Scribner Seminar Program
Empire and Knowledge in Chinese History
Instructor(s): Jennifer Day, History
What is an empire? How did the central states in China of 300 BC coalesce into an empire? How was the idea of empire maintained in political philosophy, in historical narrative, and in popular imagination? What historical relationship did the Chinese empire have with its neighbors? How do we understand China in the twenty-first century in relation to past empires? This course will examine the relationship between empire and knowledge in Chinese history in philosophical writing, imperial propaganda in art and literature, and representations of self and the other in discourses of history, diplomacy, and statecraft. Students will learn to differentiate between different types of knowledge, to examine the production, control and dissemination of knowledge, and to find out how these processes contributed to China’s imperial projects. Along the way, they will explore how the Chinese historically interacted with real and imagined communities, how boundary crossing contributed to the building and maintenance of an empire, and how text and image wove facts and myths into a fabric of imperial consumables.