Cultural History of Ming and Early Qing China

Undergraduate Seminar
HIS 350L (Unique 35550) & ANS 372 (Unique 27020)
T Th 11-12:20
GAR 205

Prof. Roger Hart
Office: Garrison 405
Office hours: Tuesdays 1-4 p.m.
Office phone: 475-7258

Course Description

This course offers a cultural history of China during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), covering the major historical events, developments, and trends. Topics include the following: Confucian learning, heterodoxy, and syncretism; Buddhism, religion, and cults; science, technology, medicine, and the military; crises -- famines, peasent rebellions, invasions, disease; examinations, factions, and politics; intellectual trends -- classics, history, philosophy, and literature; state, governance, ritual, and law; and relations with the Japanese, the Europeans, and the fall of the Ming dynasty to the Manchus. We will read (in translation) the most important writings from this period, together with the most recent secondary research. We will take an interdisciplinary and critical approach, integrating history with literary studies, philosophy, and anthropology.

Course Requirements

Class attendance is mandatory. Students may choose one of the following two options:

(1) Before class write a brief summary of the readings, to be handed in at the beginning of class. Notes on each of the readings should usually be two short paragraphs -- one summarizing the central argument and one offering critical analysis -- for a total of 2 to 3 pages per week. Students should complete notes for two of three readings per week, and for ten of the fifteen weeks. These will be graded and will serve as the basis for class discussions. Grading: reading assignments 80%; class participation 20%.

(2) Complete a final paper of 16 pages (20 pages for graduate students). Students should consult me as early as possible on possible topics. An outline and bibliography are due by the eighth week; a first draft must be turned in by the twelfth week; and the final draft is due on the final day of class. Grading: final paper 80%; class participation 20%.


All readings will be available through electronic reserves: This electronic reserves page is password-protected; please email me if you need the password.

Also, please bookmark this syllabus -- I will continue to make changes in the readings as the semester progresses.


Week 1. Introduction

Primary sources

Selections from the Four Books: Analects, Mencius, Mean, and Great Learning, in Sources of Chinese Tradition, ed. Wm. Theodore de Bary, 2nd ed., vol. 1, From Earliest Times to 1600 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).

Supplementary readings: "Crisis" in late Ming

Timothy Brook, The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

William S. Atwell, "Some Observations on the 'Seventeenth-Century Crisis' in China and Japan," Journal of Asian Studies 45.2 (1986): 223-244.

Frederick E. Wakeman, Jr., "China and the Seventeenth Century Crisis," Late Imperial China 7.1 (1986): 1-23

Week 2. Confucian Learning (1): Wang Yangming

Primary sources

Wang Yang-ming (1472-1528), "Inquiry on the 'Great Learning"' and selections from Instructions for Practical Living, in Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, tr. Wing-Tsit Chan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), pp. 654-691.

Required readings

David S. Nivison, The Ways of Confucianism: Investigations in Chinese Philosophy, ed. Bryan W. Van Norden (Chicago: Open Court, 1996), pp. 217-31.

Chu Hung-lam, "The Debate over Recognition of Wang Yang-ming," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 48:1 (1988), pp. 47-70.

Supplementary readings

Tu Wei-ming, Neo-Confucian Thought in Action: Wang Yang-Ming's Youth (1472-1509) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).

Wang Yang-ming, To Acquire Wisdom: The Way of Wang Yang-Ming, trans. Julia Ching, Studies in Oriental Culture, no. 11 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976).

Week 3. Confucian Learning (2): Further Developments

Primary sources

Luo Qinshun (1465-1547), selections from Knowledge Painfully Acquired, in Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 874-884.

Chen Jian (1497-1567), selections from Thorough Critique of Obscurations to Learning, in Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 884-887.

Lü Kun (1536-1618), selections from "Records of Practical Administration" and Posthumous Writings, in Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 887-899.

Required readings

Biographical entries for Chen Jian, Lü Kun, Luo Qinshun, and Wang Yangming, in Dictionary of Ming Biography, ed. L. Carrington Goodrich, et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), s.v.

Supplementary readings

Ronald Dimberg, The Sage and Society: The Life and Thought of Ho Hsin-Yin (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1974).

Irene Bloom, Knowledge Painfully Acquired: The K'un Chih Chi (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987).

Joanna F. Handlin, Action in Late Ming Thought: The Reorientation of Lu K'un and Other Scholar-Officials (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).

Week 4. Buddhism and Religion

Primary sources

Yunqi Zhuhong (1535-1615), Record of Self-Knowledge, "Personnel at Yunqi and Their Duties," and "Regulations Regarding Good Deeds and Punishments at Yunqi," in Chun-fang Yu, The Renewal of Buddhism in China: Chu-Hung and the Late Ming Synthesis, Buddhist Studies and Translations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), pp. 233-270.

Li Zhaoen (1517-1598), "Selected Sayings on the Nine Stages" (1579) and "Direct Pointing to the Mind as Sage" (1564), in Judith A. Berling, "The Nine Stages," chap. 6 of The Syncretic Religion of Lin Chao-En, Neo-Confucian Studies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 145-194.

Required readings

Chun-fang Yu, "Chu-hung and the Late Ming Lay Buddhist Movement," chap. 4 of Renewal of Buddhism in China, pp. 65-100.

Supplementary readings

Hsu Sung-peng, A Buddhist Leader in Ming China: The Life and Thought of Han-Shan Te-Ch'ing (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1979).

Marsha Weidner, "Buddhist Pictorial Art in the Ming Dynasty," in The Latter Days of the Law, pp. 51-87.

Week 5. Syncretism, Heterodoxy, and Cults

Primary sources

Li Zhi (1527-1602), "Childlike Mind," "Phony Sages," "Pursuing Zhu Xi's 'Learning for One's Self,'" and "Legitimacy of Being Self-Interested," in Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 865-74; selected letters, in Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd ed., ed. Patricia Ebrey (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 258-62.

Anon., Precious Volume of the Nine-Petaled Lotus (1523), in Daniel Overmyer, "The 'Chiu-lien pao-chüan' of 1523," chap. 4 of Precious Volumes: An Introduction to Chinese Sectarian Scriptures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).

Required readings

Timothy Brook, "Like a Lid to a Box, Like Ice to Ash: Accomodating Buddhism," chap. 2 of Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China, Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, no. 38 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), pp. 54-89.

Supplementary readings

Edward T. Ch'ien, "A Synthetic Neo-Confucianism as Restructured Confucianism," chap. 5 of Chiao Hung and the Restructuring of Neo-Confucianism in the Late Ming, Neo-Confucian Studies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), pp. 195-240.

B. J. ter Haar, The White Lotus Teachings in Chinese Religious History (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999).

Jean-Francois Billetier, Li Zhi, Philosophe Maudit (1527-1602): Contribution a Une Sociologie Du Mandarinat Chinois a La Fin De Ming (Geneva: Droz, 1979).

Romeyn Taylor, Official and Popular Religion and the Political Organization of Chinese Society in the Ming (1981).

Week 6. Science, Technology, Medicine, and the Military

Primary sources

Song Yingxing (1587-1661), Exploiting the Works of Nature (1637), in Chinese Technology in the Seventeenth Century: T'ien-Kung K'ai-Wu, ed. E. tu Zen Sun, and Shiou-chuan Sun (University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1966).

Selected writings on Chinese medicine.

Required readings

Roger Hart, "Local Knowledges, Local Contexts: Mathematics in Yuan and Ming China."

Supplementary readings

The Treatises on Military Affairs of the Ming Dynastic History (1368-1644), trans. Foon Ming Liew (Hamburg: Gesellschaft fur Natur- und Volkerkunde Ostasiens, 1998).

Judith Zeitlin, "Ming Case Histories and the Literary Structure of Medical Authority: The Writings of Sun Yikui."

Angela Leung, "Transmission of Medical Knowledge from the Sung to the Ming."

Christopher Cullen, "The Science/Technology Interface in 17th-Century China: Song Yingxing on 'Qi' and the 'Wu Xing.'"

Week 7. Literati: Education and Examinations

Primary sources

Selected writings on education.

"Four Examination Essays of the Ming Dynasty," trans. Andrew Lo, Renditions 33 & 34 (1990): 167-181.

Xu Guangqi's Provincial Examination essay (1597; trans. Hart).

Required readings

Benjamin A. Elman, "The Cultural Scope of Civil Examinations and the Eight-Legged Essay among Elites," chap. 7 of A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), pp. 371-420.

Week 8. Literature: The Novel

Primary sources

Anon., chaps. 1 and 12 of The Plum in the Golden Vase, trans. David Roy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), vol. 1, pp. 2-42 and 225-52.

Zhang Zhupo (1670?-1698?), "How to Read The Plum in the Golden Vase," trans. David Roy, in How to Read the Chinese Novel, ed. David Rolston (Princeton: Princeton University Press), pp. 196-243.

Wu Cheng-en (1504?-1582?), chaps. 1-2, 5, 7, and 18-19 of The Journey to the West, trans. Anthony Yu (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977-93), pp. 65-99, 134-48, 167-79, and 367-96.

Liu Yiming (1734-1820), "How to Read the Original Intent of The Journey to the West," trans. Anthony Yu, in How to Read the Chinese Novel, ed. Rolston, pp. 295-315.

Suggested readings

Andrew H. Plaks, The Four Masterworks of the Ming Novel: Ssu Ta Chi’i-Shu (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1987).

Week 9. Women: Education and Writings

Primary sources

Selections from writings on women's education: Ban Zhao (48?-116?), Admonitions for Women; Madam Cheng (Tang Dynasty [618-906]), Classic of Filiality for Women; Song Ruozhao (Tang Dynasty), Analects for Women; Empress Xu (fl. 1410), Instructions for the Inner Quarters; Zhu Xi (1130-1200), "Funerary Inscription for Madam You, Lady of Jia'nan." In Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 819-840.

Selections from writings on or by women: "Selected Writings of Luo Rufang (1515-1588)," "Final Instructions by Yang Jisheng (1516-1555)," "'Record of Past Karma' by Ji Xian (1614-1683)," "'Letter to my Sons' by Gu Ruopu (1592-ca. 1681)," "Personal Letters in Seventeenth-Century Epistolary Guides," and "Letters by Women of the Ming-Qing Period,” chaps. 6-11 of Under Confucian Eyes: Writings on Gender in Chinese History, ed. Susan Mann and Yu-Yin Cheng (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001). pp. 103-177.

Supplementary Readings

Dorothy Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-Century China (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1994).

Kang-i Sun Chang, Haun Saussy, and Charles Yim-tze Kwong, eds., Women Writers of Traditional China: An Anthology of Poetry and Criticism (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999).

Week 10. Popular Culture

Primary sources

"Popular Values and Beliefs," chap. 26 of Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2, pp. 73-141.

"The Ming Dynasty," chaps. 47-54, Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd ed., ed. Patricia Ebrey (New York: Free Press), pp. 203-244.

Week 11. China and the West

Matteo Ricci, True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, introduction and chaps. 1-2, trans. Douglas Lancashire and Peter Hu Kuo-chen (Taipei: Ricci Institute, 1985), pp. 57-131 (odd pages only).

Li Zhizao, Preface to Ricci's True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven; Xu Guangqi, "Memorial in Defense of Western Learning"; Yang Guangxian, "I Cannot Do Otherwise"; and Zhang Xingyao, "An Examination of the Similarities and Differences Between the Lord of Heaven Teaching and the Teaching of the Confucian Scholars." In "Chinese Responses to Early Christian Contacts," chap. 27 of Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2, pp. 142-154.

Required readings

Roger Hart, "Xu Guangqi, Memorialist," pp. 1-9 and 34-63.

Nicolas Standaert, "Buddhist Criticism of Yang Tingyun," ch. 2 of Yang Tingyun: Confucian and Christian in Late Ming China, pp. 162-182.

Supplementary readings

Haun Saussy, The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic, ch. 1.

Jacques Gernet, China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), chap. 5.

Roger Hart, "Translating Worlds: Incommensurability and Problems of Existence in Seventeenth-Century China."

Haun Saussy, "In the Workshop of Equivalences: Seventeenth-Century Globalism and the Comparative Pursuit."

Kwan-wai So, Japanese Piracy in Ming China During the 16th Century (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1975).

Week 12. Fall of the Ming

Primary sources

Selections from: Huang Zongxi (1610-1695), Waiting for the Dawn: A Plan for a Prince; Lü Liuliang (1629-1683), Commentaries on the Four Books; Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692), Posthumous Writings of Wang Fuzhi; and Gu Yanwu (1613-1682). In Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2, pp. 3-41.

"A Survivor of Beijing," "A Missionary Describes the Manchus," "Nanjing Changes Hands," "Dutch and Chinese Views of a Battle," "An Empress Appeals to the Pope," chaps. 1, 3, 4, 13, and 14 of Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm: China in Tigers’ Jaws, ed. and trans. Lynn A. Struve (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).

Supplementary readings

Frederic E. Wakeman, Jr., The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in Seventeenth-Century China, 2 vols., (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

Lynn A. Struve, The Southern Ming, 1644-1662 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984).

Week 13. Evidential Learning

Primary sources

Dai Zhen, in Tai Chen on Mencius: Explorations in Words and Meaning, tr. Ann-Ping Chin and Mansfield Freeman (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 1990).

Dai Zhen, "Inquiry into Goodness," in Tai Chen's Inquiry into Goodness: A Translation of the Yuan Shan, with an Introductory Essay, trans. and ed. Cheng Zhongying (Honolulu, 1971).

"Han Learning," in Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2, pp. 41-73.

Supplementary readings

Benjamin Elman, From Philosophy to Philology: Intellectual and Social Aspects of Change in Late Imperial China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984).

Week 14. Literature (2)

Primary sources

Cao Xueqin, The Story of the Stone (also known as Dream of Red Mansions), ch. 1-3 and 5.

Wu Jingzi, The Scholars, ch. 1-4.

"How to Read Dream of Red Mansions," in How to Read the Chinese Novel, ed. Rolston, pp. 323-40.

Supplementary Readings

Week 15. China and West (2)

Primary sources

Documents on China's policy toward the West, opium trade, and the Tai Ping Rebellion, ch. 28 of Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2, pp. 155-231.