Week 2: Wed. Sept. 4 and Fri. Sept. 6

Assignments: check you have done all the steps in this document by 6pm, Tuesday Sep. 3.

Please fill out the Google form to collect your suggestions for timeline and map points. (I will create the first couple of classes to give you an example)

Prepare the readings before class: annotate what is interesting, remarkable or strange, where you have questions, and were you are confused. Add these to this week’s pad.

There are likely a lot of questions for clarifications. Post them in the pad, I will check before and during class to answer these; if you know the answer to a question, jump into the discussion. I’m still trying to find out if stupid questions exist (so far: not in my classrooms), so please ask even the “stupid” ones and prove me wrong!

Wed. Sept. 4

  • Analysis of the Xia documents continued (“Bin gong xu” and Records of the Grand Historian)
  • Textbook chapter 1: Hansen, Valerie.The Open Empire: A History of China to 1800. Chapter 1: “The Beginnings of the Written Record”
  • Primary source: Keightley, David. “Chapter 1: The Oracle Bone Inscriptions of the Late Shang Dynasty”. In Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1: From Earliest Times to 1600, edited by W. deBary et al. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1999. (PDF)
    • A selection of oracle bones in translation.
  • OPTIONAL EXTRA: If you are interested in the oracle bones, there is a lot of literature about them. David Keightley is one of the world experts on these materials. Here is an excerpt from another book that talks about how the bones were created and used in divination. (note 93 on p. 21 is an interesting account of recent attempts at “cracking bones” with rather inauspicious results)
    • Keightley, David N.Sources of Shang History : The Oracle-Bone Inscriptions of Bronze Age China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. (PDF)

Entry points into the texts/questions:

  • How does the presence of written documents change the way we understand the early Chinese state? (Compared with the Neolithic and bronze cultures we saw on Friday)
  • What are the things we do not learn from these oracle bones? What other types of information have historians and archaeologists used to understand the Shang?
  • How would you explain the Shang dynasty to a friend who doesn’t know anything about this topic? What questions do you imagine they have? (Or ask your roommate) You can bring those questions to the pad or to class.
  • Slides (Gdrive link)

Fri. Sept. 6:

We continue with our closer look at the Shang dynasty, and hop into the Western Zhou (the next big dynasty).

  • Bring your Triangle-Square-Circle form from Wednesday’s class, or share the electronic version, please! (filled out)
  • Google form for locations and timeline points from Wednesday’s contents. Please include a brief description (what is it, and/or why it’s important to go on the collective map or timeline)
    • If you haven’t filled out the Google Form for Friday’s (Aug. 30) timeline yet, please do so. This will be a recurring task, so be on the lookout for it!
  • [Carried over from Wednesday] Primary source: Keightley, David. “Chapter 1: The Oracle Bone Inscriptions of the Late Shang Dynasty”. In Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1: From Earliest Times to 1600, edited by W. deBary et al. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1999. (PDF)
    • A selection of oracle bones in translation: we will look more closely at the translated parts.
  • Haapanen, Minna. “The Royal Consort Fu Hao of the Shang”. In The Human Tradition in Premodern China. Edited by Kenneth J. Hammond. Scholarly Resources, 2002, 1-13. (PDF)
    • In this chapter, the writer uses materials from archaeology and inscriptions from the Shang dynasty to reconstruct a mini-biography of the royal consort Lady Hao (Fu Hao), also mentioned in your textbook p. 29-31. Read the final pages (11-12) for more information on the method used. This text should give you a better sense of life for a member of the elite in the Shang dynasty.
    • OPTIONAL EXTRA: explore more about the tomb of Lady Hao on this other course site.
  • Primary source: Selection of bronze inscriptions from the early Western Zhou period: Shaughnessy, Edward L. Sources of Western Zhou History: Inscribed Bronze Vessels. Berkerley: University of California Press, 1992. (PDF) [note: book is available as e-book in Trexler]
    • What does the writer of the inscriptions say; what is this text about? (Can you connect this to historical events covered in the textbook?) Who wrote this? When? Are there recurring patterns? How does the language feel? When was this text read? By whom? Would the writer be ok with us (in the 21st Century) reading this text?
    • OPTIONAL EXTRA: Primary source If you can’t get enough of bronze inscriptions, you can find more in this PDF.
    • HANDY REFERENCE: Falkenhausen, Lothar Von. Chinese Society in the Age of Confucius (1000-250 Bc) : The Archaeological Evidence. Ideas, Debates, and Perspectives, V. 2. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 2006. Brief PDF extract discussing the use of bronze inscriptions as a historical document: caveats to be observed. (PDF)
  • Slides (Gdrive link)