Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:38 am Print

Now is the time in my Early China class when I get to the Three Kingdoms. This is usually a time some of the students have been waiting for, since they know the Three Kingdoms, having reunified China themselves, playing on hard level, as the ruler of Shu, Wei, AND Wu

68You might think that I don’t like having lots of kids come to my classes because of a video game,1 but you would be wrong. Part of it is that I like anyone who is interested in history to come to my classes and help feed my kids. A bigger part is that the Three Kingdoms types are usually pretty good. One thing that stinks about teaching Asian History is that there is not that much popular history in English that is any good.  There are a few exceptions. Next semester I will be using Toni Andrade’s The Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West which is a good book written by a fine scholar who realized that in addition to being an important part of Chinese and Asian history the story of Koxinga is also a ripping yarn that people would like to read. My Americanist colleagues have lots of stuff like this to draw on, plus some pretty serious stuff written by non-academics, plus lots of primary sources on-line. We Asianists mostly have to teach with academic stuff or rubbish about ninjas.

I bring this up because as I was looking around for an English-language translation of the biography of Cao Cao for a student I found Kongming Archives They have lots of video game stuff, but also English-language translations of the biographies from 三國志! They don’t look too bad either. I suspect that as Americans get more interested in China (and the internet makes this stuff easier to find) there will be more and more of these type of things.

For an explanation of the post title go here




  1. yes, the card is not from the video game []


Syllabus blogging 3 –Modern China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:54 pm Print

Syllabus blogging 3 –Modern China

Not as much to say about this. This is an upper-division course for majors and non-majors, and one I teach every few semesters.

The books are

-Schoppa, R. Keith. Revolution and Its Past: Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson, 2011.

If you are going to use a textbook this is a good one. I go back and forth on using one,  but this one has a nice theme (identities) and does not cost too much.

-Edgerton-Tarpley, Kathryn. Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-century China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

I am really glad that some stuff is starting to come out that helps with the 19th century. For a long time I put Soulstealers in here, which is a fine book for this slot. Two slots really. An early in the course book and a serious monograph. (I always like at least one of those in an upper-division course.) There are probably a few other things that would fit here.

-Qian, Zhongshu, Jeanne Kelly, and Nathan K Mao. Fortress Besieged]. New York: New Directions, 2004.

I also like using a novel in a class like this. This one is both funny (to what extent the students will see it that way is an interesting question) and important and a good window into at least part of the society of the Republic. I have used Rickshaw here (which was o.k.) and Family, (which did not work as well.) I have high hopes for this

-King, Richard, and Zhun Li. Heroes of China’s Great Leap Forward: Two Stories ; [“ A Brief Biography of Li Shuangshuang”, “The Story of the Criminal Li Tongzhong”]. Honolulu, Hawaii: Univ. of Hawaiʻi Press, 2010.

And some primary sources and something from the Communist period. I’ve used this before and it worked well.



Drugs and Empires in Asia -More syllabus blogging

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:41 pm Print

So, as I got some help last time I asked for advice on what to teach next semester, here is what I have for HIST 403 Drugs and Empires in Asia. This is a senior-level topics class, meaning that everyone in it should be more or less a senior history major, and that they will each be producing a 15 or so page research paper on a topic related to the class. Here is the blurb..  picker

Tea, Opium, Sugar. All three of these were wildly profitable goods in Early Modern and Modern Asia. All of them also caused radical social change and sometimes violent political disputes. In this class we will be looking at these three substances and their role in Asian history from the heyday of the British East India Company through the 20th century with its anti-opium campaigns and industrial sugar production. Students will write a major research paper based on the bountiful (primary and secondary) sources on these topics.



Syllabus blogging for Spring 2014-1

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:39 pm Print

Today is October 10, which is both an important day in Chinese history and also means that I am late in getting in my book orders for Spring. In the past I have always been way too late with syllabus blogging, so that while I get some useful suggestions it is too late to act on them. So while it may  be too late to get my book orders in on time, I am going to ask if anyone has some advice on

1. Using (or replacing) these books

2. Things to go with them

This class is ASIA 200, Introduction to Asian Studies a class required for all of our 50-odd Asian Studies majors and one of our recruiting tools. The class is built around a series of readings that expose students to different disciplinary traditions and parts of Asia. The point is not to teach them the entire History, Anthropology,Literature etc. of China, Japan, Iran, Indonesia etc.1 but to expose them to a lot of stuff they they would enjoy reading2 and I would like teaching.

My current ideas are


Boo, Katherine. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2013.

I always do a journalism book to start with, in part because they are supposed to be approachable and easy to get into, but also because as budding Asianists the students need to learn why they should be sceptical of books written by people who parachute into a society AND how much they can learn from a good journalist/travel book. I will probably pair this with some stuff from Luyendijk, Joris. People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2009. Or maybe dump this and go back to Speed Tribes?


Toer, Pramoedya Ananta, and Max Lane. This Earth of Mankind. New York: Penguin, 1996.
I always include a least one novel, as they are easy for students to get into, and this one (a classic colonialism novel) seems to fit.
Andrade, Tonio. Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011.
China is always the easiest for me, since I can always think of lots of thing that would fit in History/Anthro, etc. As a(n) historian I always insist on including at least one book that deals with the pre-modern world. This one is both a Ripping Yarn and something were there is enough other stuff to give them -including Andrade’s other work and also primary stuff- that you can do a lot with it. Still, China is a place where I can think of lots of other things. Maybe instead use

Harrison, Henrietta. The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village University of California Press, 2013? Mann, Susan. The Talented Women of the Zhang Family. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. was a hit in this slot last time.
Oppenheim, Robert. Kyǒngju Things: Assembling Place. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
This worries me a bit. I always include one really hard-core academic monograph, and this certainly counts, although I am a bit scared about leading them through it. Not sure at all what to do along with it. The book itself deals with creating a city of historic culture in Korea, and I would need some stuff on, I guess, modern Korean cultural politics to go with it.
We always do some films, and the students each do a presentation on an Asian film of their choosing. We usually do two as a group and I am thinking of Abu-Assad, Hany. Paradise Now, 2005, since it deals with Islamic radicalism, which they are always interested in (especially the vets.) and… a comedy. I always include one, since they all come in with the idea that Asia films are all about suffering peasants and star Gong Li. Last time I used Jiang, Wen. Let the Bullets Fly,  2010, which worked well, but I think ideally I would like a funny yet insightful film on being middle class in… I guess Thailand?
Barefoot Gen? It works, and there is a lot to go with it, (Maybe I will put Grave of the Fireflies in the movie section. It’s animated, it must be funny!) but I would like something more pre-modern, although I can’t think of anything.
The last book out was Suleri, Sara. Meatless Days. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. which is a good memoir on Pakistan that includes gender more explicitly than anything else on the list, (which is the most important gap at present)  and I guess would replace the Toer.
So, any suggestions?
  1. although I did have one student walk out on the first day when I explained we would not be doing that []
  2. Honestly, if you read and though about 4 good books in each undergraduate class, how well educated would you be? []


Ancient Music in the Academy

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:28 pm Print
Han DrummerConfucius liked to talk about Rites and Music. Thus I have to spend a lot of time explaining to students why. Most Americans are more like Mozi
Mozi asked a Confucian, saying ‘What is the reason for music (樂)?’ The reply was: “Music is performed for the sake of joy ()1 Mozi said: ‘You have not answered me. Suppose I asked: Why build houses? And you answered: It is to keep off cold in winter, and the heat in summer, and to separate men from women. They you would have told me the reason for building houses. Now I am asking: Why perform music? And you answer: Music is performed for music’s sake. This is like saying : Why build houses? And answering Houses are built for houses’ sake.” Mozi 43
So Mozi can see no point in music, just like most most American parents can’t see the point in being a music major.
I won’t get into the whole modern defence of Music (and Art), but in early China music was magic. All my evidence here comes from the Lushi Chunqiu, which is basically a philosophical encyclopedia compiled at the very end of the Warring States period.
Music is a way to keep track of the state of the world

Thus, the tones of an orderly age are peaceful and joyous because its policies are stable. The tones of a chaotic age are resentful and angry because its policies are perverse. The tones of a doomed state are sad and mournful because its policies are dangerous. It is a general principle that music is influenced by government and affected by customs. When customs are fixed, music adjusts itself to them. Thus, in an age that possesses the Dao one has only to observe its music to know its customs, to observe its customs to know its government, and observe its government to know its ruler. The First Kings were, therefore, certain to rely on music as a means of professing their teachings. LSCQ 5/4.4B

O.k., this is not too hard to grasp. Just like “Rap Music is Black America’s CNN” you can learn about a society by listening to its music. I particularly like this quote because I remember reading something along the lines of “Thus, the tones of an orderly age are peaceful and joyous because its policies are stable. The tones of a chaotic age are resentful and angry because its policies are perverse.” on the liner notes of a Jefferson Airplane album2
Here is another

   When Yu ascended the throne he toiled and laboured on behalf of the world. He rested neither day nor night, opening up the great streams, cutting through obstructions and blockages, boring out the Dragon Gate, and circulating the flowing waters by guiding them to the Yellow River. He dredged the Three Rivers and the Five Lakes and made their waters flow to the Eastern Sea, to benefit the black-headed people. At this, Yu commanded Gaoyao to compose all nine movements of the Xia Flute” in order to celebrate his achievement. LSCQ 5/5.10

O.k., so you can use music as political propaganda, so that people will never forget Yu taming the flood or the bombs bursting in air. Also not too complex. The next two are a little harder.

In the past, at the inception of the Yinkang clan, the Yin had coagulated in great amounts and accumulated excessively. The watercourses were blocked and obstructed, and water could not flow out from springs. The ethers of the people became thick and clogged up, and their muscles and bones tight and constricted. They therefore invented a dance with which to spread and guide the Yin .LSCQ 5/ 5.4

In the past, when the ancient Zhuxiang clan ruled the world, there was an excess of wind that caused the Yang ether to gather and accumulate, the myriad things to disperse and scatter, and the fruits and nuts not to ripen. Knight Da therefore invented a five-string zither with which to attract the Yin ether and arrange the survival of the various living things. LSCQ 5/ 5.2

These two are a  lot more magical. Music actually changes the world. In the first one we can see it changing people, which makes a bit of sense. Then in the second one it changes the universe. There are actually a bunch of passages in here about how inventing new instruments gave humans new ways to control the world. This is not our idea of music at all (unless you are a follower of the Church of Les Paul), but it does help a bit with Early China.


  1. same word! []
  2. not sure which album or if I am remembering this right. My memories of the 60′s are mostly a blur. Still, it fits pretty well. []


Kids nowadays…

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:06 pm Print

Need to read more Marx.

Well, maybe they don’t, but it would make my job easier. I did a lot of Marx in my undergraduate days at Northern Illinois University. It was a pretty Marxist history department, which was great because you got a lot of deeply involved professors. It was quite an eye-opener for a kid from the suburbs of Chicago to meet people who were way more interesting than me, knew all sorts of cool stuff and also saw the world in a totally different way than I did. Plus Eric Hobsbawm came out to talk to us once. He was working on a new project on Nationalism.  Kids nowadays don’t do much Marx, as I found out when I gave them the passage below (way below)  from Jian Bozan, Shao Xunzheng and Hu Hua Zhongguo lishi gaiyao Beijing: Beijing daxue, 2009 on the Boxer event.



Mixing water with water

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:37 pm Print

Here is a dialogue (from the Zuozhuan) I used in class this week.

The Duke declares “It is Ju alone who is in harmony with me.”

Yanzi replied, “Ju is in fact the same [as you]. How can he attain to harmony?” The ruler said, “Are harmony and identity different?”

Yanzi said, ‘They are different. Harmony is like a stew. Water, fire, jerky, mincemeat, salt, and plum [vinegar] are used to cook fish and meat; they are cooked over firewood; the master chef harmonizes them, bringing them into equality with seasonings, compensating for what is insufficient and diminishing what is too strong. The gentleman eats it and thus calms his heart. With ruler and subject it is the same. When there is something unacceptable about what the ruler considers acceptable, the subject reports the unacceptable to perfect the acceptability. When there is something acceptable about what the ruler considers unacceptable, the subject reports the acceptable in order to eliminate the unacceptable. In this way administration is calm and without interference, and the people lack the desire to struggle. Thus the Shi says:

There is a harmonious stew.

We are careful and calm.

We advance silently;

There is no struggling.’

The former kings adjusting of the five flavors and harmonizing of the five tones was for the calming of hearts and the completion of administration. Sounds are just like flavors. The single breath, the two forms, the three genres, the four materials, the five tones, the six pitches, the seven notes, the eight airs, the nine songs: these are used to complete one another. The clear and the muddy, the small and the large, the short and the long, the presto and the adagio, the somber and the joyous, the hard and the soft, the delayed and the immediate, the high and the low, the going out and coming in, the united and separate: these are used complement one another. The gentleman listens to it and thus calms his heart. “When the heart is calm, the virtue is in harmony. Thus the Shi says:

The sound of his virtue is unblemished.’

“Now Ju is not like this. What you, the ruler, consider acceptable, Ju also says is acceptable. What you consider unacceptable, Ju also says is unacceptable. If you were to complement water with water, who could eat it? If the zithers and dulcimers were to hold to a single sound, who could listen to it? This is how identity is unacceptable1)

I like this quote a lot, because it gives you a nice introduction to the world of classical Chinese thought. It is in the form of a dialogue between a ruler and a philosopher. The ostensible point is that a virtuous advisor, Yanzi, is putting down a toadying suck-up (Ju). More importantly it goes well with the common idea of resonance; that the patterns that govern the natural world are the same as those that govern the human world. Thus the sage is like a great cook or a great conductor, (or a doctor) harmonizing everything and thus bringing about tranquillity. Tranquillity of course being the goal. We have quotes from the Book of Songs, a contrast between the small man and the gentleman, the former kings, a list of examples with numbers  This is one that I like well enough that I actually print it out and give it to them.

Original text

十二月,齊侯田于沛,招虞人以弓,不進,公使執之,辭曰,昔我先君之田也,旃以招大夫,弓以招士, 皮冠以招虞人,臣不見皮冠,故不敢進,乃舍之仲尼曰,守道不如守官,君子同之,齊侯至自田,晏子侍于遄臺,子猶馳而造焉,公曰,唯據與我和夫,晏子對曰, 據亦同也,焉得為和,公曰,和與同異乎,對曰異,和如羹焉,水火醯醢鹽梅,以烹魚肉,燀之以薪,宰夫和之,齊之以味,濟其不及,以洩其過,君子食之,以平 其心,君臣亦然,君所謂可,而有否焉,臣獻其否,以成其可,君所謂否,而有可焉,臣獻其可,以去其否,是以政平而不干民無爭心,故詩曰,亦有和羹,既戒既 平,鬷假無言,時靡有爭,先王之濟五味,和五聲也,以平其心,成其政也,聲亦如味,一氣,二體,三類,四物,五聲,六律,七音,八風,九歌,以相成也,清 濁大小,長短疾徐,哀樂剛柔,遲速高下,出入周疏,以相濟也,君子聽之,以平其心,心平德和,故詩曰,德音不瑕,今據不然,君所謂可,據亦曰可,君所謂 否,據亦曰否,若以水濟水,誰能食之,若琴瑟之專壹,誰能聽之,同之不可也如是 Original here



  1. Schaberg, David. A Patterned Past: Form and Thought in Early Chinese Historiography. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Asia Center, 2001. p.231 (from Zuo []


Essays (with fewer than 8 legs)

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:33 pm Print

One book that most people here who teach the methods course for majors use is Benjamin’s A Student’s Guide to History. It covers most of the stuff you want them to learn (basic research, working with primary sources, bibliographies etc.) and since we all use it you can always recommend that students in other classes “Go look at Benjamin.” There are two things I don’t like about it.

1. The publisher brings out a new edition every few years, with minimal changes. This makes it impossible to order enough cheap used copies for an entire class, so you have to use the overpriced new edition. Or you can do what I did and just tell them to pick any recent edition, and work around the fact that everyone’s copy is paginated differently. I realize that lots of publishers do this, but it still annoys me.

2. Obviously there are limits to how far you can get in explaining historical research in 10 pages. Still, some parts of it are really not that good. Witness for example, the model essays in How to Write an Essay. This is something we work on a lot, as the exam-type historical essay is the most common product of the undergraduate historian. Below is sort of a draft of what I want to give them on what is wrong with Benjamin’s section on essays.

Here are Benjamin’s sample exam essays. They appear on pp. 63-64 of the 2001 8th edition pp. 53-54 of the 2007 10th edition and pp. 28-29 in the 2013 11th edition

QUESTION Explain the origins of the Chinese civil war of 1945- 1949. How did the differing political programs of the two contenders affect the outcome of that conflict?

POOR ANSWER The Guo Mindang (Kuomintang) had a stronger army than the Communists, but the Communists won the civil war and took over the country. Their political program, communism, was liked by the peasants because they didn’t own any land and paid high taxes.

China was based on the Confucian system, which was very rigid and led to the Manchu dynasty being overthrown. The Chinese didn’t like being dominated by foreigners, and Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) founded the Guo Mindang to unite China. He believed in the Three People’s Principles. At first he cooperated with the Chinese Communists, but later Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) tried to destroy communism because he was against it. Communism was not in favor of the wealthy people.
The Communists wanted a revolution of the peasants and gave them land. They also killed the landlords. Jiang Jieshi worried more about the Communists than about the  Japanese invasion. The Japanese looked to conquer China and make it a part of their empire. Jiang  Jieshi wantcd to fight the Communists first. After World War II the Chinese Communists attacked Manchuria and took over a lot of weapons. They fought the Guo Mindang army. The Guo Mindang army lost the battles. and .Jiang Jieshi was chased to Taiwan, where he made a new government. The Communists set up their own country and their capital was Beijing ( Peking). That way the Communists won the Chinese civil war.


I think we can agree that this is not a very good answer. In fact, it is so awful it is a bad example, since to me the point of an exercise like this would be to show students the difference between a C answer and an A answer, and this is more of an F- answer.

It is also probably not a very good question. The text suggests that this is an essay for a take-home exam, but for what class? The question seems to imply that you are looking for an answer that focuses on the 1945-49 period and thus deals with the Marshall mission and Communist expansion into Manchuria and the problems the GMD (Guo Mindang) had with re-occupying Eastern China. Maybe you gave them Westad to read, or Pepper. If you are going to ask that focused a question you need to give them the tools to answer it. I sometimes ask students to come up with exam questions. They usually point out that they have no idea what the questions should be. I point out that they should be able to come up with some questions about whatever the major problems we have been dealing with are, and which topics they have read enough on to be able to answer something well. This sounds like it might be a question from some sort of general survey class, asking about the long-term struggle between the CCP and the GMD but then why point people at 1945-49? It strikes me as exactly the type of question that will get you a lot of bad answers, and you will realize that it is mostly because you asked a bad question.

GOOD ANSWER The origins of the 1945-1949 civil war can be traced back to the rise of Chinese nationalism in the late nineteenth century. Out of the confusion of the Warlord period that followed the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty in 1911 , two powerful nationalist movements arose- one reformist and the other revolutionary. The reformist movement was the Guo Mindang ( Kuomintang) , founded by Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen). It was based on a mixture of republican, Christian , and moderate socialist ideals and inspired by opposition to foreign domination. The revolutionary movement was that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), founded in 1921, whose goal was a communist society but whose immediate program was to organize the working class to protect its interests and to work for the removal of foreign ”imperialist” control.

Although these two movements shared certain immediate goals (suppression of the Warlords and resistance to foreign influence). they eventually fell out over such questions as land reform, relations with the Soviet Union. the role of the working class and the internal structure of the Guo Mindang. (The CCP operated within the framework of the more powerful Guo Mindang during the 1920′s.)

By the 1930′s, when Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) succeeded Sun the CCP was forced out of the Guo Mindang. By that time the CCP had turned to a program of peasant revolution inspired by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung)  A four year military struggle (1930- 1934) between the two movements for control of the peasantry of Jiangxi (Kiangsi) Province ended in the defeat but not destruction of thc CCP.

The Japanese invasion of Manchuria (1931) and central China (1936- 1938) helped salvage the fortunes of the CCP. By carrying out an active guerrilla resistance against the Japanese, in contrast to the more passive role of the Guo Mindang, which was saving its army for a future battle with the Communists. the CCP gained the leading position in the nationalist cause.

In the post-World War II period, the CCP’s land reform program won strong peasant support, whereas the landlord-backed Guo Mindang was faced with runaway corruption and inflation, which eroded its middle-class following. The military struggle between 1945 and 1949 led to the defeat of the demoralized Guo Mindang army and the coming to power of the Communists.

Well, this is better, but not much better. First romanization and dates. I try not to be too snotty about romanization, especially in the intro classes, but Guo Mindang? Did you not see the term Guomindang repeatedly in your reading? Was it not on the lecture outlines? Making a mistake like that is really not good gamesmanship. I usually just circle it and move on, but it does make me wonder. Likewise with the Japanese invasion of Central China in 1936-38. Well, the right year is in the middle there. I would probably not care too much about that either if the rest of the essay was any good, just figuring it was a minor mistake. (It does not help that this is supposed to be a take-home exam. Even Wikipedia gets these things right.)1

What really hurts are the serious factual and interpretive errors. The GMD was not a Christian party in any meaningful sense.2 The GMD were not reformist either, they were revolutionaries and they said so constantly. True, some have claimed that what they led was an Abortive Revolution, but still.

There is some stuff in here. We do get a vague reference to the CCP shift to a peasant strategy (although little on what that means), and something on how important the Japanese invasion was. Maybe I had them read Chalmers Johnson? Obviously the field has moved on a bit since then, and I probably talked about Chen Yung-fa in class, but maybe they were absent that day? Maybe I gave them a textbook old enough that it called the GMD a party of landlords? Or maybe they got that from some Mao stuff I gave them?

As you search for reasons to like this ‘essay’ you notice all the things that are not there at all. Terms like United Front or Third Revolutionary Civil War, Gold Yuan reform, places like Yennan and Canton,  the U.S. and the U.S.S.R for 1945-49, any people other than Chiang and Mao. I realize that these are not grad students, but there are very few specific events in here. Grading an essay is always somewhat subjective. It’s not just checking off what is there and what is not, it’s looking at the thing and trying to figure out how well the student understands the history they are trying to explain. Mentioning things that should be in there, even if you can’t explain them well, is good, unless you do it so badly it is obvious you don’t know what you are talking about. Saying that Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling’s Christianity probably helped their relations with the U.S. is good3 Calling the GMD a Christian party is bad.

The idea of an essay in a history class is that the student should synthesize the readings, the lectures and the discussions. In a take-home exam they have even more time and resources to do a good job with that. I would like to think that a student who did none of the other readings and never come to class could do better than this just by summarizing the textbook. Yes, the prose is better in answer two, but the content is not much improved.4 But, I guess it’s an A, since it is a model essay. What do you think of it, and if you don’t think it is a good essay how would you explain that? Or is it a good essay and I am just expecting too much?5

  1. Plus you probably looked up those Wade-Giles romanizations in Wikipedia. I’m sure they were not in the text. []
  2. Where is that coming from? This is the type of thing makes me start flipping through the other papers, wondering if maybe somebody slipped me some acid before class the day I talked about this and I rambled incoherently and they took it all down. []
  3. although it sounds more like something that belongs in an essay on the GMD []
  4. This is an important lesson for students. If you write competently you can get away with a lot. []
  5. If this is an ideal essay that maybe computer essay grading is easier than I thought. []


Final Syllabus blogging

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 4:44 am Print

Well, as I predicted I got my syllabai done too late to post them and get helpful suggestions, other than HIST 200, where I did get (and use) some good ideas.1

Still if anyone has any ideas that might help for next time I would be glad to hear them. Here are the classes.

HIST 200 Introduction to History -The methods class for majors. Focusing on the Boxers this time, I have high hopes for this.

HIST 206 History of East Asia -One I always like teaching (especially since I got more thematic about it) and that students like to take, at least judging by how fast it always fills. I have still not solved the problem of outside readings with this one. I usually like to use three books they can write papers on. One of them should really be a Pre-Han Chinese text, and this time I went with Zhuangzi. The other option is Book of Songs, but both of these are problematic. For the other two I went with Fukuzawa Yukichi’s Autobiography and Liang Heng’s Son of the Revolution. I like both of these, and I like autobiographies with classes at this level, but I wish there were more books that worked like these that would go earlier in the semester.

HIST 332 Early China -This is starting to become my standard model for upper-level courses. Not much for required reading, but lots of optional readings that students can pick from. The idea is that they can Choose Your Own Syllabustm by picking out the stuff that interests them. This worked well last semester in Modern Japan, as there were students who had read and were willing  talk about interesting readings they had done almost every week. We will see how well it works with a class that is always farther from other things students have done that stuff like Modern China or Modern Japan


  1. Thanks Chuck []


The Boxer Uprising and historical method -Syllabus blogging

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 2:35 pm Print

There is something of a tradition here at the Frog of posting our syllabai for upcoming courses and asking for suggestions. This summer I promised myself that I would get a post up by June and and be able to actually use the suggestions rather than just thinking ‘good idea for next time’. I am pretty proud that I actually have this up a week before classes start. Regardless of my procrastination any comments that could be used now or major things that will have to be put in next time are welcome.

The class is HIST 200, Introduction to History, our methods course for majors. This is actually the last time it will be taught, as starting next semester it will be split into two classes. I like using Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997 as the main text and organizing principle for the class because

1. It is a really good book, and having students read good books is the point of history classes

2. Cohen talks a lot about what history is and how to do it.

3. It is a China topic with a lot of non-China implications, which is good given that this is a class for all History majors

So, here it is. The formatting will be different, as in the draft I have the guidelines for assignments mixed in with the weekly summaries. I still have some work to do on this, but I would really be interested in suggestions on new readings and assignments.


History 200 Introduction to History


The point of this class is to help you learn how to think, read and write like a historian. To that end we will be looking at how various different people have interpreted one event, the Boxer Uprising/Rebellion/Movement of 1899-1900. We will also be looking at all sorts of different historical products, from monographs and textbooks to films and graphic novels, and producing all sorts of different things from essays to the outline of a research paper, to a Digital history project. We will also talk some careers and your future as a historian.


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