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Essay Assignment on China and the world

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Essay Assignment on China and the world

CUL610 Essay Assignment 1

Winter 2019, Prof. E. Schomann

Essay assignment due February, 24th at 11:59 pm (email) Word count: 900-1200 words

The ability to read both primary and secondary sources critically and to synthesize information from multiple sources is a key skill for the study of history. The presentation of research and argumentation in a coherent and well-structured written document is necessary for many fields. This essay assignment asks that you practice both these skill set.

You have a good deal of freedom in deciding  the scope of content to cover except that this Essay is about China exclusively (Essay 2 asks you to look at ‘China and the World’).  The subjects suggested below are by no means exclusive and are meant only to provoke your imagination; each of them is stated in “topic” form and must be focused much more narrowly onto a specific problem.  Also, most of these suggestions pose “what”-type questions; having answered that question through your initial reading, you should go on to analyze the underlying “why.”  Of course, you are also free to ignore these suggestions and instead develop a focus completely of your own choosing. 

  • Why are the ancient legends of China of interest to historians?
  • What was the influence of such factors as the written language or geophysical setting on the development of Chinese society?
  • What differences are there in the way a Zhou period Confucianist or a Daoist might understand “the Dao?”
  • Compare and contrast the contexts and methods in which Confucian thinkers of the Zhou and Han periods addressed themselves to the problem of “good government.”
  • How effective was the framework of inter-state relations during the Eastern Zhou?
  • What criticism might Confucius and/or Mencius have of Dong Zhong-shu’s Confucianism?
  • What tensions or contradictions might there be in adopting Confucianism as a state orthodoxy?  How were these tensions resolved in actual practice?
  • Compare the views on human nature and their political implications presented by any of the following:  Mencius, Xunzi, Taoists, Legalists, Buddhists.
  • On what points did the Confucian and Mohist schools differ?
  • How do the works of Laozi and Zhuangzi compare with the commentaries on those works cited in Chan’s Source Book?
  • What were the differences between the Confucianists’ and Legalists’ goals and techniques of government?
  • What was the proper relationship of the Confucian “gentleman” to society?
  • To what extent might classical Confucianism be described as élitist or egalitarian?
  • How well did Legalism survive the fall of Qin?
  • Could Confucianism be considered a “religion?”
  • What attitudes toward the masses can be discerned in Zhou period thinkers?
  • What (dis)advantages did “State Confucianism” offer to the emperor?  the literati?  the masses?
  • To what extent does the Han mark a new stage in the theory and practice of Chinese government?

You must use at least one appropriate scholarly source and one appropriate primary source. Double check with your professor to make sure the sources are appropriate.





  • The essay should be 900-1200 words (3–5) pages in length, typed and double-spaced, with 1” margins and normal type size (Times Roman 12 or the equivalent). Don’t forget to number the pages.
  • Include a title page with a descriptive title, your name and student number. The title page does not count toward your page count.
  • DO support your argument with brief, appropriate quotations from the primary sources, properly cited and with quotation marks. Quotations from secondary sources (properly cited and with quotation marks) should be used sparingly—for instance, to cite an author’s distinctive opinion or particularly vivid wording. Quotations should not be used to do the work of narration or description. If you paraphrase from a secondary source, however, you must still cite the source properly.
  • All sources used must be cited properly in APA format in footnotes or endnotes. Include a bibliography of sources cited. The bibliography does not count toward your page count.
  • Late papers will be subject to the mark deductions spelled out in the syllabus. If you have reason to request an extension, you must contact us before the due date.

Grading for the paper will include the following criteria:

  • Does the paper have a clear thesis, well-constructed argument, and appropriate evidence?
  • Did you identify appropriate sources and use them well?
  • Is the paper well written, with correct grammar and appropriate word choices, style, and tone? Use the Seneca Essay Checklist as a guideline.


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