opens in a new windowFRSEMR 70L: Ancient East Asia: Contested Archaeologies of China, Korea and Japan

Rowan Flad

How is our understanding of the past determined or framed by the concerns of the present? This course considers this problem with a focus on East Asia. In the process, we learn about the origins of the people, cultures, and civilizations of East Asia, but we don’t focus simply on the apparent facts of historic reconstruction, but instead consider how the varied and complicated histories and relationships among people and societies in the modern Nation‐States of China, Korea, Japan and other nearby countries are understood through archaeological practice in the present. This class explores those origins, and focuses on controversies that show the stakes of archaeological interpretation to political and social discourse in the modern world. We will discuss fundamental questions in the prehistory and early history of East Asia through the lens of archaeological discoveries, including human origins, the origins of agriculture, how stratified, complex societies emerged, early processes of globalization and connections across Eurasia, conflicts between centers and peripheries, connections between China, Korea and Japan in prehistory, Buddhist origins, and more. How are the “origins” in these modern countries similar or different? How are they related? Are they controversial? We will explore controversies that have emerged in recent East Asian archaeological research and discuss why archaeological topics are subject to controversial interpretation and what is at stake in the disagreements. These examples illustrate the significance of ancient cultural material in the modern world and what is at stake in debates over who owns the past. Why should we, situated at Harvard, care about the Asian past? How is this connected to modern Asian identity, and does this relate to Asian‐American identity? Course participants will produce a digital exhibit that will engage in the reflective production of knowledge about Ancient East Asia by examining some aspect of the archaeological record of the East Asian past.


opens in a new windowFRSEMR 70Y: Asian America

opens in a new windowDiana Eck 

How “Asian” is America today? This seminar explores the Asian dimensions of American history, immigration, religion, and culture from the first encounters of Thoreau and Emerson with texts and ideas of the “Orient” to the saturation of modern America with the holistic cultures of yoga, tai chi, and mind-body medicine. We will also look at the Asian communities from India, China, Korea, and Japan that brought new forms of religious and cultural life to the U.S. in the 20th century.


opens in a new windowFRSEMR 71D: Zen and the Art of Living: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

James Robson

This seminar explores the rich history, philosophy and practices of Zen Buddhism as it developed in China, Korea, and Japan. We will first consider the emergence of the Zen tradition out of the Buddhist tradition and then explore the full range of its most distinctive features (Zen monastic meditation), cultural practices (painting, calligraphy, and poetry), and radical—even iconoclastic—innovations (such as the use of kōans, which are seemingly nonsensical sayings that defy rationality). We will also critically evaluate some less well-known facets of the Zen tradition, such as gender issues, the veneration of mummified masters, and the question of how Zen was implicated in modern nationalistic movements in Japan during World War II. During the mid-20th century, Zen became a global phenomenon as Zen masters began to move around the world and introduce the practice of Zen meditation to those in search of religious alternatives to Western organized religions, rationalism, and materialism. Zen attracted the attention of writers, musicians, artists, and athletes. Why did Zen develop such a trans-cultural appeal at that moment in history? Why are there so many books with the title: “Zen and the Art of…..”? Why do so many computer and tech companies have Zen in their names? How has Zen meditation fed into the current “meditation/mindfulness” boom? These are some of the questions we will explore in this seminar through readings, film screenings, museum viewings, and a visit to a Zen meditation center.


opens in a new windowFRSEMR 71J: Power Shifts: Understanding Global Change through History

Arne Westad

Nobody can understand the present without a keen understanding of the past. Even though the study of history has value in itself, it is also something that can help us make sense of today’s world. Successful people often understand this and turn a view of the past to their advantage in interpreting the present. They understand how any good plan is grounded in a sound view of history. This seminar will discuss major shifts in history from European and Asian antiquity up to today. It looks at power in all its dimensions—material, demographic, technological, ideological, military, or religious—and shows how it has influenced and been influenced by major transformations in global history. Our aim is to discuss the key causes of power shifts, but also to get an impression of the fickleness of established orders in times of tectonic change. The class reading will center on a number of brief historical cases developed at the Harvard Kennedy School. They range from ancient Greece, China, and Arabia up to the Iraq war and US-China relations today. Through these cases we want to discuss dimensions of power and how they shift over time. We also want to look at how leaders have initiated, steered, or responded to power shifts. The purpose of the cases is to illuminate how people in the past have reacted to major change and how their choices may help us understand the tools and options that are at our disposal when making critical decisions.


opens in a new windowFRSEMR 61M: Silk Road Stories 

Mark Elliott

“The Silk Road”—the words conjure up images of camel caravans crossing vast deserts or traversing lofty mountains with their precious cargoes of textiles and porcelain. From ancient Chinese emissaries and intrepid Buddhist pilgrims to plucky Venetians, swashbuckling Swedes, and adventurous Americans, the Silk Road has produced countless storytellers with enchanting accounts of “East meets West.” What do we really know about the Silk Road, though? What if it turns out that much of what we believe about the Silk Road turns out to be a myth? This seminar invites you to embark on your own Silk Road journey, exploring the material and historical reality behind the fabled Eurasian trade routes and the ways in which different Silk Road narratives serve today both as political capital and artistic inspiration. In the process, we will come to understand the peculiar biology of Bombyx mori, get hands-on experience in the Harvard museum collections, and study attitudes toward cultural patrimony.




Art History

opens in a new windowHAA 18X: Introduction to the History of Chinese Art

Eugene Yuejin Wang 

This course surveys Chinese art from antiquity to the recent avant-garde. Though the introduction follows a chronological order, it is also thematically motivated. We will see how visual artifacts_paintings, sculptures, architectural monuments_both consciously encode different pragmatic agendas and circumstantial exigencies and unconsciously betray cultural anxieties and tensions. The purpose is to enable students to look at Chinese history in visual terms and to view visual objects in historical terms, with a critique of the perception of Oriental art as static aesthetical objects suspended in a timeless vacuum.



opens in a new windowESPP 90N: China’s Energy Economy: Perspectives from the Past: Challenges for the Future

Michael McElroy and opens in a new windowXinyu Chen

The seminar will provide a historical perspective on the development of the Chinese economy with emphasis on the energy sector, including analysis of related environmental problems. Energy options available for China’s future will be discussed, including opportunities for clean-coal technology, nuclear, wind, hydro, and biofuels. The seminar will discuss tradeoffs implicit in these choices with respect to reconciling competing goals for environmental protection and economic development.


Literature and Culture

opens in a new windowETHRSON 18: Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory

Michael Puett

What is the best way to live a fuller and more ethical life? Concretely what should we do to begin to live in a more flourishing and inspiring way? Questions such as these were at the heart of philosophical debates in China. The answers that classical Chinese thinkers developed in response to these questions are among the most powerful in human history. Regardless of whether one agrees with them or not, they should be studied and taken seriously by anyone who cares about ethics, politics, and the ways to live life more fully.


opens in a new windowCULTBLF 40: Popular Culture and Modern China

David Der-Wei Wang

This course examines “popular culture” as a modern, transnational phenomenon and explores its manifestation in Chinese communities (in People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and North America) and beyond. From pulp fiction to film, from “Yellow Music” to “Model Theater”, from animations to internet games, the course looks into how China became modern by participating in the global circulation of media forms, and how China helps in her own way enrich the theory and practice of “popular culture”.



opens in a new windowEASTD 98D: Junior Tutorial–The Political Economy of Modern China

Nara Dillon

Junior Tutorial for students with an interest in China Social Sciences. This course will focus on the political economy of reform in the post-Mao period. After learning about theories of democratization, some of the topics covered include the 1989 Tiananmen protests, the rise of entrepreneurs, the role of labor, rural-urban migration, the internet, and nationalism.


Religion and Philosophy

opens in a new windowETHRSON 18: Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory

Michael Puett

What is the best way to live a fuller and more ethical life? Concretely what should we do to begin to live in a more flourishing and inspiring way? Questions such as these were at the heart of philosophical debates in China. The answers that classical Chinese thinkers developed in response to these questions are among the most powerful in human history. Regardless of whether one agrees with them or not, they should be studied and taken seriously by anyone who cares about ethics, politics, and the ways to live life more fully.


Social Studies 

opens in a new windowSOC-STD 98MI: Migration in Theory and Practice

Nicole Newendorp

In this course, we will examine how and why people migrate from one location to another, focusing both on the theoretical paradigms scholars use to explain migration processes as well as on the individual experiences of migrants. Topics include transnationalism, diaspora, identity formation, integration and assimilation, citizenship claims, and the feminization of migration. Ethnographic readings focus primarily on migration to the US, but also include cases from other world areas, most notably Asia.





opens in a new windowANTHRO 1732: China Through Ethnography and Film: Problems of Science and Sex

Susan Greenhalgh

The rapid rise of China on the global stage is one of the most important developments of our time. Under the slogan “reform and opening up,” an ambitious party-state has sought to remake the economy and society so as to propel the nation to global prominence and power. The key instrument for societal transformation has been modern science and technology; a key target has been the biological, sexed body. Drawing on recent ethnographic texts and some independent documentary films, this course explores the dynamics, contradictions, and effects of governance through science and sex. Focusing on four domains of life perceived as broken or still “backward” – the mind, gender and sexuality, health, and the environment – it asks: With China’s entry into global economic, social, and scientific circuits, who is governing China’s society, through what logics and techniques, and with what effects? What is happening to the party-state in an age of market ascendance? What is science in the Chinese context; who is making it and with what effects? How are China’s people responding to transformations in state and market dynamics in their efforts to create lives worth living?



opens in a new windowEASTD 195: Fighting Poverty in China: Redistribution, Social Rights & NGOs in Comparative Perspective

Nara Dillon

This course is a research seminar on the political economy of poverty and inequality in China. Because China has tried such a wide variety of methods to combat poverty, it provides a useful “laboratory” for exploring the origins and impact of many different anti-poverty policies. After an introduction to cross-national concepts of poverty, inequality and social rights, students will examine famine relief, land reform, the welfare state, NGOs, and development programs targeted to the poor.


opens in a new windowGOV 1280: Government & Politics of China

Yuhua Wang

This course is a broad introduction to the main issues of contemporary Chinese politics and social change. The course is divided into two sections: the first section covers the period from the end of the last imperial dynasty to the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. The second section examines the last thirty years of economic reform, looking at both how the reforms began and how they were sustained.



opens in a new windowHIST 1939: Economic History of Modern China

Arunabh Ghosh

This conference course offers a close examination of the economic history of modern China set against the background of major debates in the field of world economic history and within the field of modern Chinese history. The approximate time frame covered is from the late eighteenth century to the present. Prior coursework in Chinese history (in particular on modern China) is recommended but not necessary.


opens in a new windowHISTSCI 183: Engineering East Asia: Technology, Society, and the State

Victor Seow

Who creates and controls technology within society? How have technological developments shaped and, in turn, been shaped by social change? Do technological artifacts have particular politics? In this course, we will explore these and other questions concerning the intertwined relationship of technology, society, and the state within the context of East Asia’s long twentieth century. From the era of steam power to the present, East Asia has undergone epochal social and technological transformations. China’s recent bold forays into artificial intelligence are but among the latest in broader trends, beginning with Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese successes with consumer electronics manufacturing over preceding decades, that have marked the region as the site from which we may very well see the emergence of our technological future. In examining the history of technology in modern East Asia, we will gain a deeper understanding of the region and its technological revolutions and, more generally, of the workings of technology in the industrial modern age.


opens in a new windowHIST 1284: Revolutionary Eurasia, 1905-1949

opens in a new windowTerry Martin

Analyzes the wave of revolutions in the Russian, Ottoman, Persian, and Chinese imperial spaces from 1905 to 1949; the constitutional revolutions of 1905-1912; the 1917 Russian revolution and its Eurasian impact; revolution from above by Stalin, Ataturk, Reza Shah, and Chiang Kai-Shek; the communization of eastern Europe and the 1949 Chinese revolution.


Language, Literature, and Culture

opens in a new windowEAFM 151: Documenting China in Film and Photography

Jie Li

How have cameras borne witness to modern Chinese history and contemporary China’s transformations? In this course, we will analyze documentary photography and cinema taken in China from the early 20th century to the present day, through the lenses of both Chinese and foreigners. We will interrogate the visual “evidence” that camera images can offer, look into their production and reception histories, as well as discuss the ethics, aesthetics, and politics of representation. Although we will give special focus to major historical events such as the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Cultural Revolution, and the 1989 Tiananmen protests, we will also examine visual documents of contemporary Chinese society such as migrant labor, demolitions, the One Child Policy, and environmental issues. Audiovisual texts will be complemented by theoretical and contextual readings, and the final project for the course will be writing a proposal for a documentary project of one’s own.


opens in a new windowLING 171: Structure of Chinese

C. T. James Huang 

Introduction to the syntactic structure of Mandarin Chinese: the basic structure of clauses and nominal constituents; words, compounds, and phrases; word order and variations; selected special topics (passives, resultatives, ba-construction, topic and relativized structures, questions, anaphora, pro drop); syntactic structure and semantic interpretation.


opens in a new windowCHNSLIT 114: Introduction to Premodern Chinese Literature

Xiaofei Tian

This course will introduce students to the best-known writers and canonical works of Chinese literature from the premodern period.




Digital Methods

opens in a new windowCHNSHIS 202: Digital Methods for Chinese Studies

Donald Sturgeon

This course introduces graduate students in Chinese studies to programming skills and digital humanities techniques of direct practical relevance to research in their discipline. It will consist of weekly lectures, each introducing a specific type of technique, followed by an interactive lab session during which students practice applying the technique to data appropriate to their own research. No background in digital methods or programming is assumed, but students are expected to have basic computing skills and are required to bring a suitable laptop to use during the lab sessions. The techniques covered in this course all have broad applicability to topics in Chinese studies, and students will be expected to apply them to their own research topics and relevant texts as arranged during the first few sessions. The course will end with student presentations in which students apply an appropriate selection of the techniques studied to their own research questions.While examples and coursework will draw upon Chinese language source materials, students primarily working with other East Asian languages are also encouraged to take this course.



opens in a new windowCHNSHIS 253: Topics in Late Imperial History

Mark Elliott and Michael Szonyi

Review of historical scholarship on China from roughly 1500 to the early 20th century. This course is designed to aid in preparations for the general examinations and in developing a dissertation topic.


opens in a new windowCHNSHIS 270B: Research Methods in Late Imperial Chinese History II: Seminar

Michael Szonyi

Continued training in sources and methods for research in the history of late imperial China. Students will use original sources to write a research paper on a topic of their choosing.


opens in a new windowHIST 2638: Readings in Modern Chinese History: Proseminar

Arunabh Ghosh

This Pro-Seminar will examine developments in the field of modern Chinese history, with a particular focus on the twentieth century. Our principal goal is to gain some familiarity with the historical debates and methodological approaches that have given shaped to the field. Readings will aim to achieve a balance between classics in the field and contemporary scholarship. Topics covered include empire and semi-colonialism, rebellion and revolution, nationalism, civil society and public sphere, economic development, war, science and technology, foreign relations, and foreign relations. This Pro-Seminar is particularly recommended for students planning an examination field in modern Chinese history. Reading knowledge of Chinese is recommended but not a required; students must have some prior coursework in Chinese history.


opens in a new windowHIST 2690: Asia in the Modern World: Seminar

opens in a new windowSugata Bose

This graduate seminar investigates the contemporary rise of Asia in historical context with a focus on comparisons and connections between India and China.


opens in a new windowCHNSHIS 233R: Sources of Early Chinese History

Michael Puett

Chronological survey of recently-discovered paleographic texts and received materials from the late Shang through the early Warring States period, with discussion of problems of contextualization.


Language and Literature 

opens in a new windowCHNSE 280: Teaching Chinese as a Foreign/Second Languages

Jennifer Li Chia Liu

This course is designed to introduce students to the theory and practice of teaching Chinese as a foreign/second language. It seeks to help students gain an understanding of the current issues and research about Chinese language instruction in the US.


opens in a new windowCHNSLIT 229R: Topics in Early Medieval Literature

Xiaofei Tian

This semester’s focus is on narrative and anecdotal accounts of the Northern and Southern Dynasties: historical, religious, geographical, and bibliographical.



opens in a new windowTIBET 291: Tibetan Religious Texts

Janet Gyatso 

Reading of primary sources in Tibetan in Abhidharma and Kālacakra on human vitality, yoga, and sense perception.Prerequisite: At least one full year of classical Tibetan.


opens in a new windowEABS 256R: Chinese Buddhist Texts – Readings in Medieval Buddho-Daoist Documents: Seminar

James Robson

This seminar focuses on the careful textual study and translation of a variety of Chinese Buddho-Daoist texts through the medieval period.

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies