Professor Lothar von Falkenhausen from UCLA Began Teaching Course on Chinese Archaeological Methodology and Theory in Beijing
On the evening of 28th March 2012, the renowned archaeologist Professor Lothar von Falkenhausen gave the first in a series of lectures which comprise his course “Issues in Contemporary Archaeological Methodology (with Special Reference to Chinese Archaeology)”, which is currently being taught at Peking University at the invitation of PKU’s International Academy of Chinese Studies. Professor Li Shuicheng from PKU’s School of Archaeology and Museology opened the lecture with a brief summary of the course outlines before going on to talk about Professor von Falkenhausen’s academic career and achievements.
Professor von Falkenhausen studied Chinese at Bonn University (1977-1979) before going on to study Chinese archaeology at the School of Archaeology and Museology at Peking University (1979-1982). From 1982 to 1988, he became a graduate student at Harvard University and subsequently obtained his PhD in archaeology. After graduation, he took on teaching positions at Stanford University and the University of California, Riverside before going on to take up a permanent teaching position at the Faculty of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1993.
Professor von Falkenhausen’s area of expertise is the archaeology of Bronze Age China and his main research interests are early Chinese inscribed bronze vessels, Bronze Age etiquette, regional culture, archaeological theory, and the history of archaeology. He has also published several books, including “Suspended Music: Chime-Bells in the Culture of Bronze Age China” and “Chinese Society in the Age of Confucius (1000-250 BC) : The Archaeological Evidence”. The latter book won the 2009 Society for American Archaeology Book Award, the first time that a book on Chinese archaeology has won such an accolade in the United States. In 2010 von Falkenhausen was elected as member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In recent years, the professor has worked closely with Chinese scholars and has made some outstanding contributions to the study of social complexity in the Chengdu Plain and the study of ancient salt production in China.
The course consists of twelve lectures and four discussions and will be taught in Mandarin. The key focus of the course is the various challenges that archaeologists face while trying to infer historical facts from material data and it will rely heavily on case studies in Chinese archaeology. Professor von Falkenhausen hopes that his course will not only allow students and scholars to discuss and evaluate popular academic works but also consider the importance of fundamental archaeological theory within the context of their own research.
March 28, 2012 (Wednesday)
(1) The history of archaeology and its relevance to intellectual history
PART I: Classification and art-historical approaches
April 6, 2012 (Friday)
(2) Typology and Classification
April 10, 2012 (Tuesday)
(3) Style and the Individual
April 13, 2012 (Friday)
(4) Meaning and Significance
April 18, 2012 (Wednesday)
(5) Discussion I
PART II: : Archaeology and the Social Sciences
April 24, 2012 (Tuesday)
(6) Social Archaeology
April 27, 2012 (Friday)
(7) Kinship and Gender
May 2, 2012 (Wednesday)
(8) Language and Ethnicity
May 8, 2012 (Tuesday)
(9) Discussion II
PART III: Rethinking Archaeological Cultures
May 11, 2012 (Friday)
(10) Thanatology and Religion
May 16, 2012 (Wednesday)
(11) Economic Issues in Archaeology
May 22, 2012 (Tuesday)
(12) Archaeologies of Landscape
May 25, 2012 (Friday)
(13) Discussion III
PART IV: Larger Issues
May 30, 2012 (Wednesday)
(14) Cross-Cultural Comparison and Its Discontents
June 6, 2012 (Wednesday)
(15) History from Archaeology
June 11, 2012 (Friday)
(16) General Discussion
Professor von Falkenhausen began by informing the students who had enrolled on this course that they will be expected to fulfill certain requirements in order to pass the course, such as participation in class discussions, conducting their own background reading, and completing written assignments.
He went on to analyze and explain some of the core concepts of modern archaeological theory. The disciplines of archaeology and anthropology in the United States underwent two significant paradigm shifts during the twentieth century. The first was the shift from cultural-historical archaeology to processual archaeology (i.e. “new archaeology”) and the second was the shift from processual archaeology to post-processual archaeology in the 1980s and 90s.
The professor was unable to give a definite answer as to whether Chinese archaeology had undergone a similar transformation but he was confident that there has been a demonstrable yet gradual shift towards a more scientific approach to archaeological research in China. He stated that while an increasing number of archaeologists are moving away from the books and into the laboratories, a move which may yield some highly significant results as far as archaeological research is concerned, it is not yet known what impact this shift towards scientific archaeology will have on Chinese academia. He believes that Chinese archaeology stems from the study of epigraphy and that the European tradition of antiquarianism helped transform scientific research in China. However, he also argues that this process had a detrimental effect on the pace of China’s modernization and therefore new blood is needed to carry Chinese archaeology into the twenty-first century.
The professor’s first lecture attracted widespread attention in Chinese academic circles. Over 300 students attended the lecture, many of them hailing from some of Beijing’s most reputable archaeology departments and institutes, such as Peking University, the CASS Institute of Archaeology, the Renmin University of China, and Beijing Union University. After the lecture, Professor von Falkenhausen led the students in a lively discussion of the points raised in his lecture. (Translator: Kelly McGuire)