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Home » The History of China's Foreign Relations » ch. 1: origins and the qin-han transformation

A forum to review the state of the field, raise questions, share ideas, references, and perhaps generate research collaborations. The forum is unmoderated, but was created by John Wills (USC history emeritus). Send inquires to Jack at jwills@usc.edu. Obtain login information by sending your request along with your name, affiliation (if any), and email address to uschina@usc.edu. Detailed help in using the forum is available by clicking on the help link above.
4/9/2009 2:14:31 PM

john wills
john wills
Posts: 19
Subject: ch. 1: origins and the qin-han transformation
What were the degrees of variety and commonality among the early "core" cultures of "China"? The constantly changing picture derived from archeology, such as the spectacular finds at Sanxingdui near Chengdu, make this a question that has to be asked anew every year or so. What were the relations between "Chinese", Hua or Xia, and "Barbarians", Yi in the Neolithic and the Bronze Age?

Now let's look at the "Iron Age" transformations in warfare, productivity, culture, and ruling, and notice that about the same time the steppe peoples became mounted warriors! Sophisticated and ceremonious diplomacy among the various states stands at the heart both of early Confucianism and of proto-Legalist "realism". The immense stimulus of rivalry among the states to mobilization of resources, improvement of productivity, and even cultural creativity -- fu guo qiang bing with a vengeance -- will provide a constant foil to our later discussions of defensiveness, the self-limiting state, and so on. A close look at Qin's conquest, development, and incorporation of the Sichuan basin shows its strengths and limits in bringing a variant region into a centralized imperial structure. The Qin building of the first Great Wall and the Qin conquest all the way to modern Guangdong set two sets of problems for the historian of Chinese foreign relations, which will continue in our discussion of the Han. The confrontation with the Xiongnu can be read as a fundamentally defensive response to a real threat and as an manifestation of a conquest-oriented military-dominated heritage of the Warring States. The march to the south can be more easily read as the latter. All this takes on new focus in our attention to the sequence of changes in the reign of Emperor Wu and the arguments used in debates at that time.

Nicola di Cosmo, Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise orf Nomadic Power in East Asian History. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Charles Holcolmbe, The Genesis of East Asia, 221 B.C.-A.D. 907. Honolulu: Association for Asian Studies and University of Hawai’i Press, 2001.

Michael Loewe and Edward L.Shaughnessy, eds., Cambridge History of Ancient China. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Constance A. Cook and John S. Major, ed., Defining Chu: Image and Reality in Ancient China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

Steven F. Sage, Ancient Sichuan and the Unification of China. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992.

K. C. Chang, Archeology in Ancient China

H. G. Creel, The Origins of Statecraft in China, Volume 1

Richard Walker, The Multi-State System in Ancient China

Yü Ying-shih, "Han Foreign Relations", Cambridge History of China, Vol. 1.

Sima Qian, tr. Burton Watson, accounts of foreign peoples in Records of the Grand Historian

Rafe de Crespigny, Northern Frontier: The Policies and Strategy of the Later Han Empire
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