Late Imperial China


HIEA 3112 covers the late imperial period of Chinese history, from the founding of the Song dynasty in the tenth century to the final decades of the imperial system in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although the course covers the basic elements of social, political, and cultural history, emphasis is placed on analyzing events and trends in an attempt to come to grips with two rather thorny questions: 1) How can we account for the remarkable stability and longevity of the late imperial system of government as well as its basic patterns of social economic relationships? 2) Given the durability of the late imperial system, how can we account for its fragmentation and ultimate demise when it faced fundamentally new challenges, from both within and without, in the nineteenth century? These and other questions will be considered through an investigation of several inter related issues: The ideological and philosophical foundations of the authoritarian state; the linkage and tension between elite and popular culture and life styles; the cultural relations with non-Chinese peoples; the formation of popular traditions of religious faith, protest and rebellion; and problems of systemic decline.


This course neither requires nor assumes previous study of Chinese history. The course is based on lectures combined with occasional discussions. Readings, drawn from a basic text and translated primary materials, average between 100 125 pages per week. Evaluation is based on a mid-term exam (30%), an interpretive essay (35%), and a final exam (35%).

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts