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CHIN 461 A: History of Chinese Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
* *
Ping Wang's photo
Ping Wang

Syllabus Description:


Beginnings to the Sixth Century


Course Number: CHIN 461

Time and Place: TTh 1:30–3:20; REMOTE

Instructor: Wang Ping (Wang is the last name)


Office hours (remote): Fri. 2–3 PM Pacific Time


You are to access all the necessary sites using your UW NetID.


Canvas information:


Zoom meeting information:

Topic: Chin 461 History of Literature_Fall 2020

Time: Every week on TTh @ 1:30-3:20 PM, until Dec 11, 2020.


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Zoom office hour information:


Topic: Wang’s Office Hours

Time: Fridays 2–3 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)


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Meeting ID: 987 1395 0470


Information and expectations for remote study.


This course operates in a synchronous format. We will actually meet, TTh 1:30-3:20 PM.

I have turned off the video recording function on Zoom. You will not be recorded.

I may record my lectures in the format of a voice file.

I will not record you or your activity. When I record my lectures, your names and faces will not be part of the recording. If you ask a question during the lecture your voice will become part of the recording but your face will obviously not. 

Discussions or Q&A sessions will not be recorded.

I ask that you as students not record me or your fellow students.

If possible, please turn on your camera during class. This is a request, not a requirement. It improves the class dynamic, especially during the discussion and Q&A sessions. On the other hand, please respect your classmates if they do not use their camera: not everyone can turn on the camera for a variety of reasons. This in part makes the lecture better when I can sense that there are people out there who I’m talking to. Being able to see each other’s faces during the discussion helps with better communication.


Course description


            Chinese 461 is part of a three-quarter series of courses on the history of Chinese literature. The objective of these courses is to provide students in Chinese language and literature basic knowledge of Chinese literary history and to introduce the most important primary and secondary sources that are useful for doing research in this field.


            In Chinese 461 we shall survey Chinese literary history from the earliest times, i.e., the eleventh-century b.c.e. to the sixth-century c.e. focusing on the formation of a literary tradition and written memories of culture and civilization. Important writers and works will be introduced. Specifically, the course will be divided into three units:


I. Pre-Qin literature (Earliest Times to 221 b.c.e.)

II. Qin and Han literature (221 b.c.e.–220 c.e.)

III. Wei-Jin-Nanbeichao literature (220–581)


  1. Textbook and Reading assignments


The required textbook is Owen, Stephen (宇文所安), ed. and trans. An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. It may be purchased in the textbook section of the University Bookstore or from the web sites of Barnes & Noble ( or Amazon ( An alternative to the Owen anthology is Birch, Cyril, ed. Anthology of Chinese Literature Vol.1: From Early Times to the Fourteenth Century. New York: Grove P, 1965.

A recommended website for translations of Classical Chinese texts: Chinese text project ( 

Additional readings are posted on the course web page:

The assignments are indicated in the class schedule. Please note that these readings are required.

Please read the assigned material for each lecture before coming to class.


For a general background of Chinese history, students may consult one of the following books:


Gernet, Jacques. A History of Chinese Civilization. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Ropp, Paul S. China in World History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.


  1. Examinations


            There will be three examinations, one for each unit. The exams will consist of short essay questions that pertain to the material covered in the assigned readings and lectures. Sample questions:


            Briefly summarize C.H. Wang’s (楊牧) article on early Chinese heroism. Explain what Wang meant by “ellipsis of battle”? 


            Identify the work from which the following lines come. Provide your interpretation and/or analytical evaluations.


At dawn, I set to fare across the White Waters,

I climbed Mount Lang-feng, there tethered my horses.

All at once, I looked back, my tears were streaming,

Sad that the high hill lacked any woman.


Explain the following names and terms:


Jian’an Era Literature

Yongming Poetry

Sima Xiangru


The exams will be given on the following dates:


            Unit I exam: October 27

            Unit II exam: November 17

            Unit III exam: December 10


Note: There will be no final exam for this course.


  1. Presentations:


There will be two presentations: one should focus on a primary source and the other on a piece of secondary reading. Students choose the topics and will have ten minutes to report. It is highly recommended that a few minutes shall be given to questions from the audience. 


Additional notes on "primary text" and "secondary source"

The report on a primary text should be a direct analysis, which involves interpretation of any aspects of the extant text relevant to your question by taking into account each text’s historical context, including and yet not be limited to how and why it was produced, and how close our current versions are to the originals.

 A secondary source may be an article in a scholarly journal, a book published by a research institution, or a chapter from the book. You are encouraged to choose the Canvas list. Do not locate an article through a google search. If you find an outside reading to report on, please consult with the instructor to make sure its academic credibility and value.

In preparing your report on secondary scholarship, you may use the following questions as a starting point.

What is the overall approach of the author?

What is the purport of the writing? Or what is the main thesis (argument)?

How does the author attempt to justify that thesis (this is not the same as summarizing everything discussed in the work)?

Does the author provide a general overview of a topic?

Does the author offer a close reading and interpretation of one or more texts?

Does the author explain particular terms or concepts necessary to understand a text? How does the author discuss historical or cultural contexts?

To what extent does the author explore or establish a theoretical model?

Does the author compare different texts or contexts?

How might one offer a critique of the author’s approach and argument? What are its strengths and weaknesses? How effectively has the author established her or his thesis? To what extent has s/he accounted for the most important considerations?

Examples of primary and secondary source analysis can be found in a variety of scholarly articles assigned and works listed in the bibliographies of Chinese literature and cultural studies in general.


  1. Grading:


            Examination 1:            20%


            Examination 2:            20%


            Examination 3:            20%


            Presentation 1:            10%


            Presentation 2:            10%


            Discussion:                 10%


            Other contributions, including but not limited to reading, responding, and commenting on your fellow students’ work.               10%



  1. Note on disability resources.


To request academic accommodations due to a disability, contact:


            Disability Resources for Students

            448 Schmitz

            206-543-8924 (V/TTY)


If you have a letter from that office indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, present the letter to the instructor so that we can discuss the accommodations needed for the class.


  1. Religious Accommodations Policy


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”



  1. Schedule


            Unit I: Pre-Qin Literature (the assignments follow the dates)


Week 1 10/1              Introduction: Syllabus and Readings


Week 2 10/6 & 10/8 The Classic of Poetry (Shi jing)



Owen, “Early China: Introduction,” Anthology, 3–9; “The Classic of Poetry,” Anthology, 10–57.


C.H. Wang, “Towards Defining a Chinese Heroism.” JAOS [The Journal of American Oriental Studies] 95.1 (1975): 25–35. (Accessible via UW Libraries Website)


Week 3 10/13 & 10/15           Interpretations and Theories



Owen, “Using the Poems and Early Interpretation,” Anthology, 58­–76.


Sheng min Shijing (Classic of Poetry or Book of Odes), Mao 245: ‘Birth of the People,’” Ways with Words, ed., Pauline Yu (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 11–40. (E-book version accessible via UW Libraries Website)


C. H. Wang, “The Weniad: A Chinese Epic in Shih Ching,” in Chan Ping-leung, et al., eds., Essays in Commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the Fung Ping Shan Library (1932–1982) (Hong Kong: Fung Ping Shan Library, 1982), 105–42. (Canvas)


Martin Kern, “The Odes in Excavated Manuscripts,” Text and Ritual in Early China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007), 149–93. (E-book version accessible via UW Libraries Website)


Week 4 10/20 & 10/22           The Songs of the South (Chu ci)



Owen, “The Chu-ci: ‘Lyrics of Chu,Anthology, 155–75;

            “The Chu-ci Tradition,” Anthology, 175–214.


David Hawkes, “General Introduction,” in The Songs of the South, 15–66. (Canvas)


Week 5 10/27 & 10/29           Exam 1 & The Han—Empire of the Text



Owen, “Early Narrative,” Anthology, 77–101;

            “Early Literary Prose,” Anthology, 102–23;

            “Early Political Oratory,” Anthology, 124–34.


Wing-tsit Chan (1901–1994), “The Yin Yang School,” A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 244-50. (E-book version accessible via UW Libraries Website)


Week 6 11/3 & 11/5               Han Historians: Sima Qian and Ban Gu



Owen, “Si-ma Qian,” Anthology, 135–54;

“Interlude Between the ‘Lyrics of Chu’ and Yue-fu: ‘The Biography of the Imperial In-Laws’,” Anthology, 215–218.


Michael Nylan, “Sima Qian: A True Historian?” Early China 23–24 (1998-99): 203–46. (Accessible via UW Libraries Website)

Stephen W. Durrant, “Self as the Intersection of Traditions: The Autobiographical Writings of Ssu-ma Ch’ien,” JAOS 106.1 (1986): 33–40. (Accessible via UW Libraries Website)

Owen, “One Sight—The Han shu Biography of Lady Li,” David R. Knechtges and Eugene Vance ed., Rhetoric and the Discourses of Power in Court Culture (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005), 239–59. (E-book version accessible via UW Libraries Website)


Week 7 11/10 & 11/12           The Han Rhapsody



David Knechtges, “Fu,” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Fourth Edition, edited by Stephen Cushman, et al., (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 530-31. (Accessible via UW Libraries Website)

Sima Xiangru, “Rhapsody of Sir Vacuous” and “Rhapsody on the Imperial Park,” Xiao Tong, Wen xuan, David Knechtges, trans., Selections of Refined Literature, Volume II (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Library of Asian Translations, Princeton University Press, 2014), 53–114. (E-book version accessible via UW Libraries Website)

Helmut Wilhelm, “The Scholar's Frustration: Notes on a Type of Fu,” Chinese Thought and Institutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 310–19, 398-403. (Canvas)


Week 8 11/17 & 11/19           Exam 2 & The Music Bureau (Yue-fu)



Owen, “The Chinese ‘Middle Ages’: Introduction,” Anthology, 221-226; “Yue-fu,” Anthology 227–248.

Hans H. Frankel, “The Chinese Ballad ‘Southeast Fly the Peacocks’,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 34, no. 3-4 (1974): 248-71. (Accessible via UW Libraries Website)

Hans H. Frankel, “Yueh-fu Poetry,” Studies in Chinese Literary Genres, ed. Cyril Birch and American Council of Learned Societies, Committee on Studies of Chinese Civilization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 69-107. (Canvas)


Week 9 11/24             Jian’an Literature



Owen, “The Beginnings of Classical Poetry,” Anthology, 249–73.


Robert Joe Cutter, “Cao Zhi’s (192–232) Symposium Poems.” (Canvas)


Week 10 12/1 & 12/3             The Poetry of the Southern Dynasties



Owen, “The Poetry of the Southern Dynasties,” Anthology, 311–34.


Owen, “A ‘Grammar’ of Early Poetry,” “Immortals,” and “Death and Feast,” The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry, 73-138, 139–77, 178-213. (Canvas)


Week 11 12/8 & Exam 3       Traditional Literary Theory           



Owen, “Traditional Literary Theory,” Anthology, 335–61;

            Cao Pi, “A Discourse on Literature,” Anthology, 359–61;

            Lu Ji, “Fu on Literature,” Anthology, 335–43;

            Liu Xie, “Carving the Dragon,” Anthology, 343–59.



  1. Notes:


1) Attendance and active participation are critical to your learning experience. The attendance is recorded automatically through Zoom.

If you miss a session, please consult a classmate rather than asking me. Excessive absence may necessarily impair your ability to contribute to discussion and affect your overall performance and final grade.


2) Ratings for preparation and discussion are determined toward the end of the quarter.


3) Letter of reference: If you wish to ask me to write you a letter of reference, please provide me with a copy of your written statement of purpose. At least two weeks’ advance notice is required.


4) Mental Health Support:  If you are concerned about yourself or a friend who is experiencing emotional distress and/or may be at risk for suicide, you can call Safe Campus at 206-685-7233 (SAFE). They will provide a 24/7 risk assessment and help to connect to appropriate resources on campus. Please save the Safe Campus number in your cell phone. There are other support services on campus, such as the Counseling Center and Hall Health Mental Health Clinic.


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Catalog Description: 
Chinese literature from earliest times to the end of the Six Dynasties. Offered: A.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 9:50pm