Fall 2020 - HIST 254 D100

China to 1800 (3)

Class Number: 3401

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Fri, 12:30–2:20 p.m.



This course offers a broad survey of the history of China from antiquity to the eve of its modern transformations at the turn of the nineteenth century. It aims to challenge the perception of an unchanging China and to encourage students to develop a critical understanding of the forces integrating and dividing this geo-cultural unit. Breadth-Humanities.


LECTURES: Friday, 12:30-2:20 p.m., delivered live online with multiple opportunities for students to interact and ask questions; lectures will be recorded and available for students who cannot attend live because of time-zone differences.

This course introduces Chinese history from the Shang Dynasty through the mid-Qing Dynasty (approximately 1600 BC – 1800 AD). There are no prerequisites and no prior knowledge of China or Chinese culture is assumed. We will focus on the domestic and global sources of change and continuity in the geographical space that we now call China. Major themes include contending philosophies of the Warring States period, Qin and Han imperial consolidation, Buddhism and Daoism, cultures of the Silk Road, commerce and culture in the Song period, the Mongol empire, Ming society, and Manchu rule. We will also discuss science and medicine—including pandemics in premodern Chinese history—and will examine the status of women in imperial China. In order to assess how ordinary people experienced and understood this long period of change, we will read and evaluate a variety of primary sources.


By the end of the term students will (1) gain an appreciation of the tremendous changes and diversity of the imperial period; (2) understand the tools and practices of historians; and (3) improve their reading, notetaking, writing, and analytical skills.


  • Tutorial attendance and participation, 25%. Tutorials will be held live online and have been scheduled to accommodate students in various time zones. 25%
  • Four short essays, 65% (three essays of approximately 900-1,200 words, each worth 15%; one essay of approximately 1,200-1,800 words, worth 20%). 65%
  • Four brief writing exercises (no longer than a paragraph), to be submitted before or during lecture, 10%. 10%


1. In recognition of the extra burdens posed by emergency remote learning during a global pandemic, the SFU History Department has designated the week of November 9–13 as a reading week. Lectures and tutorials will not meet that week.

2. I deeply regret that the global pandemic requires that this course be offered remotely instead of in-person. I prefer in-person classes because I believe that the human connections and spontaneous reactions between and among me and your classmates better promote learning. But in order to stay safe during the pandemic, we are required to sacrifice the many benefits of in-person classes and will strive to do our best using online tools.



Harold M. Tanner. China: A History, Volume I. Hackett, 2010. Ebook available for purchase for $25.19.

Other readings available on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).