Chinese Culture, History, and Values


If there’s one uncontested fact about being Chinese it is the sense of being part of a culture with a long history. History shapes not just contemporary practices, but also contemporary values. Hence, to understand China, it is essential to understand the main themes of Chinese history and philosophy that serve as reference points for Chinese intellectuals and leaders in everyday thinking and conversation. This course will introduce the student to main themes in Chinese history and philosophy. Assigned readings will present contrasting perspectives. The student will be asked to draw comparisons with non-Chinese societies and think about implications for contemporary Chinese society as well as China’s role in the world.

Applicable TowardsCore
Department Schwarzman Scholars
Credits 3
FacultyWang Hui
Daniel Bell

Course Structure

This course lasts 8 weeks, divided into two sections.

  • In section 1 (4 weeks) the discussion will focus on four themes in ancient Chinese history including (1) Morality and Politics (2) Centralization and Decentralization (3) Selection of political leaders (4) Democracy and Meritocracy.
  • In section 2 (4 weeks) the discussion will focus on themes in Chinese history from the mid-nineteenth century onwards including (1) War and Peace (2) Early Reform and Revolution (3) Socialism and Reform (4) Confucianism and Commerce.

Teaching Style

The course will be discussion-based. For each topic, a professor will deliver a lecture, followed by comments from the other professor that offers a contrasting perspective, with time for open discussion. The class will be broken up into smaller groups so students have more time and opportunity for quality discussion.


Lead Faculty

Daniel Bell is a Professor of Philosophy at Tsinghua University. He is the author of Communitarianism and Its Critics; East Meets West; and Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context in addition to many other influential books, chapters, and articles. Dr. Bell received his B.A. from the Department of Psychology at McGill University and his M.Phil. and D.Phil. in Politics from Oxford University.

Wang Hui is a Professor of Literature and History in the School of Humanities at Tsinghua University. He is a leading global scholar in the fields of Chinese intellectual history and literature. Among his influential publications are The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought (four volumes in Chinese); China's New Order; The End of the Revolution; The Politics of Imagining Asia. Named as one of the top 100 intellectuals in the world, Foreign Policy and Prospect (2008). Winner, 2013 Luca Pacioli Prize. Wang completed his undergraduate studies at Yangzhou University and then graduate studies at Nanjing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences where he received his Ph.D.



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