• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

Much of the world’s history has been shaped by experiences of empires. Even after the collapse of the major historic imperial powers during the second half of the twentieth century, the legacies of those empires continue to shape contemporary life. And historians and political analysts still talk in terms of - and seek to redefine - imperialism in reference to present polities.


China is central to such discourses on imperial power: it offers a particularly rich body of historical evidence for the practice of empire. This introductory course will therefore assess that evidence and survey the great drama of Chinese attempts to bring under single control and preserve the unity of its vast territories, so varied ethnically, culturally, and geographically. It will take in the full sweep of China’s imperial past: it will start in the third century BC, when the foundations of the imperial system were consolidated; it will reach into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when encounters with Western powers forced a radical reappraisal of the Chinese imperial system. Dividing this broad chronological scope into three periods - early China, medieval China, and late imperial China - it will offer a sense of larger changes and continuities over time. Within each period, it will bring into sharp focus the social, cultural, and political arenas in which Chinese empire was developed and maintained.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On the successful completion of this course, students will be able to:


1. Identify the major themes and issues in imperial Chinese history.

2. Apply a broad theoretical knowledge of Chinese history and historiography to specific empirical examples.

3. Demonstrate the critical skills necessary to locate, synthesise, and interpret information on imperial Chinese history, from a variety of sources; and, where necessary, to challenge received interpretations of that history.

4. Deploy the analytic faculties necessary to produce and defend extended arguments, with particular relation to the key concepts and bodies of learning in imperial Chinese history.

5. Show skills of communication, both through oral presentations and written assignments, that enable the explication of research findings to an audience of contemporaries.

Indicative Assessment

Tutorial participation - 10%

(Related learning outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4)

[Students will be expected to contribute in an active and constructive manner to tutorial discussion. On the basis of background readings and independent empirical research, they will be able to engage in discussion with both the tutor and their classmates on the interpretations of the key themes of imperial Chinese history.]

Tutorial presentations and debates - 10%

(Related learning outcomes: 1, 3, 4, 5)

[Students will be expected to produce one tutorial presentation during the course to demonstrate their ability to communicate orally their research findings on an assigned topic. This will complement their research essay. Two formal debates, in various formats, will also take place in tutorials; all students will be expected to participate in order to demonstrate and develop skills of argumentation. The debates will encourage students' to respond in more spontaneous fashion both to challenges to their own scholarship and to arguments proposed by others.]            

Critical reviews (1,000 words each) - 30%

(Related learning outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

[Two critical reviews of scholarly articles will be required from students during the course. The first will be due in Week 4, the second in Week 8. Their aim is to draw together all of the course's main learning outcomes. In particular, they will draw out students' ability to interpret and challenge received interpretations of imperial Chinese history, and to express those interpretations in succinct written form. This will also lay the foundation for the long research essay.] 

Research essay (5,000 words) - 50%

(Related learning outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

[A long research essay will be required from students at the end of the course. Students will choose a topic in consultation with the course tutor. Its aim is to draw together all of the course's main learning outcomes and, above all, to demonstrate an ability to produce a sustained argument in writing. The overall mark of the essay will be divided among several components, each due for submission in incremental stages during the course: an essay proposal; an annotated bibliography; an essay plan; a final draft.]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The course requires three contact hours per week (two lectures and one tutorial) and from six to ten hours per week outside the contact hours.

Requisite and Incompatibility

You may not enrol in this course if you have previously completed ASIA2044.

Prescribed Texts

Hansen, Valerie, The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000.

Strunk, William Jr. and White, E.B., The Elements of Style, New York: Macmillan, 3rd edn., 1979 (or later editions)

Supplementary materials will appear on Wattle.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $3054
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $4368
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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