Week 8: Buildings, large and small

Oct. 12 – Oct 18

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

Heads up! Starting this week, we will begin on the tasks for “baking the bread”, i.e. the tasks that help you towards the final project. More details below, under Assignments.

As long as a house has a roof and walls to protect against the elements, it serves its purpose, you’d think. But it turns out a lot more goes into the building of a traditional family home in China (and in other places in the world). In this week’s readings, you have two choices:

Option 1: Have a look at “vernacular architecture”, that is buildings made in the local tradition and not designed by architects, often for common people; it also includes a closer look at the techniques used and the know-how and craftsmanship. These techniques are actually also used for the buildings in option 2.

Option 2: Explore the history Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, the homes of the emperors of the final two dynasties: what did they mean, how they developed, and how one of them became a museum, with half of the collection thousands of miles away in Taiwan. (We will see more about Chinese and Western collectors in weeks 12 and 13, and part of this story will return then.)

Table of Contents


Option 1: Vernacular architecture/ techniques

  • http://yinyutang.pem.org/ (requires Flash) is an interactive museum feature from the Peabody Essex Museum, featuring an entire southeast Chinese home from a merchant family. Have a look, it may help to bring to life your chapter, or raise interesting contrasts between this merchant family home and less luxurious surroundings described in the book.
  • Knapp, Ronald G. China’s Vernacular Architecture: House Form and Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. (E-book Trexler Library)
        • Pick ONE chapter you’re interested in: chapter 2, 3, 4 or 5 (not chapter 1, not useful for this week’s reading)
        • Think about how you’d explain the most salient features of the techniques and what drives the choices made by the builders to somebody who did not read the chapter. What were you most amazed about, what was the most fascinating thing you think they should know? Use that as the starting point for you Initial Post.
  • Hernandez, Marco. “The Dougong“. South China Morning Post. June 11, 2018.
    • Note that the animal decorations were not always present, often it was connected to your/the building’s status how many there were. 
  • Slides (Gdrive link)

Option 2: Palaces and gardens for an emperor

  • Background: if the jump in history is a bit disorienting, start with Chapter 1 of this text to bring you up to speed with the who, what, where and when of names of dynasties, general trends and events.
    • Dillon, Michael. China: A Modern History. London: I.B. Tauris, 2010. (ebook Trexler)
  • Li, Lilian M. “The Garden of Perfect Brightness.” MIT Visualizing Cultures, 2012. (this consists of three webpages)
  • Hernandez, Marco. “The Origins of Beijing’s Forbidden City.” South China Morning Post. May 29, 2018. https://multimedia.scmp.com/culture/article/forbidden-city/architecture/chapter_01.html?src=follow-chapter
  • Arranz, Adolfo. “How China’s Forbidden City Became the Palace Museum.” South China Morning Post. December 05, 2018
  • Slides (Gdrive link)


All times are “Muhlenberg time” (US Eastern Time)

Feedback on the reflections about money

2 points, due by Tuesday Oct 13, 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 money, please comment on both:

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Comment using Hypothes.is group HST137
  • Content: example: 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 money, 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 buildings/architecture

3 points, due by Tuesday Oct. 13, 11:59PM, but start reading earlier so you have time to digest.

Work through the slides and texts in one of the two options: a closer look at buildings from the point of view of creating them, or check out the design of the Forbidden City, and the Old Summer Palace. Note: there is no shared reading this week!

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.
    • Note: Don’t copy the (PDF) or (ebook Trexler library) bit, that’s just there to help you!
  • 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 building 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 buildings.
– 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 building in the title, added the post to category hst137

Discussion and comments in Hypothes.is

2 points, due Thursday Oct. 15, 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:

  • [Coming on Wednesday morning!]

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 buildings, 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.

Project Idea / Proposal

Due by Friday, Oct. 16, 11.59PM

Find all the details, including the link to the Canvas assignment, on the dedicated webpage.

Please rest assured that you are NOT locked into a topic at this point, but this helps you to eliminate things you won’t touch with a bargepole, and find things you may not have even considered as a possibility before. And you have to start somewhere, sometime.

End of week reflection (on buildings)

3 points, due on Sunday, Oct 18 by 11:59pm ET.

If you really engaged with the topic of buildings in traditional China this week, your insights have changed, and you’ll likely have encountered new information in your colleagues’ posts that you did not cover in your readings. What connections or differences do you see between the two options? Can we treat all “buildings” and built environments in traditional China as the same? Why not? Many people often do, calling it “typical Chinese”, but what makes them say that?

Just like before, in your post you will also include three bullet points “Things I learned this week” – what do you know now about buildings 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?
    • Do you think differently about buildings in our current time and environment?
    • 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 week8, 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 buildings 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 week8, and added the post to category hst137 .

Extra Credit Tasks

EC Week 8-1: Rewrite a post

2 points, due by Sunday, Oct. 18, 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.

EC Week 8-2: Extra commenting

Due by Sunday, Oct. 4, 11.59pm; 2 points for 4 additional blogs

Do you like reading your colleagues’ work? Do you like helping them out by identifying ways to make their posts better? Here’s some good news! You can earn extra credit by doing extra commenting! This assignment will be available regularly throughout the semester.

I have collected posts that have not yet got a lot of comments from fellow students, so check them out and provide some feedback! It will also be a nice trip down memory lane as these may take you back all the way to the beginning of the semester.

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Post 3:
  • Post 4:
  • Use Hypothes.is group HST137, and leave feedback as we practiced with the Architects’s model
  • Add the tag extra to the comment (this helps me to keep track of how many people use this option.)

When you’re done, please read this declaration carefully and then collect your points on Canvas with the Declaration Quiz.

I selected three blogs I have not yet commented on before, from the posts provided in the Extra Credit exercise, and I used 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 added the tag extra to my Hypothes.is comments.
I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

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 9 (coming soon!)