It is doubtful that any country on the planet experienced more seismic shifts across the last four centuries than China. Entering the “modern” era as perhaps the world’s most advanced (and richest) nation, it descended into more than a century of humiliating chaos. After 1949, it went through several decades of relative isolation and political tumult before it emerged in the 1990s as one of the world’s dominant nations. Its new dominance will enable us to tie our studies of China to each of the countries we visit, looking for signs of Chinese activity and influence in places as distant as Honolulu, Penang, and Casablanca.
Our goal will be to develop an understanding of all that transpired in China’s modern era: not just the facts but the causes, issues, and meanings that lay behind those facts. With heavy use of writings by and about individuals who experienced this history—emperors, working women, revolutionaries—we will work on our own skills as interpreters of the relationship between the past and the present. Class sessions will combine lectures and discussion. Requirements will include writing, discussion, and tests.
Field WorkCountry: China
Date: February 5, 2020
The goal of the day is to trace the evolution of China’s urban culture, from its roots in the early modern era to today’s bustling cosmopolitanism. We will visit the Yuyuan Gardens and the Yuyuan Bazaar, the Jewish Refugees Museum, and sites in the old French Quarter, including the home of Sun Yatsen and the location of the first congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
1. To experience the cultural brilliance of early modern China’s elite society
2. To see remnants of the tumult that gripped China in the 19th and early 20th century
3. To take part in the vitality of contemporary Shanghai
4. To think about the continuities and discontinuities—and what caused them