Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)

Module HIST2231: China and the West: A Case of Cultural Encounters in Global History

Department: History

HIST2231: China and the West: A Case of Cultural Encounters in Global History

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap 50 Location Durham


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


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module explores the dynamics of cultural encounters in the course of globalization, a historical process in which different parts of the globe have been brought into increasing interconnection and interaction.
  • By examining the tortuous relationship between China and the West in the past four centuries, the course illuminates how that relationship may be understood as cultural encounters—cultural perceptions and interactions—as well as economic-political confrontations and negotiations.
  • It reveals why cultural encounters cannot be separated from power relations between the two in political, economic, cultural, and military dimensions, and their interactions.
  • Ultimately, it illustrates how the interactions between Western nations and China in the modern era have been an integral part of China’s modern transformation, thus offering a comparative case for studying Western nations’ encounters with other non-Western peoples in modern world history.
  • Contribute towards the achievement of the Department's generic Aims for study at Level 2.


  • We start with dismantling the myth that traditional China was a closed country and presenting an essential theme that China, Chinese, and Chinese culture were evolving entities in historical times and space before the 20th century.
  • With an understanding of traditional Chinese world view that China was at the center of “all under heaven,” we examine the Jesuit mission in China, the resulting Rites Controversy and its implications, and the clash between the Chinese world view and the European world view that was manifested in the MaCartney mission.
  • After China’s defeat in the Opium War and other armed conflicts with Western Powers, treaty ports became the sites of hybrid (Chinese and Western) cultural phenomena, while missionary activities in rural China contributed to such poignant events as the Taiping Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion—cases of unintended consequences of cultural transplantations.
  • Introduction of Western ideologies, education, and religion into China, and Chinese studying overseas, gave rise to multi-dimensional struggles and negotiations among various agents for position and power in Chinese society and searches for solutions to China’s problems that led to the rise of nationalism and communism.
  • After an examination of the culture in the Maoist period, we explore the post-Mao cultural re-encounters of China and the West, in areas such as capitalist entrepreneurship, consumer culture, professional sports, pop music, avant-garde art, the Internet sub-culture, and so on, as part of intensified globalization.
  • Finally, we examine the ideological as well as cultural differences and conflicts between Western media and Western critics of China and their Chinese counterparts, and try to take measure of the cultural meanings of a rising China in the 21st century.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of the Chinse perspective of their world and of Westeners when the latter arrived.
  • Knowledge and understanding of Westerners’ perspectives of China and Chinese culture that they encountered.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the impact of Western culture in broad sense on China’s modern transformation and its contemporary conditions.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the interactions between cultural encounters and power relations in multiple dimensions among agents of these encounters.
  • Understanding of and reflection upon the cultural approach to studying history demonstrated in this course.
  • Contribute towards the achievement of the Department’s generic Aims for study at Level 2.
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:

    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; revision lecture in term 3 1 hour 20
    Seminars 8 6 - 3 in Term one, 3 in Term two Introductory and revision seminar 1 hour 8
    Preparation and Reading 172
    Total 200

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Essays Component Weighting: 40%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    essay 1, not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words 50%
    essay 2, not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words 50%
    Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Unseen examination 2 hours 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    Coursework essays are formative as well as summative. They are to be submitted in two copies, of which one will be returned with written comments and a standard departmental feedback sheet; Preparation to participate in tutorials.

    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