The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST5503MC Special Topics in Pre-modern World History:Ancient Egypt: History, Art, Religion, and Modern Perceptions

Semester 1 (2023-2024)

Lecture TimeWednesday, 12:30 - 14:15

VenueLT1, Lee Shau Kee Building(LSK LT1)


Lecturer POO Mu-chou (

Teaching Assistant CHEN Mengjia (

Course Description

This course is designed to give the students basic knowledge of the culture of ancient Egypt. Subjects such as history, art, religion, literature, society, science and technology will be discussed. In addition, the students will also learn through the example of Egypt how our modern perception of ancient culture was formed, subjects such as the changing images of Egypt throughout history in the West, and the modern appropriation of Egyptian themes in art, literature and cinema will be part of the discussion. It is hoped that, by taking this class, the students could obtain a solid and factual based understanding of ancient Egyptian culture, learn to appreciate a different and distant society and culture, and to develop the ability to reflect upon the nature of history and how history and historical knowledge could be formed and utilized or distorted for different objectives.


Week 1. Introduction: The Myth of Egypt throughout History
       a.  Greek and European Views of a Mythical Egypt
       b.  The Mystery Unveiled: The Story of Modern Egyptology
       蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第一章; Ian Shaw, Chapter 1
Week 2.  The Basic Facts
       a.  Geography and Climate
       b.  Race and Language
       c.  Sources of History
       蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第二章; Ian Shaw, Chapter 2-3
Week 3.  Political Organization
       a.  The “Unification” of Egypt
       b.  The Organization of Government
       c.  The Provincial administration
       d.  The Army and Empire building
       蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第三章; Ian Shaw, Chapter 4      
Week 4.  The Pyramids
       a.  The Beginning of Stone Architecture
       b.  The Evolution of the King’s Tombs
       c.  Technological aspects of the Pyramids
       蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第四章; Ian Shaw, Chapter, 5; Smith, Chapters 4-7.
Week 5.  Religious Beliefs
       a.  Religion: Definition Problems
       b.  The Pyramid Texts and Religious Systems
       c.  The Nature of the Gods
       d.  The Egyptian Temple and Funerary Cults
       e.  Ethics and Religion
       蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第五章; H. Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion, chapters 1-4.
Week 6.  Daily life of the commoners
       a. Agriculture and food
       b. Husbandry and fishing
       c. Domestic industries
       d. Entertainment and sport

       Kasia Szpakowska, Daily Life in Ancient Egypt: Recreating Lahun, chapters 4-5

Week 7.  Egypt as a Political Power
       a. The Beginning of the Egyptian Empire
       b. The Amarna Period
       c. The Remesside Period
       蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第八章; Ian Shaw, Chapter 8-9
Week 8.  The Principle of Egyptian Art
       a. Rules of Painting and Sculpture
       b. Canon and Proportion
       c. Function and Esthetics
       d. Architecture
       蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第九章; Smith, Chapters 8-10.

Week 9.  Literature
       a. Biography
       b. Stories
       c. Poetry
       d. Religious literature
       e. Official texts
       蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第六,七章; Ian Shaw, Chapter 7; Harris, chapter 9.
Week 10. Science and Technology
       a. Writing system
       b. Stone Masonry
       c. Medicine
       d. Mathematics
       Harris, chapters 2, 4, 5.

Week 11. The Transformation of Egyptian Civilization

  1. The Late Period (21-26 Dynasties)
  2. The Persian and Assyrian Conquest
  3. The Ptolemaic period
  4. The Roman period

      蒲慕州,《法老的國度》第十,十一章; Ian Shaw, Chapter 12-15.
Week 12. The Modern myth of Ancient Egypt
      a. Art
      b. Literature
      c. Cinema
      S. MacDonald & M. Rice, Chapters 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10.
Week 13.  Conclusion and Review

Assessment & Assignments

Assessments: (All discussions and assignments should be done in English)

  1. Attendance (10%)
  2. Class Discussions and questions (20%)
  3. Tutorial Paper & Participation (20%)
  4. One term paper no more than 5000 to be handed in at the end of the semester. Paper topic should be approved by the instructor. (50%)

Each student is required to participate all the tutorial classes, and need to submit one tutorial report (1000-1500 words). The PPT of tutorial papers shall be presented in class in week 6-10 (exact date to be arranged).

Tutorial subjects: 

  • Find a movie about ancient Egypt, describe its content, and comment on the “Egyptian” elements: compare with what you know of the costume, religion, or history of ancient Egypt.
  • Find a documentary about ancient Egypt, introduce its content, and comment on the angle of the narrative: was it objective? Romanticized? Critical?
  • Read an Egyptian story, and discuss what you learned from the story about ancient Egyptian society and culture.
  • Read the Biblical story of Exodus, and find references to discuss the Egyptian background of the story.  
  • Any other subjects approved by the teacher.

Required readings

  1.  蒲慕州,《法老的國度》(台北:麥田,2001).
  2.  Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt.(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  3.  H. Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 1961).
  4.  W. S. Smith (rev. by W. K. Simpson), The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965, 1981).
  5.  J. R. Harris, The Legacy of Egypt(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971).
  6.  S. MacDonald and M. Rice eds., Consuming Ancient Egypt(London: University College Press: 2003).
  7.  Szpakowska, Kasia Maria, Daily Life in Ancient Egypt: Recreating Lahun(Blackwell Publishing, 2008)

Recommanded Readings

  1. B. G. Trigger et. al., Ancient Egypt, A Social History. (Cambridge University Press, 1983).
  2. B. J. Kemp, Ancient Egypt, Anatomy of a Civilization. (London: Routledge, 1991).
  3.  M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature 3 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973-80).
  4.  N. Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992).
  5.  蒲慕州,《尼羅河畔的文采:古埃及文選》(台北:遠流,1993)

Notice of class activities

Read assigned readings before each class, take notes, pose a question and send to the professor and TA one day before class. This shall begin from week 2 to week 11.  The question should be written in the form of a short paragraph, stating the reason for you to ask the question, what is your own view? If you have different view from what you read, state your reason. In a word, we need a question that is the result of careful reading and thinking.  The questions will be discussed in the tutorial sessions.

Week 2: write a personal statement about your interest in history, and explain why.

Week 2-11: send in at least one question/comment on the weekly readings one day before class. The quality of the question will count toward your final score of the course. The questions should be sent to the professor and the TA.

Week 6: term paper topic and outline due before class. Contact the teacher for paper topic.

Week 6-10: ppt presentation of tutorial paper in class (order of presentation to be arranged).

Week 11-13: ppt presentation of term paper (order of presentation to be arranged)

Term paper and tutorial paper due two weeks after semester ends

Send in your questions and reports to both the instructor and the TA.


Format of term paper: (between 4000-5000 words)

  1. Topic should be specific, avoid general view of a period of history, or a general subject (e.g. Egyptian art, Egyptian religion) Topic should be approved by the Professor by week 5.
  2. The front page should contain the title of the paper, the name of the student in both Chinese and English, and a table of contents.
  3. Footnotes should be provided. Consult any academic journal for the format. Page number of sources should be clearly provided.
  4. A bibliography should be provided at the end.
  5. Consult at least 10 different sources. Internet sources from academic institutions are allowed. Wikipedia can only be additional help. Sources cited by Wikipedia can be used.
  6. AI softwares such as ChatGPT should not be used to write the reports, score will be reduced or given a F once found out.
  7. Please strictly follow the above instructions. Grades may be deducted if the above points are not followed.
Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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