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Pre-Modern China: Short Stories of the Ming and Qing


Admission requirements

Familiarity with Chinese history and literature (via courses followed in BA2 and BA1) will enhance participation in this course, but no one is an absolute prerequisite. 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 literary / social /cultural context for the writing of a final paper.


Brief introductory description of the course. Please include course subject and teaching materials used.
In the course we read extensively into the corpus of short stories from the Ming and the Qing period, concentrating on the vernacular stories from the 16th and 17th centuries. We will explore the social and cultural contexts in which this new literary form took shape, its formal aspects, and its parallels with themes and generic conventions in examples of early literary narratives and plays. Materials such as illustrations will be included, as a way of showing the stories’ openness to various interpretations in their own day. Over the course of the semester, students will read both the stories (available in translation) and secondary readings that take a number of different approaches to those stories. Students are encouraged to compare the short stories they learn in this course with fictional narratives from other literary traditions (Eastern &Western) they are familiar with.

Course objectives

Concise description of the course objectives formulated in terms of knowledge, insight and skills students will have acquired at the end of the course. The relationship between these objectives and achievement levels for the programme should be evident.

  • Familiarize students with the vernacular short story form and the cultural contexts from the 16th to the18th centuries

  • Introduce students to critical approaches to short stories in late imperial China

  • Develop students’ ability to analyze and interpret literary text(s) with the concepts and approaches learned from the course, as well as their skills to clearly present their ideas in a piece of critical writing


See the course schedule on the website of China Studies for day, time and location

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:

  • Total course load for the course (number of EC x 28 hours), for a course of 5 EC is 140 hours, for 10 EC 280. – Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars (eg 2 hours per week x 14 weeks = 28 hours) – Time for studying the compulsory literature (as a possible criterion approx. 7 pages per hour with deviations up and down depending on the material to be studied) (if applicable) time for completing assignments, whether in preparation at the college – (If applicable) time to write a paper (including reading / research)

Assessment method

Informal response papers 20%
Attendance and active participation (discussion and oral presentation) 20%
Essay plan (deadline early April) 20%
Final essay (deadline mid May) 40%
The grades for “informal response papers” will only be included in the final grade if the student passes “Attendance and active participation”. Students must complete all requirements (response papers, attendance& participation; essays) to pass the course. Guidelines for preparation of written work and the criteria for grading will be provided during the first meeting.


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

Reading list

(subject to change)
(Note: All texts will be made available electronically. Readings will be selected chapters or excerpts from the books /articles on this list. Some of the titles will be available on a reserve shelf in the East Asian Library.)

Abbott, H. Porter. The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2008.

Aina jushi. Doupeng xianhua, ca. 1650? Taibei: Sanmin, 1998.

Brook, Timothy. The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Clunas, Craig. Empire of Great Brightness: Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

Feng, Menglong. Stories Old and New: A Ming Dynasty Collection. Volume 1. Trans. Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000.

–––. Stories to Awaken the World: A Ming Dynasty Collection. Volume 3. Trans. Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009.

Hanan, Patrick. The Chinese Vernacular Story. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
–––.The Invention of Li Yu. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Hegel, Robert E. Reading Illustrated Fiction in Late Imperial China. Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1998.

“How Dong Yong Met the Immortal.” Filial Piety and Its Divine Rewards. Trans. Wilt L. Idema. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009.

Idema, Wilt L. Chinese Vernacular Fiction: The Formative Period. Leiden: Brill, 1974.

Idema, Wilt L., and Lloyd Haft. A Guide to Chinese Literature. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 1997.

Li, Yu. The Carnal Prayer Mat. Trans. Patrick Hanan. New York: Ballentine Books, 1990.

–––. Silent Operas. Ed. Patrick Hanan. Hong Kong: Research Center for Translation, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1990.

–––. Stories for the Summer Heat. Trans. Patrick Hanan. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.

Ling Mengchu. The Abbot and the Widow: Tales from the Ming Dynasty. Trans. Ted Wang and Chen Chen. Norwalk, Conn.: East Bridge, 2004.

Lioness Roars: Shrew Stories from Late Imperial China. Ed. Trans. Yenna Wu. Ithaca: Cornell University East Asia Program, 1995.

McLaren, Anne E. “Constructing New Reading Publics in Late Imperial China.” Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China. Ed. Cynthia J. Brokaw and Kai-wing Chow. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

–––. The Chinese Femme Fatale: Stories from the Ming Period. Sydney: Wild Peony, 1994.

Pu, Songling. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. Trans. John Minford. New York: Penguin
Books, 2006.

The White Snake and Her Son: A Translation of the Precious Scroll of Thunder Peak, With Related Texts. Ed. Trans. Wilt L. Idema. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009.


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

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Registration Contractonderwijs via:


Contact information
For further information about the content of this course, please contact the lecturer Ms. Wu Yinghui, via: