Skip to main content

Module Reading List

Modern China: History and Culture, 2021/22, Semester 2
Dr Frances Weightman
Tutor information is taken from the Module Catalogue

Suggested Reading List

John K. Fairbank and Merle Goldman, China: A New History 2nd edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006) (online via library)  


Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China. 3rd Edition (New York and London: W.W.Norton, 2013)   


Knight, Sabina, Chinese Literature: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, (online via library)  


Louis, Kam, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Chinese Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, (online via library)  

Further Reading ~ for essay background/interest etc.,

Section A: For history topics (mainly) ~ ordered chronologically

The late Qing and fall of the empire

Jonathan Spence, God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan (London: Harper Collins, 1996)

Frederic Wakeman, Jr. The Fall of Imperial China (New York: the Free Press, 1975)

The Republican period

Bergère, Marie-Claire Sun Yat-sen (Stanford, SUP, 1998)

Lucien Bianco, Origins of the Chinese revolution, 1915-1949 (Stanford, SUP, 1971)

Rana Mitter, A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

James E Sheridon, China in Disintegration: The Republican era in Chinese history, 1912-1949 (New York: the Free Press, 1975)

Harold Z. Schiffrin, Sun Yat-sen and the origins of the Chinese revolution, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.

Mao Zedong and the People’s Republic of China Brown, Jeremy, and Johnson, Matthew D. (eds), Maoism at the Grassroots: Everyday life in China’s Era of High Socialism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015. Delia Davin, Mao Zedong (Stroud: Sutton publishing, 1997)

Gao, Mobo, C.F. The Battle for China’s Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution, London: Pluto Press, 2008 (Online via library)

Mao Zedong, Selected Readings from the works of Mao Tse-tung (Peking Foreign Languages Press, 1971) (Available online)

Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and after: a history of the People's Republic (New York: Free Press, 1986)

Stuart R. Schram, The thought of Mao Tse-tung (Cambridge: CUP, 1989)

Philip Short, Mao: a life (New York: Henry Holt, 2000)

Jonathan D. Spence, Mao Zedong. New York: Viking, 1999.

Ross Terrill, Mao: a biography (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1999)

Rural China

Mobo C.F. Gao, Gao Village: A portrait of rural life in Modern China (London: Hurst & Co., 1999)

David Bachman, “Chinese Bureaucratic Politics and the Origins of the Great Leap Forward,” Journal of contemporary China. (Summer 1995).

Post Cultural Revolution and Contemporary China

John Gittings, The Changing Face of China : From Mao to the Market (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Lynn Pan, The New Chinese Revolution (London: Sphere books, 1988)

Orville Schell, Mandate of Heaven: the legacy of Tiananmen Square and the next generation of Chinese leaders (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994)

‘Zhang Liang’(compiler) The Tiananmen Papers: The Chinese leadership’s decision to use force against their own people – in their own words, English edition ed. by Andrew J. Nathan, Perry Link, Orville Schell (published in the UK by Little, Brown & Co., 2001)

L.Sullivan (ed.) China Since Tiananmen: Political, economic, and social conflicts (New York: M.E.Sharpe, 1995)

  1. MacFarquar (ed.) The Politics of China: the eras of Mao and Deng (Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Richard Baum (ed.) Reform and reaction in post-Mao China : the road to Tiananmen (New York and London: Routledge, 1991)

People’s lives

Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. London: HarperCollins, 1991.

Nien Cheng, Life and Death in Shanghai (London: Grafton, 1986)

Zhang Xinxin and Sang Ye, Chinese Lives: An Oral History of Contemporary China (edited by W.J.F. Jenner and Delia Davin). London: Penguin, 1986.

Section B: For culture topics (mainly) ~ ordered thematically

General Culture Reading

Barmé, Geremie R., In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Braester, Yomi, Witness Against History: Literature, Film and Public Discourse in Twentieth-Century China, Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Gu, Ming Dong (ed.). Routledge Handbook of Modern Chinese Literature. Boca Raton, FL: Routledge, 2018. (Online via library).

Wang, David Der-wei, A New Literary History of Modern China, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Cultural Crisis and ‘New Culture’

Davies, Gloria. Lu Xun’s Revolution: Writing in a Time of Violence. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Denton, Kirk. Modern Chinese literary thought: writings on literature 1839-1945. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.

Hockx, Michel, ed. The literary field of twentieth-century China. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 1999.

Lu Xun. The real story of Ah-Q and other tales of China : the complete fiction of Lu Xun. Translated with an Introduction by Julia Lovell. London: Penguin, 2009.

Yu, DafuNights of spring fever and other writings. Beijing: Panda Books, 1984.

Shanghai Modern

Lee, Leo Ou-fan, Shanghai Modern: The flowering of a new urban culture in China, 1930-1945. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Mu Shiying, ‘Shanghai Foxtrot’, trans. Andrew Field, 2011

Writing to Order and Revolutionizing Culture

McDougall, Bonnie S. Mao Zedong's "Talks at the Yan'an conference on literature and art" : a translation of the 1943 text with commentary. Ann Arbor: Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1980. (Available online)

Zhao Shuli. Rhymes of Li Youcai and other stories. 5th edn. Translated by Sidney Shapiro. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1980.

Yang, Lan. Chinese fiction of the Cultural Revolution. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1998.

Literature after the Cultural Revolution

Feng, Jicai. Ten years of madness : oral histories of China's Cultural Revolution. San Francisco: China Books & Periodicals, 1996. Accounts of several people’s experiences during the Cultural Revolution. Excellent.

Han Shaogong, ‘Creating the Old’ in Literature’, Chinese Literature Today, vol. 5 (2), 2016, pp16-18. (Available online)

Han Shaogong. Homecoming? and other stories. Translated by Martha Cheung. Hong Kong: Renditions Paperbacks, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1992. Especially the story ‘Homecoming? ’.

Leenhouts, Mark. Leaving the world to enter the world : Han Shaogong and Chinese root-seeking literature = [Yi chu shi de zhuang tai er ru shi]. Leiden: CNWS Publications, 2005.

Wang, David Der-wei with Jeanne Tai, eds. Running wild : new Chinese writers. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Consuming Culture: Beauty Writers and Hooligans 

Mian, Mian. Candy. Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter. Boston: Little Brown, 2003

Wei, Hui. Shanghai baby. Translated by Bruce Humes. London: Robinson, 2001

Wang, Shuo. Playing for thrills : a mystery. Translated by Howard Goldblatt. Harpenden: No Exit, 1997.

________. Please don't call me human: Translated by Howard Goldblatt. Harpenden: No Exit, 2000.

Electronic databases for literature

An extremely useful site is the Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Resource Center , where you will find databases of translations and secondary research on most of the authors we look at in the module. 

Another useful site is Paper Republic, for stories and information on authors:

If you're on Twitter, a useful account to follow is the China Fiction Book Club -  

You might also be interested in The Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing


Berry, Chris (ed). Chinese films in focus: 25 new takes, London: BFI, 2003.

Cornelius, Sheila. New Chinese Cinema: challenging representations, London: Wallflower, 2001. 

Lim, Song Hwee and Julian Ward, ed. The Chinese cinema book, London: BFI Publishing, and Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Lu, Tonglin. Confronting modernity in the cinemas of Taiwan and Mainland China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.


The Red Detachment of Women. Dir. Xie Jin, 1961 – one of the most interesting of the socialist films  

Yellow Earth. Dir. Chen Kaige. Cinematographer Zhang Yimou. 1984 – poor image quality, unfortunately, but a key film in the development of China's post-Cultural Revolution cinema.

To Live. Dir. Zhang Yimou, 1994  

And these are some other films you might be interested in watching:

Farewell My Concubine. Dir. Chen Kaige. 1993. A good companion piece to To Live, covering the upheavals of the 20th Century.

In the Heat of the Sun. Dir. Jiang Wen. 2000. Based on the Wang Shuo novel Wild Beasts. An unusual perspective on the Cultural Revolution, focusing on the lives of rebellious teenagers.  

Hero. Dir. Zhang Yimou, 2002. Zhang's martial arts epic – controversial but beautiful.

Raise the red lantern. Dir. Zhang Yimou. 1991. Based on a Su Tong novella.

Red Sorghum. Dir. Zhang Yimou. 1987. Based on Mo Yan's book. Great cinematography.

Still Life. Dir. Jia Zhangke, 2006. 

Springtime in a small town. Dir. Tian Zhuangzhuang. 2002. (Remake of 1948 original, dir. Fei Mu)

Street Angel. Dir. Yuan Mu-jih (Yuan Muzhi). 1937. Interesting depiction of 1930s Shanghai. Available to watch on youtube.

A Touch of Sin. Dir. Jia Zhangke, 2015. Jia's most recent film – based on real life events in contemporary China. Very violent, but worth a watch.

Chunking Express. Dir. Wong Kar-wai, 1994. Stylish Hong Kong film.

A One and A Two. Dir. Edward Yang, 2000. Insight into a Taiwanese family.  

Seminar Readings

  • Seminar 1 (Culture) “Embracing the New – the May 4th Movement and Cultural Change”

Handout 1  Lu Xun: ‘Kung I-chi’ (Kong Yiji). In Selected Stories of Lu Hsun. Translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1960, 19-24. 

Handout 2  --- ‘Diary of a Madman’ (can be found online here, as well as in Selected Stories of Lu Xun;

Handout 3 Chen Duxiu. ‘On Literary Revolution.’ In Kirk A. Denton, ed. Modern Chinese Literary Thought: Writings on Literature, 1893-1945. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996, 140-45. 

  • Seminar 2 (History) “The CCP and KMT”

Handout 1 extract from “The Peasant Movement in Hunan” by Mao Zedong. Reprinted in Republican China Schurmann and Schell (eds.) (London: Penguin, 1968) pp. 125-132 

Handout 2  extract from The Stilwell Papers reprinted in Republican China Schurmann and Schell (eds.) (London: Penguin, 1968) pp. 273-278 

Handout 3  BBC website, programmes/correspondent. Downloaded 04/02/02.  

Handout 4  “Mao in his own words” from Modern China: A Companion to a Rising Power by Graham Hutchings (London: Penguin, 2000), p. 299

  • Seminar 3 (Culture) “Creating to Order – Culture in the Communist Era

Handout 1  Zhao Shuli. ‘Hsiao Erh-Hei’s Marriage. Translated by Hsiung Teh-wei.’ In Rhymes of Li Youcai and Other Stories. 3rd edition. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1955, pp. 89-116.

Online reading – Mao’s Talks on Art at the Yan’an Forum, 1942. (PDF on VLE. Just have a look to familiarise yourself with key aspects of the talks). OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (AJ 19/11/2021) 

  • Seminar 4 (History) “The Cultural Revolution”

Handout 1 “Decision concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” from China’s Cultural Revolution, 1966-69: not a dinner party Michael Schoenhals (ed.) (New York: M.E.Sharpe, 1996) pp. 33-43

Handout 2  “Interrogation Record: Wang Guangmei” from China’s Cultural Revolution, 1966-69: not a dinner party Michael Schoenhals (ed.) (New York: M.E.Sharpe, 1996) pp. 101-115

Handout 3 “On the Correct Handling of Love, Marriage and Family Problems” in Chinese Civilization and Society P.B.Ebrey (ed.) (New York: The Free Press, 1981) pp.371-7  

Handout 4 “Lei Feng, Chairman Mao’s Good Fighter” in Chinese Civilization and Society by P.B.Ebrey (ed.) (New York: The Free Press, 1981) pp.382-9

  • Seminar 5 (Culture) “Telling the Self – New Experiments in Culture

Handout 1  Han Shaogang: 'Homecoming', in Homecoming? and other stories. Translated by Martha Cheung. Hong Kong: Renditions Paperbacks, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1992.

Handout 2  Can Xue: 'The Hut on the Mountain', in Wang, David Der-wei with Jeanne Tai, eds. Running wild : new Chinese writers. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

  • Seminar 6 (History) “The Reform Period”

Handout 1  “Deng’s ‘theories’: the reformer in his own words” from Modern China: A Companion to a Rising Power by Graham Hutchings (London: Penguin, 2000), p. 111

Handout 2  “Population Minister Defends Abortion Policy”, by Bruce Shu, in L.R. Sullivan (ed.) China Since Tiananmen: Political, Economic and Social Conflicts (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1995) pp. 227-230

Handout 3  “When control is too tight, there’s no hope for literature and art”, by Zhao Dan, from People’s Daily, October 8, 1980 (Betty Ting trans.). Reprinted in Burns and Rosen (eds.) Policy Conflicts in Post-Mao China: A Documentary Survey, with Analysis (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1986) pp. 314-316.

Handout 4 Excerpts from “Xi Jinping’s talks at the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art” (Oct 2014, published in 2015) Trans. by Patrick Boehler and Vanessa Piao (Sinosphere Https://Sinosphere.Blogs.Nytimes.Com/2015/10/15/Xi-Jinping-Speech-Arts-Culture/  

This list was last updated on 26/10/2021