Modern Chinese Literature and Politics in Context (MLM1011)

StaffDr Zhiguang Yin - Lecturer
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

In this module, students will:

  1. Develop a basic historical sense of modern (from late Qing period to 1949) Chinese literary development;
  2. Acquire the basic knowledge regarding the history of Chinese modern history of nation-building (from late Qing constitutional reform to the end of so-called anti-Japanese War);
  3. Be familiarised with both the works and ideas of major intellectuals and political figures such as: Liang Qichao, Zhang Taiyan, Lu Xun, Hu Shi, Guo Moruo, Yu Dafu, Mao Dun, and Mao Zedong;
  4. Receive basic knowledge about some major writers such as: Lin Shu, Yan Fu, Zhou Zuoren, Zhang Ailing, Ding Ling, Zhao Shuli, Xiao Hong, and Shen Congwen.
  5. Understand the political significance of “wen” (literature) in modern China, as well as the problematics of literary studies/debates in contemporary China. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate familiarity with the set texts/films and with key aspects of their historical, literary, and cultural context, in particular with developments and debates in Chinese modernisation and nation-building from 1900 to 1949.
  • 2. Show the ability to discuss key aspects of Chinese modern intellectual history in the context of political transformation and internationalisation in the early 20th century.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Mount an argument in sound written English using basic textual or other evidence.
  • 4. Ability to conduct archival investigations under tutorial.
  • 5. Cross-cultural awareness of contextualising events and ideas.
  • 6. Acquire a comparative perspective in understanding modern Chinese intellectual and literary history

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Assimilate, select and organise material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument.
  • 8. Undertake structured learning activities with guidance from course tutor(s) and with the help of written guidelines.

Syllabus plan

Lecture 1: Introduction: What is Modern China?


Lecture 2-3: Grotius in China: Late Qing Utopian Literature and the Political Imagination of Civilisation (Key Word: Reform)

Reading:  [Note: Readings might be subject to change due to the availability of their English translations.]

-       Liang Qichao. The Future of New China. (1902).

-       Liang Qichao. "On the Relationship between Fiction and the Government of the People." Tr. Gek Nai Cheng. In K. Denton, ed., Modern Chinese Literary Thought: Writings on Literature, 1893-1945. Stanford: SUP, 1996, 74-81.


Lecture 4-5: The Spiritual East vs. The Material West: Neo-Conservatism, Nationalism, and Evolutionism (Key Word: Conservatism)


-       Liang Qichao. "Selections from Diary of Travels through the New World." Trs. Janet Ng, Earl Tai and Jesse Dudley. Renditions 53/54: 199-213.

-       Liu Shipei. "Miscellaneous Notes on Literature (excerpts)." Tr. Theodore Huters. In Kirk A. Denton, ed., Modern Chinese Literary Thought. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1996, 87-89.


Lecture 6-7: “Voice from the Iron House”: May Fourth and Its Dilemma (Key Word: Enlightenment)


-       Lu Xun. “Dairy of a Mad Man”

-       Hu Shi. "The Literary Renaissance." In In Kirk A. Denton, ed., Modern Chinese Literary Thought. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1996.


Lecture 8-9: Politics of Arts: Revolutionary Literature and League of Left-wing Writers (Key Word: Revolution)


-       Mao Dun. “Spring Silkworm”. In Joseph S. M. Lau, Howard Goldblatt ed., The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, 56-73.

-       Yu Dafu. “Sinking”. In ibid, 31-55.

-       Film “Spring Silkworm” (1933).


Lecture 10-11: Legacy of Yan’an: Popularisation Movement of Literature (Key Word: People)


-       Mao Zedong.  'Talks at the Yan'an Conference on Literature and Art': A Translation of the 1943 Text with Commentary. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 1980.

-       Zhao Shuli. "Little Erhei's Marriage." Chinese Literature 5 (1979): 28-54.

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 Activities10Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities5Seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1Tutorial
Independent Guided Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan500 wordsAllVerbal and written feedback provided

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
Essay1002000 wordsAllWritten feedback provided

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssayAllAugust Ref/Def Period

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Kirk Denton, ed. Modern Chinese Literary Thought: Writings on Literature, 1893-1945. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.


Joseph Lau and Howard Goldblatt, ed. Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature. NY: Columbia University Press, 1995


ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages


Web based and electronic resources:


Modern Chinese Literature and Culture:


Other resources:


For Reference

General Studies and Historical Material Collections:

Fairbank, John K., and Denis Twitchett, eds. The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 12: Republican China, 1912-1949, Part 1. Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Fitzgerald, John. Awakening China: Politics, Culture, and Class in the Nationalist Revolution. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996;

Kuhn, Philip A. Origins of the Modern Chinese State. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002;

Hsia, C. T. A History of Modern Chinese Fiction. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971.


May Fourth:

Wang, Hui. "The Fate of 'Mr. Science' in China: The Concept of Science and Its Application in Modern Chinese Thought." positions 3, 1 (1995): 1-68.

Schwarcz, Vera. The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May Fourth Movement of 1919. Berkeley: UCP, 1986.


Revolutionary Literature

Yin, Zhiguang. Politics of Arts: The Creation Society and the Practice of Theoretical Struggle in Revolutionary China. Leiden: Brill, 2014.

Anti-Japanese War Period

Cyril Birch, ed., Chinese Communist Literature. NY: Praeger, 1963

Ban Wang, ed., Words and Their Stories: Essays on the Language of the Chinese Revolution. Leiden: Brill, 2010

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Chinese, History, Politics, Literature, Modern