Foundations of Eastern Civilization

Course No. 3630
Professor Craig G. Benjamin, Ph.D.
Grand Valley State University
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Course No. 3630
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Explore the geography and climate of China to understand how and why societies developed as they did.
  • numbers Examine the great Chinese philosophies that began during the Zhou Dynasty, like Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism.
  • numbers Delve into the impact of the Silk Road: the pathway that connected China with the West during the Han Dynasty.
  • numbers Trace the spread of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam throughout Southeast Asia.
  • numbers Discover little-known details about Japan's Kamakura, Muromachi, and Tokugawa shogunate periods.

Course Overview

So much of our historical knowledge is rooted in Western civilization, from the stories of ancient Greece and Rome to the intellectual developments of the Renaissance. But this history tells only part of the story of our global world. Eastern civilization has its own fascinating story, with consequences that matter deeply to our lives today.

How did Eastern civilization—particularly that of China, Korea, Japan, and the nations of Southeast Asia—develop? What do we know about the history, politics, governments, art, science, and technology of these countries? And how does the story of Eastern civilization play out in today’s world of business, politics, and international exchange?

Foundations of Eastern Civilization takes you on a grand journey to explore the big accomplishments of Eastern civilization, from the material economy of day-to-day life to the political and religious philosophies that would bind these cultures together for thousands of years. Over the course of 48 ambitious lectures, Professor Craig G. Benjamin of Grand Valley State University introduces you to the many people, achievements, and ideas that came out of Eastern civilization and played a role in creating the modern world.

In this course, you will travel across continents and over the ages to arrive at a full understanding of the Eastern world.

  • See how climate and geography allowed powerful civilizations to emerge in certain regions.
  • Discover the origins of the yin and yang cosmology, the Mandate of Heaven political philosophy, and Confucianism and Daoism.
  • Trace the spread of ideas between East and West, especially along the Silk Roads.
  • Explore the rise and fall of empires—some famous and others largely unknown.
  • Survey the role of Eastern civilization in the 20th and 21st centuries, and see what the future may hold for the “Asian tiger” economies.

“To truly understand the modern world, it is essential to know something about the many extraordinary contributions Eastern civilization has made,” Professor Benjamin says. “Simply put, it is not enough to know just the ‘Western’ half of the story any more—both Eastern and Western are critical to understanding our present and our future.”

Foundations of Eastern Civilization offers you just that—the chance to fill in the other half of the story. You may be surprised to realize that all of us have been students of Eastern civilization, even if we have not been aware of it. Filled with captivating stories and surprising details, this course is an excellent overview of one of the most dynamic regions in the world.

Immerse Yourself in a Rich Cultural History

This course covers an impressive amount of ground, from the emergence of early cultures 10,000 years ago to the booming economies of the 21st century. China is at the hub of Eastern civilization, and when you complete this course, you’ll come away with a comprehensive understanding of its intriguing history:

  • Uncover the Xia dynasty, which was long thought to be legendary but for which there is now some archaeological evidence.
  • Study the mysterious “oracle bones” and the development of Chinese writing in the Shang dynasty.
  • Examine the development of different administrative structures, educational programs, and civil service exams.
  • Delve into the remarkable agricultural and industrial revolutions that occurred during the Song dynasty.
  • Learn about China’s 19th-century difficulties, including opium wars, humiliating trade agreements with the British, peasant uprisings, and, eventually, the revolution that ended the dynastic system.

Along the way, you’ll meet some of the most extraordinary people in Chinese history: emperors and empresses, soldiers and envoys, administrative eunuchs, philosophers, and more. You’ll also consider the myriad inventions and innovations that drove the Chinese economy—including gunpowder, paper, the porcelain industry, and paper money.

While China is home to some of the great moments in world history, it is far from the only significant nation in the East. Professor Benjamin takes you on several extended forays to examine a wealth of other cultures:

  • Discover the many dynasties of Korea, the “land of the morning calm.”
  • Explore the extraordinary history of Japan, including a deep examination into the era of medieval shoguns and samurai warriors.
  • Find out about the Mongols, who had the largest continuous empire in world history.
  • Venture into India to witness the rise of Buddhism and other Indus civilization religions.
  • Witness the amazing spread of Islam throughout Southeast Asia, as well as the impact of Christian missionaries.
  • Unpack many of the 20th century’s most significant wars, including the Japanese aggression that culminated in World War II and the cold war conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

Discover the Ancient Roots of Eastern Society

What unifies the foundations of Eastern civilization? With all the many cultures and nations and peoples—some of whom are little known outside highly specialized circles—what can we say about these societies as a whole?

By going back to the beginnings of Eastern civilization, Professor Benjamin shows you the groundwork for today’s global village. You’ll be surprised to find out just how far back some of the modern-day divides go. For instance, the conflicts between northern and southern Korea originated hundreds of years ago and have their roots in the peninsula’s geography.

Eastern civilization today is grounded in ancient history in a number of ways, one of the most interesting of which is the way Eastern nations think about human nature, government, and economics. Whereas the Western nations tend to take an individualist approach to society—with ideas originating in ancient Greece and Rome and expanded on during the Enlightenment—Eastern nations still tend to take a collectivist tack.

This collectivist approach has its roots in the Warring States Era at the end of the Zhou dynasty, when philosophers reflected on human nature and the best way to organize society.

  • Confucius and his followers created a model of ethical leadership based on education and moral behavior.
  • Daoists withdrew from society and looked to harmony in the cosmos and the natural world.
  • Legalists imposed gruesome punishments to enforce the rule of law.

Each of these philosophies had different notions of human nature and laid out a different path to forming an orderly state. These philosophies provide an important foundation for Eastern thought, and their approaches to government are completely different from our conceptions in the West. Yet in today’s interconnected world, it’s more important than ever to understand the cultural foundations of countries with which we interact, do business, and negotiate global politics.

Witness a Dynamic Cultural Exchange

During the Han dynasty, the Silk Roads connected East and West and enabled a surprising amount of cross-cultural interaction and exchange. The West received goods and information from the East—including silk and spices—but the East also learned about the West, that other civilizations existed beyond the mountains, deserts, and nomadic tribes of Central Asia. Professor Benjamin takes you on a voyage along the Silk Roads and introduces you to many of the unsung heroes of history:

  • The Xiongnu
  • The Yuezhi
  • The Kushans
  • The Parthians
  • The Mongols

You’ll also meet the Chinese ambassador Zhang Qian, whose breathtaking escapades blazed a trail for the Silk Roads. You’ll travel the caravan routes, consider what it would have been like to stop at one of the many “caravanserai”—the inns where merchants would stop along the trade routes—and study the Kushan Empire, a little-known and little-studied “lost civilization” of important middlemen in what is now Afghanistan.

In addition to the Silk Roads, you’ll explore the vibrant cross-cultural exchange within the East itself. China heavily influenced Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia, yet these nations also evolved as independent, distinct cultures. How did these countries develop? What was their relationship to China? How did China influence them, and how did they influence China?

Enjoy an Inside Look at a Fascinating Civilization

Foundations of Eastern Civilization is a sweeping course, taking you across time and space. But after providing the broad strokes, Professor Benjamin zooms in on specifics to give you a flavor for the texture of daily life. You’ll learn about massive building projects such as the Great Wall of China. You’ll encounter the great art and architecture, the poetry and literature, and the many other artifacts from the East:

  • Ancient burial tombs in China
  • Chulmun pottery from ancient Korea
  • Calligraphy, poetry, and novels from the great Tang dynasty
  • The oldest surviving printed document in world history
  • Famous Japanese novels

Throughout all of these lectures, Professor Benjamin is a lively guide and a dazzling storyteller, taking you inside the great cities where riches abound—jewels, silks, and great works of art. He shares several stories from his visits to these locations, and many of his personal photographs add a charming touch to the course. Indeed, his enthusiasm for the subject and his remarkable style of lecturing will open up an entirely new world for you as he unfolds the story of Eastern civilization.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    Journey to the East
    Embark on your exciting voyage through the geography, history, people, and culture of Eastern civilization with a reflection on three key words of the course. What do we mean by “Eastern”? By “civilization”? By “foundations”? This lecture readies you for the fascinating journey to come. x
  • 2
    Yin and Yang—The Geography of China
    Start with the geography and climate of China, the very cradle of Eastern civilization. After looking at the geographical regions of China, you’ll explore the country’s two great river systems—the Huang Ye (or Yellow River) and the Yangtze (or Chang Jiang)—which have divided Chinese culture into two distinct regions. x
  • 3
    Early China and the Mysterious Xia
    Go back to the beginnings of Chinese history and see what archaeological evidence tells us about humans in the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. Then look at the fragmented cultures of early civilizations—including the mysterious Xia dynasty, which, until recently, was thought to be a purely mythical culture. x
  • 4
    The Coming of the Shang
    While we still don’t know much about the Xia dynasty, we have indisputable evidence that the Shang dynasty was responsible for the development of Chinese writing, the creation of a complex social structure, and the construction of the first large cities in East Asia. In this lecture, you’ll visit the cities and tombs of the first significant Chinese dynasty. x
  • 5
    The Shang and Writing for the Gods
    In this second lecture on the Shang dynasty, learn about the enigmatic “oracle bones” and the origins of Chinese writing. Then turn to the Shang society’s social organization, religious practices, and cosmology, and find out how one of the core cultural and philosophical beliefs of Eastern civilization—the concept of yin and yang—emerged during the Shang dynasty. x
  • 6
    The Zhou and the Mandate of Heaven
    Unpack a core theme in the foundation of Chinese government. The Mandate of Heaven—a belief that seizure of power could be justified as an expression of divine will—would resonate in Chinese political history for 3,000 years. Learn about the Zhou’s overthrow of the Shang dynasty and the rich legacy of the Zhou dynasty. x
  • 7
    Great Ideas of the Zhou—Confucianism
    During the Warring States Era at the end of the Zhou dynasty, several great Chinese thinkers considered the nature of society and government. Since that era, Confucianism has been the guiding philosophy of China and much of East Asia for more than 2,500 years. Find out about Confucius’s life, his philosophy, and his followers. x
  • 8
    Great Ideas of the Zhou—Later Confucianism
    Return to the followers of Confucius and consider two contrasting views of human nature and political theory. While Mencius believed humans were innately good and were entrusted with the Mandate of Heaven, Xunzi believed human nature was essentially evil. Both philosophers, however, remained faithful to Confucius’s belief in the need for well-educated, ethical rulers. x
  • 9
    Great Ideas of the Zhou—Daoism
    Continue your study of great Chinese philosophy with a thorough examination of Daoism, which runs counter to Confucianism’s rationality and civic engagement. Daoism offers a path for humans to live in harmony with the natural world and the cosmos by retreating from the world of politics and society. x
  • 10
    Great Ideas of the Zhou—Legalism
    Conclude your survey of the Zhou dynasty’s great philosophical traditions with a look at the principles of Legalism—strict laws enforced by gruesome punishment in order to create an orderly state. Meet Legalism’s key thinkers and examine the philosophy’s legacy in defining Eastern societies through the present day. x
  • 11
    The Qin and the First Emperor of China
    After the Warring States Era, the Qin dynasty emerged. Although the Qin ruled China for only 15 years, the dynasty established a model of government that became the country’s template for the next 2,000 years. Meet China’s first emperors and study the impact of Qin rule, from political reform to massive building projects. x
  • 12
    Contact with the West—The Early Han
    To this day, the Chinese still refer to themselves as “the Han people.” What made the Han dynasty such an enduring part of Chinese history? How did it lay down important foundations for Eastern civilization? Witness the age of imperial expansion and see how Han dynasty emperors consolidated China under a strong central government—and how that government eventually unraveled. x
  • 13
    Triumph and Tragedy—The Later Han
    In this second lecture on the Han, you explore the dynasty’s deep and vibrant cultural legacy, from its system of education to its porcelain pottery and jade burial suits. You’ll also look at the Han’s extraordinary innovations in science and technology, including the iron industry and the invention of paper. x
  • 14
    Silk Roads—In the Footsteps of Nomads
    In this first of five lectures on the Silk Roads—the pathways that connected China with the West during the Han dynasty—Professor Benjamin introduces you the pastoral nomads who rivaled the Han dynasty and played a critical role in creating trade routes by migrating into Central Asia. x
  • 15
    Silk Roads—The Envoy Zhang Qian
    Meet the Chinese ambassador Zhang Qian, whose epic adventure changed the course of world history. His story begins with an expedition into the neighboring Xiongnu territory, where he was captured and held hostage for 10 years. After a daring escape, he fled west into Central Asia and returned to China with fabulous stories, which inspired the emperor to send him on several subsequent missions west. x
  • 16
    Silk Roads—Perils of Camels and Caravans
    Discover the many geographical challenges merchants faced as they made their way into Central Asia. Trace the route a caravan would take, west across mountains and deserts, and discover the various middlemen responsible for the transmission of goods and information between China and, eventually, Europe. x
  • 17
    Silk Roads—Rome and Roads from the West
    Step back from Eastern civilization and explore life from the Roman perspective. After an overview of Roman history, you’ll find out how Mediterranean traders organized their end of the exchange with the East and what impact silk and other luxury goods from Asia had on Greco-Roman culture. x
  • 18
    Silk Roads—The Lost Kushan Empire
    Examine one of the great “lost civilizations.” Although they are largely unknown outside of specialist circles, the Kushans played an immensely important role as middlemen in the trade routes between China and the Roman Empire. Find out who the Kushans were and what makes them so crucial to the story of the Silk Roads. x
  • 19
    Origins of Buddhism
    Take another excursion away from East Asia—this time to explore the Indian origins of Buddhism. Learn about the gods of the Indus civilization, the origins of the caste system, and the emergence of new religions in the 5th and 6th centuries B.C.E. After studying the life of Siddhartha Gautama, you’ll survey the key beliefs and practices of Buddhism. x
  • 20
    The Age of Disunity
    Return to China and the era of fragmentation and conflict that followed the fall of the Han dynasty. Three kingdoms emerged, followed by the Jin and Sui dynasties. In this age of disunity, Buddhism made remarkable inroads into China as an alternative to Confucianism and Daoism, offering hope of salvation during a chaotic period. x
  • 21
    The Great Taizong and the Rise of the Tang
    After 350 years of fragmentation, the short-lived Sui dy¬¬nasty unified China in the year 581, laying the foundation for the great Tang dynasty. See how the Tang dynasty reorganized China into a powerful, prosperous, and culturally sophisticated¬ society by reforming the government and capitalizing on the demand for Chinese products, thanks to the Silk Roads. x
  • 22
    Changan and the Glittering Tang
    Go inside the splendid court of Emperor Xuanzong in the great capital city of Changan. During Xuanzong’s 44-year reign in the 8th century, foreign merchants, students, and pilgrims bustled around the court. Stylish women were adorned with jewels from all over Eurasia. Art and poetry flourished, creating one of the most fashionable and cultured courts in the entire world. x
  • 23
    Korea—Mysterious Beginnings
    In the first of four lectures about Korea, Professor Benjamin surveys the nation’s rugged terrain, its mountains and caves and rivers. He then uses archaeological evidence to trace the emergence of civilization in the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras, when early clan-based villages produced distinctive pottery and had a fascinating variety of religious beliefs. x
  • 24
    Korea—The Land of Morning Calm
    Continue your study of Korea with a look at how ancient values and ideas, which were firmly rooted in the environment, became the foundations of the culture and history of the Korean people. Consider the early interaction between China and Korea, and witness the emergence of three powerful kingdoms that appeared late in the 1st century B.C.E. x
  • 25
    Korea—The Unified Silla
    Discover how the Silla kingdom united most of Korea by forging an alliance with the Tang dynasty in China. After examining how the Silla kingdom was organized, you’ll turn to the northern Parhae kingdom—the beginning of a long history of division between north and south on the Korean peninsula. x
  • 26
    Korea—The Koryo
    Following the end of the Silla kingdom, the Koryo dynasty would rule Korea for nearly 500 years and would be remembered as the most important and successful of all Korea’s dynasties. This lecture examines the Koryo dynasty’s government, culture, society, and bitter struggle with the Mongols. x
  • 27
    Japan—Geography and Early Cultures
    Shift your attention to the islands of Japan. In this first of four lectures, you’ll explore the nation’s geography—notably its mountains, fertile plains, and surrounding sea. Then you’ll discover the many rituals and achievements of several early cultures, including the Neolithic people who created what is perhaps the world’s first pottery. x
  • 28
    Japan—Treasures of the Tomb Period
    Investigate several important stages in the cultural development of Japan: the Bronze Age of the Yayoi culture, the matriarchal Yamatai kingdom and its splendid tombs, and the emergence of the first genuine state in Japan. You’ll also look at the ongoing relationships between Japan, Korea, and China, and the impact of Buddhism on Japanese culture. x
  • 29
    Japan—Nara and the Great Eastern Temple
    In 710, Japan’s capital was moved to what is now Nara, and this shift marks the beginning of a new era in Japanese history. Tour the splendid new capital city, with its great halls and temples. The period’s art, architecture, painting, and transcultural exchange created an extraordinary cosmopolitan environment. x
  • 30
    Japan—The World of the Heian
    In this final foray into Japan, you’ll study the Heian period, which is one of the most fascinating periods in Japanese history. The Heians created a new political and social system that would dominate the country for a millennium. Unpack the era’s political factions and the principles of land ownership, then turn to its artistic and literary achievements. x
  • 31
    Southeast Asia—Vietnam
    Travel back to the mainland and experience the history and culture of Vietnam, from its earliest interactions with ancient China through its colonization by the French in the 18th century. This engaging lecture shows you the tense relations between the Chinese and the Vietnamese, and it sets the stage for the cold war conflicts of the 20th century. x
  • 32
    Southeast Asia—Indian and Islamic Influences
    Trace the spread of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam through Southeast Asia and see how these belief systems affected the history of Eastern civilization. This region served as a commercial and cultural hub, where Arabian, Indian, and East Asian cultures came together in interesting ways. x
  • 33
    The Industrial Revolution of the Song
    Revisit China with an overview of the Song dynasty, whose rulers encouraged impressive advancements in civil administration, industry, education, and the arts. The Southern Song dynasty was responsible for a remarkable series of developments that transformed China into a global economic powerhouse, fueled by innovations such as the mass production of porcelain, the invention of gunpowder, and more. x
  • 34
    Intellectual and Cultural Life of the Song
    Experience everyday life in the Song dynasty, a prosperous, cosmopolitan, and very modern society. Consider the culture’s foreign influences, the emerging xenophobia, the subordinate role of women, and the dynasty’s impact on the global economy. Then see why Song innovations did not spread throughout the rest of the world. x
  • 35
    The Mongols Conquer the World
    Who were the Mongols, and how did they create the largest contiguous empire in all of world history? In this lecture, you’ll discover the origins of the Mongolian Empire and find out what made the Mongols so effective at expanding their realm. From murder and mayhem to careful planning and discipline, the Mongols have a remarkable story. x
  • 36
    Shaking the Foundation—Mongols in the East
    Look beyond the military success of the Mongols and reflect on the impact their empire had on Eastern civilization. From trade to global communication, the Mongols facilitated a global system that joined East and West Eurasia in a “world system.” In this lecture, you’ll also meet Marco Polo, Qubilai Khan, and more. x
  • 37
    The Rise of the Ming
    In the wake of Mongol destruction, China’s Ming dynasty emerged as a deeply conservative society dedicated to maintaining stability and tradition. These were peaceful—yet economically stagnant—years marked by problems such as piracy, an inept and disinterested government, famines, and rebellions. x
  • 38
    Great Treasure Fleets of the Ming
    Delve into the Ming dynasty’s great naval expeditions, led by the fascinating admiral Zheng He, a eunuch who crossed the Indian Ocean and brought rare and exotic treasures back to China. Then turn to Christianity and meet some of the Jesuit missionaries who visited China during the Ming dynasty—and consider some of the important ramifications of these missions. x
  • 39
    The Qing—Nomads Return from the North
    Follow the rise of the Qing dynasty, which followed a series of Manchu raids into China during the 17th century. Professor Benjamin explains why the Ming dynasty failed, and he then introduces you to two of the Qing dynasty’s most effective rulers. He concludes with a discussion of why the dynasty began to fail in the 19th century. x
  • 40
    The Qing—The Last Emperor of China
    After thousands of years, the dynastic system came to an end in China in 1912 with the abdication of Emperor Puyi at the age of six. Survey the many problems faced by the Qing dynasty in the 19th century—including the Opium Wars, peasant uprisings and rebellions, and the expanding European empires. x
  • 41
    Korea Choson—Rise of the Yangban
    Revisit Korea for a two-lecture “miniseries” on the Choson dynasty, which ruled Korea for more than 500 years. Choson elites adopted a Neo-Confucian political doctrine, expanded Korean territory, and created a tiered social structure that ranged from slaves to land-owning nobility. Explore the many achievements of this dynasty. x
  • 42
    Korea Choson—The Last Dynasty
    By the 19th century, the Choson people had become suspicious of outsiders. See how they navigated Japanese aggression in the 19th century, as well as the competition between Japan, China, and Russia. This lecture concludes with a look at the Japanese occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century and sets the stage for the next two lectures. x
  • 43
    Medieval Japan—Samurai and Shoguns
    Enter what historians sometimes call Japan’s “medieval period,” in which military governors known as “shoguns” commanded the state. Look at the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Tokugawa Shogunate periods, as well as the famous samurai warriors who played a distinctive role in Japanese life. Then turn to the era’s entertainment culture. x
  • 44
    Tokugawa and Meiji Japan
    Following a political crisis in the 19th century, Emperor Meiji enacted a complete political, economic, and social reorganization of Japan, which transformed the country into a modern global and military industrial power. Watch as the nation became an imperial power and see what led to the Japanese role in World War II. x
  • 45
    The People’s Republic of China
    The last section of the course turns to a look at the 20th century and Eastern civilization today. Begin with a look at the political rebellions in China that led to the establishment of today’s republic. You’ll meet Mao Zedong, Sun Yatsen, and Chiang Kai-shek, and you’ll witness the conflicts between Nationalist and Communist parties. x
  • 46
    Isolation and Cold War Conflicts
    Continue your study of the transformation of Eastern civilization in the 20th century with an examination of the cold war and the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. You’ll investigate the wars in Korea and Vietnam and learn about the global causes and local impact of each conflict. x
  • 47
    The Rise of the East Asian Tigers
    In the later 20th century, Mao’s successors led China through what has been dubbed the “four modernizations”—significant progress in agriculture, industry, science and technology, and defense. See how China has adapted to the global world, the role of Hong Kong, and the emergence of other “Asian tigers” in the global economy. x
  • 48
    The Enduring Ideas of Eastern Civilization
    End your journey through the story of Eastern civilization by reflecting on the role of East Asia in the world today. What insights do the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989 shed on the people of China? Will China eventually democratize? What will become of China’s One Child Policy? How will the story of Eastern civilization continue to unfold? x

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Your professor

Craig G. Benjamin

About Your Professor

Craig G. Benjamin, Ph.D.
Grand Valley State University
Dr. Craig G. Benjamin is Associate Professor of History in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), where he teaches East Asian civilization, big history, ancient Central Asian history, and historiography. He earned his undergraduate education at The Australian National University in Canberra and Macquarie University in Sydney, and his Ph.D. in Ancient History from Macquarie University....
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Foundations of Eastern Civilization is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 87.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just finished the course. Perfect for me. I had no real knowledge of Eastern Civilization and this was excellent. I enjoyed the lecturers presentations and the course set up. Easy to follow and comprehensive.
Date published: 2020-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great History of the East This course describes the history and culture of China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam that draws you deep into the story.
Date published: 2020-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous Course! Craig Benjamin went thru the history of China from prehistoric times right thru to the present. He also covered the histories of Korea, Japan, Viet Nam and other parts of SE Asia. 48 lectures might seem like a long course, but he covered so much history for so many regions that it just flew by. Prof. Benjamin's delivery was excellent. His enthusiasm for the material is obvious, and his delivery was clear and always interesting. His expertise is unquestionable, but he did not show any arrogance. His intention was always to convey information, concepts and a sense of the complex balance that defines Eastern Civilization. In his last lecture, he called us "friends", and that is how we (his students) feel as well. One of the very best courses in the Great Courses collection of mostly excellent / fabulous collection (I have done over 20 courses now). I highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2020-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and interesting I found this series to be very informative and enlightening.
Date published: 2020-04-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Some lectures better than others This is a hard one to review, because some lectures I would give five stars and others I would give three stars. The best parts of this course are on China, and all those lectures are five stars. It's definitely the central focus of the course, and Professor Benjamin shows how ideas flowed from China to other regions. The lectures on China went at a pace that it was easy to follow developments and covers many interesting leaders, nations, and developments. The lectures on other areas, such as Korea and Japan, I would have to give three stars, because way too much information was being packed into such a short lecture. It was all a blur of places, people, and events with borders being redrawn every four minutes. Information overload. I suppose I would have liked to go at about the same speed we did for China, even if it made the course longer. My memory on what happened in these areas is about zero, whereas I've retained a good memory of the China lectures. There are also a few lectures I would give about two star. There might be about four lectures where we are talking about the peoples in areas before writing. Basically each lecture talks about how we don't know much about these people but that they ate fish and made pottery and left behind bones and we think they are related to some other people nearby. While probably necessary to a complete history, it wasn't terribly interesting, and it felt like we were getting very similar information by about the fourth of these lectures. Is it worth buying this course just for the China lectures? It probably is, as they're very well done. I also highly recommend the Fall and Rise of China course that focuses on the last 100 years of China by Richard Baum for anyone further interested in Chinese history.
Date published: 2020-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I am giving it 4/5 stars On balance, I am glad I bought this course, and would recommend the DVD to anyone with a genuine interest in the history of east Asia. On the positive side: this course was very comprehensive, logically organized, the profession has a good presentation style, and there were many good maps, pictures, and graphics provided to support the lectures. It was the first course I have seen that takes the broader history of east Asia into account, and for that alone the course deserves to be commended. On the other hand, at times I did feel like I was listening to a recitation of facts and factoids given in a precise chronological order. I appreciated the lectures on Korea and Japan, but the information provided on southeast Asia was so brief and perfunctory, that I felt like I really did not benefit from them. While I would recommend this course to those genuinely interested in the topic, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Kenneth Hammond’s course on Chinese History from the Teaching Company is another great resource. To me, I felt Hammond’s course presented Chinese history at a somewhat higher intellectual and nuanced level, with seemingly more emphasis placed on social context, intellectual history, cultural context, and economic history. With that said, the bottom line, I am glad I bought Professor Benjamin’s course and watched it.
Date published: 2019-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course, so informative I really enjoyed the instructor and how he put the information together so I could imagine the different eras—and areas— of Asian civilizations. Also, I can now name the Chinese dynasties by singing along to Frere Jacques.
Date published: 2019-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wide expanse of history,may be too much Prof Benjamin brings passion knowledge, and the "Big History" perspective. The course is well organized...maybe too much on China, which should be a course by itself. His wrap-up on modern times is first clsss synopsis. I wish he had planned more lectures on todays consequence of the historical precidents. More AV would keep themodern viewer attention ( instead of line drawings of old Chinese guys). After all, as all teachers today know, he is competing with the History Channel!
Date published: 2019-10-31
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