SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Arts of Modern and Contemporary China (since 1800)

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

The course explores the multi-polarity of the field of Chinese art history today by investigating the historical methodologies, canons, practices and other forces by which it has been shaped. The course is primarily focussed on the various arts of modern and contemporary China. These include the brush arts of painting and calligraphy, encompassing a reading of brush traces as special acts and sites of human endeavour, as well as other pictorial art forms, notably the reproductive media of ink-rubbing and woodblock printing, and contemporary media including photography, video and film. The course also examines conceptual, performance and installation arts. Students are introduced to these media through relevant themes and issues of the early modern/later imperial period and into the present. The artistic themes of modernity include, but are not limited to imperialism, colonialism, globalisation and nationalism, the advance of technologies relevant to visual culture, and the roles of city life, travel and mass communication. There is emphasis throughout on current events and initiatives in the field, including the ways art is collected, displayed, accessed and communicated through exhibitions, conferences and websites.


  • This Module is capped at 25 places
  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-Up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Faculty Office.


  • Two-hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

  1. Modernism and Modernity in Chinese Art
  2. Visual Culture and the Publishing Industry in Republican China
  3. Education and Exhibition Culture in Republican China
  4. Art Market in Republican China
  5. Art and Politics in Wartime China
  6. Art and Ideology in the People’s Republic of China
  7. Propaganda and Cultural Revolution
  8. From the ‘Scars’ to the New Waves
  9. Art and Institutions in a Globalised Age
  10. Wrap Up and Presentations

Method of assessment

  • One 2,000-word essay (worth 60%)
  • One presentation (worth 30%)
  • Participation in and contribution to the module seminars (worth 10%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules