SOAS University of London

China & Inner Asia Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures

Ch 306: Traditional Chinese Language and Literature

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3, Year 3 of 4 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year

This module builds on students' previous experience in Introduction to Classical Chinese by exploring more advanced grammar and vocabulary, and by exposing students' to different styles of classical and literary Chinese. Students will read a variety of texts dating from pre-Han through to the Qing. Emphasis will be placed on increasing student knowledge of classical and literary grammar and vocabulary. 


Years 1 and 2 of the BA Chinese programme or equivalent (1,500-2,000) characters.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. read and understand intermediate texts written in Classical and Literary Chinese
  2. demonstrate knowledge of more advanced Classical/Literary grammar and vocabulary
  3. demonstrate basic sinological skills necessary to read and translate Classical and Literary Chinese texts
  4. translate intermediate texts written in Classical and Literary Chinese


Total of 20 weeks of teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of 2 hour lecture.

Scope and syllabus

Term 1 : Selected readings in Classical Chinese

Term 2: Selected readings in Literary Chinese

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination (50%) taken in May/June; one essay of 3,000 words due on day one, week 1, term 3 (30%); homework assignments throughout the module (10%); reading analysis of 10-15 minutes (10%).

Suggested reading

  • Bol, Peter K.: “This Culture of Ours”: Intellectual Transitions in T’ang and Sung China. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1992.
  • Birch, Cyril: Scenes for Mandarins: The Elite Theater of the Ming. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
  • Cai, Zong-qi: How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
  • Chang, Kang-I Sun & Stephen Owen: The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Cheng, Anne: Histoire de la Pensée Chinoise. Paris: Seuil, 1997.
  • Clunas, Craig: Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China. London: Reaktion Books, 1996.
  • Fung Yu-Lan, transl. by Derk Bodde: A history of Chinese philosophy. 2 vols.; Princeton: Princeton UP, 1952. 
  • Graham, Angus C.: Poems of the Late T’ang. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965.
  • Graham, Angus C.: Disputers of the Tao. Philosophical Argumentation in Ancient China. La Salle: Open Court, 1989
  • Hsiao Kung-chuan, transl. by F.W. Mote: A History of Chinese Political Thought. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979.
  • Li, Chu-Tsing & James C. Y. Watt: The Chinese Scholar’s Studio: Artistic Life in the Late Ming Period. New York: Thames and Hudson, The Asia Society Galleries, 1987.
  • Lin Shuen-fu & Stephen Owen: The Vitality of the Lyric Voice. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1986.
  • Liu, James J. Y.: The Art of Chinese Poetry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.
  • Loewe, Michael & Edward L. Shaughnessy (eds.): The Cambridge History of Ancient China. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
  • Mair, Victor H.: The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1994.
  • Mair, Victor H.: The Columbia History of Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 2002.
  • Murck, Alfreda & Wen C. Fong: Words and Images: Chinese Poetry, Calligraphy, and Painting. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991.
  • Owen, Stephen: The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High T’ang. New Haven: Yale UP, 1981.
  • Owen, Stephen: An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1996.
  • Pulleyblank, Edwin G.: Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1995.
  • Sima Qian: Shiji . 10 vols., Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, [1959] 1982.
  • Schwartz, Benjamin I.: The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1985.
  • West, Stephen H. & Wilt L. Idema: Monks, Bandits, Lovers, and Immortals: Eleven Early Chinese Plays. Indianapolis and Cambridge, Mass., Hackett Publishing Company, 2010.
  • Yang Bojun : Mengzi Yizhu . 2 vols.; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, [1960] 1988.
Essential research tools include:
  • Cihai . 3 vols. + 1 vol. addenda; Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju / Shanghai Cishu chubanshe, 1980
  • Ciyuan . 4 vols.; Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1980
  • Gu, Charles Wei-hsun & Wing-tsit Chan: Guide to Chinese Philosophy. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1978
  • Gu Hanyu Changyongzi Zidian Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1979
  • Gu Hanyu Xuci Yongfa Cidian . Xi’an: Shaanxi Renmin chubanshe, 1998 (or equivalent) 
  • Gudai Hanyu Cidian . Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1998 
  • Huang Kaiguo et al. (main eds.): Zhuzi Baijia Da Cidian . Chengdu: Sichuan Renmin chubanshe, 1999
  • Hucker, Charles O.: A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1985
  • Lin Qingzhang (main ed.): Jingxue Yanjiu Lunzhu Mulu , 1912-1987 . 2 vols.; Taibei: Hanxue Yanjiu Zhongxin, 1989
  • Loewe, Michael: Early Chinese Texts. A Bibliographical Guide. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China and The Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1993
  • Luo Zhufeng : Hanyu Da Cidian .12 vols.; Shanghai: Hanyu da cidian chubanshe, [1990] 1994
  • Unger, Ulrich: Grundbegriffe der altchinesischen Philosophie. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2000
  • Wang Li : Hanyu Shilüxue . Hong Kong: Zhonghua shuju, 1957, 1973 
  • Wang Li : Gudai Hanyu [xiudingben] . 4 vols.; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, [1981] 1995
  • Wang Li (main ed.): Wang Li Gu Hanyu Zidian Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2000
  • Wei Zhengtong (main ed.): Zhongguo Zhexue Cidian Daquan


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules