Completing ChinaX’s Module 2: The creation and end of a unified empire

Posted on: February 14, 2014, by :

It is not easy to follow a highly demanding course on the history of China delivered by 2 of the current authorities in Chinese history and culture in Harvard University, Professors Peter Bol and William Kirby.

I got to learn from these scholars free of charge via MOOC from

The course demanded lots of reading (but all provided free) and most importantly, you need to post your comments and participate in discussions. The course materials composed mainly of video lectures and reading plus assessments in the form of multiple choice questions and some short answer questions. These by themselves are not as demanding as the need for the learner to have a good command of English. There were many words and phrases that I had to consult Google to figure out. But the learning and understand you will achieve is all worth the effort.

I spent about 10 -12 hours each week on the course and picked up lots and lots of knowledge that I wish I was given as a school student studying Chinese and history.

To understand the future, one must learn from the past. To understand China of today, one must learn about China of the past. If you are a Chinese Malaysian (or ethnic Chinese of other nationalities), you could do no wrong in learning a lot more about your roots.

The 2nd module is about the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). It began with the fall of Qin Dynasty  (221 – 206 BCE) and compared the systems of government of the two. The story telling nature of the delivery was great in helping me to follow the course. The course then cover the rise of the Western Han then the Eastern Han. It also touches on how Buddhism was established in China and the influence the new “foreign” religion has on the people and the rulers. But I like the Salt and Iron debate most where the Lord Chancellor of Han was debating with the Literati about the relative merits of the Han system of governance and the scholars wish to revert to Confucianism and antiquity (used in the Zhou Dynasty, 800 years before).

The concluding video for the module is presented below:

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