Chinese Courses


Courses offered are subject to change; listed below is a sampling of courses taught in the past few years.


Wah Guan Lim
Li-hua Ying
Faculty contact and profile information may be found here.

Chinese Language Overview

The Chinese Program at Bard College is housed within the Asian Studies Program and the Foreign Languages Cultures and Literature Program. It aims to give students, both majors and non-majors, a solid training in spoken and written Chinese language, and an introduction to critical approaches to a broad range of Chinese culture, including classical and modern literature, Chinese history, philosophy, visual arts, film, and popular culture. By the time they enter their senior year, the students who have completed the set series of courses are expected to be able to communicate with native speakers, to read and write Chinese with relative ease, and to incorporate material in Chinese language into their senior projects.

The linguistic training begins with Chinese 101, an introductory course that focuses on the fundamentals of modern Chinese, followed by Chinese 106, an intensive course that accelerates the development of proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing Chinese. The eight-week Summer Intensive Program in Qingdao, China that takes place at the completion of Chinese 106 provides students with opportunities both inside and outside the classroom to experience China through intensive language study, well-developed courses on Chinese culture, tours and sightseeing trips, and participation in the daily lives of the local residents. Having completed the Summer Intensive Program, the students enroll in Chinese 301 and 302, a one-year advanced study, to further consolidate basic skills. The upper-level courses (303 and above) are designed to expose students to authentic and original texts, to enhance their ability to comprehend and discuss serious topics in Chinese critically and analytically.

In addition to courses offered by the Chinese Program, a wide variety of China-related courses are offered in History, Art History, Religion, Film Studies, Economics, Political Studies, International Studies, and other programs. Students should seek help from their department advisers in developing a well-integrated academic program built around their interests and drawing upon this rich variety of resources.

Course Samples

Language Courses

Beginning Chinese, CHI 101

For students with little or no previous knowledge of Chinese. An introduction to modern (Mandarin) Chinese through an intensive drill of its oral and written forms. Emphasis on speaking and basic grammar as well as the formation of the characters. Audio and video materials will be incorporated into the curriculum to expose the class to Chinese daily life and culture. Daily active participation, frequent use of the language lab and one hour per week tutorial with the Chinese tutor are expected. The course is followed by an intensive course (eight hours per week) in the spring semester and a summer intensive program (eight weeks) in Qingdao, China. Divisible.  Class size: 18

Intensive Chinese: CHI 106

This course is intended for students who have completed Beginning Chinese 101, and for those who have had the equivalent of one semester’s Beginning Chinese at another institution. We will continue to focus on both the oral and written aspects of the language. Regular work in the language lab and private drill sessions with the tutor are required.  An 8-week summer immersion program in Qingdao, China will follow this course.  Upon successful completion of the summer program, the students will receive six credits. (Financial aid is available for qualified students to cover part of the cost of the summer program. See Prof. Ying for details.)  Class size: 18

Intermediate Chinese I-II: CHI 201-202

This two-semester course is for students who have taken one and a half years of basic Chinese and want to expand their reading and speaking capacity. The course uses audio and video materials, and emphasizes communicative activities and ­language games. In addition to the central language textbook, readings are selected from newspapers, journals, and fictional works.

Advanced Chinese I-II: CHI 301-302

These courses are for students who have taken the equivalent of five semesters of basic Chinese at Bard or elsewhere. The goal is to expand students’ reading and speaking capacity and enrich their cultural experiences. Texts may include newspapers, journals, and fiction.

 Humanities Courses

Asian Humanities Seminar: CHI 150

The seminar in Asian Humanities is based on a shared reading and discussion of major works of literature, religion, and philosophy from a number of Asian traditions. These texts have been selected because they have been recognized as classics within Asia, setting the terms of an ongoing cultural conversation, and also because they speak to human concerns not necessarily limited to particular cultural or historical contexts. We will read representative  works such as those by Confucius, Zhuangzi, Murasaki Shikibu,  Sei Shônagon, Kenkô , Chikamatsu Monzaemon , Cao Xueqin, the Diamond and Platform Sutras, Ramayana, Bhagavad-Gita.  As a participant in this seminar you will be encouraged to join in this conversation, to confront these works directly, to read these classic texts so as to be able to reflect meaningfully about them in their own terms and in terms of your own traditions. Because the works selected stretch across two and a half millennia and include translations from Indian, Chinese, and Japanese, the course aims less to transmit a comprehensive body of historical knowledge than to allow participants an initial but direct engagement with some of the more significant literary, intellectual, and religious texts of Asia.

Other Non-language Courses

Theater and Performance in the Chinese-Speaking World: CHI 208

This course seeks to introduce the most exciting developments in Chinese-language theatre from the early modern period to contemporary times in China as well as the diaspora, centering on avant-garde performances.  We will examine the interwoven relationship between state, politics, identity and performance, and in particular investigate how despite the state’s efforts to define artistic creativity the theatre has always defied the status quo and enacted its resistance performance.  We will engage in close readings of critical texts that introduce the debates surrounding these tensions, and read dramatic texts in English translation as well as view them through DVDs. Class size: 20

Echoes of the Past: Chinese Cinema and Traditional Chinese Literature: CHI 211

The past is seen through today’s concerns and perspective. In view of this dialogue between pre-modern and modern culture, this course eschews a chronological coverage of Chinese literature and culture that proceeds from one dynasty or time period to the next. Instead, it will focus on touchstone texts from pre-modern literary Chinese traditions, and then attend to how this cultural legacy is drawn upon, appropriated, and re-invented in contemporary cinema. Canonical texts include poetry, historical writings, and fictional narratives. We will focus on films made by some of the most influential directors including Wong Kar-wai, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou, Jia Zhangke, and Lu Chuan. In every unit, we examine contemporary films alongside classical texts, guided by critical inquiries that look at how reading practices structure interpretation, how myths are framed, and how personal and cultural memory works. For example, we begin with Sima Qian’s (2nd c. BCE) seminal historical narratives and biographies on the founding of the first Chinese empires, and then turn to two contemporary films—Zhang Yimou’s Hero (2002) and Lu Chuan’s King’s Feast (2012)—to consider how they transform the earlier materials, retell the imperial past, and work as commentaries on the present-day Chinese state. Conducted in English. Class size: 20

The Chinese Novel: CHI 215

The class reads The Story of the Stone (aka Dream of the Red Chamber), which one-fifth of the world considers to be the best novel ever written, and discusses it both as literature and as cultural artifact.

Modern Chinese Fiction: CHI 230

Conducted in English, this course is a general introduction to modern Chinese fiction from the 1910s to the present. China in the 20th century witnessed a history of unprecedented upheavals and radical transformations and its literature in this period was often a battleground for political, cultural, and aesthetic debates. We will read English translations of representative works by major writers from three periods (1918-1949; 1949-1976; since 1976) such as Lu Xun, Ding Ling, Ba Jin, Shen Congwen, Lao She, Mao Dun, and Chang Eileen from the May Fourth Movement and the intellectual radicalization of the first half of the 20th century, and Mo Yan, Yu Hua, Can Xue, and Han Shaogong out of the Cultural Revolution and the liberalization of the post-Mao era.  In addition, we will study works by authors from Taiwan and Hong Kong such as Pai Hsien-yung, Wang Wen-hsing, Li Ang, Li Yung-p’ing, Chu T’ien-wen, Xi Xi, and Shi Shu-ching. We will consider issues of language and genre, nationalism and literary tradition, colonialism, women’s emancipation movement, the influence of Western literary modes such as realism and modernism on the inception of literary modernity in China, and the current state of critical approaches to the study of modern Chinese literature.

Chinese Fantastic Tales: CHI 303

The class reads tales written in classical Chinese as well as their renderings in modern Chinese. Texts are selected from well-known classical works such as Zhuang Zi, Lie Zi, and Huainan Zi, written in the pre-Qin and Han Dynasties. Stories written in later periods, including “Liaozhai Zhiyi,” are also studied. This advanced language course is conducted in Chinese. Open to students who have had two years or more of Chinese language. Texts may include newspapers, journals, and fiction.

Lu Xun and the Modern Chinese Short Story: CHI 304

An advanced language course that involves close reading of short stories by major writers of 20th-century China, including Lu Xun, Eileen Chang, Shen Congwen, Ding Ling, Bai Xianyong, and others. While focusing primarily on textual analysis, the class also seeks to understand the concept of modernity in the context of Chinese literary and cultural traditions, addressing issues such as social commitment, artistic style, and historical background. Conducted in Chinese.

Contemporary Chinese Pop Culture: CHI 305

This course is for students who have studied Chinese for at least three years. It examines various aspects of contemporary popular culture in China. Genres include print culture, cinema, television, pop music, visual arts, fashion, advertising, and cyberculture. Frequent quizzes, oral presentations, essays, and projects. Conducted in Chinese. Class size: 12

Classical Chinese: CHI 308

This course provides a foundation in the grammar, diction and style of Classical Chinese (also called Literary Chinese), which is the operative language for more than two millennia of China’s literary traditions. The earliest materials we cover will be seminal texts from the Warring States period (ca. 5th century BCE). This course also doubles as a gateway into core genres, as we will work directly with original texts of historical narrative, philosophy, and poetry. Upon completion of the course, students will not only acquire a conversancy with pre-modern writings but will also better understand the literary elements that are part of modern written Chinese. While vocabulary lists will be furnished for the readings, we will also polish our skills in working independently with dictionaries, including electronic resources. To enroll, students are expected to have at least two years of Chinese or Japanese language instruction.  Class size: 15

Chinese Calligraphy: CHI 315

This course introduces the East Asian art of calligraphyshufa in Chinese and shodo in Japanese. Long regarded as the highest form of art in East Asia, calligraphy lends itself to painting and poetry. Together they form the so-called three perfections in the literati tradition. We will study the aesthetic principles that connect the three aesthetic forms. Considerable time will be devoted to discussing the philosophical traditions of Taoism, Zen Buddhism and Confucianism. The emphasis of this course, however, is on learning the techniques of writing with the brush and developing individual styles of each student. One term paper and daily calligraphy projects.

China in Film and Literature I, II: CHI 403-404

An exploration—through screenings, lectures, and discussions—of such topics as the origins of traditional Chinese cinema; nationalism and revolution; social realism; the search for roots in the post-Mao era; nativist film and literature; the Fifth Generation and experimental fiction; Hong Kong popular culture in the commercial age; feminism and sexuality; and representations of exile, diaspora, and the new immigrants.

General Requirements

Before Moderation, Asian Studies students should take four courses cross-listed with the Asian Studies Program. Asian Studies students focusing on Chinese and Japanese Studies are expected to have taken at least one year of Chinese or Japanese language and at least two courses cross-listed with Asian Studies. One of these courses should be in their field of future interest, which may be any of the disciplines taught in the Arts, Languages and Literature, or Social Studies Divisions.

For graduation, Asian Studies students should complete a minimum of 40 credits in Asian Studies. Four credits (one course) must be an Asian Studies core course treating an aspect of Asia in comparative perspective. The Senior Project topic may be specific to a particular culture or may be comparative.

Students in Chinese and Japanese Studies focusing on language and literature must have a minimum of 44 credits. They should complete at least three years of language study in either Chinese or Japanese and four courses cross-listed with Asian Studies. Of these, at least two courses should be on the literature of the student’s primary region, one course on the literature of another part of East Asia, and one course in non-Asian literature, preferably oriented toward literary theory.

Students in Chinese and Japanese Studies focusing on the arts and/or social studies should complete at least two years of language study in either Chinese or Japanese and five courses cross-listed with Asian Studies. Of these, at least two courses should be in the primary discipline and region. At least one other course should be on the primary region of interest, plus one course in the primary discipline but that considers an area outside of Asia. Students of Chinese and Japanese Studies should incorporate materials involving either language into their Senior Projects.