SOAS University of London

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

Classical Documentary Texts

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year
Graduates of Chinese studies programmes embarking on postgraduate study often find that their reading ability of Classical Chinese and research skills are not yet at the level where they can handle a variety of primary sources with relative ease and confidence. This text-based module provides the training necessary to bridge this gap.
The objectives of this module are the introduction to and study of representative genres in the classical corpus. Understanding of the content and research value of documents is to be stressed rather than their merit as literature. Research tools, bibliographical entries of books, biographies, diaries, gazetteers, legal texts, anecdotal writings, collected works of scholar-officials, critical writings and other texts will be covered, and students will be expected to prepare annotated translations for class discussion, as well as term essays on a chosen topic. To some extent, subject areas that students are interested in will also be catered to.


A competence in Classical Chinese equivalent to at least the level reached by the end of the SOAS 3rd year BA Chinese programme is required for entrance to the module. Language assessments can be carried out prior to enrollment whenever necessary.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The aim is to supply essential tools for research in pre-twentieth century Classical Chinese writings, as well as a systematic survey of the wealth of Classical Chinese documentary sources. By the end of the module, students will have sharpened their research skills, for example by drawing more easily on a wider range of both printed and web-based materials. They can hope to have acquired a good knowledge of Classical Chinese through careful translation and close textual analysis, a broad vocabulary that extends across a range of subjects, an awareness of the wealth of material that has research potential, and a strong foundation to begin postgraduate research.


Total of 22 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 2 hour lecture.

Method of assessment

One two-hour written examination taken in May/June (50%), one essay of 2500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 2 (25%); one essay of 3,500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 3 (25%).

Suggested reading

A reading list will be made available to students at the beginning of the module.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules