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 Zhong Guo (China in Chinese)

Paul Halsall/Brooklyn College/1996-99

Core 9:Chinese Culture

Office Tel (Core 9 Office): (718) 951 5229


From Fall 1999, Paul Halsall [   ] takes up a position at the University of North Florida. This Core 9 course page remains online for those who are interested, but permanent links should be made to the

Internet East Asian History Sourcebook

Music I | Music II
Play either of the above for appropriate music for browsing!


The Course

This module is an introduction to Chinese culture. The approach will be one which sees culture as the system of shared ideas and meanings, explicit and implicit, which a people use to interpret the world and which serve to pattern their behavior [Patricia Ebrey]. This concept of culture includes an understanding of the art, literature, and history of a society, but also less tangible aspects such as attitudes, prejudices, folklore and so forth. With China we will find a tradition of civilization marked for over 3000 years by the use of writing, urbanization, a developed artistic culture, social stratification and a political structure which more or less successfully coordinated a huge population.

Readings and Texts on the Web

Students are required to do a certain amount of assigned reading outside class. The readings for this course comes in two forms - articles on reserve/[in course packet] and documents and images available on the World Wide Web. By the end of the course students should be able to evaluate for themselves both material from Chinese sources and the varied interpretations given to the to those sources.

World Wide Web

Virtually all of  the  readings for each class are on the World Wide Web. If you are reading the online version of this syllabus all you need do is to select [often by "clicking"] the texts in question, which are listed under each class. You can then read on screen, or print out the document. [For the computer-phobic copies may be made available in the library reserve room.] This option puts you, as Brooklyn College students, on the cutting edge of technology.

The Internet is now a valuable research tool for students. Accordingly I shall also make this syllabus, course outline, lecture notes, and other class handouts available on the Web. Under each class there may also be reading material (marked as such), gathered from various WWW Extra sites. This material addresses or expands upon issues overlooked in the assigned readings.

Quizzes: There are self-grading quizzes for each section of the course.  These are only available on the Class Website. They are for practice only, will not contain the same questions as in class quizzes, but should help you prepare and test yourself.

To access the class page from Netscape or Internet Explorer, just type in (at the prompt):

Class Discussion list

core9china-l  is a lively and active class email discussion list associated with this course. I have added all students who gave me email addresses. Send me email if you are not on the lits, but want to join,- to

To access a threaded archive of the discussion list - core9china-l, go to:

To access a archive by date posted of the discussion list - core9china-l, go to:


You must activate your college assigned email account for this semester. [See my explanation of How to Activate Your College Email Account.] In the Library, in the Atrium computer lab, and at other sites on campus, there are terminals where you can access the Web. If you find the Brooklyn College email system to difficult to use, try the free email available at any web browser from HOTMAIL [


Class Requirements

Comparative Final Exam [20% of overall grade]
China Module [40% of overall grade]
Other Module [40% of overall grade]

Calendar [for Spring 1999 sections]

Section SA [Monday evenings]

Section K [Mon/Wed 4:25-5:40pm]

Class Policies

ATTENDANCE: Attendance will be taken every class. you are expected to attend every class. If you are absent, you must provide a written excuse and any documentation (e.g. a doctor's note). Any student who is absent more than twice (which is equivalent to six regular class meetings), receives a failing grade.  A consistent pattern of lateness will also negatively effect your final grade. 

PROJECTS: Projects must be handed in on time, unless an extension is given. They must conform to the Stylesheet guidelines handed out separately.

EXAMS: Make up exams will only be given for medical reasons.

HONOR: Cheating will result in an F for any paper or exam in which it is detected.

CLASS BEHAVIOR: Eating is not appropriate in class. Neither is walking in and out during class time.

Students are encouraged to make an appointment with the instructor to discuss papers and/or issues raised in class.


Quick Guide to Course Handouts and Guides

Course Outline

The course is based on seven thematic sections  through which we shall try to come to grips with Chinese culture. The seven sections are:-

In general we shall do one "class" per class meeting. To allow some flexibility, however, I will not assign classes to specific dates. You will know what to read next by where we are in the course.


  • Lecture - lecture notes for each class may be made available. These correspond in some way to what happens in class. For review purposes the topics given under each class should be used.
  • Textbook readings are given for W. Scott Morton: China: Its History and Culture. 3d. ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995)  This is not a required text, but some students may find it helpful to buy..
  • Map links to an online color map related to the lecture..
  • Assigments It would be best for you to read ALL the  readings. However, they are marked according to priority:
    means that the text is online.
    GREEN GREEN means it might make more sense to read this text after class
    References to WWW Extra refer to optional reading available via the World Wide Web
  • References to WWW Link refer to World Wide Web sites related to the class topics.

Section 1: Introduction: The Nature of Culture


Class Topics: The "foreignness" of China/foreignness of the West - stereotypes and cultural traits. Ethnocentrism. Images of China and images of the Chinese.


Section 2: Tiananmen: ghp.gif (1894 bytes) Gate of Heavenly Peace

Online Self-Grading Quiz


Documents on the Gate of Heavenly Peace
[all on the PBS Tiananmen web site]

Section 3: Jen: Geography, Language, and Early History


Morton: 5-10 (land and people)
18-21 (language), xix-xx (spelling and pronunciation)
11-17 (Prehistoric origins)
22-28 (Zhou)
29-38 (Confucianism)
43-49 (Qin)
49-64 (Han)
64-70 (Han Culture)
71-75 (Six Kingdoms)
81-84 (Sui and Tang)
84-97 (Tang Culture)
98-112 (Medieval Culture)


On Geography: Politics and Facts

On Language: Dialects and Languages

On Early History: Chinese history from the viewpoint of the elite and the masses

Class Topics:
Geography: Chinese origins. Yellow River. Yangzi River. North and South, Arable land. Notion of "Asia" and "Orient".

Language: Chinese language and Chinese writing. "Language" and "dialect", "tones", "characters"

History: Evolution: humans in China. Origins of complex societies.   Shang China:  archeology, oracle bones, bronzes, buildings, human sacrifice. Chinese Cultural Coordinates: writing -jen, -yin/yang, dao, the state, history, peasants. The Dynastic Cycle. Zhou dynasty: Mandate of Heaven [Tian], chaos and classics [Confucius and Laozi]. Qin dynasty: Qin Shi Huang-di, Legalism,Great Wal. Han Dynasty: state and examinations, Changan, Central Asia and Rome. Science & Technology: seismograph, compass, paper. Sui dynasty and "Reunification". Tang Dynasty:  state and rebellion, Tang art, typical pottery style, Tang Poetry-Li Bo and Wang Wei. Technology: gunpowder, printing. Penetration of Japan and Korea. Penetration by India. Song Dynasty: state, rice economy, art, poetry. Endurance of Chinese World

Section 4: San Jiao: Chinese Religion


Morton: 29-38 (Confucianism)
42-44 (Mohism and Legalism)
113-114 (Neo-Confucianism)
38-42 (Daoism)
75-80 (Buddhism)


On Confucianism

On Daoism

On Buddhism

Class Topics:

Confucianism: Confucius: ren, li, junzi, human nature, the state, respect, religion, life after death. Mohism. Legalism: Lord Shang and Han fei. Confucianism vs. Legalism. Japan and Confucius. Neo-Confucianism:  Zhu Xi-li (form)/ and Oi (matter). Problems with Confucianism

Daoism: Nature. Laozi and the Dao De Jing. Zhuangzi: Wu wei and the Tao of Physics. Daoism and Confucianism. Popular Daoism

Buddhism: Indian Religion. Gautama: dukkha, Middle Path. Teaching: Dharma and Karma, Tripitaka,3 Precious Things (Jewels). Buddha, dharma. sangha. Four Noble truths. Eightfold path. Sutras. Asoka 272-36 CE. Hinayana/Theravada. Mahayana: Bodhisattvas, Maitreya/Mi-lo-fo/Pu-tai. Avalokitesvara/Guan yin. Amitibha/Amida/O-mi-to-fo.. Buddhism in China: Kumarajiva/ Faxian. Buddhism and Taoism. Lotus Sutra: Sukhavati/pure land.. Buddhist art. Vajrayana/Tibetan Buddhism -Tantra: Dalai Lama. Chan Buddhism: Bodhidharma/Pu-di-da-mo and Hui-neng

Other Religions: Nestorianism. Judaism. Islam and -contacts with Islamic world

Section 5: Chinese Gender Systems


On Gender Systems and Sexuality 

On Women

Class Topics: Gender, eunuch, Mia Xia.  Ban Zhao, Patrilinearity, Bound Feet, Communist Marriage Ethic

Section 6: Zhong guo: China and the World I


Morton: 115-22 (Mongols)
123-27, 133-36 (Ming)
137-47 (Qing)


Class Topics: Yuan Dynasty (Mongols): Genghis Khan/Temuchin and Kublai KhanGuo. Shoujing and the advance of astronomy. Plays and opera. Ming Dynasty. Nanking and Beijing, expansion, the state and autocracy. Confucianism: Three Perfections: painting, poetry, calligraphy. Art: painting, pottery. Foreign trade-voyages of Zheng He. Macao. Jesuits in China Tian/Shang di or Tian zhu. Qing conquest. prosperity and technology. Qing world system. Kang Xi and Qian Long. Art, library [Jing, shi, zhe, ji] novels [Dream of the Red Chamber]

 Section 7: China and the World II


Morton: 127-33 (Maritime Expeditions and Jesuits)
148-74 (The Impact of the West)
175-81 (Early 20th Century China)
181-95 (Communist Party)
195-99 (War with Japan)
200-25 (Communist Revolution and Cultural Revolution)
226-45 ("New" Communism)
246-263 (World Relations)
264-292 (Modern Chinese Society)


Class Topics:
The Western Intrusian: Qian Long's Letter to George III. Lord Macartney. East India Co.Macao, Canton, Tea, Opium and War. Treaty of Nanking. Missionaries.

Internal Collapse: Taipings and Hing Xiuchuan, Nian. Comparison with Japan and Meiji era 1868 on. Tong zhi Restoration 1860s. Cixi: Court life.Boxer Rebellion

Nationalism: Sun Yat-sen. Three Principles? [People's nationalism, People's Democracy, People's Livelihood] May 4th Movement. Beijing National University. Luxun. Kuo Min Tang and Warlord Period

Communism: The CCP and Mao Zedong. Soviets. Long march. Red Army and CCP. Marxism and peasants. Nationalists and Taiwan. Communist Government: land reform and thought reform. "Great Leap Forward", "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution". Mao, Liu Shaoqui and Zhou Enlai. 1976 and All That - the Gang of Four. Deng Xiaoping and -New "communism". Four Modernizations. Population control. Limits and Tian an men Square. China and the World. Pacific Rim. Tibet. Hong Kong

General Reference Documents

Student Papers/Web Pages

Some students choose to create web pages as the their class projects. These projects are linked from here. Copyright remains with the students, who were responsible for securing any necessary permissions. Note that the quality of the sites varies! Some excellent student papers from previous semesters are posted here [with the writers' permission] as examples [and inspirations]. When outside links from the student webpages fail, they will not be updated.




The Web is so vast now that it contains more, and more diverse information, than any single printed source. This availability of information will only increase and is a truly splendid new tool to help in your research. To use the Web efficiently, the various search engines are essential. It is important to form your query words as clearly as possible. For instance, if you are interested in finding information on a particular musician, do not search for "music", but for a style [eg "jazz" or "gregorian chant"] or even a name ["abba", "charlie parker", "hildegard"].

Here are links to the best "wide area" search engines on the Web. Yahoo is best, I think, if you are looking for specialized websites. Lycos, Excite, and Hotbot all index many more documents. These engines will always turn up more references, but far more will be dross than with Yahoo. It is useful to start with Yahoo since it has a nice feature - once it tells you everything that it has found, it will automatically plug you in to the other search engines.


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Statement on Copyright and Fair Use

The author and maintainer of this site is Paul Halsall [a picture!] . He can be contacted by email at

Lats updated: June 2 1999