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Confucianism in Context (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the Research Master Asian Studies or another relevant Research Master, preferably with some academic background in the field of Confucianism or Chinese philosophy. If you are hesitant whether this course is for you, please contact the instructor, dr. P. van Els, prior to registration. Students who are enrolled in regular Master programmes are kindly referred to the course description of Confucianism in Context as a regular Master course.


When Confucius taught his students, twenty-five centuries ago, he could not have foreseen that his name would be known across the globe today. In the course of the centuries, the “ism” named after him came to represent a wide range of philosophical and religious theories and practices. In our time, Confucianism is the beating heart of the culture of China and other East-Asian societies. This Master’s course analyzes Confucianism in a variety of contexts, both past and present, in China and abroad. Questions that will be discussed in class include: Do the Analects contain the actual sayings of Confucius? Why is he known as a “homeless dog”? How is the Master portrayed in Confucius Temples? What is Confucian Constitutionalism? Is it possible for a modern businessperson to be a Confucian junzi (exemplary person)? How important is the Confucian concept of xiao (filial piety) in Chinese communities today?

Course objectives

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • comprehend passages from Confucian texts (in translation)

  • grasp the diversity and complexity of Confucianism

  • grasp the diversity of approaches to study Confucianism

  • analyze complex scholarly arguments

  • actively participate in group discussions (in English)

  • formulate an original research question

  • conduct effective research to answer the research question

  • report on research findings, both orally and in writing


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend due to illness or mishap, they should promptly inform the instructor. Students who are absent more than twice may be excluded from further participation in the sessions. Special circumstances are at the discretion of the Board of Examinators.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. In addition, students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
active class participation 20%
oral presentation 20%
written assignments 20%
term paper 40%

In order to pass the course, students need a pass mark (“voldoende”, i.e. 5.5 or higher) for the term paper and for the course as a whole. A failed term paper may be re-written only if the original submission constituted a serious attempt. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is for administrative purposes only; the actual date will be communicated by the instructor.) The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. All categories of assessment must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


See above


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of a term paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the term paper is possible (40%). A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

Students may request an oral elucidation of the assessment within 30 days after publication of the grade.

Reading list

Reading materials will be announced on Brightspace. Students with no prior training in Confucianism or Chinese philosophy in general, are expected to contact the instructor prior to participating in the course, and may be asked to read additional literature.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof