HST 485/504 Chinese Social and Cultural History


Spring 2004                                                                            Class Room: AD336

                                                                                                Time: Mon. 3:30-6:00pm


Instructor: Dr. Pingchao Zhu

Office: AD Rm 315

Office Hour: MWF 12:30-1:30 or by appointment

Office Phone: 885-7166, or 885-6253

Email: pzhu@uidaho.edu

Weblink: www.uidaho.edu/~pzhu




            The major themes of Modern Chinese history are CHANGE & TRANSFORMATION.

This course is a general survey of Chinese social and cultural history and an examination of how they developed and transformed throughout different historical periods.  This course intends to introduce to students major Chinese traditions, both in theory and practice, and offer them a better understanding of the true picture of the Chinese society.  Students will have opportunities to learn various activities on how the Chinese think, eat, work, play, getting married, celebrating holidays, or doing other things similar or different from the Western countries.   Discussions will also be devoted to issues such as women status, family relations, bound feet, human rights, legal system, “one child per family” policy, religious beliefs, etc.  The course adopts a comparative approach in studying the Chinese traditions and cultural developments. 



1. Jeanna Waley-Cohen, The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese

             History, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1999

2. Jonathan D. Spence, Chinese Roundabout: Essays in History and Culture,                              

            W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1992

3. Lu Xun, Selected Stories, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, reissue edition,




1. One final exam                                              150 points

2. One Comparative Essay                               150     

3. China Cultural Profile                                    100

4. Attendance                                                   100


Examination includes identifications and essays. 

China Cultural Profile is a package of general information on Chinese culture and society.  Format of the package is up to your own design.  The package should include the  following:

            --Your year of animals according to the Chinese lunar calendar and the zodiac character of your animal sign;

            --Your choice of Chinese name and the meaning;

            --China’s national flag, anthem;

            --Basic data of China (population, size, etc);

            --Major holidays (political & traditional), their meanings and activities involved;

            --Famous Chinese cuisines, a couple of recipes, and your favorite Chinese food;

            --A couple of examples in comparison & contrast of the Chinese & western/US culture & traditions;

            --Other information you think interesting to include in the package.


Comparative Essay requires students to choose one topic to compare how it is different or similar in China and the U.S.  Subjects can be anything covered in this class ranging from political organization, religion, woman & family, human rights, military, education, labor issue, environment, etc. just to name a few.  This essay does require certain extent of  research.  So, please start early to look for necessary sources and materials.   The essay should be between 6-8 pages in length, typed, double spaced in 12 font. 


Attendance consists of 1/5 of the total grade in this class since we are meeting only once a week. Missing Two weeks of classes without legitimate excuse will result in the reduction to the next lower letter grade.  Missing 4 weeks or more of classes will result in the “F” in this class.


Graduate Students should see the instructor to arrange extra assignment for graduate credits.



This instructor requires the entire class to follow the University of Idaho Policy of Academic Honesty, which is attached to this syllabus.  Finding of violation of this policy in student’s course assignments will result in “0” grade for the assignment, and possibly an “F” for the course.  Please read the policy carefully and follow it to the letter.  The instructor will not negotiate this university policy in any way.



A=500-450      B=449-400      C=399-350      D=349-300      F=299 and below




Week 1            Jan. 12

                        No class, class begins on Wed.


Week 2            Jan 19

                        No Class, National holiday


Week 3            Jan 26


                        1. The Emperor  system

                        Emperors, concubines, & the Forbidden City

                        Reading: Waley-Cohen, chpt. 1

                                       Spence, pp. 93-108

Week 4            Feb. 2 

                        Philosophies & religions

                        Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism

                        Christianity & Buddhism

                        Examination System

                        Reading: Waley-Cohen, chpt. 2

                                       Spence, pp. 11-49, 132-140


Week 5            Feb. 9

                        Legal System

                        Modern political system

                        Criminal law, civil law, & social order               

                        Reading: Waley-Cohen, chpt. 3

                                       Spence, pp. 68-90, 109-131, 228-256


Week 6            Feb. 16

                        No Class, National Holiday


Week 7            Feb.  23          

                        1. Marriage & Family

                        Tradition, wedding, & family responsibility

                        2. Ancestor Worship

                        Funeral & Memorial day

                        Reading: Waley-Cohen, chpt. 5

                                       Spence, pp. 155-163


Week 8            Mar. 1

                        1. Minority vs. Majority

                        Ethnic groups & Peasantry       

                        2. Women Status

                        Bound feet

                        Reading: Waley-Cohen, chpt. 6

                                       Spence, pp. 219-227


Week 9            Mar. 8

                        Chinese Holidays

                        Lunar calendar, Chinese New Year, & Other festivals

                        Reading: Waley-Cohen, chpt. 7

                                       Spence, pp. 50-67

                        **China Profile Due by Friday


Week 10          Mar. 15

                        Spring Recess


Week 11          Mar. 22

                        Chinese literal tradition

                        Tang poetry, Classic works, 

                        Lun Xun & New Cultural Movement

                         Reading: Spence, pp. 304-312


Week 12          Mar. 29

Sports & Entertainment

a. Movies & operas

                        b. Sports & MTV

                        c. Newspapers & pop culture

Reading: Spence, pp. 277-292


Week 13          Apr. 5

Culinary Culture

Chinese cuisines in style and taste

                        Reading: Spence, pp. 165-205


Week 14          Apr. 12

                        1. Education System

University, textbooks, & curriculum

2. Brain drain?

Study abroad & migration

                        Reading: Spence, pp. 141-164


Week 15          Apr. 19

1. Work Ethics

                        Iron bowl, State & private sectors, & lay-offs

2. Welfare & medical care system

Hospital, retirement, & housing problem

Reading: Spence, pp. 205-227, 259-276

                        **Comparison Essay due on Monday


Week 16          Apr. 26

                        1. Life under Communism

                        One-child family policy, & Modernization

                        2. Military buildup & National defense

                        Units, service, benefits, & glory

Reading: Spence, pp. 293-312

Contemporary Issues            


Week 17          May 3                         

                        Reform, modernization,

                        Human rights, Tibet, Hong Kong & Taiwan

                        China & Globalization

                        Reading: Spence, pp. 315-354

                        **Final Exam


**Please read at least one story from Lu Xun’s “Selected Works” each week.

**The instructor reserves the right to make changes in this schedule if necessary.



Websites for Your Reference:

1.      Get a Chinese name: http://www.mandarintools.com/chinesename.html


2.      Find your year of the Chinese animal sign: http://chinese.astrology.com


3. Chinese cuisines: http://www.mycookbook.net/Cuisines.asp


4. Chinese government organization: http://c-b-w.com/general/goverment




5.      Chinese National Flag and Anthem: http://www.taoyue.com/quad/china/anthem.html


6.      Chinese minority ethnic groups: http://www.paulnoll.com/China/Minorities


7.      Chinese military: http://www.chinasite.com/Military.html


8.      General information: http://www.chinavista.com/experience/index.html