian, was one of many in his family who served as the hereditary historians of the Han emperor.  This work—Qian’s greatest—was the first systematic Chinese historical text and had a profound impact on later Chinese historians and poets.  This excerpt contains two biographical sketches that serve as both stories of prominent people and as lessons on the culture in which they lived.  Attempt to answer the questions on the webpage.  This reading and these questions should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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1.2 Rise of the Zhou   - Reading: Penn State University: Professor Gregory James Smits’ Topics in Pre-Modern Chinese History: “Chapter 2: Classical China” Link: Penn State University: Professor Gregory James Smits’ Topics in Pre-Modern Chinese History: “Chapter 2: Classical China” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link on the left-hand side titled
“The Zhou Dynasty,” and read the section to understand how the Zhou
rose to power and contributed a cultural legacy of texts that
remained an important aspect of Chinese society into the modern
era.  Through the establishment of the concept of the Mandate of
Heaven, the Zhou justified their overthrow of the Shang and
established a pattern for future dynasties to follow.  The downfall
of the Zhou led to a period of intermittent fighting in China known
as the Warring States Period. During this moment of political and
social instability, intellectuals debated human nature ultimately
giving rise to profound and dynamic schools of thought.  Make sure
to click on any embedded hyperlinks to enhance your knowledge on
associated content.  Note that this reading will cover the material
you need to know for Subunits 1.2.1 through 1.2.4.  This reading
will take you approximately 1 hour to complete.  

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1.2.1 Zhou Feudalism   - Lecture: iTunes: The China History Podcast: Lazlo Montgomery’s “059 The Duke of Zhou” Link: iTunes: The China History Podcast: Lazlo Montgomery’s “059 The Duke of Zhou” (iTunes)
 
Instructions: Please scroll down the webpage to the “CHP-059 The Duke of Zhou” lecture, and select the “View in iTunes” link to launch the lecture.  Please listen to the entire 19-minute lecture from Lazlo Montgomery, an amateur historian who hosts the “China History Podcast” series.  This lecture will address the cultural and social significance of the Duke of Zhou (Ji Dan), one of the pre-eminent advisors and strategists of the early Zhou Dynasty.  Through his writings, the basic elements of Zhou government can be examined as well as rituals, dream interpretations, and early Chinese music.  The podcast also does a good job illustrating the feudal structure of Zhou society.  The reading assigned beneath subunit 1.2 also covers this subunit.  Focus specifically on the section entitled “The Zhou Dynasty.”  Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
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1.2.2 Social Changes   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 1.2.  Focus specifically on the section entitled “The Zhou Dynasty.” 

1.2.3 “Mandate of Heaven”   - Lecture: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ Confucian Teaching: “The Emperor and the Mandate of Heaven” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ Confucian Teaching: “The Emperor and the Mandate of Heaven” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please watch this brief 2-minute video lecture on the concept of the Mandate of Heaven and how it relates to the Chinese emperor.  Established during the Zhou Dynasty, the concept has had a profound impact on the political regimes of China for over two millennia. A transcript of the lecture can be found below the video player on the page. The reading assigned beneath subunit 1.2 also covers this subunit.  Focus specifically on the section entitled “The Zhou Dynasty.”  Viewing the lecture, taking notes, and reading the transcript should take you less than 15 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: Fordham University’s East Asian History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s “Selections from the Shu Jing (The Classic of History) (6th Cent. BCE)” Link: Fordham University’s East Asian History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s “Selections from the Shu Jing (The Classic of History) (6th Cent. BCE)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this entire excerpt on the “Mandate of Heaven” from the Shu Jing (The Classic of History) written in the 6th century BCE. The introduction will help situate the context of the writing.  Be sure to try to answer the study questions at the end to test your knowledge on this subject.  Reading this text and answering these questions should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
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1.2.4 The Fall of the Zhou and the Warring States Period   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 1.2.  Focus specifically on the last four paragraphs of the section entitled “The Zhou Dynasty.” 

1.2.5 Cultural Implications of the Zhou Dynasty   - Reading: Carson-Newman College: Dr. Kip Wheeler’s Chinese Poetry and the Shih Ching/Book of Songs and version of the poem “King Wen is on High” Link: Carson-Newman College: Dr. Kip Wheeler’s Chinese Poetryand the Shih Ching/Book of Songs and version of the poem “King Wen is on High” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Written during the Zhou period and compiled sometime after 600 B.C.E., this is the earliest recorded collection of Chinese poetry and the most important of the Zhou dynasty texts.  Scholars believe that many of the poems were originally songs.  These poems (311 in all) describe ordinary people living during the Zhou period, the social and political issues of the day, the Zhou court, and the venerated founders of the Zhou state.  Most of the poems are short and imagistic—many were often read as allegories.  Read the background context from the first link to understand the impact of the Shih Ching on Chinese poetry.  Then, click on the second link to read the poem “King Wen is on High.”  Think about how this poem relates to the concepts of the veneration of ancestors and the Mandate of Heaven. You should spend approximately 1 hour reading both texts and studying the poem.
 
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  • Reading: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Department of Asian Art’s “Shang and Zhou Dynasties: The Bronze Age of China” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Department of Asian Art’s “Shang and Zhou Dynasties: The Bronze Age of China” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, read the entire page and view the slideshow to examine Bronze Age objects from China.  You may click on each object in the slideshow to learn more information about that object.  Bronze artifacts from the Zhou and Shang periods demonstrate the organization of early society in China.  From ritual instruments to weapons, this website showcases some of the earliest recorded material culture from China.  You should spend approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes reading the main text, viewing the slideshow, and reading the associated content for the objects in the slideshow.
     
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