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

Art and Archaeology of Ancient China

Course Code:
154900143
Unit value:
0.5
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This module will examine key themes in research on the development of societies in China during the Neolithic period, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age (5th millennium BC to 3rd century BC). It will highlight major issues in the current academic discourse on the formation of complex societies and of states in China, and address relevant sites and objects

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, students should have;
  • an understanding of main artefacts the corpus of excavated archaeological material from the Neolithic period to the formation of the Chinese empire;
  • the ability to discuss objects in their social, cultural and historical context
  • an understanding of basic methodologies in archaeological research and major issues in the archaeology of China
  • an awareness of the impact of the current socio-political discourse on the interpretation of archaeological material
  Students should also advance their ability to:
  • construct an argument in both oral and written form
  • research a topic and construct a bibliography
  • assimilate new material to relevant theories and methods in the history of art and archaeology
  • critically assess scholarly opinions on relevant issues

Scope and syllabus

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

  • Introduction: Archaeology in China
  • The Neolithic: Early period and Yangshao
  • The Neolithic: Longshan and Liangzhu
  • Erlitou and early states
  • Technology during Shang and Western Zhou
  • Reading week
  • Visit Asian Art in London or the BM
  • Anyang and Sanxingdui
  • Western and Eastern Zhou material culture
  • Elite burials of the 5th – 3rd century BC
  • Early China in the Asian context

Method of assessment

One 2 500 words essay (worth 30%); one two hours exam (worth 70%)

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.

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