The First Emperor’s Home Base: Archaeological perspectives on ethnicity in ancient China

Co-presented with the Confucius Institute and the School of Languages and Culture at the University of Sydney

Professor Lothar von Falkenhausen, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
6 December, 2010

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A favorite topic in modern Chinese archaeology is the definition of ancient ethnic group on the basis of excavated materials. This has been attempted, for instance, in the case of the First Emperor’s home polity of Qin, which arose in a multi-ethnic environment on the northwestern edge of Bronze Age China.

What can archaeology tell us about the ethnic origins of the Qin ruling group–were they colonisers from the dynastic centers of China, or were they assimilated Barbarians? What are the methodological problems involved in this type of archaeological analysis?

Lothar von Falkenhausen is Professor of Chinese Archaeology and Art History and Associate Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. His specialty is East Asian archaeology, with an emphasis on the great Bronze Age of China (ca. 2000-200 BC). He has published more than one hundred articles, books, and edited volumes the most important being two books; Suspended Music: Chime Bells in the Culture of Bronze Age China (1993), and Chinese Society in the Age of Confucius (1000-250 BC): The Archaeological Evidence (2006). The latter book received the 2008 book award (academic category) from the Society for American Archaeology.

Professor von Falkenhausen has taught at UCLA since 1993; he was promoted to full professor in 1997. Previously he taught at Stanford University (1988-1990) and the University of California, Riverside (1991-1993). He has also held visiting professorships at the University of Heidelberg (1997), the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris (1998), Kyôto University (2002-03), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (2007), and the University of Münster (2008), and he has held research fellowships at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing (1990-91), Academia Sinica, Taipei (1994-95), Norwegian Academy of Sciences (2000), and the Research Institute of Humanity and Nature, Kyôto (2003).

Since 1999, Professor von Falkenhausen has served as the American co-Principal Investigator of UCLA's joint field project with Peking University, entitled 'Landscape Archaeology and Ancient Salt Production in the Upper Yangzi River Basin', which is currently in the publication stage.

Professor von Falkenhausen is in Australia as a guest of the Innovations and Creativity in Ancient Qin symposium co-presented with the AGNSW and in conjunction with the exhibition The First Emperor: China’s entombed warriors.


The University of Sydney Confucius Institute is a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the Office Chinese Language Council International in China (Hanban), in partnership with Fudan University, Shanghai. It is managed by the Office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International). The first to be established in New South Wales, the Institute has attracted thousands of people to its popular Chinese language and culture programs.