Chinese

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 the Asian Studies department, as well as through religion and geography. 

2018-2019 Courses

Chinese

Beginning Chinese

Open , Seminar—Year

This course is designed for students who have no or little knowledge of Chinese language. In this course, we will develop four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) through lesson learning and interactive communications. By the end of the academic year, we will be able to conduct daily conversations and read short passages on a variety of topics at the level of intermediate-low. Chinese culture will also be explored and discussed.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Intermediate Chinese

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This course is designed for students who have finished one year of Chinese or its equivalent. We will continue improving the Chinese language skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. An emphasis will be place on communication and discussion in both conversational and written Chinese. By the end of the year, students will be able to read some newspaper articles, stories, and essays and hold conversations on topics of daily life that extend into culture, arts, and politics.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Films and Novels in Chinese

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

This is a language course intended for students who have completed a second year of Chinese or its equivalent. We will continue developing Chinese language proficiency but with a stronger emphasis on transforming our language knowledge into output skills that are required for in-depth discussions on Chinese films, literature, culture, and history. Some important and recurrent themes in Chinese films and novels will be examined and discussed. Students are encouraged to bring into discussion their knowledge of Chinese/Western literature and culture and to conduct comparative studies on a variety of topics that include censorship, gender, and geopolitics. The course will be conducted mostly in Chinese, but some scholarly works in English might occasionally be included for discussion.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Reading China’s Revolutions Through Fiction and Memoir

Open , Seminar—Spring

Some of the most consequential and revolutionary prose written in 20th-century China is to be found neither in history nor politics but in fiction and memoir. Indeed, state leaders, reformers, and revolutionaries all believed that fiction was central in their push toward political change and national modernization. The premise of this course is that literature offers an important glimpse into the individual, social, and cultural goals and ramifications of China’s political revolutions. More specifically, the course will look at the short-story fiction and memoirs produced following the 1911 revolution and May Fourth Movement (1919), the 1949 communist revolution, the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), and the post-Mao era (1976-1990). Although we will use various methods of literary analysis, the primary approach to the readings will be historical. Topics to be explored include: the ways in which early writers viewed the problems of traditional literature, the role of literature in bringing about social and political change, the tension between the individual and society, and changing notions of gender. 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.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Personal Narratives: Identity and History in Modern China

Open , Seminar—Spring

This seminar explores the realm of private life and individual identity and its relationship to the historical events and changes taking place in modern China from the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911) into the Reform era (2000s). Our investigations will cover an eclectic mix of “personal” writings: diaries, letters, memoirs, oral testimony, autobiographies, third-party anthropological reconstructions of individuals, and (auto)biographical fiction. Among others, we will encounter late imperial Confucian radicals and mystics, petty literati, young urban women and their mothers with bound feet, peasants, radical revolutionaries, intellectuals, Maoist Red Guards, and factory workers. These personal narratives not only open up windows on the lives and times of their writers but also allow us to investigate the intersection between the practice of writing and identity construction in modern China. The primary readings will be contextualized with historical scholarship and supplemented by selections from some important theorists (Benedict Anderson, Anthony Giddens, and René Girard) that provide interdisciplinary analytical tools to explore the construction of personal identity and the self. We will ask ourselves how the writers of the personal writings present themselves: What are their self-conceptions and self-deceptions? Where does their sense of “self” come from, and how do they construct private selves through writing? We should even dare to ask whether these categories of “private” and “self” are relevant. The rapid, often traumatic, changes of modern China will cause us to consider how these people understood and situated themselves in wider society and the events of their time and, thus, will raise questions about the imaginative constructions of national (or social) communities that are smuggled inside these “personal” stories.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Buddhist Meditation in East Asia

Open , Seminar—Spring

Buddhists believe that there are three modes of karma, or “action”: 1) bodily, 2) verbal, and 3) mental. That is to say, we can “do” things with our bodies, with our speech, and with our minds. All three modes of karma have moral value in the sense that whatever actions we perform are either good, bad, or neutral; and all actions of body, speech, and mind have consequences that are inevitably experienced sometime in the future. The results of physical and verbal actions may be more immediately obvious than those of mental actions (thoughts and emotions), but Buddhists regard the latter as even more consequential—for they are the underlying ideas and intentions that motivate and inform speech and physical action. Moreover, Buddhists hold that deluded thinking concerning the “self” and external “things,” because it gives rise to unwise attachment, is the root cause of all suffering experienced by humans and other living beings in the round of rebirth (samsāra). Given this fundamental outlook, Buddhists regard regulation of one’s own mind as the key to both individual happiness and social harmony and justice. They say that among the three kinds of karma, “mind” is primary; but it is also the mode of action that is sublest and hardest to control. Throughout its long and diverse history, the Buddhist tradition has developed a wide variety of techniques for controlling and developing one’s own mind, many of which have been referred to in English using the word “meditation.” This course focuses on major types of meditation practiced in the Buddhism of East Asia: China, Korea, and Japan. Those include: techniques for calming the mind and entering into deep trance states; procedures for gaining insight into what is ultimately real; mental exercises for recalling and repenting bad deeds done in the past; the recollection of buddhas and bodhisattvas performed in conjunction with devotional prayer; a wide range of visualization practices designed to put one in direct touch with powerful sacred beings and forces; and the “investigation of words” attributed to Chan and Zen masters, also known as kōan practice. This is a self-contained, semester-long course taught in the spring that is also designed to complement a companion course that is taught in the fall: Buddhist Meditation in India, Southeast Asia, and Tibet. Students may take just one or the other of the two courses without any problem; those who take both will get the kind of sustained, integrated, in-depth exposure to all aspects of Buddhist meditation that is characteristic of a yearlong seminar at Sarah Lawrence College.

Faculty
Related Disciplines