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Topical Readings in Historical and Literary Chinese Texts


Admission requirements

MA Asian Studies students admitted to the Chinese Studies track or East Asian studies track. Intermediate to advanced level of classical Chinese is required (i.e. having successfully finished “Classical Chinees III” or a comparable course). Contact the instructor if you are not sure whether this course is suitable for your level of familiarity with classical Chinese.


The semester is divided into two parts. In the first part, students will explore selected texts by late-Ming writer Li Zhi (1527-1602) and translations of his letters and philosophical, cultural, historical, and poetic works. Students will also read cross-disciplinary scholarship on Li Zhi to think about methodological questions. In the second part, students will be invited to choose their own text on which they will work.

Course objectives

1) Further development of language skills in classical Chinese (reading and translation)
2) Further development of research skills in classical Chinese (interpretation and analysis)
3) Development of familiarity with a wide range of topics in classical Chinese (religion, philosophy, politics, literature, society, etc.)
4) Development of critical knowledge about late-imperial collections and archives


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend because of illness or misadventure, they should promptly inform the convener. Extra assignments may be set to make up for missed class time, at the convener’s discretion. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.

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. 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.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed? Dos and Don'ts.

Assessment and Weighing

Partial assessment Weighing
Participation and assignments 40%
Final Project, Topic will be determined by the student and instructor. A revision is required but not marked. 60%

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must complete all requirements (participation, assignments, final essay) and obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient final essay, a resit of the essay is possible. In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline. The resit will then make up 100% of the grade.

A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will be organized.  

Reading list

1) Fenshu; Xu Fenshu by Li Zhi. Zhonghua shuju, 1975/2010.
2) A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden): selected writings, by Li Zhi. Saussy, Haun, Lee, Pauline C., Handler-Spitz, Rivi, edited and translated. Columbia University Press, 2016.
3) The Objectionable Li Zhi: Fiction, Criticism, and Dissent in Late Ming China. Saussy, Haun, Lee, Pauline C., Handler-Spitz, Rivi, edited. University of Washington Press. 2021.

English books are available as e-books via library. Chinese texts will be reserved on library shelf for this class and posted on Brightspace if necessary.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.