Student at an academic symposium



GOV 1288: China’s Economic Development

Nara Dillon

How has China achieved high economic growth rates for 40 years?  Have the post-Mao economic reforms created a market economy, or a new form of state capitalism?  To answer these questions, this course explores the causes and consequences of China’s market reforms, placing the Chinese experience in comparative perspective.  The focus of this course will be on the politics of economic reform: seeking to understand how and why different policies have been adopted in China, to analyze their impact, and to seek lessons for reform in other countries.

EASTD 98J: Political Economy of 21st Century China: Junior Tutorial

Daniel Koss

This course examines central challenges facing the Chinese leadership since 2000, in (1) domestic politics, (2) economics, and (3) foreign policy. Concepts and methods from the social sciences are introduced to analyze topics including the SARS health crisis, the strained leadership transition to Xi Jinping, internet censorship, the great variety of protests, policy experimentation, factions in elite politics, ethnic minorities, state-led development with the emergence of companies designated as national champions, anti-corruption efforts, rising inequality, artificial intelligence (AI) in the country’s digital strategy, international power transitions, China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), the ongoing trade dispute, and the Belt and Road initiative. This is a junior tutorial with enrollment capped at 10 students.


FRSEMR 61M: Silk Road Stories (Freshmen Only)

Mark C. Elliott

The words “Silk Road” conjure up images of camel caravans crossing vast deserts and traversing lofty mountains with precious cargoes of textiles and porcelain. From ancient Chinese travelers and intrepid Buddhist pilgrims to plucky Venetians, swashbuckling Swedes, and adventurous Americans, the Silk Road has produced countless storytellers with enchanting accounts of “East meets West.” But what do we really know about the Silk Road? What if it turns out that much of what we believe about the Silk Road turns out to be a myth? This seminar invites you to embark on your own Silk Road journey, exploring the invention of the idea of the Silk Road, the material and historical reality behind the fabled Eurasian trade routes, and the ways in which different Silk Road stories serve today as artistic inspiration, political capital, and economic stimulus. In the process, we will come to understand the peculiar biology of Bombyx mori, study attitudes toward cultural patrimony, and get hands-on experience in the Harvard museum collections, where the University’s own history and that of the Silk Road intersect. The course aims to introduce you to the history of what we know as the Silk Road and to problematize that history in various ways; to expose you to the idea that globalization is a process with no beginning and no end; to challenge you to think about the role of culture in society and politics yesterday and today; and to persuade you that travel is the only way out of the prison of our own consciousness.

GENED 1136: Power and Civilization: China

William C. Kirby

How is a civilization built and sustained over millennia? How are political systems supported or undermined by cultural, economic, and ecological challenges? How does the need for shared values in a nation compete with individual interest and creativity?These concepts are common to humankind, but nowhere on Earth are they more in evidence than in the story of the longest, continuous civilization in human history, China, home to one-fifth of mankind.

The course will enable students to debate how the choices China has made in the past bear on the challenges it faces today, when a modern “China model,” with ancient roots, competes with the United States for global leadership.The course is taught with multiple pedagogies. By shifting lecture to on-line modules that include “field trips” to sites in China, class time is focused on active, participant-centered learning around major texts, works of art, and contemporary case studies. Class preparation and attendance are mandatory. Assignments include responses to online modules, weekly sections, a midterm examination, and a final group project.

Literature and Culture

HIST-LIT 90DT: Asian American History

Mark Sanchez

This course will focus on Asian American history from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Our aim will be to engage the longer history of Asian migration and labor in the United States. As such, we will focus on topics prior to the Immigration Act of 1924 (also sometimes known as the Asian Exclusion Act). We will explore how empire, capital, and labor informs the transnational movements of ideas, commodities, and people. Topics we will discuss include coolie labor, immigration exclusion, and U.S. empire. Readings and discussions will aim to think through how ideas of race, gender, and sexuality operate and change over time within these histories. Our readings will focus on monographs on Asian American history combined with primary sources.

HIST-LIT 90DK: Asian/American Graphic Novels

Catherine Nguyen

The course on Asian American studies focuses on the genre and form of comics and graphic novels in the context of histories of migration and diasporas. Through these illustrative and textual works, we will explore the representation of Asian American identity and the experience of racial difference through possible works, such as Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings, Mine Okubo’s Citzen 13660, and Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do.  The course will also open up to consider the transnational and global literature of Asian/American graphic novels from other sights of Asian migration and diaspora, including Chinese Australian Shuan Tan’s The Arrival and Japanese British Fumio Obata’s Just So Happens.  As such, this course seeks to examine literary works and cultural productions in the form of comics and graphic novels that engage with and articulate the Asian American experience as well as the sense of being Asian in the world.


ESPP 90N: Energy Economy for Developing Countries: Perspectives from the Past; Challenges for the Future

Michael McElroy and Xinyu Chen

The seminar will provide a historical perspective on the development of the Chinese, Indian and African economies with emphasis on their energy sectors, including analysis of related environmental problems. Low-carbon energy options will be introduced, including opportunities for nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, and biofuels. Relations to the global energy systems will be discussed. The seminar will discuss tradeoffs implicit in these choices with respect to reconciling competing goals for environmental protection and economic development.


FRSEMR 71D: Zen and the Art of Living: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary (Freshmen only)

James Robson

This seminar explores the rich history, philosophy and practices of Zen Buddhism as it developed in China, Korea, and Japan. We will first consider the emergence of the Zen tradition out of the Buddhist tradition and then explore the full range of its most distinctive features (Zen monastic meditation), cultural practices (painting, calligraphy, and poetry), and radical—even iconoclastic—innovations (such as the use of kōans, which are seemingly nonsensical sayings that defy rationality). We will also critically evaluate some less well-known facets of the Zen tradition, such as gender issues, the veneration of mummified masters, and the question of how Zen was implicated in modern nationalistic movements in Japan during World War II. During the mid-20th century, Zen became a global phenomenon as Zen masters began to move around the world and introduce the practice of Zen meditation to those in search of religious alternatives to Western organized religions, rationalism, and materialism. Zen attracted the attention of writers, musicians, artists, and athletes.  Why did Zen develop such a trans-cultural appeal at that moment in history? Why are there so many books with the title: “Zen and the Art of…..”? Why do so many computer and tech companies have Zen in their names? How has Zen meditation fed into the current “meditation/mindfulness” boom?  These are some of the questions we will explore in this seminar through readings, film screenings, museum viewings, and a visit to a Zen meditation center.


SOCIOL 1142: Sociology of Asian America

Today, over 22 million people living in the United States identify as Asian. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are one of the fastest growing populations in the US. What are the social, cultural, and political structures that shape the lives of AAPI? How have the experiences of AAPI changed from the nineteenth century to the present? This course takes a sociological view to examine “Asian America.” Rather than analyzing AAPI as a monolithic group, this course explores the diversity of experiences and histories within Asian America. Through readings on a range of case studies, we will examine Asian America through important historical and social phenomena such as colonialism, environmental racism, war, migration, and social movements. We will look at the ways that AAPI have been socially and politically constructed as a racial group and the ways that such categorizations continue to shift. Finally, we will consider contemporary debates about AAPI that are particularly alive here at Harvard, such as affirmative action, socioeconomic mobility, and social justice.



EASTD 197: China’s Cultural Revolution

Daniel Koss

This course introduces a cataclysmic movement that brought the People’s Republic of China to the brink of anarchy: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The first part looks at historical precursors, including rebellion in the imperial era, political movements in the Republican Era, Communist campaigns and purges, as well as the Great Leap Forward famine that cost tens of millions of lives. Paying equal attention to elite politics at Mao Zedong’s “court” and the lived experiences of ordinary citizens, the second part focuses on the evolution of the turmoil, once Mao had called for “bombarding the headquarters” of his own party state, discussing the “Gang of Four,” the “attempted coup” by Lin Biao, the Red Guards and the worker rebels in Shanghai, local power seizures and factional warfare, military crackdowns, and the return to order. The third part begins with the reception of the movement abroad, and focuses on its afterlives, including the quasi- pluralist lessons drawn in the immediate aftermath, the role of CR legacies in decisions such as the violent crackdown on the Tiananmen protesters in 1989, and memory politics under Xi Jinping. No language requirement.

HIST 1020: The Russian and Chinese Revolutions

Terry Martin

Explores the origins, experience, and consequences of revolution in twentieth-century Russia and China. Covers the overthrow of the old imperial regimes, the two Communist revolutions, cultural revolution, cooperation and competition between the two Communist regimes, and finally the revolutionary reforms undertaken by Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping.

History of Science

EASTD 170: Medicine and the Body in East Asia and in Europe

Shigehisa Kuriyama

Comparative historical exploration of the striking differences and unexpected similarities between traditional conceptions of the body in East Asian and European medicine; the evolution of beliefs within medical traditions; the relationship between traditional medicine and contemporary experience.

HISTSCI 183: Engineering East Asia: Technology, Society, and the State

Victor Seow

Who creates and controls technology within society? How have technological developments shaped and, in turn, been shaped by social change? Do technological artifacts have particular politics? In this course, we will explore these and other questions concerning the intertwined relationship of technology, society, and the state within the context of East Asia’s long twentieth century. From the era of steam power to the present, East Asia has undergone epochal social and technological transformations. China’s recent bold forays into artificial intelligence are but among the latest in broader trends, beginning with Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese successes with consumer electronics manufacturing over preceding decades, that have marked the region as the site from which we may very well see the emergence of our technological future. In examining the history of technology in modern East Asia, we will gain a deeper understanding of the region and its technological revolutions and, more generally, of the workings of technology in the industrial modern age.

Literature and Culture

CHNSLIT 140: The Greatest Chinese Novel

Wai-Yee Li

The Story of the Stone (also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber) by Cao Xueqin (1715?-1763) is widely recognized as the masterpiece of Chinese fiction. It is also a portal to Chinese civilization. Encyclopedic in scope, this book both sums up Chinese culture and asks of it difficult questions. Its cult status also accounts for modern popular screen and television adaptations. Through a close examination of this text in conjunction with supplementary readings and visual materials, the seminar will explore a series of topics on Chinese culture, including foundational myths, philosophical and religious systems, the status of fiction, conceptions of art and the artist, ideas about love, desire and sexuality, gender roles, garden aesthetics, family and clan structure, and definitions of socio-political order.

EAFM 151: Documenting China on Film

Jie Li

What defines a film as “documentary”? How do documentary films inform, persuade, provoke, or move us?  Of whom, by whom, and for whom are documentaries made?  Can documentary also be “propaganda” or “art”?  What rhetorical devices and aesthetic strategies do documentaries use to construct visions of reality and proclaim them as authentic, credible and authoritative?  What might documentary films—as opposed to written text—teach us about modern Chinese history and contemporary society?  Above all, how would you go about making a documentary film, in China or elsewhere? In this course, we will examine documentary films made in or about China from the early 20th century to the present day, through the lenses of both Chinese and foreign filmmakers.  We will interrogate the visual “evidence” that camera images can offer, look into their production and reception histories, as well as discuss the ethics, aesthetics, and politics of documentation, representation, and exhibition.  Weekly topics are roughly grouped into three parts: (1) “Witnessing History” (2) “Social Reportage” and (3) “Art, Experimentation, and Fiction.”  The first part will cover the cinematic history and memory of World War II, the Cultural Revolution, and the 1989 Tiananmen protests.  The second part will explore documentary engagements with contemporary issues ranging from social inequality, migrant labor, forced demolitions, and environmental degradation.  The third part will consider the art of observation, the potentials of experimentation, and the porous boundaries between documentary and fiction.  Viewings of documentary films will be complemented by theoretical and contextual readings, as well as short assignments to engage critically and creatively with the films we watch.  The final project for the course will be to make a documentary film in a small group.

EAFM 111: East Asian Media Studies

Alexander Zahlten

This course explores the explosion of media in East Asia and the resulting forms of media production, circulation and consumption that transform everyday life, economy and politics. From pop culture phenomena such as K-Pop, fan fiction and internet platforms such as Sina Weibo, 2channel or DC Inside, from mobile phone culture to video games and social networks used in political protests, complex media forms and practices are developing with lightning speed across the region and exerting global influence. The starting point of the course are questions such as: What effects does this intense new media environment have in East Asia? How are ways of thinking and behaving adjusting to completely new forms of media? What are the consequences for the future of East Asia? How do media influence us in ways that go beyond the films, music, games, news or other forms that they supply us with?

ENGLISH 181A: Introduction to Asian American Literature: What Is Asian American Literature?

Ju Yon Kim

Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (1974) was one of the earliest attempts to collect writings that were, to quote the editors, “exclusively Asian-American.” Yet as their lengthy—and controversial—explanation of the selection process makes clear, Asian American literature defies neat categorization. This course is both a survey of Asian American literature and an introduction to ongoing debates about what constitutes Asian American literature. We will study a variety of literary genres and ask how formal and stylistic conventions, as well as shifting sociohistorical circumstances, have shaped conceptions of Asian American literature.


SOCIOL 1141: Contemporary Chinese Society

Ya-Wen Lei

Situating China in the context of the transition from socialism, this seminar provides an overview of contemporary Chinese society.  We will explore recent structural changes in China’s economy, political system, legal institutions, media, family forms, education, stratification and inequality, and contests over space—as well as how all these various changes interact with one another. We will begin with the Chinese Communist Revolution and then the Cultural Revolution as crucial historical context, and then move on to examine the profound social transformations of the post-1978 reform period.  The course will examine how these changes have impacted social relations, how they have been experienced and understood by individuals, and how, in turn, the responses of individuals have also shaped the trajectory of reforms.



GOV 2148: Civil Society, West and East

Susan Pharr and Grzegorz Ekiert

Focusing in particular on European and Asian settings, the seminar examines debates over what civil society is, notions of public space and social capital, and the role of civil society in political transitions.


CHNSHIS 230R: Topics in Ming History: Seminar

Michael A. Szonyi

Examines various topics in the social and cultural history of Ming China.  Topic for 2019: Ming legal history.

Literature and Culture

CHNSHIS 228: Introduction to Neo-Confucianism

Peter K. Bol

Introduces major Neo-Confucian texts for close reading and analysis. Selections from the writings and records of spoken instruction by Zhou Dunyi, Chang Zai, Cheng Yi, Cheng Hao, Zhu Xi, Liu Jiuyuan, and others.

CHNSLIT 227R: Early Chinese Historical Writings: Zuozhuan and Related Materials

opens in a new windowWai-Yee Li

We will study canonical works in early Chinese historical writings and explore questions of ideology, rhetoric, and narrative—the conceptions of time, change, and causation; modes of reasoning, argument, and observation; forms of speech and narrative.  The purpose is to introduce seminar participants to these materials and their exegetical traditions.

CHNSLIT 280: Shanghai and Beijing: A Tale of Two Cities: Seminar

opens in a new windowJie Li

This course aims to excavate the cultural and historical memories of China’s two most important cities. We will discuss literary and cinematic representations, visual and material transformations of the cityscape, cities as sites of cultural production, and the lives of their inhabitants in modern times.

CHNSLIT 235: Theater and Theatricality in Early Modern China

Thomas Kelly

This seminar charts the development of Chinese dramatic literature from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. We will focus on the close reading of major works in the zaju, xiwen, and chuanqi forms, examining how the theater shaped new practices of writing and reading. The seminar will follow two central themes: 1) the shifting relationship between the figures of the playwright and the actor; 2) the interplay between the spaces of the page and stage. Engaging with recent scholarship, we will reflect on how modes of theatrical performance and spectatorship transformed broader understandings of self and society. Our discussions will seek new frameworks for approaching the place of the theater in Chinese literary history.  


EABS 256R: Chinese Buddhist Texts – Readings in Medieval Buddho-Daoist Documents: Seminar

opens in a new windowJames Robson

This seminar focuses on the careful textual study and translation of a variety of Chinese Buddho-Daoist texts through the medieval period.

EASTD 260: The Lotus Sutra: Texts, Narratives, and Translations

Ryuichi Abe

This is a seminar aimed at a small number of advanced graduate students.  The Lotus Sutra is arguably the most popular sutra in the history of Buddhism in East Asia.  Its richness in metaphors and parables makes the sutra extremely important in understanding the influence of Buddhist scriptural texts on the development of East Asian literary traditions.  Responding to its significance in East Asia, a large number of translations are produced in Western languages.  Yet even undergraduate students at Harvard College typically find the most readable English translation, such as the one by Leon Hurvitz and Burton Watson, beyond the reach of their understanding.  A large part of the problem in English versions of the sutra is that they fail to bring to the fore the most seminal strands for the development the sutra’s narratives that run throughout the sutra’s chapters.  Unfortunately, existing secondary scholarly writings on the sutra do not help students much because they more often than not uncritically rely on Hurvitz’ and Watson’s translations and repeat the errors there.This seminar aims at illustrating such essential strands of sutra’s narrative by reading the original Chinese text side by side with the foundational sutra commentaries written by the patriarchs of Chinese Buddhist doctrinal schools – such as Zhiyi and Jicang.  The goal of the seminar is threefold: first, it strives to help students improve their ability to interpret and translate Buddhist scriptural texts written in Buddhist literary Chinese; second, it aims at helping students learn how to use the axial commentarial texts in Chinese Buddhist doctrinal traditions; three, it will help students horn their pedagogical skill in teaching undergraduate student how to study Buddhist sutras through their English translation.Prerequisite: Literary Chinese and instructor’s permission.  Enrollment limited to 12.

TIBET 209: Issues with Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra and its Indian and Tibetan Commentaries

Leonard van der Kuijp

Familiarity with Classical Tibetan required.

TIBET 210: Readings in the Tibetan Literature on the Date of the Historical Buddha

opens in a new windowLeonard van der Kuijp

Familiarity with Classical Tibetan required.

Professional Development

EASTD 304: EALC Teaching Practicum

Wai-Yee Li

This course is intended for graduate students in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, who are either first-time teachers or first-time teaching fellows (TF) in the department. While convened by the EALC PF, who will serve as a resource on weeks that are departmentally specific, invited experts trained in each week’s topics will primarily run the course. It will begin by providing students with a tool-kit for effectively fulfilling their role as TF, including strategies for managing the classroom, discussion-leading and active learning techniques, and effective grading and feedback methods. The course will then transition into more specific topics that may arise in the classroom, and finally expand to consider broader issues that we must all face when teaching in East Asian Studies departments.The course will meet for a total of 10 times. We will meet weekly for weeks 1-4 and bi-weekly for the remainder of the semester, in two-hour sessions. There are a total of 10 sessions, including the Bok Center Fall Teaching Conference. Students must successfully complete the course before advancing to their general exams. Each meeting will focus on a specific skill and is intended to give students the chance to not only think about how they want to teach, but also the opportunity to put those ideas into practice before stepping into the classroom. As the semester proceeds, the syllabus is flexible and can respond to student needs and concerns, so please be sure to provide your feedback as we go along!The course is primarily intended for students currently in the fall semester of their G3 year, although G2 students are also welcome to enroll in the course. For G3 students, this is a chance to use actual materials from your assigned course to prepare for leading discussion sections in parallel with the demands of the semester. For G2 students, who will not yet have a teaching assignment, you will be asked to consult with your advisor about what course you are most likely to teach in the coming year, obtain a syllabus used in previous years for that course, and prepare for class activities based on those readings and potential lecture topics. Class requirements regarding collecting midterm feedback and class observation/recording may be completed during the following academic year without repeating the course.


Harvard offers Chinese language courses from elementary (either complete beginner or for heritage speakers) to high-advanced, as well as advanced content courses taught in Mandarin, including advanced conversational Chinese and Chinese in the Humanities.

In addition to Harvard’s world-class modern Chinese language program, language courses are also offered in Classical Chinese (beginner and intermediate), Manchu, Tibetan (both classical and conversational), and Uyghur.

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies