HIST 242

China and the World

While premodern China has been depicted as a closed, insular civilization, in actuality it was deeply engaged with the outside world, and much of what we now consider to be Chinese emerged out of contact with foreign states, people, and ideas. This course aims to situate premodern China in its global context and focuses on how interactions with the world shaped Chinese culture, society, economy, religion, and government, as well as how China in turn influenced the course of East Asian and global history. While the course moves in chronological order, from China's prehistoric origins through the rise of imperial China and the East Asian tribute system, and concluding with the Qing dynasty's conquest of Taiwan in the seventeenth century, the readings and lectures are topically organized around four zones of foreign contact: China's northern frontier with the steppe peoples of Central Asia, China's interaction with India and the Silk Road, China's inland frontier to the south, and China's relationship with the sea. The course also includes field trips to museums, temples, and historical sites in Taiwan, to provide a material perspective to the assigned readings, and encourage students to glimpse the contemporary legacy of this historical interaction.