This assignment will ask you to formulate an argument about China around the year 1000 by looking at two sources from the city of Suzhou, the precursor to Shanghai, on the country’s east coast. While by no means the most important city in Song China, it participated in the urban boom of the later tenth and early eleventh century, with a population in that period of around 150,000 people (this despite its relatively small geographical footprint, measuring only ca. 6 square miles). The two works you will be using are lengthy gazetteers (meaning simply a description of landforms and buildings, a sort of map in words) detailing the city of Suzhou and its environs, known as the Lands of Wu or the Wu Commandery. Both of these are available on the course Brightspace page, though you can also access them as e-books through the library website. Neither of the texts comes strictly from the year 1000; one, the Records of the Lands of Wu, dates to the late Tang period (from ca. 876), while the other, the Supplementary Records to the Illustrated Guide to the Wu Commandery, comes from the later eleventh century (from around 1084), well into the Song Dynasty, in other words.
However, by comparing the two, we might get a sense of the process of historical change that was underway as the city of Suzhou moved through the turn of the millennium. Your job is to compare these two works to ascertain how the city of Suzhou might have been changing around the year 1000. You do not need to examine ALL the similarities and differences between these texts; rather, you should focus on a particular theme or limited set of themes in your discussion. Avoid merely listing what is already in the two sources or simply summarizing their contents. Be sure that you are using the texts as evidence in the service of an argument. Since arguments are answers to questions, you should also be clear what question or interrelated set of questions you are seeking to address in your essay. In addition to mining the two gazetteers for evidence, you should draw on the other readings we have done up to this point in the semester to help provide context in framing the questions you are asking.