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Introduction for China fieldtrip

Charlotte Braungardt

The Chinese civilisation is the only one that can claim continuity for over 4000 years. Archaeological studies revealed ancient cultures in central China and in the lower Yellow River (Huang He) valley that flourished between 2500 and 2000 B.C. Throughout history, a rich civilisation developed that expressed itself in writing, philosophy, art and political organisation.

Chinese civilisation is characterised by progress fuelled by creativity and intellect applied to arts and technology, and the sheer size of the population. For centuries, China was surrounded by societies that were less developed and this conditioned the Chinese view of the outside world. The Chinese name for their country (Zhongguo) means Middle Kingdom or Central Nation. China has been in conflict with surrounding nations in her struggle to expand and/or defend the margins of their territory. But it was only in the mid-nineteenth century, when China was humiliated militarily by superior weaponry and technology from the 'West', that she began to reassess its position with respect to other civilisations. From the golden age of the School of Literati, Confucius (551-479 B.C.) and Mo Zi (470-391 B.C.) through the dynastic era and its trade routes to the emergence of modern China and the more recent events, the history of China is fascinating. A basic knowledge of it is prerequisite to being able to begin to form an understanding of today's China and its relationship with Hong Kong and the 'West', and to make most of our brief stay in Hong Kong and China.

Recommended Reading

Of course, there are books too numerous to count, and I would encourage browsing of bookshops and libraries for interesting reading material in preparation of the trip. However, an abbreviated history of China is for some reason available on the website of "Chaos at Maryland" - the site of the Chaos research group at the University of Maryland, US. As with every historical account, we must be aware that (especially the more recent) history is always written from a particular angle, and that there will be other viewpoints. http://www-chaos.umd.edu/history/toc.html