China: The Long Twentieth Century

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
18 September 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module adopts multi-disciplinary perspectives to examine significant and complex issues in China`s modern history. It serves as a gateway course to introduce students to an interdisciplinary approach to China and Chinese history.

This module will examine both fictional (including audiovisual) and scholarly materials that deal with the historical, political, social, and artistic aspects of these sites and phenomenon in order to understand modern China at its politico-cultural core, in its relations with the outside world, its symbolic function in the new global order as well as its path to modernization.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give students a good grounding in interpreting the key symbolic sites of China in a global context.

  • To provide students with the analytical tools for thinking more deeply about the way such sites are infused with diverse, competing and evolving political and cultural meanings.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Have a deeper understanding of modern China.

  2. Have sharpened their analytical abilities.

  3. Have diversified their skills in ways of reading texts, locations and images.

Module information

This module is for students with little background of Chinese History.

Topics include the multiple meanings attached to the symbolic sites of: Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, Global China Towns, the Bund, The Yellow River, Chinese Gardens, Parades, and the Three Gorges Dam.

Introductory reading

  • Samuel S. Kim and Lowell Dittmer (1993), 'Wither China's Quest for National Identity?', in Dittmer & Kim, China's Quest for National Identity, pp. 268-289.

  • Benedict Anderson (2006) Imagine Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, pp. 163- 206.

  • Louie, Kam (2008) `Defining Modern Chinese Culture` in Kam Louie (ed.) Modern Chinese Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Waldron, Arthur (1990) `The Wall Acquires New Meanings` in The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 194-226.

  • Spence, Jonathan, The Search For Modern China (2013, Third Edition).

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • Lectures.
  • Seminars.


  • Louie, K. (2008) ‘Defining Modern Chinese Culture’, in The Cambridge companion to modern Chinese culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–19.
  • Guo, Y. (2004) ‘ ’Rethinking Nation and Nationalism: Concepts, positions and approaches’’, in Cultural nationalism in contemporary China: the search for national identity under reform. London: Routledge, pp. 9–23. Available at:
  • Kim, S. and Dittmer, L. (1993b) ‘Chapter “Whither China’s Quest for National Identity?”’, in China’s quest for national identity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 268–289. Available at:
  • Tu Wei-ming (1991) ‘Cultural China: The Periphery as the Center’, Daedalus, 120(2), pp. 1–32. Available at:
  • Allen Chun (1996) ‘Fuck Chineseness: On the Ambiguities of Ethnicity as Culture as Identity’, boundary 2, 23(2), pp. 111–138. Available at:
  • K. Scott Wong (1995) ‘Chinatown: Conflicting Images, Contested Terrain’, MELUS, 20(1), pp. 3–15. Available at:
  • Kay J. Anderson (1987) ‘The Idea of Chinatown: The Power of Place and Institutional Practice in the Making of a Racial Category’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 77(4), pp. 580–598. Available at:
  • Robert A. Bickers and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom (1995) ‘Shanghai’s “Dogs and Chinese Not Admitted” Sign: Legend, History and Contemporary Symbol’, The China Quarterly, (142), pp. 444–466. Available at:
  • Su, X. et al. (1991) ‘Chapter “Part Two: Destiny”’, in Deathsong of the river: a reader’s guide to the Chinese TV series Heshang = [He shang]. Ithaca, N.Y.: East Asia Program, Cornell University, pp. 117–135.
  • ‘Up the Yangtze’ (no date). Available at:
  • Chetham, D. (2002) Before the deluge: the vanishing world of the Yangtze’s Three Gorges. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   A short writing exercise (1000 words)    35% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)    60% 
Practical   Seminar participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Xun Zhou, email:
Dr Xun Zhou
History UG Administrators:



External examiner

Dr Miriam Dobson
University of Sheffield
Available via Moodle
Of 30 hours, 30 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


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