Week 2: The Great Wall of China

August 31 – Sept. 6

Check you have done all the assignments for the end of Week 1! Then get started on this week.

Remember: Use the login name and password found on the Canvas SECRETS page for the PDFs hosted in the PDF vault (url starting with “docs.tdh.bergbuilds”)

Optional Zoom check in

Wednesday Sept. 2: 11.30am-12.15pm: If you want to discuss course materials, ask questions etc. if you prefer to do this via video chat. Remember these video conferences are student-driven: you bring the questions and discussion topics, I help you through them.

Use the Pink Link from the SECRETS page on Canvas.

You can also start a discussion in the Cloud Lounge group, or ask questions on the anonymous Typepad

About this week’s course materials

Few “things” in Chinese history are as iconic as the Great Wall. But with the fame of the Wall a lot of myths and legends have also accrued around it. You may have heard that you can see the Great Wall from space (false!), that it was built by the First Emperor of China (not really true), and it was built to keep enemies out (it’s complicated, and the short answer is: not true) In this module, you can explore various aspects of the Great Wall, and the assignments will help you how to separate fact from fiction.

For books and articles available in digital format in Trexler library, I request that you download the book or chapter directly yourself, so the library has more accurate statistics of which books are read, for building its collection. If you encounter problems with downloading, you can ask librarians to help you out, but look first through this quick guide on how to download a copy on your device (Adopt the Growth Mindset from the cats and experiment! Push buttons!)

Table of Contents for Week 2:

About the assignments

Initial post

3 points, due by Tuesday, 11:59PM ET, but start reading earlier so you have time to digest.

You will select from the reading list one option from list A and one from list B, and write an initial post of appr. 200 words. You can use the guiding questions to get started, but you can also begin from your own observations of what is strange, remarkable, or interesting. This post is your “opening salvo” in a discussion of these course materials. This is also the place where you can ask questions about things you don’t understand: perhaps there are contradictions in or between the texts you read, or you can’t make head or tail of something? That’s ok: share it now, and in the discussion/comments, we may be able to help you find clarity. Admitting that you don’t know or understand something is the first step in learning.

  • Include the bibliographic references for the materials you choose, so we know which ones you picked.
    • Top tip: copy-paste from the list, they are (hopefully) correctly formatted in bibliography format for Chicago Notes and Bibliography style.
  • Add an image that illustrates the topic of your post, with a caption and credit for the image (e.g. a hyperlink to the source).
    (Memes, if relevant, are welcome!)
  • Include the word Wall in the title of the post
  • Add it to the category hst137 on your blog.

When you’re done, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

– I wrote a post of about 200 words in response to the readings about the Great Wall.
– I included the bibliographic references for the materials I used for my post.
– I included an image, and provided a caption and credit (source) for the image.
– I use the word Wall in the title, added the post to category hst137

Discussion and comments in Hypothes.is

2 points, due Thursday by 11.59pm ET.

You’re likely reading different texts from each other, so it is important that you read each other’s initial posts, to enhance your understanding of the materials.

Below you find links to four blog posts from your fellow students. If one of the websites is your own, or it is twice the same person’s, refresh the page, and you should get new sites.

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2: 
  • Post 3:
  • Post 4:  

Leave feedback, questions, thoughts, insights about the contents of the posts of your fellow students using Hypothes.is group HST137. (activate Hypothes.is, and choose the group from the drop-down menu where “public” appears). You can ask for clarifications, point out similarities and differences with the material you covered, or with your interpretation. This should encourage you to nose around in the other materials you did not read in the first round.

Use the “Architect’s Model” of giving feedback, and engage with concrete issues. Go beyond “Yeah, I agree,” “I like” or “I think the same”, and instead explain why you have that reaction, or if you disagree, you can try to persuade the original poster of your idea or interpretation.

Remember that Hypothes.is allows for hyperlinks, e.g. to materials that support your argument, or you can include pictures (memes! [yes, there she is again]), videos etc. that help the original poster to learn more.

When you’ve commented on four posts, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

– I commented on four fellow students’ initial posts on the Great Wall readings, in Hypothes.is group HST137
– I made sure to leave substantial comments that move the discussion forward and help to create better insights, and go beyond a “nice” or “great”.
– I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

End of week reflection

3 points, due by Sunday, 11:59pm ET.

If you really engaged with the topic of the Great Wall (or “Long Wall”, more accurately) this week, your insights have changed: you know more facts, you understand where some of the fiction comes from.

You have two options to demonstrate that. For both options you will also include three bullet points “Things I learned this week” — what do you know now about the Great Wall of China that you did not know at the start of this week? You will do that “Things I learned this week” exercise every week. At the end of the semester, you’ll easily see how many new things you learned.

Option 1

  • Write a blog post of appr. 200 words (more is fine if you have Ideas), include the bibliographic details of the texts you refer to or engage with.
    • How have your ideas changed?
    • How do you now think about the Wall?
    • What new research questions can you ask, that you never thought about before?
  • Add your three bullet points with “Things I learned this week”.
  • Use the word Reflection in the title, and use the tag week2, and add to category hst137.

Option 2

  • Imagine you work for a travel agency, and for the upcoming tour to China (in the happy Post-Covid-days that await us!) you have been given the task of designing an advert for a daytrip to the Great Wall for foreign (i.e. non-Chinese) tourists.
    • You can create a brochure, a poster, a video clip (tik tok?), etc. Drawings, photoshop, etc. all encouraged. Let your creative juices run wild!
    • BUT Make sure the information is factually correct. How do you deal with the myths and fake facts?
  • Submit as a blog post with a link to the project you created.
  • Include the bibliographic details of the texts you used to make sure the information is correct.
  • Add your three bullet points with “Things I learned this week”.
  • Use the word Reflection in the title, and use the tag week2, and add to category hst137.

When you’re done, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

– I wrote a blog post of appr. 200 words, or posted a link to a creative assignment to demonstrate my changed/enhanced understanding of the history of the Wall.
– I included a list with the bibliographic references of the texts I used to create my post/assignment.
– I added three bullet points under the heading “Three things I learned this week”.
– I use the word Reflection in the title, used the tag week2, and added the post to category hst137 .

Note: next week, you’ll give feedback on others’ posts; that will be listed on the assignments for week 3.


Pick ONE text from LIST A and ONE text from LIST B. I have included guiding questions to help you find focus in the readings and to write your intitial response.

  • LIST A (Pick ONE)
    • Waldron, Arthur. The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth. Cambridge Studies in Chinese History, Literature, and Institutions. Cambridge England: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
      • Read Chapter 2 only: “Early Chinese Walls” in Part 1 (ebook in Trexler Library)
      • Questions: Is there a Great Wall, and if yes, is it 2500 years old? What is the evidence for and against? What does the author think, and what evidence does he use?
      • What is the “pitch” (i.e.: Waldron is trying to persuade you, what is that idea?), what is the “complaint” (what does he think is wrong in our understanding of the Wall?), and how does he build his case?
    • di Cosmo, Nicola. Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
      • read pp. 138-158 (excerpt from chapter 4: sections “Wall Building” and “Conclusion”)(ebook in Trexler Library)
      • What was the function of military walls, according to di Cosmo? What is Di Cosmo’s “pitch” (di Cosmo is trying to persuade you, what is that idea?), what is the “complaint” (what does he think is wrong in our understanding of the Wall?), and how does he build his case?


  • LIST B (Pick one)
    1. Lindesay, William. The Great Wall in 50 Objects. Paperback ed. Melbourne, Vic.: Viking, an Imprint of Penguin Books, 2015. (PDF)
      • Question: The object dates from a slightly later period than discussed in Di Cosmo. What appears to have changed?
      • OPTIONAL RELATED TEXT: Loewe, Michael. Records of Han Administration. University of Cambridge Oriental Publications, No. 11-12. London: Cambridge U.P, 1967. [This is a scholarly text, read only if you can’t get enough of the wooden documents.]
    2. Idema, W. L. Meng Jiangnü Brings Down the Great Wall: Ten Versions of a Chinese Legend. A China Program Book. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008. (e-book Trexler)
      • This book translates a number of different versions of the most popular legend connected to the Great Wall: the story of Lady Mengjiang.
      • Pick one story (from part 1 or part 2) and include a brief, three sentence summary for your colleagues in your initial response post, and include the title of the story for easy retrieval.
      • Question: How has the story of Lady Mengjiang influenced the way Chinese people see the Great Wall? How does this view square with that of historians and archaeologists? (i.e. what you see in List A)
    3. Bruce G. Doar. “The Rehabilitation –and Appropriation– of Great Wall Mythology”. China Heritage Quarterly, 7 (Sept. 2006). http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/articles.php?searchterm=007_meng.inc&issue=007
      • How and why has the interpretation of the story of Meng Jiangnü changed over the years? What do you learn from studying legends in their historical context?
      • You can annotate the website with Hypothes.is. Use the group HST137, of course.
  • OPTIONAL EXTRA: Primary source:
    • Sima Qian. Records of the Great Historian (Shiji), quoted in Idema, Mengjiangnü Brings Down the Great Wall, p. 8: this is the text closed in time to the construction of the Wall under the Qin emperor (Google Doc)

Extra credit tasks

Missed a task earlier this week? Want to try out some new things? Just like playing games and scoring as many points as possible? Here are some extra credit tasks.
In later weeks, these will give you more opportunities to explore more functionality of our online tools, and get a small reward for it. You can only get credit for them before the end of the week!

EC 1: Add an “avatar” or picture to your Cloud Lounge profile

1 point, due by Sunday, Sept. 6, 11.59pm ET

If you look like a little grey head on the Cloud Lounge, please consider adding a splash of color: a picture of you, or of something that represents you, for instance your pet, or a location you like.

  1. Go to your profile: in the “Hamburger” menu or next to “Account” (top right), and click on “Profile” from the drop-down menu.
  2. Click on “Edit avatar”
  3. Click on “Choose file”, this will open a window where you navigate the files on your computer.
    • Top tip: if you have a favorite picture, place it in a top-level folder in your “Documents” folder on the “Desktop”, so you can find it easily.
    • Note: the max. file size is 150MB, you may have to reduce the file size. An internet search gives you many different options to do that.
  4. Select the right area, so we’re not looking up your nostrils (unless that’s the intention but… maybe not the most thoughtful?)
  5. Click save, and poke around on the site if it looks like you imagine: remember the corners are rounded off!

When you’re done, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your point.

– I uploaded a picture to my Cloud Lounge profile so I no longer look like a grey head.
– I checked it shows up on the site as I intended.

EC 2: Change the theme on your WordPress site

2 points, due by Sunday, Sept. 6, 11:59pm ET

The standard theme for WordPress blogs at this moment is the so-called “Swedish Museum of Modern Art” or “Twenty-Twenty”.
Maybe you like it well enough.
But did you know there are thousands of free themes out there to make your blog look nice?
For instance, my course website runs on “Catch Starter”, the Daily Course Announcements site uses the theme “Noto Simple”.
Here’s how to have some fun with your site:

  1. Spend ± 30 mins. exploring different themes, and pick a new one that fits your personal taste better, and customize it. You can find more information in the videos linked on this help page (scroll down).
  2. Write a brief blog post explaining why you picked your new theme, and why you like it better, or how you customized it. If you stuck with the original Twenty-Twenty theme, remove extraneous links and information (so it looks nice), and then explain in the post why it’s still the best theme for you.
  3. In the title of the post, include the words WordPress Theme, add the tag extracredit (one word) and add the post to category hst137.

When you’re done, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

– I explored different themes for WordPress and customized one for my site.
– I wrote a blog post explaining my choice of theme, and how I customized it.
– I included the words WordPress Theme in the title, added the tag extracredit (one word) to the post, and added the post to category hst137

Where to ask questions:

Remember that it is highly likely that you are not the only one with that question. Save me time, and help your fellow students by asking questions where others can see them. If you know the answer to a question, jump in! I can’t be everywhere all the time.

Missing link? Wrong information? Email me!

On to week 3 (coming soon!)