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Talk: "The Chinese Age of Discovery: Work in Progress"

19.07.2022 | 16:00

Prof. Valerie Hansen, Stanley Woodward Professor of History

Yale University



China’s history as an agrarian society has often overshadowed the long-distance sea voyages of Chinese mariners, which go back over a thousand years. Written sources provide information about sea travel to different destinations, but recent archeological discoveries, specifically shipwrecks from the Java Sea, force us to recognize the significance of these early voyages because they offer tangible evidence about the size of the ships and the enormity of their cargo. For example, the Cirebon shipwreck was carrying 590,000 Chinese ceramic vessels and 150 tons of iron when it sank off the coast of Java in 970 CE. Maps also document the long-distance sea voyages of Chinese mariners, and the map entitled Zhongguo gu hanghai tu 中國古航海圖 now held at Yale, and dating to 1841, is of particular interest because it was used by ordinary mariners—not by officials or member of the literati.

Did China have an Age of Discovery, and, if it did, when was it? How does that change our thinking about the origins of modern era? Working on these questions now, I hope to learn whether these questions—and the tentative answers—engage members of the audience.

Valerie Hansen is an award-winning historian. After graduating from Kent School in 1975, Harvard University in 1979 and receiving her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, she joined Yale University in 1988 as assistant professor and became a professor in 1998. Hansen spent one year in Shanghai on a Fulbright grant from 2005–06; 2008–09 and 2011–12, teaching at Yale's joint undergraduate program with Peking University; and fall semester 2015 teaching at Yale-NUS college in Singapore.

Her current research examines the interconnected world of the year 1000. At Yale, she teaches History of Traditional China, The History of World History, and seminars on Silk Road history.

Zeit & Ort

19.07.2022 | 16:00

Room 2.2051
Fabeckstrasse 23-25
14195 Berlin