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China Humanities: The Individual in Chinese Culture

Harvard University via edX

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Overview

In China’s history, there has been a longstanding belief that being cultured and being moral are necessary for a person to participate in public life. We often think of China in political terms – and focus on the history of government – or in social terms – and study the role of the family in society. But this course looks at the individual and the striving for culture and morality.

In China Humanities, you will explore the idea of China as a country of individuals who create the thing we call Chinese culture through their own art, literature, and philosophy. The course will focus on how individuals pursue unique forms of expression, act upon their distinct experiences, and follow their own desires, creating enduring works that we continue to look to for inspiration and wisdom.

You will discuss the theories of early Chinese thinkers like Confucius and Zhuangzi, explore the poetry of writers like Tao Yuanming and Du Fu, read from novels such as the Dream of the Red Chamber, and learn how to see painting and calligraphy – all with a particular focus on how these works have shaped Chinese culture as we know it today.

Syllabus

Unit 1: Early Chinese Thinkers and Writers and their Notion of Self

Unit 2: Revealing the Individual in Chinese Poetry

Unit 3: Love and Literature: Yingying’s Story

Unit 4: Neo-Confucianism

Unit 5: Chinese Art: How to Paint the Inner Voice?

Unit 6: Love and Illusion in the Story of the Stone

Unit 7: Humanities Past and Present

Unit 8: Roundtable Discussion, on the Individual and Society

Taught by

Peter K. Bol , Wai-yee Li , Stephen Owen , Michael Puett , Eugene Wang and Xiaofei Tian

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