China: Traditions and Transformations

Peter K. Bol, PhD, Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

William C. Kirby, PhD, T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor

Modern China presents a dual image: a society transforming itself through economic development and social revolution; and the world’s largest and oldest bureaucratic state, coping with longstanding problems of economic and political management.

Both images bear the indelible imprint of China’s historical experience, of its patterns of philosophy and religion, and of its social and political thought.

In this free Chinese studies online course, these themes are discussed to understand China in the modern world and as a great world civilization that developed along lines different from those of the Mediterranean.

The Chinese studies lecture videos

The recorded lectures are from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences course Historical Study A-13, which was offered as HIST E-1825, an online course at Harvard Extension School.

Watch the lectures as streaming video or audio. Each lecture is 50 minutes.

Introduction: Traditions and Transformations

Origin Stories

Bronzes, Oracle Bones, and the Legitimation of Power

Confucius and Confucianism

Competing Schools and Warring States

Forging a Unified Empire: The Qin Dynasty

Making Empire Last: Western Han

State and Society in Western and Eastern Han



The Literary Enterprise (Owen)

The Universal Empire: Cosmopolitan Tang

Rebellion and the Transformation of the Chinese World

Transforming Society through Government

The Neo-Confucian Movement

The Civil Service Examination System and Society

The World Empire of the Mongols

Social Policy and Social Practice in Ming and Qing

Silver and Social Change in Late Ming

The Defining Issues of Modern Chinese History

Achievements and Limits of Manchu Rule

Art and Local Society in Later Imperial China

Opium and the Opium Wars

Christianity and Chinese Salvation

The End of Imperial Rule

Foreign Models for a Chinese Republic

The Military Persuasion

Culture and Revolution

The United States and China in War and Revolution

The Origins of the Taiwan Question

Communist Liberation

China’s Leap Forward to Communism

Morning Sun

China’s Rebirth in the 1970s

Greater China?

Two Chinese Companies

China’s Future in the Light of Its Past

Enroll in Harvard Extension School courses

If you enjoyed this free online Chinese studies course, the Harvard Extension School offers a wide variety of courses in numerous fields. Search for classes and enroll for credit during the fall and spring registration periods.