Choose ONE of the following items to answer. For each, please write a well-organized 900 – 1500 word essay with a persuasive thesis statement and clear argument supported with specific examples from course readings, especially primary source material (i.e. documents or quotations from the original time period rather than a modern historian’s description of events). Essay should be double-spaced and include citations from the reading [e.g. (Voices, p. 21), (China Empire, p. 57)]
1. What do we know about the Shang and Zhou dynasties’ politics, technology, social structure, and religious beliefs? What sorts of questions did the Shang elite ask with the oracle bones?
2. According to Confucius, how was the ideal person to behave? How are people supposed to treat one another in their families and communities? What are governments supposed to do and how are they supposed to do it? What was the Daoist philosophy of life? How did their beliefs contrast with the Confucians’?
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3. What are the main ideas of Legalist philosophy? How did the Qin Dynasty use Legalism to establish order? How did the Han alter Qin institutions to create a lasting empire?
Key questions when thinking about your argument:
1) THESIS: Is the thesis a statement that someone could refute? Test by writing a counter-argument. A statement of an accepted fact is not a good thesis because no one would argue with you. A better strategy is to argue that among various causes of an event, one stands out as the most important. For example, “the Qin Emperor owed his success to superior military technology and tactics.” This is a good thesis because it is easy to imagine someone else arguing that Legalist philosophy and stronger government organizations were more important than the military alone in his victories.
2) STRUCTURE: Does each paragraph begin with a topic sentence that clearly supports the thesis statement? Do the paragraphs follow a logical order with clear transitions informing the reader of how each part fits into the whole essay?
3) SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: Remember that you are trying to convince a hostile critic your explanation of an event’s cause or significance is logical and well supported by the available evidence so be aggressive with a persuasive argument and concrete supporting examples. Don’t just TELL readers that the Qin used Legalism. SHOW them with well chosen quotations from a document that illustrates your point.