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First-Year Interdisciplinary Seminar: Play and Games in Early China

Semester and Year FA 2015
Course Number FIRST-UG77
Section 001
Instructor Ethan Harkness
Days MW
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


In this class we will combine academic study with an experiential approach to the topic of games and, more generally, participatory entertainment in Early China. Thus, in addition to thinking about the meaning of play as a universal human activity and contextualizing examples of popular games from the Chinese tradition with background reading on related philosophical and cosmological beliefs, we will learn the fundamentals of the ancient Chinese game of  weiqi  (Go), a favorite pastime of scholars since the Han dynasty. Students will be introduced to on-line resources that allow them to play the game in real time with opponents from around the world, and they will also visit local New York City Go clubs. Through diligent study, students will be expected to achieve a reasonable level of competence in the game and asked to demonstrate that for a portion of their final grade. By demanding immersion in an absorbing and characteristically Chinese activity that has remained essentially unchanged over at least two millennia, it is hoped that students will begin to recognize the fundamental humanity they share with the former peoples of Early China. Readings may include  Homo Ludens  by J. Huizinga,  Man, Play and Games  by Roger Caillois, selections from  Science and Civilization in China  by Joseph Needham,  The Art of War  by Sun-tzu, and  The Master of Go  by Yasunari Kawabata.


All Syllabi

Course Type

First-Year Program: Interdisciplinary Seminars (FIRST-UG)