Provider: Harvard @EdX [course page]
Lecturers: Peter K. Bol and William C. Kirby + others
Subject: Humanities / History + Sociology + Philosophy
Delivery: self-paced asynchronous study
Recommended Load: 3 hrs/week over 5 weeks
Completion Date: 07/06/2014
Description: Peter and Bill lead a team of experts teach us about the history and philosophy of China during the Qin and Han dynasties before discussing the arrival of major religion to China, with a special focus on Buddhism from India.
Strengths: It is probably not a surprise to folks that follow my blog that I have been fascinated by Eastern cultures since I was a small child. The older of my two brothers introduced me to Kung-fu movies, whilst it was the likes of Robotech that led to my fascination with Japanese animated series. The differences between Western and Eastern entertainment and culture is sometimes subtle, but there are times when the differences between the two collections of nations are much more obvious. But we need context for these differences, which is where the ChinaX mini-course series comes in handy.
In the second part of the series, the team talks about the first Emperor during the short-lived Qin Dynasty. We see how the way in which a government deals with national resources can often be at a cost of quality of life and justice for the citizens. This results in chaos and the eventual over-throw by the Han. Though the Han would eventually be over-thrown by other forces, they refined the centralization of resources whilst also considering justice.
The last two modules of this mini-course deals with the importance of religion such as various forms of Daoism. One module is dedicated solely to Buddhism, the major religion in the centuries to follow. We see not just the origins of these belief systems, but some of the social implications as well. One of the main themes of these last two weeks is the search of self by both the rich and the poor of the northern and southern Chinese kingdoms at the end of the Three Kingdoms era.
Weaknesses: I was a little saddened that the Three Kingdoms era wasn’t discussed, but that is understandable given the possibility that some of the information is biased.
Conclusion: As with the first part in this mini-course series, this China (Part 2) is in self-paced mode, allowing certificates every 4 months to students have have received a passing score of 75%. This second instalment deals with changes in approach to centralize resources starting with the first Emperor. This has had lasting effects by subsequent governments. The fall of the Qin and the Han also paved the way for Buddhism and Daoism, two belief systems that have lasted into modern times, along with some other lesser belief systems such as one requiring death. Though some things may change, other things stay the same.
I highly recommend this course and the other instalments in the series to anyone with an interest in history, eastern culture and religion, and for anyone looking for background for their creative projects.