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CHIN344 Writing China: Texts, Ideas and History

A cultural-historical approach to examining the transformations of the Chinese culture of writing in the modern world. The course is taught in English. No previous knowledge of Chinese is required.

Why did language activists propose to abolish Chinese characters and replace them with the Latin alphabet at the beginning of the 20th century? How do Chinese characters enjoy a reversal of fate in the 21st century by tapping into new media technology? This paper examines the history of modern China and the transformations of today's China in terms of the changing mediums and practices of the Chinese language.

Paper title Writing China: Texts, Ideas and History
Paper code CHIN344
Subject Chinese
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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18 200-level CHIN or HIST points
CHIN 244
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Suitable for students specialising in any discipline.
Teaching staff
Convenor: Dr Lorraine Wong
Paper Structure

The paper examines the relation between Chinese "language" and "culture" by analysing the cultural implications of different modern mediums of the Chinese language appearing in China from the late 19th century to the present. The primary materials of this paper include not only Chinese literary texts and intellectual essays on the themes of linguistic modernisation and nationalisation, but also songs, films, art works and digitalised representations.

Questions to be explored include: the interface between Pinyin, Chinese characters and the Latin alphabet in relation to global media culture; Mao Zedong as a poet and a calligrapher; the allegorical articulations of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) in the fake Chinese characters created by Chinese avant-garde artists; as well as the ways Chinese artists respond to and resist globalisation by re-imaging the Chinese script in terms of digital culture.

Teaching Arrangements

NOTE: This paper is also offered as CHIN 244 - the content of the paper is the same for both CHIN 244 and CHIN 344, but assessment is differentiated between the two levels.


A Cheng, The King of Trees: Three Novellas: The King of Trees, The King of Chess, The King of Children

Additional required readings are available on Blackboard.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

By participating in lectures, tutorials and screenings, students will gain:

  • An understanding of the complex, evolving and non-homogenous nature of the Chinese language (both as a medium and as a practice)
  • An understanding of the main themes of Chinese intellectual debates and their influences on Chinese society
  • A critical awareness of the tensions between old traditions and modern situations facing Chinese thinkers, writers and artists

By reading and completing the assigned readings/tasks, student will develop:

  • An ability to articulate the connections between modern Chinese history and media culture in the global contexts
  • A historically-informed, up-to-date and critical knowledge about the transformations of Chinese literary culture
  • An ability to independently investigate a particular topic focusing on aspects of past or contemporary Chinese society by refining their research and argumentation skills through essay-writing, tutorial discussion and in-class presentation

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 15:00-16:50 9-14, 16-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 16:00-16:50 9-14, 16-22