Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module HIST1601: Society and Culture in China Under The Ming and Qing Dynasties

Department: History

HIST1601: Society and Culture in China Under The Ming and Qing Dynasties

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Normally an A or B grade in A-Level History, or an acceptable equivalent (e.g. in terms of Scottish Highers or lB)


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To give students an understanding of the cultural, social and political history of China under the Ming and Qing dynasties.
  • To provide students with an opportunity to consider the lives and experiences of peoples occupying a range of social positions and inhabiting different urban and rural environments and geographies in China.


  • The rise of China attracts significant attention in present times. The history of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties is integral for understanding China’s place in our commercialised and globalised world. The late imperial/early modern period in China witnessed unprecedented population growth together with dynamic changes in the economic and cultural spheres, with increased cultural production, printing, as well as interregional trade. The hierarchies between groups in society, such as merchants and the literati, were shifting. China’s interactions with the West and other states in Asia were also being redefined as China expanded during the Qing. The growth and interconnectedness was, however, also paralleled with environmental problems and societal anxieties.
  • In this module, we begin and end each term chronologically, while taking a thematic approach in between the establishment and fall of dynasties. The major themes for understanding the wealth of social and cultural developments in the Ming include commercialisation, shifts in gender dynamics and women’s ‘work’, the intersecting realms of ‘religion’ and the state, and the beginnings of intellectual exchanges with Jesuits at court. We then turn to histories of Ming resistance to Qing conquest, the multilingual and multicultural populace of the expanding Qing, cultural factors that affected diplomatic relations with the West, as well as rebellions and society in the aftermath of the Opium War.
  • The module also provides an introduction to debates in the field. One of these is related to perceptions regarding the legitimacy of the ruler. This question became especially relevant in early modern China, as the Ming was ruled by the Han Chinese, whereas the Qing dynasty emperors were Manchus. The clear cultural differences and political practices between the groups was reflected not only in resistance to the Qing, but also in tensions that became apparent during the course of the dynasty. These dynamics also emerge in later historiography about how the Ming and Qing dynasties are characterised: while some scholars, for example, have focused on the divergences between the two dynasties based on culture and background, while others have emphasised the social, economic, and institutional continuities through late imperial China.
  • The module provides a chronological and thematic approach together with analysis of actors’ perspectives in secondary and primary sources, together with an examination of historical objects from the Durham University Oriental Museum. These elements together equip students with the tools to analyse the increasingly globalised history of early modern China.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An understanding of key themes in the cultural, social, and political history of China under the Ming and Qing dynasties
  • An awareness of the actors and the kinds of historical evidence presented in readings
  • Critical engagement with the arguments in the secondary and primary sources (where available in English translation)
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

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 essays, 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 21 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 3 in Terms 1 & 2; 1 in Term 3 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written Examination 2 hour 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay, not including footnotes or bibliography 2000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative work done in preparation for and during seminars, including oral and written work as appropriate to the module. [For modules with exams: The summative coursework will have a formative element by allowing students to develop ideas and arguments for the examination.] A written assignment of 1500-2000 words to be submitted in Michaelmas Term

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