Week 5 (Feb 13, 15):

Tuesday Education, Examination, and the Ruling Elite

Study Guide:

Starting this week, we explore a different aspect of the Tang-Song transition. We look at changes in the pattern of political participation and the character and makeup of the dominant ruling elite.

  • Read Dieter Kuhn’s “Education and Examination” for an overview of the civil service examination system and education in the Song dynasty. Be prepared to give a short description of the examination system in class. What did it test? What opportunities did it provide, and what challenges did it pose? Who do you think most likely benefited from the examination system, and whose interests were hurt by it?
  • Read Chaffee’s “The Geography of Success”. What patterns has Chaffee discovered in the examination success during the Song period? How would you account for them?


Thursday The Changing Geography of Power

  • Learning Objectives:
    • Explain the social and political consequences of the Tang-Song transition
    • Use modularized queries in CBDB, project them in ArcGIS, and interpret the maps
  • Readings:

Study Guide:

Today we look more closely at how the character and makeup of China’s ruling elite changed from the Tang to the Song. Read the assigned book chapters and consider:

  • What changes between the Tang and the Song have Tackett’s and Chen’s research revealed? What is the significance of these changes?

One of the goals of this course is to learn to do research: that is, learn to ask questions and find answers to the questions you ask. By now, you have acquired some basic knowledge of Chinese history and mastered some basic digital skills to start your own research project. Next week you will start working on your first project! While reading the assigned chapters, please evaluate them critically:

  • What questions do these authors ask? What approaches do they employ in their research? What data do they use, and how do they analyze their data?
  • What limits do these research chapters have? Moving forward, what questions can I ask? Each of you must prepare two well-considered research questions and be prepared to share and discuss in class. This is brainstorming for your first project.


  • Brian — Please prepare a short presentation of Nicholas Tackett’s “The Geography of Power”
  • Phuong — Please prepare a short presentation of Song Chen’s “Governing a Multicentered Empire”.