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Reading Narratives in Premodern China


Admission requirements

No prerequisites. Successful completion of a course in Chinese history or literature at the BA1 and BA2 levels is recommended. Students are expected to exert critical thinking, and to plan their individual engagement/production (final paper) with good strategy and originality. Evaluation will be based on class discussion, familiarity with the material and the elaboration of a workable approach in the assessment of texts and specific issues as elements of a larger social /cultural /literary context for the writing of a final paper.


This course adopts “narrative” as a broad concept to examine a wide range of texts from different angles. It builds on and expands students’ knowledge of premodern China from a cultural-historical point of view. Readings will be drawn from historiographical accounts, (auto) biographical writings, fiction, and legal cases and focus on the period of late imperial China (ca 1550-1850). We will explore a number of important issues in the context of late imperial Chinese life: order and chaos, self and the Other, desire and transcendence, gender norms and transgression, memory and trauma, violence and justice, etc.

Classes will combine analysis of primary texts with discussion of secondary reading that takes different critical approaches to the primary texts. Emphasis is on how values, beliefs, and popular imaginations were shaped by and in turn shaped the increasingly diverse and mobile world of late imperial China.

Course objectives

  • Familiarize students with major types of narratives in the context of late imperial China;

  • Introduce approaches that critically engage with key issues in late imperial Chinese culture;

  • Develop students’ ability of using critical approaches to analyze and interpret texts, as well as their skills to clearly present their ideas in oral presentations and writing.


See collegerooster

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

5 EC x 28 h = approx 140 hours total

  • 13 × 2 contact hours = 26 hours

  • about 4 hours preparation for each session of 2 hours = approx 56 hours

  • approximately 16 hours preparation for oral presentations = approx 16 hours

  • approximately 40 hours for writing paper = approximately 40 hours

Assessment method

  • Short writing assignments, 20% of the final grade

  • Attendance and active participation, 20% of the final grade

  • Essay plan, 10% of the final grade

  • Final essay, 50% of the final grade

The final grade consists of the weighted average of all course components. A resit for the final essay is allowed if a student scores a non-passing grade (5,49 or lower) on the first attempt.


Yes. This course uses Blackboard for announcements, availability of syllabus, supplementary course documents, etc.

Reading list

Articles will be posted on Blackboard. Books will be available on a reserve shelf in East Asian Library.


Registration through uSis. Not registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registrationprocedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


For further information about the content of this course, please contact the lecturer Wu Yinghui