China in Ten Words: Key Concepts in Chinese Studies

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
China and Inner Asia Section

Module overview

This module takes its title from the book China in Ten Words by contemporary Chinese novelist Yu Hua. It is designed to introduce students to a range of key concepts in the study of China and Chinese cultures. Taught over ten weeks, each week focuses on one significant keyword or phrase that serves as the entry point to an in-depth examination of a specific incident, issue, or phenomenon of wide-reaching resonance in the cultural, social, and political histories of mainland China and of the wider Chinese-speaking region. 

The lectures will offer a general background to the weekly topic while in the seminars students will explore divergent definitions and multiple implications of each keyword and associated critical debates through formative activities and analysis of a range of written and audio-visual materials. The module will also enable students to question representations and (self-) descriptions of China and Chineseness and engage critically with prevalent narratives and common stereotypes. A combined thematic and chronological approach aims to ensure that by the end of the course students will have acquired a good basic knowledge of the major historical periods, political events, and social trends in the development of China and Chinese cultures and a solid foundation for further China-related study over the course of their degree. 



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Demonstrate familiarity with key Chinese cultural terms and concepts in Chinese Studies 
  • Demonstrate knowledge of significant events, issues, and phenomena in Chinese cultures 
  • Select and critically examine written and visual texts, scholarship, and data 
  • Formulate arguments and research questions, and apply critical knowledge to academic writing, oral and visual presentations, and group discussions 


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar. 

Method of assessment

An essay outline (with bibliography) of 800 words or 4 minutes pre-recorded slideshow (30%); a written or video essay of 2000 words or 10 minutes duration (70%).  

Suggested reading

  • Mao Haijian. The Qing Empire and the Opium War: The Collapse of the Heavenly Dynasty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 
  • Witchard, Anne. England’s Yellow Peril. London: Penguin, 2014. 
  • Cheek, Timothy. The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 
  • Evans, Harriet, “Gender in Modern Chinese Culture,” in The Cambridge Companion to Modern Chinese Culture, Kam Louie, ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp. 68–90 
  • Mittler, Barbara. A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012. 
  • Hung, Chang-tai. “Tiananmen Square: Space and Politics.” In Chang-tai Hung, Mao's New World: Political Culture in the Early People's Republic. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2011. 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules