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From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History

From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History

Professor Kenneth J. Hammond, Ph.D.
New Mexico State University

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From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History

Course No. 8320
Professor Kenneth J. Hammond, Ph.D.
New Mexico State University
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158 Reviews
67% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 8320
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Course Overview

In a world growing increasingly smaller, China still seems a faraway and exotic land, with secrets and mysteries of ages past, its history and intentions veiled from most Westerners. Yet behind that veil lies one of the most amazing civilizations the world has ever known. For most of its 5,000-year existence, China has been the largest, most populous, wealthiest, and mightiest nation on Earth. And for us as Westerners, it is essential to understand where China has been in order to anticipate its future. This course answers this need by delivering a comprehensive political and historical overview of one of the most fascinating and complex countries in world history.

A Civilization so Advanced …

  • China had a theory of social contract, the "Mandate of Heaven," in place by 1500 B.C.E., 3,000 years before Western philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.
  • It had seen the rule of three classical dynasties before 200 B.C.E.
  • It developed agriculture and writing independently of outside influence.
  • In Confucius and Laozi—among others—it had philosophers of the Axial Age as influential as were Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle in ancient Greece.
  • While the Roman Empire was at its zenith, China's Han dynasty ruled over an empire superior in almost every measurable way, including technological advancement.

… Its Wonders Were Thought to Be Lies

The veil that hides China's extraordinary past from many of us today is far from a new one. When Marco Polo wrote of the wonders he had seen over his 20 years in China, most of his fellow Venetians could not accept his descriptions of a civilization that rivaled their own. They contemptuously referred to the book he wrote about his adventures as "The Millions”—the number of lies they believed marched across its pages. Those Venetians had chosen to turn away from a precious opportunity to glimpse China's wonders and better understand the world.

Every lecture of From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History may seem like a journey across a virgin landscape, for the ground it covers has been largely unexplored in the history courses most of us in the West have taken.

You learn about:

  • The powerful dynasties that ruled China for centuries
  • The philosophical and religious foundations—particularly Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism—that have influenced every iteration of Chinese thought
  • The larger-than-life personalities, from both inside and outside its borders, of those who have shaped China's history.
  • As you listen to these lectures, you see how China's politics, economics, and art reflect the forces of its past.

Explore China's Subtleties with an Expert

Few nations have as long and intricate a history as China. To bring alive the subtleties of that history in only 36 lectures requires a teacher intimately familiar with not only his subject, but the needs of listeners who may well be peering for the first time beyond that curtain that has long veiled the mysteries of China—indeed, of all Asia—from the eyes and understanding of Westerners.

Born and raised in Ohio, Professor Kenneth J. Hammond himself made that intellectual and cultural journey. He has lived and worked in Beijing and established exchange programs with schools in China and Korea.

In guiding you through the five millennia of China's history, he has organized his lectures around several major themes:

  • The evolution of the social and political elite and how they acquired and asserted their power as rulers
  • The history of political thought and the ways the Chinese have organized their society and government from the shamanistic roots of that political thought to the crafting and adapting of the Imperial Order, the rise of Communism, and the introduction of capitalism as China seeks economic growth
  • How the Chinese have thought and written about themselves and the world
  • The connections between economic and social life and the worlds of art, literature, and philosophy
  • The interaction among cosmological ideas, the metaphysical insights of Buddhism and religious Daoism, and the perennial mysticism of popular religion
  • China's history as it relates to the world beyond its borders.

China's Story: From Night Skies Ablaze to Opium

Dr. Hammond's lectures are richly detailed and lead you on compelling forays across many aspects of China's story. From a governing perspective, you'll learn how the short-lived Qin dynasty—with "legalism"as its often brutal ideology of governance—became the first unified empire, laying the basis for an enduring imperial order. And how the implementation of the imperial civil service examination system in the late 10th century gave intellectual issues renewed importance, and made the 11th century flourish with great debate and discussion about literature, philosophy, government, and art. You'll also learn the eye-opening story of how China was betrayed by the Allies at Versailles, precipitating riots in Beijing and helping pave the way for the emergence of the Communist Party.

From an historical point of reference, you'll see how a concubine named Wu Zetian rose to become the first and only empress to rule China . You'll also learn how opium became the commodity that allowed Great Britain to pry open China to the avarice of the West, making millions of Chinese into addicts, inciting the Opium Wars and a profound humiliation for China. You'll also be fascinated by the extraordinary story of a failed examination candidate named Hong Xiuquan, whose certainty that he was Jesus' younger brother drove him to lead a revolution that nearly succeeded in overthrowing the Qing dynasty. And then examine the conquest of China by the Mongols, including a riveting discussion of their culture and tactics.

You'll also explore how select artistic and intellectual events shaped China's history. For example, learn about the great ceramic center at Jingdezhen, which, in the 12th century, became one of the first true industrial cities in world history, its massive production lines setting the night sky ablaze with the glow from their great kilns. You'll be introduced to the Neo-Confucianist teachings of Zhu Xi, one of the great figures in Chinese intellectual history, whose sharply divergent commentaries on classical Confucian texts placed an emphasis on moral self-cultivation and the role of the individual. And finally, you'll visit the golden age of the Ming dynasty, when art and literature flourished amid economic growth and the revival of a great merchant class, including the invention of a postal system that became the foundation of a great trading network.

China: A Major Player

China continues to reassert itself as a major force. These above samplings can only hint at the fascination of this course and the immensity of its scope. However, the full course offers the history of this vast nation, reminding us that China is no stranger to that stage and, indeed, has more often than not been the most extraordinary player on it.

A Civilization so Advanced … China had a theory of social contract, the "Mandate of Heaven," in place by 1500 B.C.E., 3,000 years before Western philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. It had seen the rule of three classical dynasties before 200 B.C.E. It developed agriculture and writing independently of outside influence. In Confucius and Laozi—among others—it had philosophers of the Axial Age as influential as were Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle in ancient Greece. While the Roman Empire was at its zenith, China's Han dynasty ruled over an empire superior in almost every measurable way, including technological advancement. … Its Wonders Were Thought to Be Lies The veil that hides China's extraordinary past from many of us today is far from a new one. When Marco Polo wrote of the wonders he had seen over his 20 years in China, most of his fellow Venetians could not accept his descriptions of a civilization that rivaled their own. They contemptuously referred to the book he wrote about his adventures as "The Millions”—the number of lies they believed marched across its pages. Those Venetians had chosen to turn away from a precious opportunity to glimpse China's wonders and better understand the world. Every lecture of From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History may seem like a journey across a virgin landscape, for the ground it covers has been largely unexplored in the history courses most of us in the West have taken. You learn about: The powerful dynasties that ruled China for centuries The philosophical and religious foundations—particularly Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism—that have influenced every iteration of Chinese thought The larger-than-life personalities, from both inside and outside its borders, of those who have shaped China's history. As you listen to these lectures, you see how China's politics, economics, and art reflect the forces of its past. Explore China's Subtleties with an Expert Few nations have as long and intricate a history as China. To bring alive the subtleties of that history in only 36 lectures requires a teacher intimately familiar with not only his subject, but the needs of listeners who may well be peering for the first time beyond that curtain that has long veiled the mysteries of China—indeed, of all Asia—from the eyes and understanding of Westerners. Born and raised in Ohio, Professor Kenneth J. Hammond himself made that intellectual and cultural journey. He has lived and worked in Beijing and established exchange programs with schools in China and Korea. In guiding you through the five millennia of China's history, he has organized his lectures around several major themes: The evolution of the social and political elite and how they acquired and asserted their power as rulers The history of political thought and the ways the Chinese have organized their society and government from the shamanistic roots of that political thought to the crafting and adapting of the Imperial Order, the rise of Communism, and the introduction of capitalism as China seeks economic growth How the Chinese have thought and written about themselves and the world The connections between economic and social life and the worlds of art, literature, and philosophy The interaction among cosmological ideas, the metaphysical insights of Buddhism and religious Daoism, and the perennial mysticism of popular religion China's history as it relates to the world beyond its borders. China's Story: From Night Skies Ablaze to Opium Dr. Hammond's lectures are richly detailed and lead you on compelling forays across many aspects of China's story. From a governing perspective, you'll learn how the short-lived Qin dynasty—with "legalism"as its often brutal ideology of governance—became the first unified empire, laying the basis for an enduring imperial order. And how the implementation of the imperial civil service examination system in the late 10th century gave intellectual issues renewed importance, and made the 11th century flourish with great debate and discussion about literature, philosophy, government, and art. You'll also learn the eye-opening story of how China was betrayed by the Allies at Versailles, precipitating riots in Beijing and helping pave the way for the emergence of the Communist Party. From an historical point of reference, you'll see how a concubine named Wu Zetian rose to become the first and only empress to rule China . You'll also learn how opium became the commodity that allowed Great Britain to pry open China to the avarice of the West, making millions of Chinese into addicts, inciting the Opium Wars and a profound humiliation for China. You'll also be fascinated by the extraordinary story of a failed examination candidate named Hong Xiuquan, whose certainty that he was Jesus' younger brother drove him to lead a revolution that nearly succeeded in overthrowing the Qing dynasty. And then examine the conquest of China by the Mongols, including a riveting discussion of their culture and tactics. You'll also explore how select artistic and intellectual events shaped China's history. For example, learn about the great ceramic center at Jingdezhen, which, in the 12th century, became one of the first true industrial cities in world history, its massive production lines setting the night sky ablaze with the glow from their great kilns. You'll be introduced to the Neo-Confucianist teachings of Zhu Xi, one of the great figures in Chinese intellectual history, whose sharply divergent commentaries on classical Confucian texts placed an emphasis on moral self-cultivation and the role of the individual. And finally, you'll visit the golden age of the Ming dynasty, when art and literature flourished amid economic growth and the revival of a great merchant class, including the invention of a postal system that became the foundation of a great trading network. China: A Major Player China continues to reassert itself as a major force. These above samplings can only hint at the fascination of this course and the immensity of its scope. However, the full course offers the history of this vast nation, reminding us that China is no stranger to that stage and, indeed, has more often than not been the most extraordinary player on it.
Hide Full Description
36 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    Geography and Archaeology
    The course begins with a look at the physical environment of East Asia, the specific sites from which China emerged, and the prehistoric background of Chinese culture. x
  • 2
    The First Dynasties
    The bronze industry developed by the Xia dynasty is raised to even greater heights by the Shang, becoming—along with military forces and the royal ritual cult—one of the defining features of early Chinese society. x
  • 3
    The Zhou Conquest
    The Zhou people lead a coalition that overthrows the Shang and found a new dynasty justified by the "Mandate of Heaven," elaborating critical concepts for China's political culture over the next 3,000 years. x
  • 4
    Fragmentation and Social Change
    The crises of what came to be known as the "Warring States" period lead many Chinese to question the basic foundations of their society, and to search for answers to the problems facing them. x
  • 5
    Confucianism and Daoism
    The lecture introduces the basic concepts of Confucian and Daoist thought, comparing the essentially positivist approach of Confucianism to the radically skeptical system put forth by the Daoists. x
  • 6
    The Hundred Schools
    Though Confucianism and Daoism are the most enduring schools of thought to emerge from the Warring States period, other ideas also emerge, none as important as those of the Legalists, whose approach to social and political order is fundamentally at odds with both Confucian and Daoist ideas. x
  • 7
    The Early Han Dynasty
    A low-ranking official named Liu Bang rises to power and founds a dynasty that will last 400 years and see the solidifying of the imperial state and the blending of Confucian, Daoist, and Legalist elements to construct an ideological framework for official Confucianism. x
  • 8
    Later Han and the Three Kingdoms
    Internal weaknesses eventually shatter the Han government. The subsequent division of the empire into three large states ushers in one of the most romantic periods in Chinese history, drawn on to this day by Chinese literature for its stories of great heroes, clever strategists, and military leaders. x
  • 9
    Buddhism
    While the Han dynasty slides toward collapse, a new religion with its origins in India begins to make its presence felt. This lecture examines both Buddhism's basic concepts and the origins of its path into China. x
  • 10
    Northern and Southern Dynasties
    As a result of 4th-century migrations in Central Asia, Proto-Turkic invaders sweep into northern China. Over time, their assimilation leads to a China distinguished by two dramatically different cultures north and south of the Yangzi River. x
  • 11
    Sui Reunification and the Rise of the Tang
    In the 6th century, a general of mixed ancestry reunifies China's two cultures under the Sui dynasty; its succession by the Tang ushers in one of China's greatest dynasties, which will last until the beginning of the 10th century. x
  • 12
    The Early Tang Dynasty
    This lecture includes a look at a controversial figure in a national history largely authored by men: Wu Zetian, who deposes her nephew to become the only woman to occupy China's imperial throne in her own name. x
  • 13
    Han Yu and the Late Tang
    The Tang survives a rebellion to endure for another century and a half, a period that includes the rise of a new intellectual movement of Confucian thinkers whose ideas set the stage for enormous cultural and intellectual changes in the 11th century. x
  • 14
    Five Dynasties and the Song Founding
    A corrupt Tang dynasty eventually falls, and the Song dynasty that emerges responds to its political challenges through institutional and social innovations that fundamentally reshape the later imperial state. x
  • 15
    Intellectual Ferment in the 11th Century
    The expansion of the imperial civil service examination system by the early Song dynasty makes that system the most significant mechanism for identifying men of talent for the imperial bureaucracy and launches a great age of respect for intellect and ideas. x
  • 16
    Art and the Way
    Landscape painting emerges to lead the rise of historical art discourse, reflecting new ideas about the place of man in the universe and, ultimately, the new philosophical trend of Daoxue, which becomes the imperial state's official version of Confucianism. x
  • 17
    Conquest States in the North
    The collapse of the Tang at the beginning of the 10th century leads to a period of division and conflict and creates opportunities for the rise of non-Chinese powers along the northern frontier. x
  • 18
    Economy and Society in Southern Song
    After the loss of north China in 1127, the Song court moves to the city of Hangzhou, surviving for another 150 years and presiding over a period of tremendous expansion of technological growth, and domestic and international trade. x
  • 19
    Zhu Xi and Neo-Confucianism
    This lecture returns to the developments taking place in Chinese thought to deal with one of the greatest figures in Chinese intellectual history, Zhu Xi, and his forging of what is often called the Neo-Confucian Synthesis through his teaching of Daoxue, the "Learning of the Way." x
  • 20
    The Rise of the Mongols
    This lecture recounts the story of Temujin, known to history as Genghis Khan, and his rise to power over the Mongols. His empire at his death would stretch from northern China to Persia and would be extended even further by his sons. x
  • 21
    The Yuan Dynasty
    Ghengis's grandson, Khubilai, completes the conquest of China in 1279, establishing the Yuan dynasty. This lecture examines the nature of Chinese life under Mongol rule and draws special insights from the visit of Marco Polo during this dramatic era. x
  • 22
    The Rise of the Ming
    As various factors coalesce to end the Mongol reign, Zhu Yuanzhang rises to power as the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty, but nearly wrecks his creation through his paranoid mistrust of the bureaucratic official he most needs to administer his empire. x
  • 23
    The Ming Golden Age
    The 15th and 16th centuries become a new age of economic growth and achievement, far surpassing even those of the Song, and the consumer power of a revived merchant class enables art and literature to flourish as well. x
  • 24
    Gridlock and Crisis
    The very success of the Ming dynasty creates new problems, with economic growth leading to social tensions and the setting of the stage for new philosophical movements that emphasize individual moral responsibility. x
  • 25
    The Rise of the Manchus
    A descendant of the people who had ruled China hundreds of years earlier creates a multiethnic alliance he names the Manchus and leads them to dominance in what is now Manchuria, with the eventual goal of reclaiming all of China. x
  • 26
    Kangxi to Qianlong
    From 1661 to 1795, Manchu China is ruled by only three emperors, a 134-year period of nearly unparalleled stability, during which a Manchu-Chinese symbiosis creates a climate allowing major political and cultural advances. x
  • 27
    The Coming of the West
    This lecture looks at the history of the trading relationship between China and the West, culminating in the British search for a commodity other than silver with which to trade for China's superior goods. x
  • 28
    Threats from Within and Without
    In the first half of the 19th century, China begins to face new challenges from both inside and outside its borders—one of the most striking leads to the Opium War and forces China to open to the will of the West. x
  • 29
    The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
    One of the most intriguing episodes in Chinese history is the Taiping Rebellion, led by a failed examination candidate who thought he was the younger brother of Jesus. It nearly brings the Qing dynasty to an end. x
  • 30
    Efforts at Reform
    The Opium War and the challenge of the Taiping Rebellion are only the beginning of the end. Failed reforms, a defeat at the hands of Japan, and the fact that the Boxer Rebellion was crushed by Western troops bring more humiliation to the tottering Manchu regime. x
  • 31
    The Fall of the Empire
    A revolutionary movement to create a Chinese republic is led by Sun Yatsen, but when a military mutiny finally topples the Qing dynasty, it is, instead, a decade of fragmentation under military strongmen that replaces the imperial court. x
  • 32
    The New Culture Movement and May 4th
    A ferment of ideas and political movements, combined with still another humiliation when the Versailles Peace Conference gives Japan control of Chinese territories once held by Germany, sets the stage for the emergence of the Chinese Communist Party. x
  • 33
    The Chinese Communists, 1921–1937
    This lecture examines the Chinese Revolution in the years before World War II, including the roles played by Sun Yatsen, Chiang Kaishek, and Mao Zedong. x
  • 34
    War and Revolution
    With the defeat of Japan and victory over the Nationalists, who withdraw to Taiwan, the Chinese Communists, under Mao's leadership, set about implementing socialism and creating a "New China." x
  • 35
    China Under Mao
    Even though Mao was the dominant figure in the People's Republic of China for more than 25 years, his was far from the only voice. This lecture examines the complex interactions of differing groups within the Communist leadership and the course of China's development under Mao. x
  • 36
    China and the World in a New Century
    This lecture looks at China since the death of Mao in 1976—when his revolutionary vision was quickly abandoned—and the events that have accompanied China's pursuit of economic and political development. x

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Your professor

Kenneth J. Hammond

About Your Professor

Kenneth J. Hammond, Ph.D.
New Mexico State University
Dr. Kenneth J. Hammond is Professor of History and Director of The Confucius Institute at New Mexico State University. He earned his B.A. from Kent State University and his graduate degrees from Harvard University-an A.M. in East Asian Regional Studies and a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages. Professor Hammond's research focuses on the cultural and intellectual history of China in the late imperial era from the 10th...
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Reviews

From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 158.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very dry but great content This course does a great job of giving an overview of the key points in Chinese history to include events, key personalities, and philosophical ideas and influences. I greatly enjoyed the course in spite of the presentation which almost sucked out all the enthusiasm I had in the first 2 lectures. If you can suffer through the delivery, this course can be very interesting and worthwhile.
Date published: 2017-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a remarkable course. It has lots of detail but after you listen to the whole series you forget the detail but the main points are clearly emblazen in your mind.
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very Dry The lecturer obviously has great command of names, dates, chronology etc. but what was missing from these 36 lectures was any sense of the culture, traditions, or ethos of the people of China, particularly the ordinary people of China. The deli ever was very dry, with all too few graphics or pictures. I am guessing these lecturers are talking to an empty room, and as a some time professor myself I think it would be difficult to maintain any charisma in that setting. But in all of those 18 hours, Professor Hammond never smiled. Also I was chagrined that in listening to these lectures, one would never know that any women lived in China except for some courtesans. What was family life for these people over the centuries? What was the food like? No mention of foot binding. And yes, the burping was very distracting even though someone evidently attempted to mute it out. I found Michael Woods PBS series The Story of China much more human and interesting. So if you are looking for a dry chronology of facts, dates and names, this course is for you. But if you want some color, it is not for you.
Date published: 2017-07-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I've had this less than a month and am only about half way through it. So far, I like the material and the lecturer. He appears to know the material well and presents it in a clear and concise manner. Realistically, this topic is potentially a huge amount of information with lots of complex detail. But, so far it seems to have been put together to include important historical points which connect up with each other from lecture to lecture. I have not felt bogged down by confusing, or irrelevant topics or side tangents.
Date published: 2017-05-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nice introduction I enjoyed this survey of Chinese history. I learned a lot, although sometimes the professor got into minute detail and I lost his point. Others complained about recurrent coughing by the professor. This seems to have been edited out and is no longer an issue. But, he still has so many verbal tics that I could only listen for short periods. Typically, in one sentence he says "uh" 6 or 7 times. He repeats small words almost like a stutter, for example "in-in-in" or "the-the-the". Made me nuts! Some heavy editing is still needed!!!
Date published: 2017-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome course I learned a lot from the professor in this course. I would definitely recommend this course to those looking to learn more about Chinese cultural, political, and social history.
Date published: 2017-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative This course was very well presented and full of information. It gives a great summary of the history of China. There isn't as much detail as I would have liked, but considering the time span being covered, it does a great job of presenting the important details.
Date published: 2016-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Detailed Sampler Professor Hammond covers a huge amount of material here. He does a good job of setting the stage for more study (this is a common trait for these GC lecture courses). It is interesting to see the parallels between Chinese history and that farther to the west (Central Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean). I learned a lot here.
Date published: 2016-12-25
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