Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)

Module HIST1481: Rice Fields, Imperial Palaces and the Great Wall: Historical Landscapes of China

Department: History

HIST1481: Rice Fields, Imperial Palaces and the Great Wall: Historical Landscapes of China

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • • At pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module offers a survey of Chinese history through exploring the economic systems, social structures, political institutions, and cultural patterns behind the well-known verbal and visual imageries of China, such as rice fields, imperial palaces, Buddhist temples, the Great Wall, the Silk Road, the Yellow River, and others.
  • With an interdisciplinary approach, the course will allow students to learn and explore the following: 1) the ecological environment in which the Chinese tried to make a living off the resources available to them, 2) the social structures by which the Chinese organized themselves to pursue economic activities, 3) the political institutions and coercive instruments that were built to deal with conflicts between and among peoples, communities, and individuals, 4) the distinctive cultural patterns that have evolved in China through the ages, and 5) China’s multi-dimensional and complex transformations to a nation-state and modern society in the 20th century.
  • Contribute towards the achievement of the Department's generic Aims for study at Level 1.


  • The course is organized thematically and deals with a wide-range of topics.
  • It discusses ecological environment and popolation growth patterns in Chinese history; the cultural functions of the Chinese written language; and Chinese spiritual-intellectual world informed by religion, philosophy, ethics, political theory, and the like.
  • It examines the family system and social structures, including women’s status; the political institutions for governance and the selection of scholar-officials through civil service examinations; and economic-social life and state policies on commerce in traditional China.
  • It looks into traditional Chinese technology and underdevelopment of sciences; and complicated relations of trade, war, cultural assimilation and political dominance between Chinese and non-Chinese ethnic groups, including some dynasties founded by the latter in the land called China.
  • It discusses the role of Western nations and Japan in the making of modern China, including how they forced China to open for trade and turned it into a semi-colonial country, thus bringing about the rise of Chinese nationalism and communism in the twentieth century.
  • It examines the agenda and the tragedy of Maoist socialist experiments in China; the dramatic changes that have been unfolding in post-Mao China, such as the return of capitalism under the “Communist Party” and the increasing integration into the world economy; and finally the multifaceted challenges that China is facing in the 21st century.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of the general outline of Chinese history.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the various aspects of Chinese history covered in the course.
  • Ability to discuss issues related to the course topics in an informed way.
  • Development of historical perspectives and analytical skills to interpret history in a different culture.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific & Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/Index.htm
Key Skills:
  • Subject specific & Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/Index.htm

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly in terms 1 & 2; one revision lecture in term 3 1 hour 20
Seminars 8 3 in term one, 3 in term two; introductory seminar in term 1; revision seminar in term 3 1 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 173
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essays Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 2000 words not inclusive of bibliography 50%
Essay 2 2000 words not inclusive of bibliography 50%
Component: Examinations Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
two-hour written examination 100%

Formative Assessment:

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University