Reed College Catalog


The Chinese department offers courses that provide training in the Chinese language and in the critical appreciation of Chinese literature, both classical and modern.

Language instruction in the first two years emphasizes a solid grounding in the basic skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. A third year of Chinese brings students to a level where they can begin reading simple unedited original texts with the help of a dictionary. A semester course in classical Chinese is also offered to third-year-level students so that they will be able to read classical texts in the original. Another semester course in the fourth year completes the cycle of Chinese language training at the undergraduate level.

The literature offerings, which may be taken as Chinese or literature courses, are designed to provide students with opportunities to read with critical insight all the major genres of Chinese literature in the historical, cultural, and theoretical contexts of the relevant texts. The courses are taught in English, using texts in translation. Additional conference hours may be arranged for students wishing to read the original texts. Courses in related subjects such as Chinese intellectual history and Chinese linguistics are also offered.

The department participates in the interdisciplinary humanities course Foundations of Chinese Civilization, which is a required course for Chinese majors. A description of the course can be found in the humanities section of this catalog.

The Chinese House, a residence hall, is the center of extracurricular activities for students interested in Chinese culture. The resident Chinese language scholar offers tutoring, conversation sessions, and other assistance to students taking Chinese.

Study Abroad

The importance of a period of total immersion in a target-language environment cannot be overemphasized for learners of Chinese. Chinese majors are strongly encouraged to apply to Reed-sponsored study programs in China. The Chinese department assists in the arrangement of such study trips and assesses the transcripts brought back from overseas for credit transfer.

Prerequisites for the Major


Students who wish to major in Chinese must have at least second-year language proficiency.

Requirements for the Major

  1. A minimum of five units at the 300 and 400 levels, including one unit of third-year Chinese, one unit of classical Chinese, and one unit of either classical Chinese literature or modern and contemporary Chinese literature.
  2. Humanities 230—Foundations of Chinese Civilization.
  3. A minimum of one unit in Chinese history, Chinese art history, Chinese anthropology, or Chinese religious thought, to be taken in the relevant departments.
  4. Chinese 470—thesis.
Recommended but not required
  1. An additional unit in Chinese history, Chinese art history, Chinese anthropology, or Chinese religious thought.
  2. Religion 157—The Idea Systems of Chinese Religions.
  3. Any other Asia-related course that the college may offer.

CHIN 110 - First-year Chinese

Full course for one year. A beginner’s course in standard (Mandarin) modern spoken and written Chinese, aimed at building a solid foundation in all its aspects: pronunciation (especially the tones), syntax, and basic vocabulary. Attention is given to a balanced development of all the basic skills of the language: listening and reading comprehension, speaking, and writing. Pinyin is the romanization system used in this and all other Chinese language courses. Both the traditional and simplified characters are taught. Students are expected to read both and write one of the two versions. Lecture-conference.

Chinese 210 - Second-year Chinese

Full course for one year. This course continues to build students’ basic skills and take them to intermediate-level proficiency. Prerequisite: Chinese 110 or acceptance through placement test. Lecture-conference.

Chinese 311 - Third-year Chinese

Full course for one semester. This course is designed to develop the four language skills to higher levels of proficiency. Particular emphasis is placed on reading and speaking. Greater facility in writing Chinese characters and competence in simple essay writing are the aims of written work in this course. Prerequisite: Chinese 210 or acceptance through placement test. Conference.

Chinese 316 - Classical Chinese

Full course for one semester. Intensive introduction to the grammar of classical Chinese through the study of selections from ancient literary, historical, and philosophical texts. Readings include the Analects, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Shiji, and Tang-Song prose essays. Conducted in Chinese. Prerequisite: Chinese 210 or equivalent. Conference.

Chinese 324 - Genres of Memory in Medieval China

Full course for one semester. This course will examine how genres and generic conventions structured the construction and reception of memory (of place, event, or person) within Chinese literature of the 3rd through 10th centuries. Both primary and secondary materials are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the texts in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 324. Not offered 2009-10.

Chinese 325 - Songs to Lost Music: Readings in Ci-Poetry,

Full course for one semester. This course investigates the rise and the development of ci-poetry, a genre related closely to music. The formal features and their emotional qualities, major modes of expression, and different stages of its development from the 9th to 13th centuries are the foci in the close reading of selected poems. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 325. Not offered 2009-10.

Chinese 334 - The Yijing: Text and Tradition of the Book of Changes

Full course for one semester. The Yijing, or Book of Changes, is a text of limitless possibilities. This course explores various strategies of reading the text and examines philosophical, religious, historical, and literary critical implications of the text and the tradition associated with it. The system and the language of the 64 hexagrams and various layers of attached verbalization are the focus of investigation. Readings are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the text in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 334. Not offered 2009-10.

Chinese 337 - Biopolitics and Modern Chinese Literature

Full course for one semester. This course explores literary realism in modern China as an interdisciplinary topic. We will examine how literary form presupposes a theory of life and why new modes of realism in modern fiction and pictorial representation should be reevaluated in light of the contemporaneous developments in biological science and philosophical inquiry. Both primary and secondary materials are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the texts in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 337.  Not offered 2009-10.

Chinese 346 - Avant-garde Fiction and Contemporary Chinese Cinema

Full course for one semester. This course investigates interactions between avant-garde fiction and contemporary Chinese cinema since the 1980s. Issues to be explored include the shared sociohistorical context that conditioned the production of these two cultural forms, and the nuanced differences between them in terms of intended audience, narrative modes, and thematic concerns. Readings are in translation, and films selected are subtitled in English. No Chinese language training is required. Readings in the original Chinese and additional instruction will be offered for students taking this course for Chinese credit. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 346. Not offered 2009-10.

Literature 346 Description

Chinese 353 - Early Chinese Historical Writings

Full course for one semester. This course explores the ways in which early Chinese thinkers attempted to explain the past and to define the meaning and functions of history. Working with a variety of texts from the beginning of writing to the first century BCE, including inscriptions on oracle bones and bronze vessels, myths, poetry, and historical writings, the course analyzes various ways and purposes of recording and transmitting history.  Issues related to the authorship will also be addressed, particularly how the writers of history perceived and represented themselves. Primary and secondary materials are in English. Students taking the course for Chinese credit will meet for additional hours for the guided reading of selected texts in the original Chinese. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 353.

Chinese 355 - Early Chinese Philosophical Texts

Full course for one semester. This course examines various philosophical discourses in the early period leading to the unification in 221 BC. It is a selective discussion of a few major philosophical texts and schools of thought. We investigate the predominant interest in human nature and cultivation, the epistemological models for understanding such emphases, and the implications of Chinese epistemology. Readings in translation. Students taking the course for Chinese credit will meet for additional hours for the guided reading of selected texts in the original Chinese. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 355. Not offered 2009-10.

Chinese 360 - The Social Life of Poetry in the Tang Dynasty (618–907)

Full course for one semester. This course will examine the role poetry played in Tang society, as well as how broader social changes—changing composition of the reading public, new technologies of writing, and developing economies of textual circulation—influenced the ways in which poetry was written, for whom, and with what aims. Both primary and secondary materials are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the texts in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 360. Not offered 2009-10.

Chinese 369 - Modernizing Sentiments, Sentimentalizing Modernity

Full course for one semester. Modern Chinese literature, burdened from its inception with the task of nation building, is often read in terms of national allegories, but the extent to which imaginations of new collective and individual identities are articulated in emotive terms merits critical attention. Writers of all kinds share the belief that for China to transform successfully into a modern nation the sentiments of its subjects must be properly reeducated. This course looks at successive models of affective modernity that are valorized or rejected at various junctures of the 20th century and seeks to understand their vicissitudes in literary history. It also asks at what point nation and emotion part ways and render untenable the assertion that works of modern Chinese literature are always necessarily national allegories. Readings for this course include fiction, supplemented occasionally by poetry and drama, from the late Qing period to contemporary China. An additional hour of class of guided readings in the original will be offered for students taking this course for Chinese credit. Readings are in English. Cross-listed as Literature 369.

Chinese 380 - Narrative Traditions of China

Full course for one semester. This course will approach the Chinese narrative tradition through close reading of the Story of the Stone and its literary antecedents. First published in 1792, Story of the Stone recounts the experiences of a magical stone from heaven reborn as the male heir of the immensely wealthy and aristocratic Jia family. Through reading and discussion of poetry, drama, short story, and longer works of fiction from earlier periods alongside selected chapters from the novel, we will explore the ways in which Story of the Stone self-consciously adapts literary conventions, techniques, and motifs from the narrative tradition, and learn to appreciate both China’s rich literary tradition and the unique artistic achievements of this novel. An additional hour of class of guided readings in the original will be offered for students taking this course for Chinese credit.  Readings in English.  Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.  Cross-listed as Literature 380.

Chinese 411 - Selected Readings and Essay Writing

Full course for one semester. This is an advanced-level Chinese language course aimed at further developing reading knowledge and writing skills. All reading texts are unadapted originals in 20th-century Chinese literature. Regular exercises in narrative and expository writing. Conducted in Chinese. Prerequisite: Chinese 311, 316, or equivalent. Conference.

Chinese 470 - Thesis

One-half or full course for one year.

Chinese 481 - Independent Study

One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.