Chinese Popular Culture

History 117A

Spring 2011
182 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
TuTh 11-12:30P
  • This course satisfies the Pre-Modern Requirement for the History Major.
  • It is impossible to understand Chinese history and culture without knowing what ordinary people thought, felt, and believed. Most scholarship on China has ignored this fact; the present course, by contrast, is based on it. Traditional Chinese popular culture is both fascinating and accessible. Studying it deepens the understanding of those with a serious interest in Chinese civilization, and provides a fascinating introduction for those who know little about China. We will cover the following subjects: 1) the built environment--villages, houses, temples; 2) village festivals and household rituals; 3) the rituals and scriptures of cults to popular deities; 4) operas, storytelling, and other forms of village entertainment; and 5) popular visual arts. Since much important material is non-verbal, I use many slides and video clips. We will not deal with the world of the modern mass media; our focus will be on traditional popular culture in all its forms, which still survives to a greater or less degree everywhere Chinese is spoken.