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. Visualising modernity: globalisation and parallel modernities
  2. Shanghai modernism: art in the metropolis
  3. Nationalist and republican art: the quest for ‘national essence’
  4. Revolutionary art – the Cultural Revolution
  5. Museum/exhibition viewing
  6. The birth of the avant-garde: woodblock printing and the Left
  7. Painting and calligraphy: ink and oil traditions
  8. Photography, video art and film
  9. Conceptual and installation art and architecture
  10. Presentations / slide test

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