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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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.
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36 lectures
 |  Average 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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  • 160-page printed course guidebook
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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 167.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview This course is a great overview of Chinese history from the very beginning until about thirty years ago. Obviously, it is hard to cover more than 7,000 years of history in eighteen hours, so a lot is left out. However, the professor does a great job of hitting the high points and explaining the big picture. This is an excellent place to start to obtain a solid timeline of Chinese history and a good, basic understanding of the topic.
Date published: 2018-05-28
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
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A lot of History Studying the Far East has not been one of my priorities. Hence my general knowledge of the topic is spotty and very incomplete. This lecture, covering 5000 years, seemed a good place to start filling in the many holes in my knowledge base. I was not disappointed. Professor Hammond does a fine job of presenting a huge amount of material, keeping it well organized, and relevant. The time flow was well thought out, with the historical flow moving smoothly. Although it was easy to get somewhat lost with unfamiliar names and pronunciations, as contrasted with the written rendition. I now have a far greater understanding of this people, the events, and social milieu which have contributed to the long history of China. There are areas in which the course should be redone and improved upon. 1. It is now 12 years old and needs updating. 2. Although he is very knowledgeable, the lecture is so low key, almost to the point of droning at times, it was sometimes hard not to have your mind drift away. 3. The visuals, especially maps, need updating and a far greater usage. 4. Whatever intestinal problem he has ("burping" every few minutes) becomes very distracting. Never the less, the course is well worth the effort, and is a valued part of my library.
Date published: 2016-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A solid introductory survey of Chinese history I would describe these lectures as an excellent college-level introductory course on Chinese history. The 36 lectures cover the stone age through 2004. The course is organized as a chronological political history. You learn about the different dynasties and why transitions occurred between them. Intellectual and cultural developments are discussed when they affect or reflect the political narrative. The final sixth of the course is a survey of modern, post-imperial, Chinese history (since 1912.) The professor's tone is serious. There is no attempt to entertain. I found him very lucid. He packs a lot of information into each 30-minute lecture. I frequently had to pause and "rewind." A lot of preparation obviously went into these lectures. (He rarely looks at notes and yet always finishes within a few seconds of 30 minutes.) After completing the course, I ordered the transcript because I found these lectures to be as valuable as any survey book I have been able to find. The following comments apply to every Teaching Company history course that I have taken, not just to this one. For 95% of the lecture, you see a professor standing at a lectern. Wouldn't it be better to see slides for much of the time? Also, the recommended readings never involve the same book for more than two lectures. Without having a huge budget or access to a college library, I almost never do the reading. Wouldn't it better to focus on readings in a couple of books and then recommend more specialized sources in addition?
Date published: 2016-09-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting content, disappointing delivery Comprehensive and very interesting coverage of an important culture and history we tend not to know much about. The presenter is knowledgeable, but the tentative and weak delivery detracted from our ability to get through the course.
Date published: 2016-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from As promised This is a competent survey of Chinese history. Due to the incredible length of time and vastness of the civilization in question, only major themes and events are dealt with; dynasties and emperors of note, major foreign invasions, watershed moments in the evolution of Confucian thought, and so on. If you're starting from scratch in learning about China, this is a good point to begin. If you're already familiar with the general topic of Chinese history and want more specific substance, go elsewhere. This will be too broad and shallow to be of use to you. I was personally annoyed by two things. 1) the mind boggling human costs of Mao's Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution went unmentioned, with preference given to the power struggles within the CCP instead. While this fits within the presentation overall, too many academics skip over his murdered millions because Mao was a good, card-carrying leftist. 2) The speaker seems to have to belch every 8 minutes or so. He really needs to get that ulcer (or whatever) checked out.
Date published: 2016-09-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great potential The course is a cursory survey of Chinese history spanning several millennia. Professor Hammond is clearly in command of the subject matter but his presentation is somewhat marred by his consistently dry speaking style. Moreover, his use of distracting filler words (as remarked upon by others) and his habit of coughing every 3-5 minutes act as 'noise' which significantly degrades the educational 'signal' he is attempting to transmit.
Date published: 2016-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning Chinese History Made Easy I took a course many many years ago while in the Air Force. It put me to sleep! I still managed to pass the course. I bought this as a sort of "mental refresher" I was prepared to drop off and snore again but I gave it a shot and purchased it. Was I ever so wrong! This course is wonderful and the professors presentation was spot on for my needs. Wish the one I had taken in the formal classroom course could have been this one. I would not have dropped off as often as I did!
Date published: 2016-07-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Dynastic Cacophony, without Technology I can't give this better than an average rating, because it would diminish the great ratings I've given to other courses. The others not only had deep content, that also had extensive resource direction. Here, the Guidebook notes are adequate, but the resources (such as the Timeline, which isn't) can be better found at Wikipedia under any dynasty heading (search for "Ming Dynasty", look down at the incredible timeline). The Bibliography is mostly books from various University Presses (Oxford, Harvard, Berkeley, etc), maybe now out of print. The graphics (and I'm in serious disagreement with many other reviewers) are at best average, compared to the graphics available for any dynasty or topic given an internet search. The content feels like Chinese political science done as factual flotsam. Unfortunately, as a techie, I'm seriously interested in a culture responsible for "The Four Great Inventions". Also, any history of China must explain at length the "Great Divergence" beginning with the Ming that plunged China into 600 years of declining GDP with an order of magnitude population increase. Hammond calls this a "Golden Age", while others at the link "en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_in_China#History" are considerably less kind, especially to the Literati and the Confucian examination cultures whose devolution categorized scientists, mathematicians, and engineers as "mean people", on a par with fallen women and despised commercial merchants. When I find that Deng Xiaoping and the next two generations of current leadership were trained as engineers and scientists, I really REALLY understand how far China has come (again, no thanks to Hammond). Another problem I have is that I came away with no feeling I knew the Chinese mentality in any greater depth. I have Chinese in- laws, whose alleged inscrutability was not bettered by this material. I recommend The Great Courses offering "Essentials of Tai Chi", which is a serious dive into a mystic, non- scientific Chinese mindset. A similar issue is language and literacy. Oriental languages, like Mandarin, I've found are notoriously difficult (The Great Courses Linguistics course address this issue). Interesting issue, because many Oriental friends of my children speak a native tongue, but are only literate in English. Hammond, according to the biography, spent time in China. I would have expected him to have personal observations and anecdotes about his experiences. Instead, what I'm left with is self- discovered words from the Chinese Opera "The First Emperor" about the building of the Great Wall: "Oh, wide and rich is this land, nourished with blood and endless hope. Oh, we are building a dream we will never see. Dying for a peace we will never know." History of the problems of great civilizations deserve better scrutiny, or the issues of dealing with them will not end well.
Date published: 2016-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A competent (but sometimes dry) overview of China I enjoyed this course, but I really wanted to like it more. The professor is very knowledgeable, and I certainly learned a lot taking this course, but certain parts of it dragged on, and it sometimes felt a little bit like I was listening to a text-to-speech program reading a Wikipedia page. I was listening to this at certain points at 2x speed, and still had this feeling. Where the professor shined, in my opinion, was in early (lectures 2-9) and late (lectures 27-36) Chinese history, and in his lectures on the Mongols (lectures 20 and 21), which he seemed to enjoy talking about more than everything else sandwiched in between (the Tang, the Song, the Ming, etc). He also did a nice job of providing an overview of the intellectual and artistic life of China (lectures 5, 6, 9, 15, 16), and especially in describing the Mandate of Heaven (lecture 3), which helped me to appreciate how it was different (very different!) from the Western concept of the Divine Right of Kings, which I had not understood before. All in all, I would still recommend this course, but with the caveat that it may be tough going at times, and probably would have worked better as a 24-lecture course, or as a 36-lecture course delivered with a bit more pizzazz. I should also mention that I found the course guide to be very informative, easy to read, and of great help in helping me (a non-Chinese speaker) to recognize visually a number of words and phrases (e.g., visually, it is the "Zhou" dynasty) that I would not have guessed at had I only listened to these lectures (e.g., orally, it sounds like the "Jo" dynasty). Grade: B
Date published: 2016-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Adequate Survey I fall right in the middle of the reviewers of this course. I agree with the advocates that this was a worthy effort at providing an adequate survey of the long history of China. But I also agree with the critics that there's little billiant, deep, or profound in it. I ended the lessons hungry for more on such matters as the economics, the arts, and elements of the intellectual history of China. Also, I thought the race to conclude the course without any real coverage of the last 25 years was unfortunate. If a supplement was needed to do so, TGC should have gone to the expense of a second edition, given the significant developments in China in the past couple of decades. On the other hand, I had reason to know this would be a skim on the water when I bought the course. In fact, that's largely what I wanted in it. A bit disappointed that it didn't beat expectations but satisfied that it met them, I give the course 4 stars.
Date published: 2016-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Solid Course I have read with a certain amount of concern the lesser reviews of Professor Hammond's course "From Yao to Mao", and I wanted to counter those negative reviews. My background: study in Chinese language and Chinese history at Seattle University and the University of Washington. This is around the 20th Great Courses offering I have enjoyed, and Prof. Hammond is nowhere near the bottom of the pack. I believe that some of the people who considered him "boring" might be confusing an evenly-presented approach with that of an instructor exhibiting bursts of professorial enthusiasm. Roger that, but this is a strong, comprehensive, well-researched course touching on all eras of Chinese history. As with many survey courses, it is an informational jumping-off-point for your own educational initiatives, not a thorough, finely detailed, in depth slog. Buy the course, mark your own points of particular interest and start your learning. As for those comparing Prof. Hammond to Richard Baum, that is quite unfair. Baum was a superstar, a global scholar whose lasting impact on Chinese scholarship and China hands will long endure. My only criticism would be the visual quality of the maps used; they seem a bit primitive and simplistic. But overall, From Yao to Mao is a solid course, well worth the money.
Date published: 2016-01-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Presentation is a bit boring. This course contains a great deal of very interestng material, but the presentation is hesitant and boring; too many pauses and ah, ah, ah! I would not recommend this product there are other courses that cover much of the same material in a much more interesting and captivation way.
Date published: 2015-09-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Too Wide a Topic for the Time Given Professor Richard Baum covered the twentieth century of Chinese History in a 48 lecture series. That course was fascinating, and a truly in depth piece of scholarship that - while at times frustrating - showed exactly the kind of quality that can come about as a result of being given adequate space to cover a topic. Professor Mark Ravina's Understanding Japan course had only half that lecture space, just 24, to convey an imagine that instructs the student in helpful ways to understand both the nation and people. Ravina took the approach of jettisoning the historical narrative in favor of smaller windows into different periods, because 24 lectures would barely be enough to cover the Muromachi-Azuchi period, let alone Japan's entire history. Professor Craig Benjamin was given 48 lectures to talk about the Foundations of Eastern Civilization. While I still feel as though Professor Benjamin was cheated a bit given Western Civilization's 96 Lectures (with I and II combined) and the veritable army of additional courses that supplement that particular narrative, Professor Benjamin did an admirable job. His course was also too wide a topic, and thus his lectures come across as an abridged history of China, with vignettes discussing the evolution of neighboring regions composing about half the course. And so we come to Professor Kenneth Hammond's course on 5000 Years of Chinese History. He was given 36 lectures to do this, which should have been a sign of worry from the start. Egypt's four thousand year history, where we know about half as much information as we know about pre-Mongol conquest China, was given 48 lectures. Even so, Professor Hammond does the best that he can and he does a good job of it. The threads found in Benjamin's course are expanded upon in greater detail, the narrative is fleshed out more, and there is more time devoted to intellectual developments. All good things, but they come off as superfluous given the newer course. It is really a shame, because this course would have gotten higher marks from me if there wasn't another course that is arguably superior to it. That is not Hammond's fault, since the Foundations of Eastern Civilization came some years after, but it does make a great rating hard to justify. In the future, should the Teaching Company pursue other Chinese Courses, I would recommend something similar to this broad outline: The Archaic Period - 12 Lectures covering from the mostly mythological Xia to the Zhou. The Classical Period - 24 Lectures on the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Period with reference to Confucius, Mencius, Mozi, Laozi, Shang Yang, and others. The Rise and Fall of the Qin Dynasty - 12, maybe 18 lectures on the conquest of China, Qin Shihuangdi's reign, Legalism, Censorship, and the Chu-Han Contention. The Han Dynasty - 24 Lectures on the First Golden Age of Chinese History, its civiization, its literary accomplishments, the formation of a Confucian society, its interactions with the Xiongnu, its conquests in the South, its relationship with Korea, China marches to the Caspian Sea, the shortlived Xin Dynasty, the restoration of the Han, why the Chinese call themselves Han, and its slow decline. The Three Kingdoms Period - 36 Lectures to match the Peloponnesian Wars or 48 Lectures to match the Fall and Rise of China. Opens with the decline of the Han, the Qiang Wars, the Yellow Turban Rebellions, the Regency of He Jin, the rise of Chancellor Dong Zhuo, the Coalition Forces against him, the creation of a warlord system, Dong Zhuo's attempted mediated peace, his death at the hands of Han Loyalists, their demise at the hands of Dong loyalists, the utter chaos following this period, the rise of Yuan Shao, the rise of Cao Cao, the clash at Guandu, the movements of Liu Bei, the foundations of a Southern China under the Sun family, Cao Cao restores the Han as a puppet, the rise of radical daoist sects, Cao Cao's failure to eliminate the Sun-Liu alliance at Chi Bi, the death of Cao Cao and the destruction of the Han, the formation of Shu under Liu Bei, the Sun-Liu break and battle at Yiling, the rise of metiocracy and the imperial examination system, the decline of the old nobility, the deaths of tens of millions of people (more than WW1), and wars between the Three Kingdoms until all of them lose, with the victor being a third party after the Sima clan took control of Wei, founded the Jin, and reunited China. To this day, the Three Kingdoms era is one of the most widely known periods of Chinese history. The Age of Fragmentation - 36 Lectures, maybe 24. China nearly completely shatters and could have been erased from history. The Jin Dynasty's shortlived unification, the war of the 8 princes, the decline of the Chinese population to the point where entire provinces were depopulated, the importation of northern barbarian peoples, their rebellions known as the Wu Hu Uprisings, the formation of the Han Zhao under southern Xiongnu related to the Imperial house of the Han, the flight of the Jin to the south (Eastern Jin), interethnic conflict, the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the creation of the Liu Song after the deposition of the Jin, the rise of Buddhism to be the dominant religion in northern China, the collapse of Chinese authority in Korea, the reworking of Chinese intellectual society, the captured heart of the northern conquerors, the sinification of the Wuhu (the Northern Dynasties become Chinese), the economic recovery of China, the intellectual revival of China, and the rise of the Sui. The Tang Dynasty - 24 Lectures - the Sui restores China, the Grand Canal, the Conquest of Korea, the seizure of power by the Tang, the Tang expansion into Central Asia, the Silk Road Reborn, the Second Golden Age of Chinese History, the Great Economic Expansion, The Female Emperor Wu Zetian, China's Role as the Center of Asia, Cosmopolitanism and Multiculturalism, Alliance with Persia, Conflict with the Arabs, the rebellion of An Lushan, the crippling of China, the rise of southern Warlords, the slow decline of the Tang, and its collapse. Five Dynasties, Ten Kingdoms - 12 Lectures, maybe abridged and added to the Song: the chaos surrounding the fall of the Tang, the rise of new dynasties, the second complete fragmentation of China, the new migration of people into northern China and the Liao Dynasty, the rise of classical nostalgia and the attempted restoration of old states, the rise of the Song Dynasty. The Song Dynasty - 18 Lectures, maybe 24. The revival of China, the rise of new intellectual traditions, literary traditions, and the creation of Neoconfucianism, the Song Dynasty's maritime empire, the economic explosion that was a proto-industrial revolution, the Jurchen invaders and the Jinn Dynasty, unhappy relationship between Song and Jinn, the Song alliance with the Mongols, the Conquest of Jin, the decline of the Song bureaucracy, the Mongol Invasions of the Song, Song Resistance, the fall of Xiangyang, defections, the flight south, and Yuan conquest of China. Yuan Dynasty - 24 Lectures, some lectures on the Mongol Empire, the character of Kublai, Kublai Khan's Rise to Power, Kublai Khan's attraction to Chinese Culture (and whether it was genuine), the creation of the Yuan Dynasty, the four caste system, the Yuan's relationship to the Il Khanate, their invasion of Japan, their permanent loss of Vietnam, the rise of Islam within China, various acts of persecution real and imagined, the successors to Kublai, the Red Turban Rebellion, and the Rise of the Ming. Ming Dynasty - 18 Lectures, a few lectures on the Red Turban Rebellion and the key players involved in ousting the Mongols, Zhu Yuanzhong, the post-Mongol China, the voyages of Zheng He, the establishment of the dualistic bureaucracy whereby the Emperor was not completely autocratic, though still the ultimate master of the state, the Ming wars with Vietnam, the Tributary System Restored, Trade from Swahili to Nanjing, the burning of the treasure fleet, the refocus of China to the North and West, the wars against the Northern Yuan (Mongols), the conflicts with Tibet, the rise of the Chinese Novel, the population explosion of the state, the great famine and years of dearth, rebellions, the rise of Li Zicheng, and the events of that led to the rise of the Qing. The Qing Dynasty, 36 Lectures. The Jianzhou Jurchens, the rise of Nurhaci, relationship to the Mongols, relationship to Korea, relationship to the Ming Dynasty, the decline of the Ming, the invitation of Wu Sangui, intention to restore the Jinn, the Banner System, the conquest of the Mongols, the wars against Li Zicheng and the fragmenting Ming, the great Kangxi Emperor, final conquest of the Ming after the death of the Ming Prince who fled to Burma, the Koxinga of Taiwan, the conquest of Taiwan, the conquest of Tibet, wars in Central Asia, control over the Ocean Trade, The Qing Dynasty becoming more and more Chinese, the restoration of the scholar-gentry, the continued rise of intellectual development, the population explosion as a result of the Columbian Exchange, the manipulation of the Europeans, Chinese arrogance under the Qianlong Empire, the decline of Chinese science (which started under the Ming), the rise of Jesuits, the expulsion of Christians, the rise of Opium Addiction, the Opium Wars, the encroachment of Russians and other Europeans, the destruction of the Chinese worldview, carving up of China into spheres of influence, attempts to reform the state, conservative backlash, attempts at constitutional monarchy, the Empress Cixi, the rise of radical doctrines and foreign ideologies, the dismantling of the imperial examination system, and the last Chinese Dynasty ending with the formation of the Republic of China under Yuan Shikai. Modern China, we already have that. Its called the Fall and Rise of China taught by Professor Richard Baum.
Date published: 2015-08-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mostly Political History This course is very much an overview of (mostly) dynastic history. For somebody like me who knew little of Chinese history, it was a good introduction. However, 5000 years of history in only 36 lectures was too tall an order. As a result, you see a picture of the great wall behind the professor but never learn anything about it other than two quick mentions when armies went past it. You don't learn about the terracotta soldiers. And while you do learn about philosophy and a bit of art, there is so much of culture that was left out. Unfortunately, I don't see how the professor had much choice since there's no way to stuff all of that into the 36 lectures. All things being equal, I would have given the course 4 stars based on the amount I did learn. Unfortunately, all things were not equal. Hammond's presentation is severely lacking. His delivery was fairly monotonic. It was hard to stick with him to the end. I downgraded my rating to 3 stars due to the presentation. Upon finishing this course, I watched Fall and Rise of China. That course is truly excellent, covering from the end of the 18th century to 2010. Watching Yao to Mao gave me a solid background for Fall and Rise of China. While I won't say that it is required, if you lack the basics of Chinese history like I did, Yao to Mao will be helpful to watch prior to Fall and Rise.
Date published: 2015-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful surprise This course was wonderful, and this was actually surprising for me considering some of the lukewarm and even strongly negative reviews that this course has received. In fact I had almost decided not buy the course but finally changed my mind thanks to a few highly positive reviews… The obvious question is which one of the two broad TGC survey courses covering China's roughly 5000 year history should you get: "Yao to Mao" (YTM) or "Foundation of Eastern Civilization" (FEC), or possibly both? I, personally, chose to hear them both and I think it was a good decision. The main difference between the two courses is their focus: FEC focused on describing and understanding the foundational (religious, cultural, etc …) structures of Eastern Civilization, and then reviewing how these were manifested in Southeastern and Eastern Asia's narrative histories (with the main emphasis being on China). The narrative histories are therefore not the center of interest in this course, and in fact Professor Benjamin proceeds to plow through the narratives at a brisk pace that is a bit overwhelming. If one focuses on the foundations though, the course is very gratifying. So having heard FEC I found that I really wanted to hear another course on the straight, narrative history of China given at a more sedate pace. YTM fits this bill perfectly. The main criticism in the most negative previous reviews was that the presentation was simply boring. Fortunately, I did not find this to be the case at all. Granted, he may not be THE most animated, colorful or entertaining Professor I have heard so far, but I found him to present the material in a VERY interesting manner. Furthermore, he teaches the course material in a thorough and structured manner, and this had the effect of making the course not feel rushed at all. The course is full of content, primarily going through the central dynasties chronologically, though there are a few narrative lectures on central aspects of Chinese culture such as Buddhism and Confucianism. I agree with some of the other reviewers that the coverage of modern China was a bit flat, failing to some extent to convey the absolute upheaval that shook China in the 20th century. A course that focuses exclusively on modern Chinese history is Professor Baum fantastic forty eight lecture course "Rise and fall of China" (RFC), which gives a richer and more in depth picture of this era. But then, RFC is dedicated exclusively to that era and one cannot expect such depth from a broad survey course such as YTM. Overall, I am extremely glad I decided to hear the course. I found it very interesting and feel that it complements both FEC and RFC well. If you have the time and are interested enough in the subject I recommend hearing all three.
Date published: 2015-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Dash Through Chinese History This course can be viewed as a dash through Chinese history. It's a good introduction to the history of this very large and very old civilization. You may not remember all the dynasty names, but you will recognize them and know where to find information about them. One of the things I really liked about this course was that it wasn't just about political and military history. I guess I still expect history courses to be like the ones in high school that seemed to focus on political and military history with a tiny dollop of economic history on top. So, I am always pleasantly surprised when a history course looks beyond those things. This one does. It covers the political and military history, but that history is set in a larger context. The course looks at economic history, social history, and intellectual history. The professor weaves them together to give one a fuller understanding of China's history and why that history happened. My knowledge of Chinese history was limited. While my knowledge may still be superficial, it is broader. I think that I won't feel quite so at sea when a discussion about China comes along. When you go through a course, like this one, that attempts to convey the entire history of an old and complex civilization, it is always fascinating to see the recurring themes. It's interesting to think about how something that happened centuries ago seems to foretell events that happened in our own times or within a few years of our time. You also see events and societal development that are familiar from other civilizations. You also get a more realistic understanding of things that have captured the public's superficial attention. We have some familiarity with, for example, the Long March and the Great Leap Forward. What I didn't know about was the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. They too made a long march to capture China from the Qing dynasts. When the Taiping were defeated they suffered a massacre at Nanjing/Nanking. They had a charismatic leader who came to live a life of luxury while the people did not. This all happened in the middle of the 19th century, but it is easy to the similarities to what happened one hundred years later. This is only one example, which I have explained poorly. Another example is coming away with a better, truer understanding of Confucius and his values and how they shaped Chinese culture. I had a superficial understanding of this, the understanding that is part of our own culture. Now I see how superficial and distorted that understanding was. There was much more to it than worshiping one's ancestors and owing filial duty to one's parents and older siblings. There were underlying ideas about what would make for a good society that led to practices like these. In short, I learned a lot from this course. That's an A on one of my key course criteria. The other criterion is whether it leads me to want to learn more. It does, although not at this particular moment. I think I will go back to the readings from the Buddhism course and other courses that deal with specific aspects of Chinese intellectual history. So, this course gets a high rating from me. I recommend it to anyone who feels they need to know more about China, which most of us probably need to do as China rises in the world. My only quibbles: A good map would have been helpful, or maybe a couple. There is a map, but I ended up digging out my own atlas, which was not all that helpful. It helps to see the places on the map and to have some sense of the geography that is so important in Chinese history. It would also have been helpful if the professor took a minute to explain the rules for the transliteration of the Chinese into English.
Date published: 2015-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from From Yao to Mao, 5000 years. Very interesting course. More info than I can retain in only one time through. Plan to repeat soon.
Date published: 2015-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fantastic This is one of my favorite courses! I earned an MA in Asian studies long before this course was offered but it is more than a refresher - it is an important comprehensive overview that will prepare a student for deeper research
Date published: 2015-01-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Survey of Chinese History If you are looking for a survey of Chinese history, this is a pretty good one. The course covers China from its origins through its dynastic periods and then into the modern world. Covering nearly 10,000 years of history is not easy, but this course does as thorough of a job as possible, while prejudicing political events over other elements of Chinese history. I found it useful for filling in gaps of my knowledge of China between the two world wars and doing a good job explaining various Chinese philosophies. There are only two negatives about this course. First, the professor lacks charisma, so you will need to be motivated to stay with the lectures. Also, this was an earlier Great Course, which means that you will not get all the spellings of various Chinese locations, which are tough to make out. The manual that is provided with the course helps with this, but having spellings of unfamiliar places on the screen would have helped. Still, this is a great value if you are looking to expand your knowledge of Chinese history or just want to know what was taking place there beyond the typical Western Civilization narrative. A great buy for a world history teacher that is relatively clueless about the Eastern World.
Date published: 2014-12-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This Course Lacks Sparks Certainly if you know nothing at all about China you will learn from this course. This course, however, lacks those moments when you want to stop, go back, hear that point again and absorb it. Too bad, Chinese history is packed with sparks like that. The west has always treated Asian history as an after thought to the development of Western civilization. In school we got a lot of U.S. history, a big dose of English history and a reasonable amount of European history mostly through the lens of how things ultimately affected American development. Asian history always seemed disconnected except for the ties of colonialism. I wanted this course to fill in that void and to give me deeper insight into Chinese thinking today. It did neither well. The flaw to this course in my opinion is the lack of distinct points from dynasty to dynasty. To make an example, in school, we all studied the U.S. Presidents. Which do you recall? Washington was first and he led the revolution. Then a few founders were in office---Adams, Jefferson and Hancock, no, Adams again then Jefferson then a bunch of guys until Lincoln. Then a bunch of fat guys until Roosevelt. Then Hoover and the depression, Roosevelt and the war, Kennedy...see what I mean? We remember the highlights. The course doesn't give us many benchmarks to seize and help organize this stuff mentally. It's pretty amazing that China was reasonably organized in 1100 BCE. At one point China had a huge navy and was a great military power in Asia. Was that around the time of Nelson's defeat of the Spanish navy? Before? After? As for the lecture style, short of poor content, I don't downgrade for style. That means if the content is meaningful, regardless of stammering or umms, I'm okay with it. If I get some good material followed by corny jokes, I subtract stars. Some of the best courses I've taken, here and elsewhere, were not presented by the absolute best speakers in terms of pure style. In the classes I teach, I often point out the Stephen Hawking is a greatly respected speaker and always commands a full house. Don't focus too much on things that aren't important in presentation. Focus on content. Finally, the 20th century history was a bit glossy for my taste. I tire of academics, business people and government officials who ignore many of the basic facts about the modern history and the present aspirations of China. China is not benign is not merely trying to improve the lives of its people. China wants to 'unimprove' our lives too. Overall, I did not care for the course and wouldn't recommend it. (Audio Version)
Date published: 2014-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a great review This course is a comprehensive review of the full span of Chinese history. The patterns were well presented and explained, taking the course beyond just Chinese history. Given that the course covered thousands of years, I was a little disappointed in the emphasis on the most recent century, particularly that there was no application of the recurring historical patterns to the last century. Have the patterns been suspended? And, if the approach used in the prior periods is no longer applicable, then Mao and the communists were given pretty much of a pass on the hundreds of millions who starved to death under their rule. On the whole, however, the course was well done and very worth while.
Date published: 2014-11-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Missing history. Missing culture. Miss this! I was thrilled that the T.C. offers a course on Chinese history. I listened to the entire course because I wanted to understand a culture -- diverse, rich, and vital. But that was not what I heard. I did not learn about Chinese art, architecture, music, literature or the daily lives of the people. Ad nauseam, I heard about dynasty after dynasty, which were cookie cutters of each other. Is that really possible? And then, Mao. Yes, for those of us alive during the so-called Cultural Revolution, we remember Mao's determined and purposeful destruction of Chinese Culture, of the mass murders of intellectuals, the burning of books... BUT, did Prof Hammond touch this? No, he glorified Mao and failed to mention the suppression of Chinese Culture and the oppression of its diverse peoples. This is not of the quality that merits the title "great course."
Date published: 2014-11-06
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