SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia

Styles of Modern Chinese Literary Language

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year


Advanced knowledge of Chinese language is required for this course.  Your level will be assessed before you are accepted onto the course.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The course is designed to cover selected modern Chinese literary texts of well-known Chinese writers and focuses on Chinese literary language style and rhetoric. It aims to develop the students’ understanding of Modern Chinese literary language through reading selected literary texts of particular Chinese authors and their ability to analyse literary language.

At the end the course, a student should be able to . . . 

  1. read and comprehend original Modern Chinese literary texts by summarising or answering questions either in English or Chinese;
  2. identify varied literary language phenomena in narratives and utterances of the literary texts;
  3. recognise the distinctive language style of authors;
  4. analyse the author’s method of expression to create and to produce artistic effect;
  5. read aloud the literary texts with appropriate tones and mood based on the literary contents;
  6. produce short pieces of writings by using certain language expressions
  7. knowledge and understanding of rhetoric and the role of language in general, and Chinese rhetoric and language in particular, in language-based scholarship and research (specific learning outcome for PG students).


This course will be taught over 22 weeks with a 1 hour lecture and 2 hour language classroom contact per week .  An additional 6 hours will be spent in lectures and an further 6 hours will be spent in seminars/tutorials over the 22 week period.

Scope and syllabus

Advanced reading and analysis of Modern Chinese literary language through reading selected literary texts of particular Chinese authors; the role of language in language-based scholarship and research. 

The study content will be divided into ten sections in the two teaching terms. One hour theory study in each week is a primary lecture in which the theory of Chinese stylistics and Chinese rhetoric will be delivered. The following two-hour practical reading and analysis will bring the knowledge and theory into practice. 

A series of special PG lectures with associated seminars structured around the six themes Structure, Texts, Identity, Society, Translation and Transformation (provided for PG students studying different languages) introduces students to general questions of the role of language in language-based scholarship and research and provides them with the critical and methodological skills to relate their language acquisition to the thematic aspects of the studies.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (50%); one essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (30%); two reports of approximately 700 words each to be submitted on day 3, week 1, term 2 and day 3, week 1, term 3 (10%); two pieces of creative writing in Chinese of at least 600 characters each in length to be submitted on day 3, week 1, term 2 and day 3, week 1, term 3 (10%).

Suggested reading

Essential Readings
  • Hu Yushu 胡裕树(ed.): Xiandai Hanyu 现代汉语(Modern Chinese). Shanghai: Shanghai Jiaoyu Chubanshe, (1995) 2001
Additional Readings
  • Bradford, Richard: Stylistics. London: Routledge, 1997
  • Edward, Gunn: Rewriting Chinese – Style and Innovation in Twentieth-Century Chinese Prose. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1991
  • Freeman, Donald C. (ed.): Linguistics and Literary Style. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1970
  • Haynes, John: Introducing Stylistics. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989
  • Hockx, Michel: The Question of Style – Literary Societies and Literary Journals in Modern China, 1911–1937. Leiden: Brill, 2003
  • Hsia, C.T.: A History of Modern Chinese Fiction. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961
  • Turner, G.W.: Stylistics. Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd.
  • Wu Jicai 吴积才 & Cheng Jiashu 程家枢(ed.): Xiandai Hanyu 现代汉语. Yunnan: Renmin Chubanshe, 1981
  • Zhongguo Xiuci Xuehui 中国修辞学会 (ed.): Xiucixue Lunwenji 修辞学论文集. Fuzhou: Fujian Renmin Chubanshe, 1983
Resources relating to language-based scholarship discussed in the PG lectures
  • Austin, Peter, ed., 2008, 1000 Languages: The world-wide history of living and lost tongues, London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Baker, Mona, 1992, In Other Words: A coursebook on translation, London: Routledge.
  • Duranti, Alessandro, 1997, Linguistic Anthropology, Cambridge: CUP.
  • Geertz, Clifford, 1973/2000, The Interpretation of Cultures: selected essays, New York: Basic Books.
  • Pinker, Steven, 1994, The Language Instinct: the new science of language and mind, London: Allan Lane.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules