From Bound Feet to 'Half the Sky': Women and Modern China (HIH1024)

StaffDr Vivienne Xiangwei Guo - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Through finding gender’s engagement in building a modern nation in different social and political contexts, this module aims to introduce students to a broad range of sources such as archival documents, oral history interviews, diaries and memoirs, newspaper reports, magazine articles, novels, photographs, posters, films, operas and songs. Students will be encouraged to compare these sources and think about their utility and limitations in researching modern Chinese history. And we will discuss how the ‘woman question’ and the available sources help us to analyse the social, political and cultural transformation of China in the twentieth century and to understand the shifting relationship between the state and society.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and assess the main developments in the processes of Chinese nation building from a gender perspective.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the topic.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates, purposes for which different contemporary sources were produced, and analyse and evaluate their reliability and usefulness for the study of the social and political history of modern China.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

Weekly seminar topics may vary, but can include:

‘The bound feet’ and women’s emancipation, ‘New women’ and the newborn Chinese Republic, Feminism and China’s Pankhursts, Women and the Second World War in Asia, The iron girls and Maoist China, Prostitution, Fashion, China’s birthing stories, Oral history of women.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and Written Comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments.
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Barlow, Tani E. The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.
  • Brownell, Susan and Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N. eds., Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities: A Reader, University of California Press, 2002.
  • Croll, Elisabeth J. Feminism and Socialism in China, London: Routledge, 2013.
  • Edwards, Louise. Gender, Politics, and Democracy: Women's Suffrage in China, Stanford University Press, 2008.
  • Gilmartin, Christina K. ed. Engendering China: Women, Culture, and the State, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994.
  • Hershatter, Gail. Women in China's Long Twentieth Century, University of California Press, 2007.
  • Li, Danke. Echoes of Chongqing: Women in Wartime China, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2010.
  • Strand, David. An Unfinished Republic: Leading by Word and Deed in Modern China, University of California Press, 2011.
  • Wang, Zheng. Women in the Chinese Enlightenment: Oral & Textual Histories, University of California Press, 1999.

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Key words search

Modern China, Women, Gender, Feminism, Nation Building