Books & Media

Watch ‘China: Traditions and Transformations’ Free Harvard Online Course

Here’s a head’s up for China: Traditions and Transformations, an excellent 37 lecture Harvard course, online–and it’s free.


The 37 lectures and slides accompanying each lecture are from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences course Historical Study A-13 China: Traditions and Transformations. This main campus course was recorded as it was given then, in turn, offered as an online course at the Harvard Extension School, and now is free to all.

The course is taught by two giants in the China field.

William C. Kirby is director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and chairman of the Harvard China Fund. His research focuses on the history of modern China, especially on the business, economic, and political development in an international context. He was dean of Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 2002 to 2006. He currently teaches at both the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and at the Harvard Business School

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

Here is the course description:

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. These themes are discussed in order to understand China in the modern world and as a great world civilization that developed along lines different from those of the Mediterranean.

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

  • Lecture 1   Introduction: Traditions and Transformations
  • Lecture 2   Origin Stories
  • Lecture 3   Bronzes, Oracle Bones, and the Legitimation of Power
  • Lecture 4   Confucius and Confucianism
  • Lecture 5   Competing Schools and Warring States
  • Lecture 6   Forging a Unified Empire: The Qin Dynasty
  • Lecture 7   Making Empire Last: Western Han
  • Lecture 8   State and Society in Western and Eastern Han
  • Lecture 9   Self-Realization
  • Lecture 10 Buddhism
  • Lecture 11 The Literary Enterprise (Owen)
  • Lecture 12 The Universal Empire: Cosmopolitan Tang
  • Lecture 13 Rebellion and the Transformation of the Chinese World
  • Lecture 14 Transforming Society through Government
  • Lecture 15 The Neo-Confucian Movement
  • Lecture 16 The Civil Service Examination System and Society
  • Lecture 17 The World Empire of the Mongols
  • Lecture 18 Social Policy and Social Practice in Ming and Qing
  • Lecture 19 Silver and Social Change in Late Ming
  • Lecture 20 The Defining Issues of Modern Chinese History
  • Lecture 21 Achievements and Limits of Manchu Rule
  • Lecture 22 Art and Local Society in Later Imperial China
  • Lecture 23 Opium and the Opium Wars
  • Lecture 24 Christianity and Chinese Salvation
  • Lecture 25 The End of Imperial Rule
  • Lecture 26 Foreign Models for a Chinese Republic
  • Lecture 27 The Military Persuasion
  • Lecture 28 Culture and Revolution
  • Lecture 29 The United States and China in War and Revolution
  • Lecture 30 The Origins of the Taiwan Question
  • Lecture 31 Communist Liberation
  • Lecture 32 China’s Leap Forward to Communism
  • Lecture 33 Morning Sun
  • Lecture 34 China’s Rebirth in the 1970s
  • Lecture 35 Greater China?
  • Lecture 36 Two Chinese Companies
  • Lecture 37 China’s Future in the Light of Its Past

Comments (2)

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  1. nuhu atta writes on

    This is a welcome development especially for us I africa. We will have the previlege to access fundermental knowing that will transform our societies. Please if its ok I will like to enroll for all the courses above. Scolarship for the course will be most appriciated and cherished by me. Thanks

    • Hi Nuhu,

      The course in the post is free. You can find lots of great free courses on all sorts of subjects at ‘iTunes U’ on iTunes. Good luck!

      Best, Malcolm

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