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Kernvragen in de geschiedenis van de Chinese politieke cultuur


Admission requirements

Prior coursework in Chinese history or pre-twentieth-century history recommended.


In this course we examine how political authority was constructed during the formation of the first Chinese empires (ca. 600 BCE-200CE) and how it was reimagined and reconfigured during late imperial times. We will approach this broader question by reading how Chinese politicians and writers debated the nature of rulership, the public good, law, violence, institutions, the role of people of different status, and the divine or natural law, and by analysing how they weighed the desirability and role of different types of authority in creating and maintaining social order. Each year we will read a selection from a wide variety of texts in translation including scriptural texts (the classics), philosophical discourses, political speeches and transcripts of debates, treatises and critiques, civil service examination essays, administrative manuals, legal codes, drama and poetry. The exposure to this broad range of politically relevant genres will allow us to take into account the role of textual authority, rhetoric, and political criticism in Chinese political culture, and to develop an awareness of the complex ways in which politics has been conceived of and practiced in Chinese history.

Course objectives

In this course you will:

  • become familiar with important Chinese politicians, intellectuals, texts, institutions, and concepts

  • analyze the major questions that have intrigued Chinese intellectuals

  • trace changes in the interpretation of central ideas as well as changes in the significance of key Chinese thinkers and intellectual movements

  • question, situate and interpret original texts in the context of contemporary historical research

  • compare aspects of Chinese political culture to those of other East Asian, West Asian or European political traditions


Timetable Chinastudies

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

  • Classes: 28

  • Weekly reading: 42

  • Presentation preparation: 16

  • Weekly journal: 4

  • Final essay: 50

Assessment method

  • Weekly journal entries noting major questions and passages: 15%

  • Participation: 15%

  • Presentation: 20%

  • Final essay: draft (10%) and final version (40%)

The final mark will be based on all required work. The mark for the final essay should be a pass (5,5 or higher). If the student fails the final essay (5,49 or lower), this part can be resubmitted once.


Yes, see Blackboard

Reading list

Readings will vary. The list of reading materials will be posted on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch


Hilde De Weerdt