LECTURE: Culture of Han Dynasty

Top: This white Khotan jade burial suit, stitched together with gold threads, was found during a 1990s excavation and shows unusually refined craftsmanship. Lower left: Earthenware warriors found in a pit about a quarter of a mile from a Chu king's tomb. Lower right: A figurine of a calvaryman with the word "feiji," meaning flying horse or rider, inscribed on the horse. All photographs courtesy of the Xuzhou Museum.


“The Glories of the Han Dynasty” is a 5-week lecture series exploring the culture of the Han Dynasty through its history, literature, economy, politics, scholarship, and visual arts. Each lecture will be delivered by a prominent scholar covering a crucial aspect of Han Dynasty civilization, including the growth of the Silk Road, the role of Confucianism, and the writing of Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian. The topics will elaborate and expand upon many of the themes touched upon by China Institute’s exhibition Dreams of the Kings: A Jade Suit for Eternity, Treasures of the Han Dynasty from Xuzhou.


Lectures are 6:30-8 pm. The series schedules is as follows:


Wed., Sept. 20: Sima Qian and Shiji/Records of the Grand Historian
Yu Renqiu, Professor of History, SUNY Purchase

In this talk Professor Yu Renqiu will discuss the life of Sima Qian, the greatest historian in traditional China, his masterpiece Shi Ji, and his work’s lasting impacts on Chinese historical writing and culture.


Wed., Sept. 27: The Roman and Han Empires
Michael Nylan, Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley


Recent exhibitions devoted to China’s early empires provides an excellent opportunity to explore the early empires in Han (and Rome) from the perspective of comparative archaeology. This lecture will focus on several new finds (including the tomb of Haihun hou), with spectacular implications for our picture of the distant past.


Wed., Oct. 4: Imagining the Afterlife Through Han Dynasty Art

Susan Beningson, Assistant Curator of Asian Art, Brooklyn Museum

Dr. Beningson will examine Han Dynasty artworks and what they reveal about the era’s thought and belief systems, as reflected in Dreams of the Kings.


Wed., Oct.11: Fortune-telling and Material Culture in Han China

Lillian Tseng, Associate Professor of East Asian Art and Archaeology, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University

Predicting future events were popular in ancient China, but its information was scarce in textual records. Archaeological finds in recent years yielded quite a few examples that inform us of how ancient Chinese tried to predict their future and what their concerns were. This lecture will introduce two cases in Han China. One demonstrates how astrology forecast national affairs, while the other reveals how chess-playing was used for predicting individual events.


Wed., Oct. 18: The Silk Road During the Han Dynasty

Valerie Hansen, Professor of History, Yale University


Traditional Chinese historians have typically dated the earliest Chinese participation in the Silk Road trade to Zhang Qian’s trip to Central Asia in the 130s and 120s BCE. How does this claim stand up in light of archaeological evidence?


Tickets: $15; Full Series: $60.  Click here to purchase.