Related disciplines

The Chinese program includes beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses that teach students to speak, read, write, and comprehend standard Chinese (Mandarin). The first-year class focuses on oral proficiency and grammar structures and culminates in end-of-semester projects that draw on the students’ interests. Reading and writing is emphasized in the second-year class, as students are introduced to short stories, poetry, and film. Student work in class and conference is supplemented by weekly meetings with the language assistant and by the lunchtime Chinese Table. Extracurricular activities include visits to museums and excursions to New York City’s various Chinatown neighborhoods.

Students of Chinese are strongly encouraged to spend a semester or, ideally, a year abroad at one of several programs, such as Global Alliance, Middlebury College, or Associated Colleges in China. These programs offer a range of experiences at different sites, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Xian.

Students of Chinese language are encouraged to enhance their curriculum with courses in history, philosophy, and literature taught through Asian studies, as well as through religion and geography. 

Chinese 2022-2023 Courses

Beginning Chinese

Open, Small seminar—Year | 10 credits

Beginning Chinese is designed for students with little-to-no knowledge of Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese. The course aims to develop students’ communicative competency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Mandarin Chinese at the novice-high level on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency scale. Students will learn the basics of the language, including sounds, grammar, vocabulary, and Chinese characters, as well as important cultural aspects. Through authentic materials and meaningful tasks, students will acquire basic communicative skills essential to daily-life communication.


Intermediate Chinese

Intermediate, Small seminar—Year | 6 credits

Intermediate Chinese is designed for students who have finished at least one year of Mandarin Chinese or who already have knowledge of basic Chinese. The goal of this course is to help students achieve intermediate-low level on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency scale in Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese. Students will continue developing their communicative skills upon the foundation acquired. Students will reinforce and expand their language skills by reading, listening, discussing, and writing about topics related to daily-life events. By the end of the year, students will establish the ability to communicate in Mandarin Chinese sufficiently enough to satisfy personal needs and basic social demands.


Cultivating the Tao: Chinese Philosophy and Practice

Open, Seminar—Year

This course will look at China’s philosophical traditions—Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism—and seek to understand their role in shaping daily practices of self-cultivation and mindfulness. In the first semester, we will do close readings of the foundational texts in each of these traditions. Topics to be explored include: notions of the Dao (Tao) and the ways in which it might be attained by individuals and society; the essence of the mind, human nature and the emotions, and the ways in which they interact in behavior; the relationship between knowledge and action; and practices of inner self-cultivation and social engagement. In the second semester, we will look at the later development of these schools of philosophy with an emphasis on the various practices employed by people to attain the Dao in their own lives. The readings for this will include school regulations and curricula, monastery rules and ritual texts, “how-to” manuals for meditation and self-cultivations, diaries, and journals. Here, we will consider the ways in which individual and cultural practices were shaped and reshaped by the ongoing debates within Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism.


Reading China’s Revolutions Through Literature and Memoir

Open, Seminar—Fall

Some of the most revealing and groundbreaking prose written in 20th-century China is to be found in neither history nor politics but in fiction and memoir. The premise of this course is that literature offers an important glimpse into the individual, social, and cultural consequences of China’s revolutions. More specifically, the course will look at the literature produced following the 1911 revolution and May Fourth Movement, the 1949 Communist Revolution, the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and the post-Mao era (1976-2000). Our reading will involve methods of both literary analysis and historical criticism. Topics to be explored include: the ways in which early writers viewed the problems of traditional literature, the proper form and function of revolution, and the role of literature in bringing about social change. We will also look at the ways in which some writers (among them Lu Xun and Ding Ling) created new narrative techniques to embody their vision of social realism and in which others adopted Western literary techniques to convey their self-image as “modern” or “international” writers.