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The dna of modern china

Fall 2011 Program


The China that is becoming a modern superpower is still shaped by its past. How do we understand this nation which is close to matching, or surpassing the USA as a world power? Only by appreciating China’s ancient and recent past, can we comprehend how she is transforming our everyday lives. Join us for six lectures that will examine influences, past and present, affecting China’s growth today and in the future.


The DNA of Modern China


The DNA of Modern China

Six Thursday evening lectures, five seminars and a Royal Ontario Museum tour

October 27 - December 2, 2011


Each lecture includes a presentation by the speaker, refreshments, and an opportunity to ask questions. Held from 7:15 pm to approximately 9:15 pm at the Columbus Community Centre, 232 Spencer Street East, Cobourg (north of King Street E., just west of D’Arcy Street).


Each seminar includes a presentation by the speaker on a topic related to the lecture, refreshments, and an opportunity to enjoy a discussion with fellow participants. Held from 9:30 am to 11:30 am in the Program Room of the Public Library in Port Hope, 31 Queen Street, Port Hope.


Tickets to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) for the guided tour of the Chinese art and artifacts collection on Friday, December 2 at 11:00am, cost $20 each. Participation is limited to 30 people. The ticket price does not include transportation or a luncheon following the tour.



Thursday, October 27, 2011: The creation of China’s early empires


Robin YatesThe Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) is considered China’s Golden Age. Until recently, however, it has never been clear how much Han rulers adopted the practices of their predecessor, China’s First Emperor. Now, extraordinary discoveries in the Emperor’s mausoleum and ancient documents are providing new insights into early imperial structure and society. The new evidence is essential for understanding China today.



Friday, October 28


Seminar: New insights into daily life in early China


Robin D.S. Yates is James McGill Professor of East Asian Studies and History and Classical Studies, chair of the Department of East Asian Studies, and director of the Centre for East Asian Research, McGill University.



Thursday, November 3, 2011: Thinking through Chinese culture


Jeremy PaltielConfucianism was enthroned as state orthodoxy during the Han period, although for much of the first millennium CE it shared the stage with Buddhist doctrines from India. It was eventually challenged by Western imperialism at the end of the 19th century and by Mao Zedong Communism in the 20th century. Today, China lives in tension between a cosmopolitan modernity and a renewed respect for Confucianism and other aspects of Chinese tradition.



Friday, November 4


Seminar: Gaining the “All under Heaven”: The moral imperative of political order


Jeremy Paltiel is professor of political science, Carleton University, and was visiting professor in the department of international relations at Tsinghua University, Beijing, in 2009.



Thursday, November 10, 2011: China as the world and China in the world


Richard GuissoThe three dynasties of imperial China’s middle period (618-1368) displayed three different but distinctly Chinese postures toward the rest of the world. The confident and cosmopolitan Tang dynasty was the most advanced civilization of its time. The wealthy and refined Song dynasty turned inward and introspective. Yuan thinkers saw themselves as the seat of Khubilai Khan’s global empire. How, ultimately, did all three of these attitudes embed themselves in China’s historical memory to manifest themselves in the modern era?



Friday, November 11


Seminar: The position of woman in traditional China


Richard Guisso retired in 2010 from 30 years of teaching in the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto, including two terms as chair. He has written the defining biography of China’s only woman emperor.



Friday, November 18, 2011: Chinese society and state: on a collision course?


Victor FalkenheimFor the past decade or more, China’s leaders have assigned top priority to maintaining public order and creating a “harmonious society.” Yet, while the leaders celebrate decades of rapid growth, new inequalities threaten political stability. China faces many issues: rising tensions between farmers and local governments, laid-off workers calling for assistance, legions of migrant farmers asking for equal treatment, and even grievances from the new middle class. A newly pluralistic society is a problem for a party-state regime seeking to remain in power.



Saturday, November 19


Seminar: China—the search for a harmonious society


Victor C. Falkenheim is professor emeritus of political science and East Asian studies, University of Toronto His research interests and publications centre on local politics and political reform in China.



Thursday, November 24, 2011: China's long global context


Timothy BrookChina's current global presence is part of a long history in which China was dominant in the world. In the seventeenth century, Chinese demand for silver and the superiority of its manufacturing and transport sectors drew China, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Americas into an extensive trading network that laid the foundations for the modern global economy. The lecture will range from the porcelain kilns of Jingdezhen, to the silver mines of Peru, and the upstairs studio in Delft where Johannes Vermeer painted his exquisite masterpieces.



Friday, November 25


Seminar: How a China historian looks at Vermeer


Timothy Brook teaches Chinese history at the University of British Columbia and holds the Republic of China Chair at UBC’s Institute of Asian Research. His eight books include Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global Age (2008).



Note, Date Change: Wednesday, November 30, 2011: China's ongoing economic transformation


Loren BrandtThree decades ago, China ranked among the world's poorest countries, with more than half of its people living in severe poverty. Today the Chinese economy is one of the world's most dynamic and soon to be the largest. This talk will explore how China got there; the economic and political reforms underlying its success; and some of the serious challenges – demographic, economic, environmental and political – that China now faces as it tries to sustain growth.


Loren Brandt is professor of economics, specializing in the Chinese economy, at the University of Toronto, and is a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany. He was co-editor and contributor to China’s Great Economic Transformation (2008), and an area editor for the five-volume Encyclopedia of Economic History (2003).



Friday, December 2, 11:00 am


Optional event: Join us for a guided tour of the Royal Ontario Museum’s collection of Chinese art and artifacts.