Chinese Studies



Anthropology 362 Gender and ethnicity in China and Tibet

Chinese and Tibetan peoples have interacted for centuries, but it is only in the last half of the twentieth century that the "Tibet question" in China has risen to global attention. This course looks at modern Sino-Tibetan relations through the lens of ethnicity and gender as a way to understand the contentious process through which the Chinese nation-state and national identity have been constructed. Through readings, films, discussions and lectures, we will explore the diversity of Tibetan and Han Chinese family organization, gender ideologies and ethnic identities just prior to, during and after the Communist revolutionary period. This perspective will shed light on the incorporation of Tibetans as a "minority nationality" in the Chinese "multinational state," the role of such minorities in constructing Han Chinese majority identity, and the differing impact of state policies on men and women in the context of rapid economic reform and globalization in the PRC. Conference. Prerequisite: Anthropology 211 or consent of instructor.

Anthropology 364 The anthropology of global Tibet

Since the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India in 1959, Tibet and Tibetans have garnered emblematic status in global debates on indigenous cultures and human rights. This course draws on anthropological theories of ethnicity, modernity, and globalization to understand this phenomenon in its historical and ethnographic contexts. Working with a wide range of theoretical, historical, and ethnographic writings, as well as a variety of other media such as film, popular songs, web sites, and blogs, we consider the global contexts and causes of changing meanings of Tibetanness before and after Chinese Communist intervention. We focus especially on the historical and contemporary diversity among Tibetans across the Himalayan region and into the diaspora, as well as the changing political economic conditions of Chinese-Tibetan relations. Conference. Prerequisite: Anthropology 211.

Anthropology 365 The anthropology of development in post-Mao China

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, state leaders have struggled to chart a course to a Chinese modernity that would break with the perceived humiliations of European domination in the nineteenth century and bring China commensurate status in a newly configured world stage of nations. Since Deng Xiaoping's post-Mao reforms in the early 1980s, the PRC has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world. As such, it is poised to have major impacts globally, and especially since the PRC's entrance into the World Trade Organization in 2001, these meteoric socioeconomic changes have complex implications for its diverse 1.2 billion people. This course draws on anthropological theories of modernity, capitalism, globalization, and development to turn a critical eye on discourses and practices of "development" in the PRC. Drawing on theoretical, historical, and ethnographic writings, as well as on other media such as government policy papers, advertising, and documentary films, we consider the contexts and contradictions of various development efforts just before, during, and after the Maoist period, focusing especially on the post-Mao era of economic reforms. The PRC thus will serve as a case study for our broader examination of theories conceptualizing the relationships between global capitalism and local realities. Prerequisite: Anthropology 211. Conference.


Art 303 Miracles and images in East Asia

This course explores the function and status of images in religious and cultic contexts (primarily Buddhism) focusing on questions about enlivening, agency, and affective response. Recent scholarship on the cult of images in East Asia and the West provides a framework for an in-depth analysis of what makes an image alive, what are its expected behaviors, and how activation alters the subject-object relation. Particular attention will be devoted to issues about materiality, the role of the senses, visualization practices, and visibility and invisibility, as well as destruction, circulation, and display. Developing as a sequence of interrelated case studies, the course will focus mainly on ancient examples that include Buddha's footprint and shadow, self-generated images, the cult of relics, and ominous apparition, without sacrificing an investigation of the miraculous in the contemporary world. Prerequisite: Art 201 or Humanities 230, or consent of the instructor.

Art 332 Art and archeology in early China

This course will explore artifacts excavated in China from the height of the Neolithic period (ca. 4000-2--- BCE) to the end of the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 CE). Excavated objects from these period rarely have accompanying textual explanations. Instead, we rely primarily on archaeology, which provides the raw materials for understanding the distant past and constructs temporal narratives that account for the categorical differences between artifacts. With the rise of material culture studies in the field of art history, enigmatic objects that fell within the domain of archaeology may now have art historical explanations. The course is organized chronologically by archaeological site. The objects and sites will be treated as primary sources. Secondary textual sources and comparative studies with other sites dating to the similar time periods will be used to refine our understanding of artisans and their craft and the social and cultural functions of objects. What types of training did artisans undergo? What sources (manuals, tacit knowledge, guild practices, etc.) provided the necessary skills for artisans to work? How was labor divided and what were the social structures in place that dictated artisans' modes of production? How were these objects used and circulated by the living and the dead? Prerequisites: Art 201, Humanities 230, or permission of the instructor

Art 334 Art and politics in modern and contemporary China

This course focuses on late nineteenth to twenty-first century Chinese visual culture and its political implications. The course, organized loosely around four historical moments in the past one hundred years of Chinese history, emphasizes parallel narratives constructed by the rise of specific technologies that were employed for visual production. We begin with the major transition from the imperial Qing dynasty to the tumultuous Republican period in 1911, paying close attention to discussions on Western and Chinese artistic practices that arose at this critical political junction. We then turn to art production under Mao Zedong beginning in 1942, with his famous talks on literature and art presented in Yan'an, in which art became an integral part of his social and political platforms. From there, we examine the visual objects produced during and shortly after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Finally, we will seek to critically examine the political, economic, and social changes that have transformed China into one of the most exciting geographic regions for thinking about contemporary art, and the ways in which artists have chosen to depict and negotiate their changing realities. Prerequisites: Art 201, Humanities 230, or permission of instructor.

Art 390 The imperial enterprise: Arts at the Qing court (ca. 1679-1799)

The consolidation of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) led to a level of visibility of the ruling house that had little antecedents in China's past. New historical research has deeply changed our understanding of the universal empire the Qing envisioned for themselves, but what role images and works of art played in shaping imperial claims still calls for investigation. From a markedly interdisciplinary perspective, this course focuses on about one hundred years of court production and explores the practice of painting in relation to contemporary decorative arts, palatial architecture, and conventions of display and ritual performance. Critical issues will consider inter-cultural and inter-media exchange, the role of European artists, workshop organization and knowledge transmission, and the relationship between technology, labor, and time. Emphasizing an integrated approach to the art produced for/in the Palace, this course reframes Qing Court Art as a modernized incarnation of a long-standing tradition of Imperial Visuality.

Art 391 Material culture and the study of later Chinese painting

Although centuries of scholars have written on Chinese painting, with the rise of material culture studies and its various incarnations, canonical objects in the field of art history are now subject to an expanded field of interdisciplinary scrutiny. The central objective of this class is to understand the histories of Chinese painting as networks, where each element in the production of a Chinese painting—from artists, brushes, paper, silk, seals to the spaces in which painting practices occur—serves as meaningful nodes. This class critically engages with Chinese paintings from the Song to Qing dynasty from this methodological lens. Readings are structured thematically, with one theoretical text and other more specific examinations of cultures of painting in imperial China, with the hope that students are able to draw connections between and be critical of the two types of scholarly works. Prerequisites: Art 201, Humanities 230, or permission of instructor. Conference

Art 398 'The Yangzhou dream': Art and culture in Yangzhou, ca. 1600-1900

Throughout its long history, the city of Yangzhou has stood as the paradigm of the novel and the worldly. The city has also suffered repeatedly from violence and destruction, and the "Yangzhou Dream" reminded everyone of the transience of pleasures and the passing of time. Relying on a wide range of sources that include maps, guidebooks, private diaries, paintings, drama and storytelling, this new course will reconstruct the Yangzhou mediasphere and the vicissitudes of its enterprising population. Issues that will be covered include, but are not limited to the notion of the "local" vs. the imperial, interregional and international networks of exchange, the relationship between written and oral culture, elite and vernacular arts. No knowledge of Chinese is required. Prerequisite: Art 201 or humanities 230, or consent of the instructor.

Chinese Language

Chinese 110 First-year Chinese

A beginner's course in standard (Mandarin) modern spoken and written Chinese, aimed at building a solid foundation in all its aspects: pronunciation (especially the tones), syntax, and basic vocabulary. Attention is given to a balanced development of all the basic skills of the language: listening and reading comprehension, speaking, and writing. Pinyin is the romanization system used in this and all other Chinese language courses. Both the traditional and simplified characters are taught. Students are expected to read both and write one of the two versions. Lecture-conference.

Chinese 210 Second-year Chinese

This course is designed to build the skills of students who have studied at least one year of Chinese (or equivalent) to achieve intermediate-level proficiency in the oral and written use of the language through speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Emphasis in the course will be placed on learning to recognize and reproduce the natural flow of the spoken language, expanding vocabulary, and learning to write short essays in Chinese. Prerequisite: Chinese 110 or acceptance through placement test. Lecture-conference.

Chinese 311 Third-year Chinese

This course is designed for students who have completed at least two years of Chinese language (or equivalent). The course will focus on student acquisition of near-native fluency in spoken Chinese, competence in reading a variety of contemporary texts (with a dictionary), and employment of different registers and genres of Chinese in students' writing. Prerequisite: Chinese 210 or acceptance through placement test. Conference.

Chinese 316 Classical Chinese

Intensive introduction to the grammar of classical Chinese through the study of selections from ancient literary, historical, and philosophical texts. Readings include The Analects, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Shiji, and Tang-Song prose essays. Conducted in Chinese. Prerequisite: Chinese 210 or equivalent. Conference.

Chinese Literature

Chinese 281 Self, stage and society: An excursion into Chinese drama

This course introduces students to representative works of Chinese drama from the mid-imperial era (approximately from the tenth to fourteenth century) to the period of cultural revolution (1966–76). The justification for spanning the conventional divide between the premodern and modern periods is the lasting appeal of the early theatrical masterpieces through the ages, in terms of both dramatic forms and thematic matters. This course will enable students to break out of the confines of the rigid dichotomy between tradition and modernity to see the powerful resonance between the two, and to understand how the educated class through the ages has carved out their own identity through projecting their aspirations for an ideal society or their indignations over an imperfect one. Readings include works by Guan Hanqing, Wang Shifu, Tang Xianzu, Guo Moruo, Ouyang Yuqian, Cao Yu, and Tian Han, among others. Readings are available in English translation. Students taking the course for Chinese credit will meet for an additional hour of reading in the original language. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 2XX.

Chinese 324 Genres of memory in medieval China

This course will examine how genres and generic conventions structured the construction and reception of memory (of place, event, or person) within Chinese literature of the third through tenth centuries. Both primary and secondary materials are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the texts in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 324.

Chinese 325 Songs to lost music: Readings in ci-poetry

This course investigates the rise and the development of ci-poetry, a genre related closely to music. The formal features and their emotional qualities, major modes of expression, and different stages of its development from the ninth to the thirteenth century are the foci in the close reading of selected poems. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 325.

Chinese 326 The knight-errant tradition in Chinese literature and film

This course surveys the literary and filmic representations of the Chinese knight-erant (wuxia) from antiquity to the present day. If ancient philosophers regarded the knight-errant as super-moral, transgressive, and anti-authoritarian, this portrait evolved in historiography, fiction, and film to assimilate a wide range of gender, social and literary issues within its framework of the heroic narrative. As such, the course will examine the knight-errant in classical ltales and in early modern vernacular novels, and move on to explore the knight-errant in modernity, including topics such as the birth of Cantonese school of wuxia fiction, Jin Yong and his debt to Cervantes, and the explosion of popular Hong Kong action cinema, as well as art house films by Wong Kar-wai and Zhang Yimou.

Chinese 328 Aesthetics: Medieval Chinese poetry

This course examines the "Golden Ages" of Chinese poetry -- the Tang and Song Dynasties. How do issues such as gender, literati identity, historical consciousness, etc. contribute to medieval poets' aesthetic visions? What is Chan poetry all about? As aesthetics is partly later construction, we will also explore how critics and writers made sense of Tang-Song poetry, including Late Imperial critics and American modernist poets. This course will be rounded out by creative exercises in English to develop a greater sense of form and style. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the texts in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 328.

Chinese 333 The powerful women in early and medieval China in history, fiction, and modern media

This interdisciplinary course examines portrayals of ruling-class women who lived during the medieval period in China and who have become a part of the Chinese literary-historical tradition. The goal is to foster critical thinking in terms of history as a developing narrative, subject to transformation and reinterpretation. Following a chronological timeline based on the dates of the women in question, the course examines pre-modern accounts and modern transformations in a variety of media. Readings are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the text in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 333.

Chinese 334 Yijing: Text and tradition of the Book of changes

The Yijing, or Book of Changes, is a text of limitless possibilities. This course explores various strategies of reading the text and examines philosophical, religious, historical, and literary critical implications of the text and the tradition associated with it. The system and the language of the 64 hexagrams and various layers of attached verbalization will be the focus of investigation. Readings are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the text in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Cross-listed as Literature 334.

Chinese 346 Post-Mao Chinese fiction and film

This course investigates interactions between literary production (focusing primarily on fiction) and filmmaking since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. Issues to be explored include the shared sociohistorical context that conditioned the production of these two cultural forms, and the multivalent differences between them in terms of intended audience, narrative modes, and thematic concerns. Readings are in translation, and films selected are subtitled in English. No Chinese language training is required. Readings in the original Chinese and additional instruction will be offered for students taking this course for Chinese credit. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 346.

Chinese 348 Reading for Literary Translation: Theories and Practice

This course examines theories of literary translation, including various ideas of equivalence, purposes, causes of uncertainty, and the formation of paradigms. Further it will attempt to practice the theories, by exploring methods of reading particularly for translation, and on strategies of rendering such a reading into another language. Prerequisite: A reading knowledge of Chinese is necessary. For exceptional cases, students with a reading knowledge of Japanese and Korean can be permitted to join the class.

Chinese 355 Early Chinese philosophical texts

This course examines various philosophical discourses in the early period leading to the unification in 221 BC. It is a selective discussion of a few major philosophical texts and schools of thought. We investigate the predominant interest in human nature and cultivation, the epistemological models for understanding such emphases, and the implications of Chinese epistemology. Readings in translation. Students taking the course for Chinese credit will meet for additional hours for the guided reading of selected texts in the original Chinese. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 355.

Chinese 360 The social life of poetry in the Tang Dynasty (618-907)

This course will examine the role poetry played in Tang society, as well as how broader social changes—changing composition of the reading public, new technologies of writing, and developing economies of textual circulation—influenced the ways in which poetry was written, for whom, and with what aims. Both primary and secondary materials are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the texts in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 360.

Chinese 369 Modernizing sentiments, sentimentalizing modernity

Modern Chinese literature, burdened from its inception with the task of nation building, is often read in terms of national allegories, but the extent to which imaginations of new collective and individual identities are articulated in emotive terms merits critical attention. Writers of all kinds share the belief that for China to transform successfully into a modern nation the sentiments of its subjects must be properly reeducated. This course looks at successive models of affective modernity that are valorized or rejected at various junctures of the twentieth century and seeks to understand their vicissitudes in literary history. It also asks at what point nation and emotion part ways and render untenable the assertion that works of modern Chinese literature are always necessarily national allegories. Readings for this course include fiction, supplemented occasionally by poetry and drama, from the late Qing period to contemporary China. An additional hour of class of guided readings in the original will be offered for students taking this course for Chinese credit. Readings are in English. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. Cross-listed as Literature 369.

Chinese 380 Chinese narrative traditions

This course will approach the Chinese narrative tradition through close reading of the Story of the Stone and its literary antecedents. First published in 1792, Story of the Stone recounts the experiences of a magical stone from heaven reborn as the male heir of the immensely wealthy and aristocratic Jia family. Through reading and discussion of poetry, drama, short story, and longer works of fiction from earlier periods alongside selected chapters from the novel, we will explore the ways in which Story of the Stone self-consciously adapts literary conventions, techniques, and motifs from the narrative tradition, and learn to appreciate both China's rich literary tradition and the unique artistic achievements of this novel. An additional hour of class of guided readings in the original will be offered for students taking this course for Chinese credit. Readings in English. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 380.

Chinese 411 / 412 Selected topics in Chinese literature

Topics vary, selected from Chinese literature. Readings, instruction and required coursework in Chinese. Prerequisite: third-year level of Chinese proficiency. Students will have an opportunity to read essays and literary texts (in excerpts or in entirety) by celebrated Chinese writers of the twentieth century. Conference.


Economics 281 Collectivization and decollectivization in the People's Republic of China

This course will examine processes of collectivization and decollectivization in the People's Republic of China, focusing on the 1950s and 1980s respectively. We will examine primarily the agricultural sector and consider the two-way nature of the transition—from a system of private ownership to collective—and the subsequent retreat to decentralization. This approach will facilitate contrasts and comparisons of the organizational changes experienced by the economy and its participants during each of the two decades under study. We will seek to understand the interests of various stakeholders, their subsequent roles in promoting or resisting the changes, and finally how various societal groups were affected. Among the materials we consider will be narrative accounts from various perspectives in addition to secondary sources that analyze the transition processes and their outcomes. Conference.

Economics 382 Economics of development [when case studies deal with China]

The economic problems and policy concerns of poor countries with applications of economic analysis to explain and understand observed outcomes. Substantial attention is paid to the structure and the decisions of households in developing countries with supplemental focus on the market and non-market environments under which they operate, including their access to land, credit, and insurance, as well as their labor employment opportunities. Additional topics include population growth and its determinants, the role of technology, inequality and poverty, structural change, and trade and globalization. Case studies are used to motivate and illustrate the theories discussed. Prerequisite: Economics 201.

Economics 385 Asian economies in transition

This course will compare and contrast plan-to-market transition processes across several Asian countries noted for their economic size and significance, including China, Japan, and India. We will take a sectoral approach, noting variation in policy objective, design, implementation, and outcome. Among the sectors we will consider are agriculture, industry, banking and finance, foreign trade and investment, and the public sector. Our focus will be contemporary rather than historical, although the roles of initial conditions and historical legacies also are relevant to our discussions. Prerequisite: Economics 201. Conference.


History 220 Late imperial China

This course surveys the history of late imperial China (sixteenth through nineteenth centuries) by examining several critical issues in the historiography of this period. Weekly discussions will address the following topics: despots, ritualized rulers and the growth of a "bureaucratic monarchy"; global economic crisis, peasant rebellion, and the Ming–Qing cataclysm; ethnicity, violence, and exchange on Chinese frontiers; lineage formation, strategic marriages, and the consolidation of gentry rule; local magistrates and scholars and their popular tales; migration, mobility, and social anxiety in a prosperous age; gender and sexuality in Qing Confucian ideology; exploration, trade, and emigration on the south China coast; and the challenge of seaborne imperialists in the nineteenth century. Conference.

History 221 From treaty ports to megacities: Chinese urban history

In China today, few environments change more rapidly than those in major metropolitan centers. Uncontrollable hypergrowth, large floating populations, and insufficient resources & infrastructure all make efficient urban planning and healthy community development difficult to achieve. This course will examine the origins of these current challenges, as well as solutions posed to solve earlier problems, both imagined and real. Topics to be addressed will include: imperial models and spatial legacies; treaty ports, bunds and foreign concessions; rural migration, sojourning and movement between cities; hinterlands, regional networks and global connections; revolutionary hygiene and public health; department stores, desire industries & Shanghai fashion; the interwar lifestyles of petty urbanites and Westernized capitalists; covert political communities and urban labor organizing; wartime destruction and relocation; purifying the decadent city via socialist governance; hutongs, alleyway houses and rebuilt residential space; and reassessing the colonial past and the globalized present in China's megacities. Conference

History 322 Nineteenth-century treaty port communities

The treaty ports of China and Japan (such as Shanghai or Yokohama) were critical nodes in the complex web of commercial, political, and cultural networks that enabled multilateral exchange across East Asia in the nineteenth century. Yet these cities were also colonized and ghettoized spaces, governed by disparate legal frameworks, and built with a range of native and foreign architectural styles. This course will examine the multiethnic, multinational communities that emerged from this new environment. Central topics will include: tribute-trade legacies, mixed courts, and extraterritoriality; coastal ghettos and hybrid architecture; business and taxation by proxy; civilizing missions and reform agendas; commercial photography and tourism; sex and interracial intimacy; treaty port journalism; and scientific collaboration in multinational entrepots. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of the instructor. Conference.

History 325 The family in China and Japan

This course explores the visions and myths, manifestations, and transformations of the family in China and Japan from the seventeenth century to the present. Major topics will include: classical statements on filiality, ancestors, and the family as paradigm for social and political theory; demographic change and family "life cycles"; household and lineage interactions; marriage and adoption practices; familial authority, inheritance regulations, and household management strategies; domestic rituals; child rearing and child-parent relations; gender and generational conflicts; social impact of population control; and the effect of modern revolutions on the family and its manifestations. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of the instructor. Conference.

History 326 Layered memories of Japanese colonialism

This course explores major issues in the recent historiography on Japanese imperialism and colonialism and the complex communities who designed, managed and/or experienced Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan and Korea (Japan's major colonies), without overlooking Japanese "informal" rule in China. Major topics will include: colonial typologies, 'semi-colonialism' and 'colonial modernity'; continuity and divergence in Dutch, Manchu & Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan; colonizers' representations of colonial landscapes; the rule of colonial difference and colonial identity formations; narratives of subaltern resistance; colonial literary movements; colonial anthropology; total war and total empire; sex slaves and their clients; and the complexity of post-colonial problems/ problematic postcolonialisms. Conference.

History 328 Chinese frontiers and border crossings

This course will explore the nature of the geographical and epistemological boundary transgression from 1400 to 1800. Major topics will include: Zheng He's fifteenth-century maritime explorations; merchants without empire; travelers, emigrants and illegal crossings; Chinese cartographic technologies; Confucian governors and native chieftains in Yunnan and Guizhou; the Sino-Dutch colony of Taiwan; Qing conquest of central Eurasia; and the construction of textual landscapes and ethnographic portraits in these Chinese frontiers. Prerequisites: sophomore standing or consent of the instructor. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of the instructor. Conference.

History 329 Cameras and photography in nineteenth-century East Asia

This course examines the early history of photography in China and Japan. Attention will be given to the complex (and disparate) technological histories of the medium, the varied uses to which the camera was put, and the impact of this new technology upon visual cultures in China and Japan. The dissemination of photographs into other media and the impact of consumer preferences upon content and style will also be examined. Travel landscapes, studio portraits, ethnographic photographs, and documentary images by Euro-American, Japanese, and Chinese photographers are among the visual data to be analyzed. Other sources include optical treatises, travel literature, government reports, and early ethnographies. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Humanities 230 Chinese Humanities

This course is a team-taught, year-long interdisciplinary examination of two pivotal periods in Chinese history, the Qin/Han (221 B.C.E. - 220 C.E.) and Song (960 - 1279 C.E.) dynasties.

Fall: The Qin/Han unification

In geography and cultural advances, the Qin and Han dynasties surpassed their predecessors, and together they number among the world's greatest empires. This course examines their heritage through a selection of primary texts including the Confucian Analects, the enigmatic Dao de Jing, the cosmological Book of Changes, and the historical narrative tradition of Sima Qian's Shi Ji. It samples cultural expression ranging from the poetic discourse of rhapsodies and pentasyllabic verse to the religious endeavors manifested in funerary artifacts. Alongside textual studies, this course explores the Han's physical remains, including the ruins of its capitals, the Wu Liang shrine, and its important tombs. The Qin/Han portrays itself as a territorial, political, and cultural unifier, and it sets the benchmark against which all later dynasties must measure themselves.

Spring: The great Song transition

During the Song renaissance, China mentally realigned itself, as it acknowledged nomad states who would eventually occupy the northern half of China. Foreign religions such as Tiantai and Chan Buddhism flourished alongside the indigenous popular pantheon; we study all of these through their primary texts. These texts and others were propagated through the new woodblock print medium. Furthermore, China was undergoing internal changes such as the emergence of a vibrant new urban culture, which we hear through Song drama and see through Song cityscape paintings. This realignment found other new expressions in intimate lyric poetry, calligraphy, and monumental landscape art. The Qin/Han unification may have laid the basic foundation of imperial China, but the Song marks the beginning of modern China.


Religion 115 Religion & philosophy in pre-imperial China

This course is a study of religion and philosophy in preimperial China (i.e., before 221 BCE) alongside their literary and artistic manifestations. While a billion people can today claim an intellectual inheritance from Greece, more than two billion recognize ancient China as their foundation. Beginning with the oracle bones and sacrificial bronze vessels, the course will progress to the Confucian classics and the blossoming of Chinese philosophy. Analyses will include bronze-age material culture (including the new discoveries of Sanxingdui), The book of songs from the Confucian tradition, The Zhuangzi from the Daoist tradition, and the preimperial narrative histories of the Zuo commentary. Conference.

Religion 116 Religion and philosophy in early imperial China

Once China unified and became a self-aware entity in terms of history and territory, its philosophies and religions likewise crystallized into recognized schools and distinct churches. Its philosophers endeavored to uncover cosmic patterns, define existence and map out the ethical life. Its religious specialists imposed structure on the ancestors, streamlined the state cult and set standards for achieving salvation. This survey of imperial history's first six hundred years will examine state religion, the foundations of the Daoist church and Buddhism's entry from India. Devoted to primary texts in translation, it will explore Daoist theoretical musings (including the Liezi and three commentaries to the Daode jing), Confucian ceremonial guidelines (including the Ritual records), and Buddhist texts (including the Diamond and Vimalakirti sutras). It will also study how particular individuals reacted to this environment, including Emperor Wang Mang who transformed his capital into a cosmic fulcrum and the cynic Wang Chong who dismissed religions that anthropomorphized the cosmos. This course will also draw upon contemporaneous literary, poetic and material cultures (including the Portland Art Museum collections). Conference.

Religion 310 Death & remembrance in Chinese history

Using Reed's study collection of Chinese hell scrolls as a springboard, this course explores texts and images that trace out the cycles of death and rebirth in literary genres. We follow the monk Mulian as he looks for his mother in hell, and we witness Emperor Taizong as he faces judgment before the underworld magistrates. We study Chinese sutras as well as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and we unpack the 400-page travelogue of Taiwanese monks who in the 1970s undertook scores of day trips to hell via spiritual mediums. Throughout we will consider which theoretical lenses in religious studies are most useful in increasing our understanding of Chinese retributive hell. Prerequisite: Religion 157 or 160, and Religion 201 or Humanities 230, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Religion 312 Early Chinese cosmology and its ritual response

This course is an examination of the diverse cosmological traditions that underpin later institutional faiths, and will explore early Chinese attempts to locate the human being within a larger natural order. Early Chinese scholars wrestled with ideas of a pervasive yin and yang as well as other forms of correlative interaction, and in their application of these ideas they formulated systems that explained everything from the inner workings of the body to the greater astronomical order. The course examines their broader concepts such as time and space as well as specific topics such as astronomy, alchemy, and afterlife. It also considers the ritual response to this cosmology—that is, the means whereby humans accessed the larger natural order. Rituals mimicked cosmological hierarchies, and they also interacted with that cosmology through sacrifice, divination, shamanism, and seasonal festivals. Students will explore the archeological evidence, and their readings will focus upon primary texts in translation. Prerequisite: Religion 157 or 160, and Religion 201. Conference.

Religion 313 Early and medieval Chinese Buddhism

In its theoretical guise, Chinese Buddhism focused on the idea of "emptiness," of everything (including the self) being empty of any permanent, independent qualities. This course will begin with the Buddhist sutras and catechisms (e.g. the Perfect enlightenment, Diamond and Platform sutras) that endeavored to unpack this idea of emptiness. It will then turn to how religious Buddhism paradoxically attempted to give concrete form to that emptiness, translating theory into the lives of buddhas and bodhisattvas, into monastic disciplines and hellish fears, into poetic expression and material culture. Ultimately, our guiding question will be as follows: "Does emptiness actually survive the translation to make Buddhism a unique religion?" Prerequisites: Religion 115 or 116, and 201 or consent of the instructor. Conference.