SOAS University of London

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

Ancient Chinese Civilisation

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course spans the Palaeolithic through the Han Dynasty of China. The first half of the course provides a chronological overview of the development of Chinese Civilization, entailing three visits to the British Museum to investigate ceramics, bronzes and jades. The second half consists of explorations into the technology and design of various artefacts, and then a look into regional cultures that make up the heritage of modern-day China. This course will explore Chinese archaeology in depth and provide guidance to the methodology of archaeological research. Chinese language is an advantage, but not a prerequisite.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course:- 

  • Students will be given the archaeological and historical information of the periods they study.  They will be guided through the most important works and are encouraged to develop their interpretations
  • Students will be required to read essential references and study museum artifacts, to build their visual memory
  • Students will give short presentations at seminars
  • Students will discuss with the lecturers of their readings and essays, to develop their independent research ability and writing skill

Method of assessment

2 essays of 4,500 words each = 80%/slide test =20%

Suggested reading

  • Liu, Li & Chen, Xingcan (2012) The Archaeology of China: from the Late Paleolithic to the Early Bronze Age. Cambridge University Press.
  • Thorp, Robert (2006) China in the early Bronze Age: Shang civilization. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Li, Feng (2006) Landscape and power in early China: the crisis and fall of the Western Zhou 1045-771 BC. Cambridge University Press.
  • Barbieri-Low, Anthony J. (2007) Artisans in early imperial China. University of Washington Press
  • Falkenhausen, Lothar von (2006) Chinese society in the age of Confucius (100-250 BC): the archaeological evidence. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA
  • Whitfield R. and Wang Tao, eds. (1999) Exploring China's Past: new discoveries and studies in archaeology and art. London.
  • Loewe, M. and Shaughnessy, E., eds. (1999) The Cambridge History of Ancient China, Vol. 1: the Qin and Han empires. Cambridge University Press.


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