History of China: Bronze Age to the Last Dynasties explores the development of this great civilization from the Neolithic to the last dynasty. We see the formation of political structures and social practices that have lasted into the present; we learn to appreciate artistic and literary traditions of sophistication and refinement; we inquire into its philosophical and religious legacies and their significance for our own lives; and we trace the creation of the largest economy in world history.
Explore the development of Chinese civilization with this comprehensive series on the history, geography, and culture of the country. From the Neolithic to the creation of the largest global economy in world history, this course will help you gain a critical appreciation of China's literary, philosophical, political, and cultural resources.
The political and moral ideas of ancient China are an ever more important part of the country’s modern identity. This series will show how China’s civilization developed and how it became the world’s first centralized bureaucratic state governing the largest population in the world. We will learn why the family is so important in Chinese culture, how Buddhism became part of everyday life, and how the high culture of the literati came to include not only the refined arts of calligraphy and classical Chinese poetry but also dramas and novels. All in the context of a constantly shifting political landscape as empires, dynasties, and economies rose and fell.
Join us to gain an appreciation for the artistic, literary, philosophical, religious, and political traditions of the people who created the largest economy in world history.
Courses under this program: Course 1: China’s Political and Intellectual Foundations: From Sage Kings to Confucius
Learn about China’s origins, its integral early thinkers, and competing states and schools of thought.
Course 2: China’s First Empires and the Rise of Buddhism
Learn about the Qin and Han dynasties, and how Buddhism and ideas of self-realization influenced the medieval period.
Course 3: Cosmopolitan Tang: Aristocratic Culture in China
Explore the reunification of China under the Tang with a focus on aristocratic culture — from poetry to calligraphy to literature.
Course 4: Literati China: Examinations, Neo-Confucianism, and Later Imperial China
Explore China’s imperial period, with a focus on the Song dynasty and the role of the exam system in government.
Course 5: Global China: From the Mongols to the Ming
Explore the impact of the conquest dynasties and the world of the Ming.
This course, the second in a collection on Chinese history and culture, addresses how the Qin dynasty conquered China and established a new system of government and how the Han dynasty built a stable, centralized empire that lasted for hundreds of years. We cover the early history of Buddhism in China and how the rising feudal aristocracy responded to the loss of empire by looking inward.
In this period, the Qin forged a new, unified empire, discovered new ways of mobilizing the population, and introduced the imperial ideology of “Cosmic Resonance”. However, this early dynasty was short-lived and soon gave way to the Han. Though the Han struggled with many tensions — centralism vs. regionalism, feudalism vs. bureaucracy — it lasted much longer than the Qin and established a stable relationship between Chinese society and the state.
Later, aristocratic culture and concerns around self-actualization became important in Chinese culture. Buddhism was also established in this period, and learners will discover how that religion spread throughout the country.
Join us to learn about China’s first unified empires and how the relationship to the self evolved with the spread of aristocratic culture and Buddhism.
By the Tang period, China was divided into northern and southern dynasties with different rulers and political systems. The north was conquered by relatively unsophisticated barbarians, but in the south, the aristocratic families established a refined appreciation of writing and literature.
In this course, the third in a large collection covering all of Chinese history, you’ll learn about the Cosmopolitan Tang and the reemergence of great aristocratic clans. You’ll discover how these clans formed a kind of state aristocracy that dominated Tang government and society.
This period — a product of the Medieval period, and of the development of Buddhism and Daoism — gave the world a model for modern statehood the great cosmopolitan empire that defined it is among the highest achievements in Medieval culture. Join us to discover those achievements through readings of classical Chinese poetry and a review of the ancient art of calligraphy.
Fundamental changes in government, the economy, and broader society took place between the 8th and 11th centuries in China. The state aristocracy gave way to new literati elite: educated men who sought to enter government through competitive examinations. A new kind of Confucianism also took shape, which prized the moral autonomy of individuals. With this, the later imperial period of China’s history begins.
From our series on Chinese history and culture, this course focuses on the changes brought by the Tang-Song transition, including the reconfiguration of power, urbanization, Neo-Confucianism, and the shared values as expressed in the state examination system.
Join us to learn how a shifting social and political elite ultimately brings unity to China, ushering in an age of global empire.
In the 13th century, by force of arms, the Mongols created the greatest empire in human history. Yet by the end of the Ming dynasty in the late 16th century, a new global economy emerged. New World silver brought together the Americas, Europe, and East Asia, and the intellectuals of East and West began to speak to each other directly. The founding of the Ming and the growth of the global silver trade spurred changes in social and political spheres, and the late Ming period brought new literature, philosophies, and religions, with shifting roles for women.
This course, part of a collection on the history and culture of China, will cover the Mongol’s large, multi-ethnic empire and the social, political, and cultural changes during the Ming dynasty. From early Mongol life at China’s northern border to the rise of Genghis Khan, we’ll take a deep dive into the territorial expansion of these traditionally nomadic people.
The establishment of a truly global China set the stage for even greater changes in the modern era. Enroll now to understand the context for these changes, and how the economic and political realities of today’s China originated in the region centuries ago.
This course, the first in a comprehensive series on China, introduces you to the history, geography, and culture of the country.
Time, space, and identity — enduring issues in Chinese history — are explored. You’ll study China’s early dynasties to understand how physical geography impacted its inhabitants and how the many ethnicities within the country affected Chinese identity. You’ll learn about China’s origins as told in ancient texts and through modern archeology. You’ll explore the first dynasties during the Chinese bronze age, the many facets of Confucianism and his Analects, and the competing schools of thought that followed.
New political and moral ideas appear in Chinese culture in this period — ideas that make up the country’s intellectual foundations and still resonate today. Join us to learn about China’s origins and how early concepts in Chinese culture still matter in the 21st century.