China's Intellectual Elites - Ideas and Networks 1860s-1960s: Sources (HIH3021)

StaffDr Vivienne Xiangwei Guo - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2.
Co-requisitesChina’s Intelligentsia – Ideas and Networks 1860s-1960s: Context
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Together with its co-requisite, the module will introduce you to the thoughts and networks of Chinese intellectuals with a wide variety of sources documenting both the causes of and responses to the various debates, movements and experiments of Chinese intellectuals in the making of modern China. Drawing on published and translated source collections as well as a growing number of online digital archives, the module will make use of many personal documents such as contemporary diaries, letters, autobiographies and memoirs, as well as the published pamphlets, speeches, journal articles and essays of Chinese intellectuals. The module will also introduce you to some translated official documents collected from local archives documenting Chinese intellectuals’ engagement with different political institutions. Visual materials such as photographs, films and documentaries will also be carefully analysed to deepen your understanding of the historical context.

Through working with the extensive primary source collections available to this module, you will develop a range of research, analytical, interpretative and communication skills that can be applied in further academic studies or in graduate careers.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Have a detailed knowledge of the different sources available for the study of the complex ideas and networks of Chinese intellectuals in a century of change from the 1860s to the 1960s, together with a very close specialist knowledge of those sources which the students focus upon in their seminar presentations and written work.
  • 2. Analyse the complex diversity of the sources studied.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex texts
  • 4. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 5. Follow the changing causes of and responses to the various debates, movements and experiments of Chinese intellectuals in the making of modern China.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Independently and autonomously study and also work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

The first part of the module focuses on the sources documenting the various and shifting ideas of nation-building developed by Chinse intellectuals; the following main themes and topics may be covered:

  1. Remoulding China:

  • Confucianism and the Late-Qing ‘self-strengthening’ ideas

  • Constitutionalism and the ideal of a Chinese constitutional monarchy

  • Anti-Manchu nationalism and the ideal of a Chinese Republic

  1. Enlightening China:

  • Federalism and the ideal of a Chinese federation

  • Communism, anarchism and the ideal of a new world order

  • Feminism and the ideal of women’s emancipation

  1. Revolutionizing China:

  • Rethinking Mao Zedong’s thought: Peasant Revolution

  • Rethinking Mao Zedong’s thought: Cultural Revolution


The second part of the module focuses on the sources reflecting the uneasy network development and self-identification of Chinese intellectuals; the following main themes and topics may be covered:

  1. Personal ties and urban spaces:

  • Native-place connections

  • Study abroad: the new space for knowledge-making and network-building

  • China’s new metropolises:  media space and literary societies

  1. Political linkages and cross-party networking:

  • League of Left-wing Writers and leaning to the left

  • Democratic League and the struggle to remain neutral

  • Women’s societies and networks

  1. Denying ‘self’ and challenging ‘the intellectual’:

  • The Yan’an intellectuals

  • Post-1949 political campaigns and the collective loss of self-identity

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 activities4422 x 2hour seminars
Guided Independent Study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-6, 8Oral from tutor and fellow students

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
Portfolio702 assignments totalling 4,000 words1-7Verbal and Written
Individual Presentation3020-30 minutes1-8Verbal and Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-7Referral/Deferral period
PresentationWritten transcript of 20 minute presentation1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4,000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

 Published Primary Sources


Sources of Chinese Tradition: Volume 1: From Earliest Times to 1600 (Columbia University Press, 2013)


Sources of Chinese Tradition: Volume 2: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century (Columbia University Press, 1999)


The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection (Incorporated, 2013)


A Hu Shi Reader: An Advanced Reading Text for Modern Chinese (Yale University, 1990)


English Writings of Hu Shih Volume 1&2 (Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013) 


Chen Duxiu's Last Articles and Letters, 1937-1942 (University of Hawaii Press, 1998)


Prophets Unarmed: Chinese Trotskyists in Revolution, War, Jail, and the Return from Limbo (BRILL, 2014)


Women in Republican China: A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2015)


The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory (Columbia University Press, 2013)


Works of Mao Zedong by date:


I Myself Am a Woman: Selected Writings of Ding Ling (Beacon Press, 1989)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Online databases and sources:


SOAS Chinese-Language databases (on-campus use only)


China-related documents from Wilson Centre Digital Archives:


The Chinese Anti-Rightist Campaign Database (1957–)


Peking Review

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Visual material:


Amitie Chine-Montargis (visual documents of the study-work group of Chinese intellectuals in Montargis, France)


Unseen photos of the Cultural Revolution


CIA documentaries on China (Mao and Cultural Revolution)

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Intellectuals, political thoughts, networks, dissent and purge