Outline Confucius's past (i.e. China's pre-history).
Introduce the notion of Karl Jaspers' "Axial Age," and grapple with the extent to which foundational ideas shape thinking and practice.
Establish some a basic geographical orientation.
Reflection on homework
How long did it take?
Tell us about your experience with the plan as outlined? How did you use it? What worked? What didn’t?
Tips for classmates (and me)?
China before Confucius
We'll partially take our cue from Confucius by looking at government and technology (not culture) as helpful, loose ways of showing the bigger context of our first two units:
Late Neolithic cultures, including the (semi-mythical) Xia (夏 2205-1766 BCE).
Map top-left(dots indicating density of archaeological evidence): Settled agriculture, domestication of animals, pottery, and use of metal tools.
This time period corresponded with the height of the early Egyptian and Indus civilizations.
Bronze cultures, including the Shang (商 1766-1122 BCE), early or “Western” Zhou (Xi Zhou 西周 1122-772 BCE), and the two periods of the later or “Eastern” Zhou (Dong Zhou 東周): The Spring and Autumn period (Chunqiu 春秋 771-401 BCE) and Warring States period (Zhanguo 戰國 401-221 BCE).
Map top-right: Development from proto-writing to regionally-standardized writing systems, urbanization, and of course bronze implements. These changes also resulted in emergence of social stratification.
Beginning of this period concurrent with Hammurabi's Code in Babylon (1750 BCE); the period closer to Confucius overlaps with the first Persian Empire and the Greek city states and has been termed the “Axial Age”:
“The most extraordinary events are concentrated in this period, Confucius and Laozi were living in China, all the schools of Chinese philosophy came into being, including those of Mozi, Zhuangzi, Liezi and a host of others; India produced the Upanishads and Buddha and, like China, ran the whole gamut of philosophical possibilities down to skepticism, to materialism, sophism and nihilism; in Iran Zarathustra taught a challenging view of the world as a struggle between good and evil; in Palestine the prophets made their appearance, from Elijah by way of Isaiah and Jeremiah to Deutero-Isaiah; Greece witnessed the appearance of Homer, of the philosophers Parmenides, Heraclitus and Plato of the tragedians, Thucydides and Archimedes. Everything implied by these names developed during these few centuries almost simultaneously in China, India, and the West, without any one of these regions knowing of the others.”—Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), 2. (Note: some spellings updated).
Is Jaspers' description of the "Axial Age" convincing? If so, what significance do you think it holds? If not, why not?
Consider Wills's observation that "Confucius was a scholar who idealized the government and culture of an age five hundred years before his own" (Wills, 11). What are the implications of looking to the past for political and moral direction? (Note that in the West, terms like "traditionalist" tend to have a negative connotation and terms like "progressive" or tend to have a positive connotation).