Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST2641: China, the West and the Rest: Exchanges, Ideology, and Practice in Late Imperial China

Department: History

HIST2641: China, the West and the Rest: Exchanges, Ideology, and Practice in Late Imperial China

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 48 Location Durham


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


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To examine the interactions between different groups (e.g. Han Chinese, Manchus, Mongols, Japanese, Koreans, Westerners) in late imperial China through political formation, consolidation, and cultural exchange
  • To explore the changing forms of rulership in formation and consolidation of the Qing dynasty
  • To consider the relative emphasis on ideology and practice in the reshaping and reorganisation of rule over an expanding realm


  • This module explores the social, cultural, and political history of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) through two key themes: cultural and intellectual exchanges and the practices that emerged through these interactions. We first focus on relations between actors in the Qing realm such as Han Chinese, Manchus, and Mongol groups. We then turn to regional exchanges with Japan and Korea, as well as those with Europeans. Having identified that there were a multiplicity of historical actors in Qing history, we further explore how contacts and cultural exchanges redefined practices in areas such as art, science, medicine, military, and governmental organisation. The course introduces ways in which particular understandings, techniques, and practices gained added meanings within a new cultural context.
  • The question of cultural exchange in the Qing is important for two main reasons. The first is related to a debate in the history of seventeenth and eighteenth century China on characterising the culture and rulership of the dynasty. Earlier interpretations included assumptions about the Qing’s lack of dynamism and decline. More recent works have drawn on a wider range of primary source materials and shown that Qing leaders utilised a plurality of cultural practices and strategies of governance. A corollary question that emerges from the discussion of characterising the Qing is the relative emphasis that has been placed historiographically on ideology and practice within an expanding realm. The second reason for the importance of cultural exchange is because examples of interaction between a wide range of historical actors reflects how land-based states such as China also contributed to globalisation in early modern times.
  • This module therefore suggests the value of examining exchanges between Chinese, the West and the rest (Manchus, Mongols, etc.), showing how contacts between multiple historical actors contributed to the culture and practices of the Qing state, an active and interactive member of a globalising early modern world.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of main themes in defining the history of Qing dynasty (1644-1911) China
  • An understanding of debates about the nature of Chinese culture and rulership
  • An understanding of the connections between political context and wider themes in the social and cultural history in China.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Reading and use texts and other source materials critically and analytically, addressing questions of content, perspective and purpose at an advanced level
  • Assembling evidence to address issues, constructing an argument and supporting it with evidence to permit and facilitate the evaluation of hypotheses
  • Intellectual independence and research, including the development of bibliographical skills, the ability to research, use, evaluate and organise historical materials, and to present independent research in written form.
Key Skills:
  • Employing sophisticated reading skills to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, material, aural, visual, audio-visual etc.)
  • Analytical ability, and the capacity to consider and solve complex problems
  • Communicating ideas and information orally and in writing, devising and sustaining coherent and cogent arguments
  • Writing and thinking under pressure, managing time and work to deadlines
  • Developing coherence, clarity and fluency of written expression.

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:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The 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 coursework will test students ability to communicate ideas in writing, present clear and cogent arguments succinctly and show appropriate critical skills as relevant to the particular module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 16 in Term 2; 1 in Term 3 1 hour 17
Seminars 7 7 in Term 2 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 176
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework assessment consisting of a short essay (max. 2,000 words) or assignment of equivalent length e.g. source commentaries 2,000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography. 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.]

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