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China from the Margins. A Coastal and South Perspective up to 1900


Admission requirements

Basic introduction to Chinese history (BA 1 Chinese Geschiedenis tot 1911 or equivalent)


Far away from the political centres in the north, coastal and south China is often considered as marginal in Chinese history. It however played, and is still playing, a crucial role in shaping the relationship between China and the world, and in promoting the social, cultural, and economic transformations of Chinese society. While less documented in the dynastic history written by the political elite in the imperial capitals in the north, it can be approached either from a subaltern perspective by reading local and village archives from the bottom up, or from a colonial and global perspective by investigating European archives from the outside in. In this course, we are going to explore the pre-twentieth century history of coastal and south China, by looking at its transitions from tropical colonies of the northern dynasties, to the springboard of the Mongol and Chinese overseas expansions, to a centre of Confucian ritual revolution, and eventually to the frontier of Sino-European interactions.

Course objectives

  • Identify related themes in the fields of social, cultural, and economic history;

  • Critically engage the debates about the relation between China and the maritime world;

  • Formulate clear and coherent arguments.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  1. Class participation and discussion 20%
  2. Presentation 20%
  3. Final research paper 60%

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Week 1 Exotic South
Edward Schafer, The Vermilion Bird: T'ang Images of the South (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 9-47.
Week 2 Tropical Diseases and Medicine
Angela Ki Che Leung, “A ‘South’ Imagined and Lived: The Entanglement of Medical Things, Experts, and
Identities in Premodern East Asia’s South,” in Asia Inside Out: Itinerant People, ed. Eric Tagliacozzo, Helen F. Siu, and Peter C. Perdue (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2019), 122-45.
Week 3 Canton Exotica
Week 4 The Rise of Quanzhou
Hugh R. Clark, “Overseas Trade and Social Change in Quanzhou through the Song,” in The Emporium of the World: Maritime Quanzhou, 1000-1400, ed. Angela Schottenhammer (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 47-94.
Week 5 Mongol-Early Ming Maritime Expansions
Week 6 Lineage and Ritual Revolution
David Faure, Emperor and Ancestor: State and Lineage in South China (Stanford University Press, 2007), 125-48.
Week 7 Fishermen and Pirates
Helen F. Siu and Liu Zhiwei, “Lineage, Market, Pirate, and Dan: Ethnicity in the Pearl River Delta of South China,” in Empire at the Margins: Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China, ed. Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen F. Siu, and Donald S. Sutton (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 285-310.
Week 8 The Art of Being Governed
Michael Szonyi, The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017), 15-38.
Week 9 The Lost Colony of the Dutch Empire
Tonio Andrade, “A Chinese Farmer, Two African Boys, and a Warlord: Toward a Global Microhistory,” Journal of World History, 21:4 (2010): 573-91.
Week 10 The Chinese Century
Léonard Blussé, “Chinese Century: The Eighteenth Century in the China Sea Region,” Archipel, 58 (1999): 107-29.
Week 11 The Opium Wars
Songchuan Chen, “An Information War Waged by Merchants and Missionaries at Canton: The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in China, 1834–1839,” Modern Asian Studies, 46:6 (2012): 1705-1735.
Week 12 Early Leiden Sinologists
Koos Kuiper, The Early Dutch Sinologists (1854-1900): Training in Holland and China, Functions in the Netherlands Indies (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 1-45.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

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Guanmian Xu


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