Week 7: Money

Oct. 5 - Oct. 11

Assignments: please make sure you have completed last week's assignments

Heads up! Starting next week (week 8), we will begin on the tasks for "baking the bread". The first one will be "pitching your idea": what is a topic from the list or something from Chinese history in general that is connected to this course ("material culture": stuff, people and the relation between them, in Chinese history) that you'd like to do a small research project on? Get your thinking caps on! I have set up a separate page for the first step of brainstorming and pitching your idea, and you can find more info and a timeline on the final project in general on this dedicated webpage.

This week, we're looking at something you're all familiar with: money! But you may not be familiar with the many different forms it has taken over the years in China.

Table of Contents


Money can be a physical object (coins, bank notes), and a unit of exchange expressing value. The relationship between the physicality of money and the value to exchange it for other objects is subject to many different influences. The Chinese were the first to experiment with paper money – a type of money we now take for granted.

If you're an ABEF students, or taking courses in the ABEF department, we may need your expertise in helping us understand some of the technical aspects. Bring your knowledge to the posts and comments, please!

Everybody looks at the slides and reads the chapter from the Basic Set, and then you pick Option 1 or Option 2 for your Initial post this week.

  • Reading tip: Use the guiding questions on the initial round. If the texts are a bit hard going, this is "academic writing" for history. Try to do a “three sentence summary” to get to the gist of the argument: what is the author trying to persuade you about? What’s their “pitch” or “complaint”?


Basic Set

  • Slides (Gdrive link)
  • Horesh, Niv. Chinese Money in Global Context : Historic Junctures between 600 BCE and 2012. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2014. (Ebook Trexler Library)
    • Only read Chapter 2 "From Coinage to Paper Money" until p. 69.
    • Chapter 2 of this book provides an overview of the main types of currency/money used in premodern China until the Tang dynasty.
    • Guiding questions: What different kinds of money were in use? How was value of money determined? What were the problems each type of money faced

Option 1: Money on the Eurasian trade routes (or "Silk Roads")

  • Wang, Helen. Money on the Silk Road: The Evidence from Eastern Central Asia to c. AD 800. London: British Museum Press, 2004.(PDF)
    • What connections do you see with what you learned about the Eurasian trade networks in week 5, and textiles in week 6?

Option 2: Money, and the gods of wealth

  • Von Glahn, Richard. The Sinister Way: The Divine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. (ebook Trexler)
    • Read Chapter 7: "The Enchantment of Wealth" (pp. 222-256)
    • Additional background: In the Ming period (1368-1644), a long period of stability led to increased wealth and the development of a money economy, but also social worries surrounding money. One of the ways people tried to make sense of all of this was by worshiping gods of wealth. Who or what were the entities that became responsible for wealth, in popular religion? What seems strange, interesting or remarkable about this phenomenon? What popular beliefs or superstitions are you aware about from your culture about money and wealth? How do they compare to the Chinese popular views of wealth?
      • Tip: the number 5 is imbued with great significance in Chinese tradition: it contains the four cardinal directions and the center, and a lot of things are associated with them (colors, seasons, tastes, animals,...). You can learn a bit more about it in this post from Kaitlyn in the Modern China course, on the pulse method for diagnosing illness in Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Feedback on the reflections about textiles

2 points, due by Tuesday Oct 6, 11.59PM.

You know the drill 🙂 Read more and become a better reader and writer, as you learn from others' insights and feedback. Here are two students' Reflection posts on textiles, please comment on both:

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Comment using Hypothes.is group HST137
  • Content: draw the writer's attention to something they missed, or point out how they highlight something you weren't aware of
  • Style: do you have tips how the writer can make their reflection pack a tighter punch? Does the writer have great sentences or choice of words? What would you like to emulate? Share it!
    • Note: Spelling and phrasing are not the most important, but if you notice a pattern, it is helpful to point it out.

When you're ready, head over to Canvas and fill out the Declaration Quiz to claim your points.

- I commented on two fellow students' end of week reflections on readings about textiles, using the Hypothes.is group HST137.
- I made sure to leave substantial comments that help the writer to improve the post, or to identify their strengths.
- I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

Initial post on textiles

3 points, due by Tuesday Oct. 6, 11:59PM, but start reading earlier so you have time to digest.

Work through the slides and texts in the basic set, and pick one of the two options: a closer look at money in the context of the Eurasian trade networks, or at the gods of wealth that popped up in popular religion in the late imperial period of the Ming dynasty.

Use the guiding questions as starting points, 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?

  • 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).
  • Include the word money 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 money.
- 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 money in the title, added the post to category hst137

Discussion and comments in Hypothes.is

2 points, due Thursday Oct. 8, by 11.59pm.

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. Please comment on all four:

  • 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. 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 a bit deeper in the materials you maybe gave less attention 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 readings about textiles, using 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.

Second Reflection on the semester so far

Feedback on the first one is coming - halfway through the stack! (Fri. Oct. 2)

WHEN By Friday, Oct. 9, 11.59pm.

WHAT We are now halfway through the semester (what?), and I would like you to take the time to reflect on your learning in this course so far. Write a 500-800 word piece, engaging with at least two of the following sets of questions. This is one of the "Proofing the bread" tasks. DIFFERENT QUESTIONS FROM LAST TIME!

  1. What are some the ways that reading others' posts and giving feedback has made you feel connected to other students in the course? If you do not feel connected to other students, do you need to step up? Would a different course structure work better to build a learning community? What suggestions do you have to improve the community?
  2. This course does not have exams, but uses frequent blog posts to share your learning with your classmates. How does that format help or hinder you to explore new knowledge and demonstrate what you learned? Does the unfamiliar format make you feel unsure, or do you feel liberated now you don't have to write a traditional essay?
  3. What are skills, techniques or insights and perspectives you learned in this course so far (contents or otherwise) that you feel you can apply in other courses, or even outside college?

WHY These reflections help me understand how you learn, and how I can best support your learning. I also hope you use this as a moment to think about your goals for the course, and, if necessary how you can push the reset button on your engagement with the course, and commit anew to your goals for this course.

You will develop your metacognitive skills (knowing what you know) throughout the semester with a few more of these reflections.

HOW Write as a blog post, or as a Word or Google doc file, and submit on Canvas in this assignment.

You can submit a URL, or upload a document in docx, pdf, rtf, doc, txt format.

Reminder: if you have feedback about the course (format, content) but would like to remain anonymous, please add it to the Typepad. There will be an end of semester evaluation, but I’d rather hear now about complaints because I can still make changes!

End of week reflection (on money)

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

If you really engaged with the topic of money in premodern China this week, your insights have changed, but if you're anything like me looking into this topic, you may have ended up with more questions than answers! (This is why I am not an economic historian.) You'll still have some things to share, so please write your post with your new insights and more developed questions. Try to include links to the posts from your colleagues that really made you think or reconsider ideas.

Just like before, in your post you will also include three bullet points “Things I learned this week” – what do you know now about money in early China that you did not know at the start of this week?

  • 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 money, value, and which objects can be used as money .... ?
    • 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 week7, and add to category hst137.

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

- I wrote a blog post of appr. 200 words to demonstrate my changed/enhanced understanding of money in early Chinese history.
- I included a list with the bibliographic references of the texts I used to create my post.
- 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 week7, and added the post to category hst137 .

Extra Credit

Rewrite a post

2 points, due by Sunday, Oct. 11, 11.59pm

Unhappy about a post you wrote? Feeling you can do better now than a few weeks ago? Had a bad week and rushed to get it in but now you're ready to do something you can be proud of? Now you can rewrite that post and get some extra credit for it!

  • Pick one post from a previous week and use the comments you received, and your new insights, to rewrite it.
  • Add a brief paragraph at the end explaining how you rewrote the post: which comments did you address, how did you go about the process (e.g. starting from new blank page vs. tinkering; focusing on structure or word choice or adding/correcting facts,...), and what you learned through the process of rewriting.
  • tag the post with extra, and add "rewrite" to the title
    • (Note: it should already be in the category hst137)

Read the following Declaration carefully, and then head on over to Canvas to collect your points in the Declaration Quiz:

I selected a post from a previous week and rewrote it, using feedback and insights I gained since writing it.
I added a brief paragraph at the end explaining what I did to rewrite the post, and what I learned about rewriting
I added the tag extra to the post, and added the word rewrite to the title.
I made sure the post is still in the category hst137.

"Down the Rabbit Hole"

3 points, due by Sunday 11 Oct., 11.59pm

Are you curious? Can you spend hours on internet following one link after another trying to get to the bottom of something? Did you know you can now also get some extra credit for this?

Pick a topic, placename, object, book or person connected to our readings from this week, and follow your curiosity "down the rabbit hole", like Alice in Wonderland. Then share in a blog post with us where you went, and what you found. Your post does not have to be very long: 250 words should work; more is fine if you went on a deep dive, of course. Here's what to include:

  • What in the course materials this week got you inspired to go down the rabbit hole?
  • Include as hyperlinked text the websites you visited, and what you learned there.
  • Include an image, with caption giving credit for the image.
  • You may also critique the sources you find, in particular if you have your doubts about their reliability, or you come across conflicting interpretations. Which one did you side with, and why?
  • Add the post to category hst137, use the title template "Down the rabbit hole: [insert subject]", and add the tag extra.

Read the following Declaration carefully, and then head on over to Canvas to collect your points in the Declaration Quiz:

I wrote a post about additional materials on the internet I found, starting from a topic connected to course materials from this week.
I included the sites I visited as hyperlinked text, and explained what I learned on these pages.
I included an image, with a caption and credit for the image.
I added the post to the category hst137, used the tag extra, and used the title template "Down the rabbit hole:[topicxx]" for my post.

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? Typos? Email me!

On to week 8 (coming soon!)