Chinese Popular Culture


Spring 2017
141 Haas Pavilion
Day & Time: 
MWF 10-11
Class Number: 
  • This course satisfies the Pre-Modern Requirement for the History Major.
  • From imperially-inspired haute couture to Xi Jinping's promotion of a new "spiritual civilization" (jingshen wenming 精神文明), after more than a century of reform and revolution, "traditional" culture is more popular than ever in China today. But what was life like for ordinary people in imperial China, and how have thoughts, beliefs, values, and practices transformed in modern times? In this course, we will examine Chinese popular culture through a historical lens. We will ground our study in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), China's last, largest, and most culturally diverse imperial formation, and a crucial bridge between traditional and modern life in China. We will consider the ways in which commerce, institutions and rituals structured social life in Qing China; how people viewed and represented the world around them in literature, poetry, art, music, fashion, and humor; and the relationship between new ideologies and the cultural transformations of the early twentieth century. In the final course project, you will have the opportunity to further explore the post-Qing transformation(s) of a chosen aspect of Chinese culture, and to consider how the past continues to be reimagined to serve the present.