Courses Taught


China at the Age of Revolutions: 1900-1978

(undergraduate obligatory course, Hebrew)
The course surveys different ways through which Chinese statesmen tried to resolve the severe systemic crisis that evolved since the 19th century. First it discusses achievements and failures of the Chinese Republic (1911-1949) and analyzes the reasons for the Communist Party’s success. In the second part of the course we focus on the developments in the People’s Republic of China from its establishment in 1949 and until the death of Mao Zedong (1976) and abandonment of the radical line in 1977-1978. The course is based on frontal lectures and reading relevant materials before the lectures. [syllabus]

How to build an Empire? Traditional Chinese Political Thought

(elective undergraduate seminar, Hebrew)
The course focuses on intellectual life of the Warring States period (453-221 BCE), when foundations were laid for the future Chinese empire, and the basic framework of Chinese traditional culture was formed. We shall survey major intellectual currents of this age, and explore how amid bitter ideological rivalries, points of consensus emerged, and how these points of consensus shaped the two-millennia-long Chinese imperial polity. We shall also ask which—if any—of the ideas of pre-imperial thinkers remain relevant into our days. The course is based on reading the original works of the Warring States-period Masters (in Hebrew or English translation) and discussing their content in the classroom. [syllabus]

The Everlasting Empire: Traditional Chinese Political Culture

(graduate seminar, Hebrew, from 2017 taught in English)
Chinese empire was the most durable of large continental polities in human history. The seminar traces the reasons for this durability by analyzing the empire’s functioning modes and comparing them, whenever relevant, with parallel imperial polities in Eurasia. The course presents a systematic introduction to Chinese political culture, from its pre-imperial intellectual foundations, through guiding ideas, ideals, and values of major political actors and to the actualization of these ideas in reality and their resultant modification. The discussion is not limited to a single period and the student is expected to possess a working knowledge of Chinese history from the Shang to the Qing dynasties on the level of introductory courses at the very least. Basic knowledge of China’s modern history is required as well. [syllabus; English syllabus]

Eurasian Empires: A Comparative View (graduate seminar, English)

Prof. Michal Biran and Prof. Yuri Pines
Throughout much of the recent two to three millennia the majority of human population lived under imperial control of one sort or another, and even those beyond the empires’ immediate reaches were immensely influenced by the empires, be it through synchronic or diachronic interaction. Each regional imperial culture established highly distinct patterns of legitimation and rule over the subjugated population; each employed distinctive economic, military, and administrative means to ensure lasting rule over expansive territories. Yet the empires of different parts of Eurasian continent also interacted and influenced each other. Our course intends to analyze the various imperial formations that arose in Asia from the second millennium BCE and up to the 19th century in a comparative framework, highlighting the common features of the empires and their mutual diachronic and synchronic impact. We shall focus on three of the five major civilization centers of the Old World (The Near East, Inner Asia, and China), comparing these with the imperial formations in India and Europe (mostly the Roman Empire and its offspring). Aside from introducing various imperial formations (sometimes with the help of guest lecturers), we seek to identify the common problems faced by continental empires and the distinct ways these problems were dealt with in each of the civilizational centers we have decided to focus on. [syllabus]

欧亚古代帝国与中华帝国比较 (graduate course, in Chinese)

(Eurasian Empires and Chinese Empire: A Comparative View)

在人类历史中,大帝国具有极为重要的地位。两千多年来,大多数人是大帝国的臣民,其他人也或多或少地受过大帝国的直接或间接的影响。二十世纪初叶以来,在新兴的民族主义影响之下,“帝国”这个概念受到学术界的鄙视,甚至有人认为“帝国变成丑陋的单词” (“Empire has become an ugly word”)。然而二十一世纪以来,学者重新开始注意到帝国的重要性及其对人类历史在政治、思想、文化等方面的独特贡献。

中华帝国算世界历史上最成功的帝国之一,其历史延续性及其制度上的合法性都是世界诸多帝国中独一无二的。为了更深刻地了解中化帝国的历史特征及其得失,我们可以从比较角度来进行分析。本课程将介绍欧亚大陆的主要的帝国区域(即中东、南亚、东亚、西欧和内亚草原)及各个区域主要的帝国阶段(即:早期的帝国,第二期帝国【secondary empires】和第三期的帝国【蒙元以后的帝国】)。我们要讨论帝国的建立和维持方式,以及各自独特的历史背景如何影响其发展轨迹,并讨论帝国的政治文化、皇权的特征、军事制度的特征、政权与教权之间的关系等方面。此外,我们还要讨论帝国的文化特征及其长远影响。

Problems and Methods of Studying Chinese History

(MA course taught in English or Hebrew on demand)
The course serves primarily research students who study traditional Chinese history (roughly pre-1900), but it may help also those engaged in history-related studies of modern China. It introduces the students to research tools that will facilitate their studies, help them in selecting research topic, teach them how to contextualize their research in broader research trends, and prepare them for independent research work in China and in the West. In particular it will teach the students to a) deal with primary sources for Chinese history; b) navigate their way amid a great variety of these sources; c) understand basic research trends and different methodologies in Chinese and Western research of pre-modern Chinese history. [syllabus]