China’s Political and Intellectual Foundations: From Sage Kings to Confucius

Understand the origins of China

Join Harvard University faculty in this online course to learn about China’s origins, its integral early thinkers, and competing states and schools of thought.

Featuring faculty from:
15 weeks
1-3 hours per week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Start Creating Modern China today.

What You'll Learn

This course, the first in a comprehensive series on China, introduces you to the history, geography, and culture of the country.

Time, space, and identity — enduring issues in Chinese history — are explored. You’ll study China’s early dynasties to understand how physical geography impacted its inhabitants and how the many ethnicities within the country affected Chinese identity. You’ll learn about China’s origins as told in ancient texts and through modern archeology. You’ll explore the first dynasties during the Chinese bronze age, the many facets of Confucianism and his Analects, and the competing schools of thought that followed.

New political and moral ideas appear in Chinese culture in this period — ideas that make up the country’s intellectual foundations and still resonate today. Join us to learn about China’s origins and how early concepts in Chinese culture still matter in the 21st century.

The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will learn:

  • China’s history from political, geographic, and cultural perspectives.
  • The beginning of Chinese history in archaeology and mythology.
  • The blossoming of Chinese thought, from Confucius to the Legalists.
  • Historical methods for explaining how complex civilizations are formed.
  • How to analyze texts and artifacts.
  • Methods for the analysis of philosophical and political arguments.
  • A critical appreciation of China’s literary, philosophical, political, and cultural resources.

Your Instructors

Peter K. Bol Photo

Peter K. Bol

Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations 
at Harvard University
Read full bio.

 William C. Kirby Headshot

William C. Kirby

T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies
at Harvard University
Read full bio.

Ways to take this course

When you enroll in this course, you will have the option of pursuing a Verified Certificate or Auditing the Course.

A Verified Certificate costs $149 and provides unlimited access to full course materials, activities, tests, and forums. At the end of the course, learners who earn a passing grade can receive a certificate. 

Alternatively, learners can Audit the course for free and have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate for learners who earn a passing grade.

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