ASIA 411
Han Dynasty Art in the Ancient World Spring 2024
Division II
Cross-listed ARTH 411
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Although the Han Empire (206 BCE-220 CE) is credited for defining the “Han ethnic identity” or the so-called “Chinese-ness” as we know it today, its culture was also richly cosmopolitan, marked by constant interaction with the outside world. This course considers Han dynasty art from a transregional perspective by examining artworks that attest to rigorous artistic exchanges with foreign cultures, ranging from the luxury items imported from the Hellenistic, the Central Asian, and the Steppe cultures and their domestic adaptations, to the exported Han artworks excavated in the South East and the East Asian regions. These objects illustrate the Han Empire’s growing awareness of its neighboring states and the ambition to visually assert itself as a powerful and open “universal empire.” Students will learn about important artistic trends during one of the most international periods in ancient China, while gaining a materially-based vision of a globalizing ancient world bound closer than ever by the rise of the “Silk Roads” and maritime trade. The course is divided into five main sections following the logic of space. Beginning with the Han Empire (the “Center”), the seminar covers key themes in the development of Han art over four centuries. Assuming the viewpoint of the Han Empire, the course then examines the artistic exchanges with civilizations in the West (the Mediterranean and the Central Asian cultures) and moves clockwise to the North (the Steppe cultures), the East (Korea and Japan), and finally the South (maritime trade with South East Asian states). This arrangement of the syllabus is designed to help the students grasp and internalize the dynamic cultural contacts in a more embodied manner, while providing a working version of a spatial “grid” for navigating the students in their own exploration of the history of art in the ancient global world.
The Class: Format: seminar; A potential field trip to museums, possibly in New York or Boston, pending planning and approval.
Limit: 15
Expected: 10
Class#: 4013
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: In addition to attendance and active participation in seminar discussions, each student will present on a topic of choice for two of the five main sections outlined in the course description (each 15-20 mins). Students will also write a final research paper on a topic of choice (15-20 pages, double-spaced) in consultation with the instructor and present their findings to the class (20 mins).
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Art history majors concentrating on Asian or ancient art are prioritized if the course over-enrolls.
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ASIA 411 Division II ARTH 411 Division I
Attributes: ARTH pre-1800

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