Challenge: Ancient (and not so ancient) Chinese History

I took a vacation from Chinese and more or less the world during the “summer” (this is the tropics there is no summer here), the last two semesters burnt me out, 3 jobs and 5 classes will do that to you. Nevertheless, this semester has slowly but surely given me back my motivation as well as the time to return to my Chinese studies. Btw I updated the Resources and Tools and Chinese Blogs.


First, I want to tell you about a book I just started reading. Since the title is too revealing, let me just say that it really seems quite promising from just the introduction. The book seems to want to “put us in our place”. By us I mean Westerners. Why do we need to be called out? According to the Author, Martin Jacques, we’ve becomes so accustomed to the idea that globalization means that everyone will eventually adopt a western style of living (or even more specifically an American style of living), we cannot really imagine the future otherwise. The point though is that despite the great effect that Western culture has had on other cultures, they have resisted exactly because they are other cultures and as much as they have been properly, or improperly, inserted into the economic order their cultures have not homogenized with ours. A one sentence summary of this thesis could be: “The hegemony of the West is in a period of transition with China at the forefront” or maybe just the title “When China Rules the World”. But don’t take my word for it, go and take a look at the book for yourself:

I’m reading the English version by the way, so I’m not sure where you could get the Chinese translation, seriously, one Chinese book at a time is enough for me. If you want to know more about where to get the book ::hint hint:: leave me a comment.

Chinese History

Second, I want to recommend a course on Coursera on ancient Chinese history. The course will begin the 15th of September and will run for 11 weeks. It will be given by the Beijing University and in simplified Chinese (subtitles are also in simplified). The textbooks required can be found online, I got mine already from 多看. The app is a bit like iBooks and you can buy each book for 6 usd. I think they deserve their own post, so you can go ahead and snoop around on that site and see what you can find. Now, you might be thinking, “Woah, a university course! I can’t do that.” Hear me out though. I’m a big believer in learning a language through things you already like. I like history (yeah I’m a nerd, whatever), thus, one of the things I’m interested in is Chinese history, and what better way to do so than through a university class?  I don’t know yet if I’ll be doing the whole course with homework, discussions and such, but we’ll see what happens. The idea is to document it here. If you’re still interested check out the description: Description of the Syllabus for Ancient Chinese History Course Don’t be intimidated by all that vocabulary. The first sentence basically lists what the syllabus will cover. Notice that there are a lot of 制度 (zhì), that is systems. The idea of the course is to understand the origins (起源) of Chinese culture (中华文化 – notice the formal name 华) through the study of the emergence of all those systems: institutional systems like military, administration (I’m guessing bureaucracy), “imperial examination” (科举), but also marriage, food, and the home. The purpose of the course is in the second sentence, this one is more interesting to me, so let’s get the whole translation:  帮助学员熟悉古代文化常识,理解与把握中国古代文化的总体特色,加深对历史与现实的认识。 It’s quite the mouthful. Let’s grab it piece by piece. We can split the first phrase like so: IMG_0606-0.PNG

And so we try for a more grammatically correct translation:

Help students become familiar with general knowledge of ancient culture.

Then, we have:


A better translation:

to understand and fully grasp ancient Chinese culture’s distinctiveness (or uniqueness).

And the last phrase:


Or just:

to deepen their knowledge of history and reality.

It’s a pretty hasty translation, but it suffices. So, come on and join me and let’s learn what’s the big fuss about ancient Chinese history.


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