Fall 2022 - HIST 366 D100

Social and Cultural History of Modern China (4)

Class Number: 4534

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    SWH 10061, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including six units of lower division history. HIST 255 is recommended.



Explores the social and cultural problems in modern Chinese history, with special emphasis on popular and elite cultures in the late Qing, Republican, and socialist eras.


This class will explore how the momentous changes of China’s Republican era (1911-1949) affected everyday life and culture. After beginning the term with a three-week introduction to the major ideas, events, personalities, and conflicts of the period, we will use film and literature as windows on themes such as imperialism, nationalism, labour issues, hygiene and public health, and everyday lives in both cities and rural areas. By the end of the term you should: (1) be able to identify major themes and events in China’s Republican period and link them to changes in everyday life and culture; (2) be able to critically evaluate films and literature as historical sources; (3) become familiar with how historians practice their craft by writing your own research paper based on primary and secondary sources


  • Attendance and participation 20%
  • Two take home exams 25%
  • Research paper (8–12 pages) For your final project you will choose your own window (either building on a theme covered during the term or selecting another area of interest—for example, business, diplomacy, sexuality, science, music, social media, or sports) 40%
  • Final Presentation (Students will present their works in groups at the final class meeting. Collaboration in advance of the presentation is essential. The format and style are up to students as long as you effectively share your findings with the entire class and make connections between your projects.) 15%



Week 1: The Impression of the Republican period
Film: This Life of Mine (wo zhe yi beizi). Dir. Shi Hui.

Week 2: 1911 Revolution and the Warlord Era                                      

Week 3: May Fourth and Nanjing Decade

Week 4: War and Revolution                                                    

Week 5: Nationalism
Reading: Xiao Hong, The Field of Life and Death.                                                                 
Film: The Big Road (Dalu), 1934, dir. Sun Yu.

Week 6: Imperialism
Lenin, Vladimir I. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism: A Popular Outline; Hu Sheng, Imperialism and Chinese Politics (1948)
Robert A. Bickers and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, “Shanghai’s ‘Dogs and Chinese Not Admitted” Sign: Legend, History and Contemporary Symbol,” China Quarterly 142 (June 1995): 444-466.
Film: Oil for the Lamps of China, 1935, dir. Mervyn LeRoy.

Week 7: The Rise of Communism
Reading: Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China, parts 4–6 and chapter 1 of part 7.
Brian Tsui, “Reforming Bodies and Minds: Anticommunism and Transforming Political Enemies in Nationalist China,” positions: Asia critique, vol. 28, no. 4 (2020): 789–814.

Week 8: City                                                                                                               
1. Lu Hanchao, Beyond the Neon Lights, Chapter 5, 189–242.
2. Yeh Wen-hsin, Shanghai Splendor: A Cultural History, 1843-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), Chapter 3&4.
3. Farrar, James and Andrew David Field, “The Golden Age of the Jazz Caberet,” in Shanghai Nightscapes, pp. 16–38.
Film: Scenes of City Life (Dushi fengguang), 1935, dir. Yuan Muzhi/New Women (Xin Nüxing), dir. Cai Chusheng.

Week 9: Countryside
1. James Yen, The Mass Education Movement, 1925.
2. Mao Zedong, “Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan,” 1927
3. Liang Shuming, Rural Reconstruction in Tsouping, 1935.
Film: Filial Piety (Tian lun), 1935, dir. Fei Mu. (https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1Rx411n7rD/)

Week 10: Labour is Scared!
Readings: Xia Yan, “Indentured workers” (baoshen gong), translated by adamlam99 (zhihu user)
Emily Honig, “The Contract Labour System and Women Workers: Pre-Liberation Cotton Mills of Shanghai,” Modern China, pp. 421-454; Sisters and Strangers: Women in the Shanghai Cotton Mills, 1919-1949 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), chapter 6&7.

Week 11: Hygiene, Public Health, and Fatigue
Reading: Bridie Andrews, The Making of Modern Chinese Medicine (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2014), chapter 5.
Lei, S.Hl, “Moral Community of Weisheng: Contesting Hygiene in Republican China,” East Asian Science 3, 475–504 (2009).        

Week 12: Everyday Life and Civil War                                                   
Reading: Qian Zhongshu, Fortress Besieged, 192-361.                                                                     
Film: Myriad of Lights [Wanjia denghuo], 1948, dir. Shen Fu.



  1. Xiao Hong, The Field of Life and Death & Tales of Hulan River, HowardGoldblatt (Cheng & Tsui, 2002).
  2. Qian Zhongshu, Fortress Besieged, trans. Jeanne Kelly and Nathan K. Mao (New Directions, 2004 [1947]).

Registrar Notes:


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