Chinese Language and Literature Courses

The course is designed for students who are of non-Chinese origin and were not raised in a Chinese-speaking environment; or who are of Chinese origin but do not speak Chinese and whose parents do not speak Chinese. The course develops beginning learners’ functional language ability—the ability to use Mandarin Chinese in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways at the beginning level. It helps students acquire communicative competence in Chinese while sensitizing them to the links between language and culture.


This course is designed specifically for Mandarin heritage students who possess speaking skill but little or no reading and writing skills in Chinese. The course utilizes students’ prior knowledge of listening and speaking skills to advance them to the intermediate Chinese proficiency level in one semester. Close attention is paid to meeting Mandarin heritage students’ literacy needs inmeaningful contexts while introducing a functional vocabulary and a systematic review of structures through culturally related topics. The Hanyu Pinyin (a Chinese Romanization system) and traditional/simplified characters are introduced. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor.


Elementary Cantonese 3B is designed for non-Chinese heritage learners with no prior knowledge of Cantonese, a regional variety of Chinese, introducing students to its use through oral, written and visual texts related to daily life. Topics include meeting people, shopping, leisure activities, telling the time, discussing daily routines, describing people and family members, and transportation, and students will compose texts in Cantonese that show the relationship between language and culture. Finally, the course develops students’ awareness of socio-culturally situated language use and their ability to compare and negotiate similarities and differences between the target culture and their own culture. Prerequisite: Chinese 3A or consent of instructor.


The second sequence introduces students to Chinese literature in translation. In addition to literary sources, a wide range of philosophical and historical texts will be covered, as well as aspects of visual and material culture. 7B focuses on late imperial, modern, and contemporary China. The course will focus on the development of sound writing skills.


The course further develops students’ linguistic and cultural competence. In dealing with texts, students are guided to interpret, narrate, describe, and discuss topics ranging from real-life experience and personal memoir to historic events. Intercultural competence is promoted through linguistic and cultural awareness and language use in culturally appropriate contexts. Prerequisites: Chinese 10A; or consent of instructor.


The course continues to develop students’ literacy and communicative competence through vocabulary and structure expansion dealing with topics related to Chinese heritage students’ personal experiences. Students are guided to express themselves on complex issues and to connect their language knowledge with real world experiences. Prerequisites: Chinese 1X; or consent of instructor.


The course helps students further develop their linguistic and cultural competence in Mandarin Chinese. It trains students to use Mandarin more appropriately and confidently in speaking, reading, and writing. With the expanded repertoire of Chinese language use and the increased awareness of the differences between cultures and subcultures, students are equipped to negotiate their way in an intercultural environment. Prerequisites: Chinese 1Y; or consent of instructor.

Going beyond satisfying basic communicative needs, students would learn to use Cantonese to complete more complicated tasks such as elaborating, comparing, analyzing, defending, debating, etc. Students would be frequently exposed to discussions regarding broader societal issues such as housing, food culture, fashion, safety, recreation, education, etc. Assuming basic competence of Cantonese, the course attempts to relate the learners to Chinese subculture through analyzing the link between Cantonese expressions and societal phenomenon in the Cantonese speaking society. Difference between Cantonese and Mandarin expressions and its cultural implications, as well as the social position of Cantonese globally and regionally. Prerequisites: Chinese 3X; or consent of instructor.

This course continues the development of critical awareness by emphasizing the link between socio-cultural literacy and a higher level of language competence. While continuing to expand their critical literacy skills, students interpret texts related to Chinese popular culture, social change, cultural traditions, politics and history. Through linguistic and cultural comparisons, students understand more about people in the target society and themselves as well as about the power of language in language use to enhance their competence in operating between languages and associated cultures. Prerequisite: Chinese 100A.


This course is designed for Chinese heritage language learners who have taken Chinese 100XA or an equivalent course. It guides learners to use their Chinese language knowledge and skills to survey portions of Chinese history and society and to comprehend Chinese cultural heritage in economic and socio-political contexts. Students read and analyze texts discussing cross-strait relations, Chinese people’s basic living necessities, and their changing lifestyles and mindsets since the economic reforms in mainland China. They are also introduced to several important historical figures in modern Chinese history and to modern literary works. In addition to the continuous development of reading techniques for communicative purposes, critical reading skills in the heritage language are also developed in order to interpret subtle meanings in texts. Different styles and genres of Chinese discourses in speaking and writing are further explored along with an increasingly sophisticated vocabulary, phrases, and structures. Moreover, students are required to be able to read both simplified and traditional versions of Chinese characters. The development of critical reading and writing skills enables students to understand more about people in the target culture and themselves, about what determines values and actions, and about the power of language. Prerequisite: Chinese 100XA. If you have not taken Chinese 100XA, to enroll in this class you must first take the online Chinese Language Placement Exam and be interviewed. Students are responsible for following the instructions at to complete the placement process. They must also accurately inform instructors about their language proficiency level. Any student who enrolls in a class below his/her level will be dropped from the class.

This course is designed to assist students to reach the advanced-mid level on language skills and to enhance their intercultural competence. Students read the works of famous Chinese writers. Movie adaptations of these writings are also used. In addition to reading and seeking out information, students experience readings by interpreting and constructing meanings and evaluate the effect of the language form choice. Prerequisites: Chinese 100B, 100XB, or 100YB. If you have not taken Chinese 100B, 100XB, or 100YB, to enroll in this class you must first take the online Chinese Language Placement Exam and be interviewed. Students are responsible for following the instructions at to complete the placement process. They must also accurately inform instructors about their language proficiency level. Any student who enrolls in a class below his/her level will be dropped from the class.


The second half of a one-year introductory course in literary Chinese, continuing the topics from the first semester, and giving basic coverage of relevant issues in the history of the language and writing system. This course examines the canonical texts of the late-imperial period, placing them in the context of literary culture of the Ming-Qing. The course focuses on a different set of texts each time it is taught; the aim is to introduce students to the primary issues in scholarship of late-imperial fiction and drama over a period of several years. Prerequisite: Chinese 110A.


Modern Chinese Buddhism emerged from a variety of reactions to the challenges posed by modernity. The course aims at introducing students to the ways in which Buddhists in China have engaged and continue to engage with the formation of a modern state and society in a globalized world. The course will follow the trends of Chinese Buddhism from the early twentieth century down to the most recent developments in the present. In exploring modern constructions of Buddhism in China, we will distinguish between modernism and modernity, and investigate how Chinese Buddhists introduced reforms and innovations, while also attempting to maintain continuity with traditional ideals and modes of practice.

This class is designed as a hands-on introduction to classical Chinese poetry, with an eye to developing the student’s ability to read and interpret poems in the original. Through the mutually informative processes of close reading and translation, supported by a selection of secondary writings offering relevant context, students will learn to perceive and articulate the aesthetic, formal, philosophical, and socio-historical features of selected poems thought to be representative of particular poets, periods, movements, and genres. Prerequisite: Chinese 10B or permission of the instructor. Advanced students in Japanese and Korean (with reading knowledge of Chinese characters) are welcome.



This course examines the development of Confucianism in pre-modern China using a dialogical model that emphasizes its interactions with competing viewpoints. Particular attention will be paid to ritual, conceptions of human nature, ethics, and to the way that varieties of Confucianism were rooted in more general theories of value.


This course sets out to examine a set of “focus chapters” from the Zhuangzi along several dimensions: 1) in the context of Warring States thought, 2) as independent stories that need to be puzzled through and read critically, and 3) tracing the influence of those chapters on subsequent periods of Chinese thought.


For many aspects of traditional education and literacy, the Analects might be termed a sort of “book zero”— beyond its own particularities of structure and content, it played from very early on an outsized role in defining and in structuring what reading itself was for and about, as well as the ground rules under which reading and interpretation were deemed most “naturally” to be carried out. In the early period, the Analects (along with the Classic of Filial Piety) might often be mentioned as the single classic text that a marginally literate person (say, a military man) had studied; yet its status was never circumscribable to that of a primer. In fact, the interpretive challenges it poses—the problem of interpreting situational meanings; and particularly that of discerning situational meanings of Confucius in particular—are so fundamental to the entire project of Classicism that Analects exegesis may be seen as carrying on a core function within Classicist hermeneutical thought in general. The Classics proper were deemed all to have received the imprimatur of Confucius in some way during his lifetime, through some combination of editorial shaping all the way up to full-blown authorship in the case of the Spring and Autumn Annals. The production of the Analects, by contrast, is traditionally described as emerging from the disciples’ response to the death of Confucius—the project of gleaning, collecting, and preserving fragmentary recollections of his personal teaching in action was at root driven by their unwillingness to “let go” of the Master’s responsive living presence. Thus in the Analects, the horizon within which interpretation occurs is that direction of imaginative and reconstructive effort asymptotically directed toward restoring that very living presence. That personal presence is the missing element that the text’s words are fated to point to without ever being able to adequately “express” it; such an interpretive impasse, signaled for example in the key catch-phrase wei yan 微言, or “subtle speech,” was a central leitmotif both for hermeneutical thought, theories of time and understanding, as well as a generative kernel for a range of other contexts where the rhetoric of direct address, generically embodied in the “recorded speech” genre (yuluti 語錄體), took center stage. In this class we will carry out a chronologically ordered series of readings in primary sources, including both Analects passages and commentary proper, as well as a range of sources that may be viewed as transpositions or afterwritings of the Analects. The general course aims, accordingly, are to deepen our conversancy in the interpretive world of the Analects as well as to learn to apply this Analects-derived interpretive “toolkit” to a broader range of premodern Chinese texts where a direct connection to the Analects itself may be elusive or even absent.