Module 3: Envisioning State and Society – Show and Tell

Due Date: April 9 (Friday)

  • I know this is getting to the busy time of the semester, so remember extensions are available, as always.
  • Remember you can always re-submit these projects for a shiny new grade, and incorporate feedback.

Important: There’s only one “free pass” for the Show and Tell projects. This is the third one, so if you’ve only completed one so far, you’ve already used up your free pass and will need to submit a project.

Include in submission comments on Canvas a self-assessment and suggested grade. (More details below)

Get ready!

As we reached the end of the third module, you should start thinking about a way to showcase what you learned about Chinese history between 1912 and 1937 (i.e. from the fall of the Qing to right before the official start of WWII in East Asia.) This includes the May Fourth movement, the increased colonization of Taiwan, the founding of the Communist Party, the Warlord Era, the conflict between Nationalists and Communists and their temporary uneasy truce during the Northern Expedition, and the Long March, and whatever else takes your fancy in connection with chapters 12-16 (of the third edition) in The Search for Modern China, or weeks 6(1/2) through 8.

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). Check out the examples from the second round in the Student Posts blog stream (and I’ll put up the randomizer shortly, too) Who knows what this round will bring?


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 Google Chat Room by Tuesday, April 7, 11.59pm. Just a few lines is fine, to coordinate between closely related topics and to prevent you from embarking on a Ph.D.-sized research project. (I’d love you to do that, but we don’t have time.)

During Get Stuff Done and if we can find time our Thursday class time, 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 3:” in the title of the post, you can further customize the title by adding a title that will draw the reader in.
  • Add the post to the category hst271.

Self-assessment: Think of the self-assessment as an “honesty check”, which gives you a chance to reflect on the effort you put into the task, and you can flag up where you feel there is room for further improvement, or what you did particularly well in your opinion. If you want to think more about it through the perspective of a grade: Use that paragraph to explain why you think you deserve an A? Or if you think you’re only handing in a project that deserves a B+, what would you like to do differently to make it an A- or an A? (A: 10-9/ B: 8.9-8/ C: 7.9-7/ D: 6.9-6)

I reserve the right to modify the grade, but I will provide you feedback why I think our views on this differ. Remember you can always re-submit the project for a shiny new grade.

I’ll add this to the list of assignments of Week 8 and 9, as an assignment to submit on Canvas, not as a declaration quiz.

Good to know

Remember you only need 4 out of 5 Show and Tell projects. If you do all 5, I’ll only count the 4 highest scores. Bear in mind you don’t know what trouble may lie ahead in this strange semester, and banking any points available is probably a good strategy.

You can re-submit the project based on feedback, anytime before May 17. (but I would not wait that long.)

Useful starting point for further information:

Ideas and suggestions for formats

The description of the assignment in the syllabus contains a lot of suggestions, including information for analytical papers (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 3” on the course website.

Response papers

For the response papers, here are a few I provide that work well with the time period under scrutiny. There are a couple of movies this time as well. Note that their story ranges into the later time period we have not yet covered, so they will be available for later modules as well but you won’t be able to “double dip” (i.e. you can only write a response paper about the same movie once). If you’re not on campus, the movies may be available through rental or streaming services.

  • Lu Xun. “Ah Q – The Real Story”. In Diary of a Madman and Other Stories. Transl. by William A. Lyell. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1990, 101-172. [e-book Trexler]
    • What is it? One of the transformative stories in modern Chinese fiction.
  • Lao, She. Cat Country: A Satirical Novel of China in the 1930’s by Lao She. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1970. (PDF)
    • I recommend reading this piece by Ian Johnson alongside, to help you find a bit more context: Johnson, Ian. “China: When the Cats Rule“. New York Review of Books. August 26, 2013.
    • The excerpt I gave you contains some descriptions of sexual violence; it also throws you in the middle of the story, but you can understand most of what came before if you know that the revery leaves have a similar effect to opium, and that most of Cat Country is a (sad) satire for China in the 1920s/30s.
  • Farewell, My Concubine. Directed by Chen Kaige. Miramax Films and Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 1999.
    • What is it? This film follows the trials and tribulations of a pair of actors of jingju (known as Beijing opera), with China’s twentieth-century history as the backdrop. The title is taken from the play which made the fame of the two protagonists, who are loosely based on real historical figures from the late third century BCE. The character of Cheng Dieyi (nicknamed Douzi) is very loosely based on the real life jingju star Mei Lanfang. (So loosely his family disavows any connection with the story.)
    • Available on Canvas on the Trexler Reserves page
  • The Last Emperor. Directed by Bernardo Bertoluci. Yanco Films, 1987.
    • What is it? Epic bio-pic of Puyi, the last of the Manchu emperors, who died a commoner under the Communist regime. (Please note: our DVD is either dubbed in English, or you can pick a subtitled version but none of the sound-tracks respect the multi-lingual nature of the film (Russian, Japanese, Chinese, English), which grates against my sensitivities but it’s the best I can do.)
    • Available through Canvas Media Gallery

Note that both movies move way ahead of our timeline for Module 2. It’s ok to write about this, but some of the content may be confusing and you may have to do some additional background reading in the optional textbooks to understand what’s going on.

  • For students on campus: Lao She, Rickshaw: The Novel Lo-t’o Hsiang Tzu. Transl. by Jean M. James. Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1979.
    • What is it?  A novel which documents the hard life of the lower classes in Beijing. Hsiang Tzu [Xiang Zi,], a young man nick-named “Camel” makes a living transporting passengers with a rickshaw. He dreams of owning his own rickshaw some day.