[skip to content]

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Art and Archaeology of Ancient China

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, students should have:

  • an understanding of archaeological material from the prehistoric period to the early Chinese empire, and a presentation skill in writing; 
  • an understanding of the basic methodology in archaeological research and the major issues in Chinese archaeology:
  1. early agriculture, 
  2. pottery and bronze productions, 
  3. formation of state and empire,
  4. ritual and art, and the practice of archaeology in modern China.

Scope and syllabus

This course covers the period from the prehistory to the beginning of Chinese Empire (c. 6000- 200BCE).

Week 1 Introduction: China and the ‘Chinese’
Week 2 Early agriculture: Yangshao and Hemudu cultures
Week 3 Burial and complex society: Dawenkou and Majiaoyao cultures
Week 4 Ritual and jade: Hongshan and Liangzhu cultures
Week 5 Emergence of city: Longshan horizon
Week 6 Early pottery: typology and technology
Week 7 Reading week
Week 8 From pottery to bronze: Erlitou culture
Week 9 The Shang: Zhengzhou, Anyang, and beyond
Week 10 The Zhou: kings, nobles, and their material world
Week 11 Art of the borderlands: Ordos and Dian

Method of assessment

1 essay of 1,500 words =33%/exam = 67%

Suggested reading

  • Barnes G L, 1993, China, Korea, Japan: The Rise of Civilization in East Asia. London.
  • Chang K C, 1986, The Archaeology of Ancient China. 4th edition, New Haven/London.
  • Lawton, T. ed., 1991 New Perspectives on Chu Culture during the Eastern Zhou Period. Washington.
  • Whitfield and Wang Tao, eds. Exploring China's Past: New Discoveries and Studies in Archaeology and Art. London.