- Read Marco Polo's account of conditions in China in the late thirteenth century. From other
sources, try to determine the accuracy and reliability of his account.
- Henry Wallace, United States Secretary of State under President Franklin Roosevelt, is said to
have derived some of his ideas from the Chinese reformer Wang Anshi. Compare Wang's
proposals with the "New Deal" agricultural program of the 1930s.
- Investigate the "Neo-Confucianism" of Zhu Xi and compare it with the scholastic philosophy
which was developing in western Europe at approximately the same time.
- Sankara, Zhu Xi, and Thomas Aquinas (among others) have all been described as synthesizers.
Explore the motivations behind their endeavors, and the results that stemmed from them. How do
you account for the urge on the part of some thinkers to create a coherent synthesis out of
numerous existing strands of thought?
- Investigate further any of the following: a) the origin and characteristics of the Rajputs in
India; b) the career of Timur; c) Zen Buddhism; d) the No drama; e) the Chinese theatre; f)
Chinese landscape painting; g) the Hindu empire of Vijayanagar; h) Chinese navigation under the
Ming; i) the development of printing in China; j) the code of the samurai.
- Describe the "profound transformation" in Chinese society during the Song period.
- Investigate conflicting views of the effects of the Mongol conquest of China. (For an example
of a negative judgment, see C. P. Fitzgerald, China: A Short Cultural History.)
- Read Arthur Waldron's The Great Wall of China. Pay particular attention to the stages in the
building of the wall, the wall's purpose, and the extent to which it accomplished its purpose.
- Analyze the similarities and differences between developments in China and Japan from the
tenth to the seventeenth century.
- For all of its great technological innovations, China did not experience a "scientific
revolution" as occurred in the West. Explore the reasons for this.
- It is known that China possessed great skill in navigation, and had ships capable of long
voyages. Study the question of why China did not engage in extensive exploration and
colonization comparable to that undertaken by countries of the West.
- Read Journey to the West and analyze its allegorical nature. Compare this with works of
allegory in Western literature, such as Dante's The Divine Comedy or John Bunyan's Pilgrim's
- Some scholars have suggested that austerity is a trait that No drama, Zen Buddhism, and
warrior rule all have in common. Come to your own conclusion as to whether or not this is true.
What dominant characteristics can you identify in Japanese culture through the fifteenth century?
- Why did feudalism develop in some places, but not in others? For background information,
consult Peter Duus, Feudalism in Japan, and Rushton Coulborn, ed., Feudalism in History.