Week 4: Wed. Sept. 18 and Fri. Sept. 20

Assignments: check you have done all the steps in this document by Tuesday, Sept. 17, 6pm

Use the Pad to share questions, ideas and comments anonymously before, during, and after class.

Wed. Sept. 18: The Warring States

Today we look documents produced in the final years of the Warring States period (481BCE-220BCE), when seven states fought for total control. Last week Friday we read excerpts from a few of the many thinkers who tried to convince rulers that their ideas of government were the best (and here are your thoughts from Friday’s session). None of them were successful in influencing rulers. Xunzi’s disciples Li Si and Han Feizi became political advisors of the king of Qin, and they helped to create the foundations for the unified empire of Qin (see also Fri. Sept. 20). They relied on a long tradition of “administrative thinkers” (fajia, often called “Legalists” in English, due to their reliance on harsh punishments and clear codes of law). You will undoubtedly notice differences with Friday’s offerings! The Intrigues of the Warring States is a collection of anecdotes and stories set during this tumultuous period, arranged by state. They appear at first sight similar to the stories in the Commentary of Mr Zuo (Wed.-Fri. last week), but never gained the status of a Confucian canonical text. Many of these stories are well-known in China today, and are the origin of a few Chinese proverbs still used in modern Chinese.

Primary sources:

  • Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1: From Earliest Times to 1600. Edited by Wm. de Bary and Irene Bloom. Second Edition. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1999.
        • “Legalists and Militarists” (selection) (PDF)
  • Han Fei. The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu: A Classic of Chinese Political Science. Translated by Wengui Liao. Probsthain’s Oriental Series, 25-26. London: Arthur Probsthain, 1959.
        • Han Feizi, “The Two Handles”.
        • Han Feizi, “Wielding the Sceptre”
              • Please note: these selections are in Wade-Giles transcription. Check this webpage for links to conversion tables and tools.
              • What is Han Feizi’s view of the ruler? And of human nature? How does he compare with specific thinkers from Friday’s session (Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, Mozi, Laozi, Zhuangzi)
  • Crump, James I. Chan-Kuo Ts’e. 2. Ed., Rev ed. [occasional Series / Chinese Materials and Research Aids Service Center, 41]. San Francisco: Chinese Materials Center, 1979.
        • Selection from Chan-kuo ts’e [Zhanguo ce, Intrigues of the Warring States], transcription changed to pinyin. (PDF)
        • These small anecdotes appear to be similar to the Commentary of Mr Zuo, but they never gained the status of Classic/Canon.
  • OPTIONAL EXTRA: if you want more background on the political history, in addition to the second half of Hansen’s Chapter 2, you can also consult look this text (available as e-book via the library): Lewis, Mark. “Warring States Political History.” In Michael Loewe, and Edward L. Shaughnessy, eds. The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC, 587–650. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521470308.011.
  • Slides (Gdrive)

Friday Sept. 20: The Qin Empire

The First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huangdi) defeated the other six warring states, and created a new type of political system, and gave himself a new title: huangdi, usually translated as Emperor (as opposed to wang or “king”, used before). The ruthlessness of the empire’s administration is legendary: it shaped the conditions for victory, but likely also laid the foundations for its rapid collapse.

  • Textbook: Hansen, Valerie. The Open Empire: A History of China to 1800. Chapter 3- part 1: ” “The Creation of Empire” (pp. 91-105)
  • Primary sources:
      • Sima Qian. Records of the Grand Historian. Translated by Burton Watson. Revised edition. Columbia Univ. Press, 1993.
          • Chapter 6: “The Basic Annals of the First Emperor of the Qin” (PDF)
          • I added subtitles to break up the text. Focus on two (2) sections, and be prepared to talk about what you found interesting, remarkable, or strange in those two sections.
          • Bear in mind that Sima Qian wrote his magnum opus under the succeeding dynasty, the Han. How might this have affected the way he wrote about the rise and the fall of the Qin?
      • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (ed.). Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. Second Edition. New York: Free Press, 1993.
          • “Penal Servitude in Qin Law” (PDF)
          • Later in the course we will see other penal codes, from later dynasties. What is characteristic of the Qin code, in your informed opinion? We can use that knowledge for later comparisons.
    • Slides (Gdrive link) Please note: more information about the objects is provided in the Speaker Notes (access through View –> Speaker Notes)