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Description | Syllabus | Grading Policy | Schedule | Discussion




Dr. Luding Tong
Office: THMS 308
Tel: 376-4640
Office Hours: MWF 11:00-12:00, Tu: 4:00-5:00, and by appointment


  • Tam, Kwok-Kan & Wimal Dissanayake, New Chinese Cinema (NY: Oxford University Press, 1998)

  • Zhang, Rong. Wild Swans: The Three Daughters of China (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991)

Materials on Reserve:

  • Abbas, Ackbar, Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (Minnespolis: University of Minnesota, 1997)

  • Berry, Chris (ed.) Perspectives on Chinese Cinema (British Film Institute, 1991)

  • Dernberger, Robert et al. eds, The Chinese: Adapting the Past, Facing the Future (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1991)

  • Lu, Sheldon Hsiao-peng ed. Transnational Chinese Cinema (Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1997)

  • Warshaw, Steven, China Emerges: A Concise History of China from Its Origin to the Present (Berkeley, Diablo Press, 1994)

    All library reserved materials are listed by week ("Week 1 Assignment," "Week 2 Assignment," etc.) at the Circulation Desk under CHIN 394 A, and are indicated as shown in "Class Schedule & Readings" in the syllabus.


With narratives centered on the tension and connection between the past and the present, some contemporary films produced in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan provide us with a rich source of East Asian history and culture. This course is to introduce the students to selected films produced in East Asian countries (China and Japan) and to examine these films' view and criticism of Chinese and Japanese traditions and modernity, as well as issues of women, identity, and nationalism. Students will develop an appreciation of the aesthetic and cultural values of East Asia and an understanding of recent Chinese and Japanese history in the context of the social and political forces depicted in these engaging films and assigned readings.

Course Requirements

  • Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. The Modern Languages attendance policy is: Students are allowed one three-hour class absence for a three-credit class without penalty. Absences beyond the maximum allowed will result in the subtraction of 1% each absence, but not exceeding 15 % of the total score. Absence does not excuse one from the work missed. Students are responsible for contacting the instructor to make up any work, and for finding out any assignments and materials in any class missed, within a week before or after the absence.

  • Film Critiques: Students are required to write a 2-3 page (double-spaced) critique for any seven of the feature films screened in class. The critiques are to comment on the theme of the film. Students may discuss the theme from various angles, such as the technique of the director, the characters, the narrative, or a criticism of the readings assigned for that film (whether you agree with the author's analysis of the film, and why). Film critiques should be turned in during the class meeting following the one in which the film is shown. Late critiques will be marked down by 10% each day after the due date.

  • Students who lead the discussion for a particular film may not submit a critique of that film as one of the seven required critiques.

  • Book Review: Students are expected to read three chapters of The Wild Swans each week and will turn in a four-page double-spaced book review on April 18. The review should not consist solely of summary of the story, but should choose at least one issue in the book as a point of focus for critical discussion.

  • Final Paper: The 6- to 8-page final paper (double-spaced) should be an in-depth study of one or two themes of the films screened in the semester. Suggested topics are comparisons and analyses of films/directors, the historical/social progression or changes, cultural aspects, or discussion of a film in relation to the assigned readings, etc. The paper is due on April 29.

    Film critiques and papers will be graded based on the following scale:
  • For an insightful, analytical, original and well-organized paper, an A range
    For a solid and informed paper, a B range
    For a paper which is boring or lacks focus, a C range
    For a poorly written paper, a D range

  • * All writing assignments should follow the MLA style. It is the student's responsibility to keep all graded assignments, including returned papers, in the event of possible grade discrepancy or disagreement between the instructor's records and the student's recollection.
  • Leading Discussion: Two students will team up to choose and lead the discussion for one of the films shown in class, and will lead the discussion following the week in which the film is shown. Pair work includes presenting point of view in the film and related readings, and conducting class discussions by asking questions and making comments. Film discussion leaders will meet with the instructor by Monday of the presentation week to discuss their draft outline of their proposed discussion. Student performance will be evaluated individually. This grade will be based partly on the quality of the outline and partly on the actual performance of leading the discussion.
  • Class Participation: Student preparation and participation are the key to success in this course.

  • Pair work and class participation will be graded based on the following

    For frequent, lively, and informative discussions, an A range
    For informative participation in discussions, a B range
    For minimal participation in discussion, a C range
    For unwillingness to participate in discussion, a D range

Grading Policy
Film critiques 30%
Leading discussion 15%
Book report on The Wild Swans 15%
Class Participation 15%
Final paper 25%
97-100 A+
94-96 A
90-93 A-
87-89 B+
84-86 B
80-83 B-
77-79 C+
74-76 C
70-73 C-
67-69 D+
64-66 D
60-63 D-
59 and below F

Class Schedule & Readings (Tentative) (Go to the top)

Students are expected to finish the assigned readings by the class meeting:

Week One (1/17)
Course Introduction; Meeting China: Assumptions & Expectations
Discovering China
Week Two (1/24)


  • Ssu-yu Teng & John K. Fairbank, "China's Response to the West," in The Chinese: Adapting the Past, Facing the Future, 1991, pp. 67-79.
  • Warshaw, "China in Perspective," in China Emerges, pp.1-16.
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 1-3.
Week Three (1/31)


  • Tam & Dissanayake, "Chen Kaige: Steps toward a Personal Cinema," in New Chinese Cinema, pp.11-22
  • Esther C. M. Yau, "Yellow Earth: Western Analysis and a Non-Western Text," in Perspectives on Chinese Cinema, pp. 62-79.
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 4-6.
Yellow Earth,
dir. CHEN Kaige(89 mins)
Week Four (2/7)


  • Warshaw, "The Chinese Republic," in China Emerges, pp.97-110.
  • Leo Ou-Lee, "The Tradition of Modern Chinese Cinema: Some preliminary Explorations and Hypotheses," in Perspectives on Chinese Cinema, pp. 6-20
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 7-9
Crows & Sparrows,
dir. ZHENG Junli (108 mins)
Week Five (2/14)


  • Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu, "National Cinema, Cultural Critique, Transnational Capital: The Films of Zhang Yimou," in Transnational Chinese Cinema, pp.105-136.
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 10-12.
Raise the Red Lantern,
dir. ZHANG Yimou (125 mins)
Week Six (2/21)


  • Warshaw, "Communism in China," in China Emerges, pp.155-186
  • Tam & Dissanayake, "Zhang Yimou: Dramas of Desire and the Power of the Image," in New Chinese Cinema, pp.23-34
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 13-15.
To Live,
dir. Zhang Yimou (133 mins)
Week Seven (2/28)


  • Warshaw, "The People's Republic of China," in China Emerges, pp.133-154
  • Tam & Dissanayake, "Tian Zhuangzhuang: Reconfiguring the Familiar and the Unfamiliar," in New Chinese Cinema, pp.35-45
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 16-18.
The Blue Kite,
dir. Tian Zhuangzhuang (138 mins.)
Week Eight (3/7)


  • June Yip, "Constructing a Nation: Taiwanese History and the Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien," in Transnational Chinese Cinema, 1997, pp.139-168.
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 19-21.

    Wrap-up discussion of China and meet other East Asian regions

Week Nine
( 3/11-3/15)
Spring Break
Week Ten (3/21)


  • Christopher Hughes, "The Crisis of Chinese Nationalism in Taiwan," in Taiwan and Chinese Nationalism, pp.21-45.
  • Jon Kowallis, "The Diaspora in Postmodern Taiwan and Hong Kong Film: Framing Stan Lai's the Peach Blossom Land with Allen Fong's Ah Ying," in Transnational Chinese Cinema, pp.169-177.
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 22-24.
Secret Love / Peach Blossom Spring,
dir. LAI Stan
Week Eleven (3/28)


  • Joseph Anderson and Donald Eichie, The Japanese Film: Art and Industry, pp. 21-34, 223-225, 376-380.
  • Chang, Wild Swans, 25-26.
dir. Akira Kurosawa (83 mins.)
Week Twelve (4/4)


  • Wei Ming Dariotis & Eileen Fung, "Breaking the Soy Sauce Jar: Diaspora and Displacement in the Films of Ang Lee," in Transnational Chinese Cinema, pp.187-192, 207-213.
  • Chang, Wild Swans, Chapters 27-28.
Eat, Drink, Men & Women,
dir. LEE Ang (124 mins.)
Week Thirteen (4/11)


  • Robert Yahnle, "Summary and Notes: Shall We Dance?"
Shall We Dance?,
dir. Masayuki, Suo (118 mins.)
Week Fourteen (4/18)


  • Abbas, "Introduction: Culture in a Space of Disappearance," in Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance, pp. 1-15.
  • Chiao Hsiung-Ping, "The Distinct Taiwanese and Hong Kong Cinemas," in Perspectives on Chinese Cinema, pp. 155-165.

    Book review due

Comrades, Almost a Love Story,
dir. Chan Hosan (Peter) (127 mins)
Week Fifteen (4/29)
Summary discussion
April 29 Final paper due (no late final papers accepted)

* The instructor reserves her right to make changes of the schedule based on her evaluation of class progress.

  • Students are expected refrain from giving or receiving inappropriate aid on examinations, homework assignments, and any other form of work in which the student claims sole credit for the work. Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated and will incur penalties that will ultimately affect the grade in the course.
  • Any student with a documented disability who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations in order to meet the requirements of the class must contact: (1) the Director of the Academic Resource Center in Andrews Hall and (2) the instructor. So that you can be fairly accommodated, you should do this within the first two weeks of class.

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