Module 1: Conquest and Consolidation (1600-1800) – Show and Tell project

Get ready!

As we reached the end of the first module/part of Chinese history, you get a chance to showcase what you learned so far. There are many different ways you can do that: traditional, scholarly, or more creative and interpretive. As long as you can share your project digitally with your colleagues in the course, the sky is the limit (more or less). Example: A live theatre performance does not work now; a video recording of a performance (adhering to Covid-19 safety measures, or a monologue) you share as a link on your blog is great.


To make sure you pick a viable project, one that your colleagues feel is of equitable size and effort, and to get a sense of the variety of ideas there are, please pitch your idea in the Google chat room by Tuesday, March 2 11.59pm. Just a few lines is fine!

This week and next week during Get Stuff Done Club and the Thursday class time check-in, we will talk about your ideas. I highly encourage you to drop-in/attend and brainstorm.

How to submit

To submit your Show and Tell project:

  • Create a blog post, and share a link to the project. (If it’s a text-based Show and Tell, you can of course submit it as the blog post.)
  • Use the words “Show and Tell 1:” in the title of the post; you can further customize the title by adding a title that will draw the reader in.
      • Note: make sure to use the exact words and numeral, so your post will show up in the blog stream.
  • Add the post to the category hst271.

You submit the link in this assignment on Canvas, but note there are no automatic points (this is different from the Declaration Quizzes).

Good to know

Remember you only need 4 out of 5 Show and Tell projects, but I think this would be a good test drive. If you do all 5, I’ll only count the 4 highest scores. You also don’t know what trouble may lie ahead in this semester, and banking some points early on is probably a good strategy. (Last semester, one student planned ahead and kept their free passes all for the last two weeks of the semester!)

You can re-submit the project based on feedback, anytime before May 19 (11.59PM). (but I would not wait that long.)

Ideas and suggestions for formats

The description of the assignment in the syllabus contains a lot of suggestions, including information for more traditional assignments (in blog post form), small digital projects, response papers, … One student each can also provide a new or updated version of the map layer or timeline we have for “Part 1” on the course website (now linked in the drop-down menu under “General Resources”). Some cool formats from last semester: informative click bait, review of a scholarly article, a twitter thread,…

Useful starting point for further information: Credo Reference, an online reference library, available through Trexler, and our own library subject guide.

For the response papers, you can find lots of materials, but here are a few I provide that work well with the time period under scrutiny. (Oh, and here is an overview of what a response paper is and isn’t. Keep the summary to a minimum, and instead focus on the how the writer does things with words/texts. The point is not to explain the plot, but explain how the piece makes you feel, and how it changes your view on Chinese history.)

  • Tang Xianzu, The Peony Pavilion, dir. by Tan Dun. Video of performance at the MET Museum.
    • (you may consult the libretto here: Tang, Xianzu. The Peony Pavilion: Mudan Ting. Chinese Literature in Translation. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1980. [e-book])
    • What is it? A performance of the Kun-style “opera” at the MET museum, with English subtitles; this was a very popular play written in the late Ming.
  • Cao Xueqin, Story of the Stone, Vol. 1: The Golden Days, transl. by David Hawkes. Harmsworth: Penguin Books, 2006: Chapters 1-5. (PDF text – PDF with solution to the riddles)
    • What is it? The opening chapters of The Dream of the Red Chamber as Spence translates the Chinese title Honglou Meng in his Chapter 5. (Hawkes’ translation uses an alternative title.) It is one of the greatest novels in the world- I encourage you to read the entire book (five volumes in total), some day in the near future. It will be worth it. Once the “supernatural” elements are out of the way, it describes the life and times of the son of a wealthy family in eighteenth-century China.
  • Shen, Fu. Six Records of a Floating Life. Trans. by Leonard Pratt and Chiang Su-hui. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1983. (PDF)
    • What is it? The translation of the four surviving chapters of Shen Fu’s memoir. This gives you a good sense of the ups and downs, pleasures and disappointments in the life of a member of the “gentry” class in late Qing China.

Available to students on campus in Trexler Library (regular loan: use the Place Hold feature. Please note: if somebody has the book out, you may not get hold of it on time to finish your assignment, so have a back-up plan)

  • Lynn A. Struve, Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm: China in Tiger’s Jaws. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1993: Chapters 1-6.
    • What is it? Translations of eyewitness accounts of the upheaval, and other primary source documents from the Ming-Qing transition. You may already have read the “Diary of Ten Days in Yangzhou” in week 2. But wait! There’s more!
  • Spence, Jonathan D. Emperor of China: Self Portrait of Kʻang Hsi. New York: Vintage Books, 1975, Chapters 2-5 (pp. 25-139 in this edition)
    • What is it? Spence uses a variety of documents to weave together a “self-portrait” of one of the most important emperors of the Qing (read the Introduction for an explanation of his method).